nitaguru

Bird breeder's thoughts on whatever…

7-30-15: Busy Times — July 31, 2015

7-30-15: Busy Times

When I’m not feeding the parrotlets or cleaning out the brooder (gotta keep those shavings dry!) I am changing the banty chicks’ water or cleaning out their shavings.  Amazing what a mess such little guys can make!  The chickens are really growing fast.  They are mostly 15 days old today, and the two youngest are at an even two weeks.

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So many pretty feathers coming in!

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And there is that hard-worker, working to get the chicks’ new house ready!  It’s going to be nice.    You can see the other coop in the background.  Those chickens and Roo are really enjoying their new digs.  They LOVE having all that yard, and especially having it under cover.  We have never owned chickens that liked rain or snow, so having a covered outside area is really nice.  Today there was a point where the heavens opened up and it rained buckets.  I looked outside and all but the one currently-broody black hen were outside scratching around without a care in the world.  Nice.

We had a robin build a nest on top of a board in our entryway earlier this spring.  Scott removed the beginnings of her nest pretty much daily, but she was so stubborn she just kept rebuilding.  Finally we decided to let her go for it.  She hatched and raised a nice clutch of babies there.  It had been at least 3 weeks since they fledged, when she suddenly decided to come back to that same nest and go for another round. Today I see at least 3 heads popping up and they’re already quite big!

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How cute are they?!

7-29-15: Hot! Hot! Hot! — July 29, 2015

7-29-15: Hot! Hot! Hot!

It is 90.1 degrees here in Groton, and for us, that is HOT.  This is NH in the summertime, so along with that heat is the humidity.  I’m convinced it’s part of the divine plan to make us appreciate the long winters.  Those of us that are not heat-lovers are already beginning to long for fall, and it will be here before we know it.  It’s amazing how fast time passes.  It seems I just barely planted the garden and here it is almost August.

Speaking of the garden, I was out today in the scorching heat, picking beans, tomatoes, and 9 cups of blueberries.  It really stings when sweat drips into your eye, doesn’t it?   Hot?!  Oh my word!

Lots more blueberries to come, but so far I have 8 packages in the freezer.  I actually still have a few in there from last year so I see blueberry muffins and blueberry cake in my future.  Maybe some sort of individual pies would be nice, or something hand-held.  In this heat, something that doesn’t need to be cooked in the oven would probably be much smarter.  Cook’s Corner on WMUR today featured a blueberry pie that consisted of a pre-baked or crumb crust with 2 cups of fresh blueberries poured into it. Another 2 cups of berries were cooked down on the stove with maple syrup and cornstarch, cooled a bit, then poured over the fresh berries and the whole thing was set in the fridge to cool.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

I can’t wait till the chicks have their coop ready to move into.  They are big enough now that they do a lot of scratching and kicking shavings around.  That means I have to open their food dish and clear away shavings several times per day, and keeping their water clean is a constant battle.  I empty and refill it about every two hours.  Much of my day currently is spent either feeding the parrotlet babies or tending to the chicks.  This weekend I am due to open the nestboxes for the greys, so I also know what else is in my near future.  This is not meant as complaining!  I love the beasties and don’t mind the work they require.  The thought of grey babies to feed puts a smile on my face.  Maybe this will be the time that the congos get it right…

7-28-15: Another Coop Project — July 28, 2015

7-28-15: Another Coop Project

One more project…  I know, we’ve said that before.  My son thinks we’re nuts, but then he’s a real minimalist.  Hubby and I are the opposite.  We like STUFF.  And that seems to ensure that there are always projects on the horizon, as we constantly want things to be better.  The big coop is done save the painting at this point, and the chickens are already happily living in it.  However, we have those 14 chicks to think about.  They are getting big and will soon need to be moved to larger quarters.

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To that end, we have a smaller coop – the one we used for segregating Roo and his two girls in order to get fertile eggs to incubate.  It was barely big enough for them, but with a bit of modification we believe it will make a pretty good coop for growing out chicks and also be that much better next time we use it to segregate Roo and a lady friend or two.

072815SmallCoopResz

The platform it’s sitting on is the one that used to be under the bigger coop and it measures 4′ x 8′.  We plan to enlarge the coop and yard to fit the entire platform.  This will mean the building part will be about doubled and so will the yard area.  It would probably be easier for Scott to just build from scratch, but we are not ones to waste anything.  🙂

Lowe’s must love us.

7-27-15: The Parrotlet Games Revisited — July 27, 2015

7-27-15: The Parrotlet Games Revisited

Ten days ago I wrote about Opal, the female parrotlet I had been given, and how I was trying to get her to accept one of my lone males as a mate.  At that time I had already tried her with the old geezer, which hadn’t worked well, and with the young male, which was even worse.  Opal had been quite nasty in her attacks on him, and I’d had to separate them.  My plan had been to keep them in separate cages near each other so they might mellow a bit.  After a few days I put Opal back into the Vision cage with him.  (I really need a name for this guy, but so far nothing I’ve tried sticks.)  Opal was still going after him, but it was to the point where usually she would chase him and peck at him and eventually he’d get far enough away that she’d just let it ride.  Until the next attack, that is.  There was no actual wounding going on, so I decided to give it a few days and just keep a close eye on them.

A couple of days ago the dynamics changed.  He-Who-Has-No-Name began to hold his ground.  They would beak-fight but he would hold his ground for maybe half a minute before finally retreating.  And she did not chase him, she just let him go.  A huge improvement, though not exactly friendly.

Yesterday, another change – though it was so subtle that I couldn’t really put my finger on it.  It just felt like something was different.  Then last night, IT happened.  No, not THAT.  LOL.  Opal was on the swing and HWHNN was near her, looking like he was going to make an attempt to gain the swing.  She looked to be on alert, ready to defend it.  But then, instead of going in for a fight, he made regurgitation movements and leaned in and she allowed him to feed her!  Talk about excited!  Not THEM, ME!

Today they are still bickering, but again, you can see the dynamic is different and hopefully the tide has turned.

072715Opal&YoungerLoneMaleOpal is the one that looks almost white.  She is actually a super light blue and quite pretty.  HWHNN is a normal green.  I’m hoping things will only get better between them.

7-26-15: Stuff — July 26, 2015

7-26-15: Stuff

Our son, Alex, came to spend the day today. His brother, Spot, was beside himself with joy.   Alex and Scott spent a fair amount of time working on the wiring of the chicken coop, and apparently some of it was pretty shocking.  Literally.  I heard about that after the fact (good thing) and apparently they both got their share of zaps.  Silly me; I thought the idea was to shock the foxes and bears!

The oldest parrotlet chick from the middle pair is now a confirmed male!  Cute little monkey, too. 072615_08MALE19DaysOld

Watched several shark movies today on the SYFY channel.  Can’t beat a two-headed shark.  Oh, wait, yes you can – a THREE-HEADED shark!   LOL.  And let’s not forget zombie sharks.   Plus I have all three Sharknado movies on DVR, just waiting for some time.   Cheesy syfy – gotta love it!

Supposed to be a very hot week ahead.  Thank goodness for AC!

7-25-15 The Coop Is Almost Done! —

7-25-15 The Coop Is Almost Done!

Today, Scott got the coop done to the point that the chickens were finally able to come out!  We are talking about some happy chickens here!

This is Scott opening the hatch – it seemed a bit like christening a ship by smashing the champagne bottle on the bow!

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The girls, and Roo, had no problem coming right out and checking out their new area.  So nice to see them outside after being cooped up for a week.

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This is what they used to have:

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The coop was 4′ x 6′, and originally the nestboxes (that extend from the coop in the picture above) were inside the coop, further taking up floorspace.  Their yard consisted of the 4′ x 6′ space below the coop as well as the 2′ x 4′ area to the right, for a total of 4′ x 8′.    Now their coop has been doubled to 8′ x 6′, with a total yard area of 8′ x 12′.   Happy chickens!  And super safe, too, with the wire electrified.

There are still some things to do, like running permanent wiring underground, some trim, caulking, and painting.  But at least it is now functional and everyone is happy!  Excellent job, Hubs!

7-24-15 He’s a BAAAAAAAD Roo! — July 24, 2015

7-24-15 He’s a BAAAAAAAD Roo!

This morning when I went up to tend the chickens in the coop, I brought a bit of scratch feed in a scoop.  Instead of opening the regular door and tossing it in, I figured I’d change the dynamics a bit and open up the new “back door” that is on the opposite side and at the back – in the portion that Scott added on.  Nobody met me at that door as they were totally faked out.  So I tossed in the scratch food and watched as the girls and Roo began to peck and scratch.

I shut the door and went to the front to check the water and food, which were fine.  Then I opened the first door to check that nest, then the next.  When I got to the third nest, I found the broody black hen inside and tossed her back into the coop.  Roo was RIGHT THERE, even before I removed her, and charged into the nest as soon as she was removed.  I still had the food scoop in my hand, so poked it inside the nest and smacked Roo with it.  He didn’t even back off.  His feathers were raised and he was stomping at me!  I smacked him 3 or 4 times and he did not back down at all.  Finally I grabbed “The Grabber” off the roof of the nests.  It’s one of these things with a long handle and two rubber “fingers” at the end, where you squeeze the handle and it brings the fingers together to gently grab something out of normal reach.  We use it to reach in for eggs that may be laid outside the nests.  Scott had told me that Roo is intimidated by it and to show it to him if he gets uppity.  Well it sure didn’t intimidate him today!  He came right after it, wings out and feathers raised!  I thought maybe I could actually grab him around the neck with it to take him down a notch, but he came at it and ended up knocking himself back onto his back.  We have a linoleum floor under the shavings, and he could not right himself as he kept slipping on the linoleum.  It looked a bit like a cartoon, with him trying to right himself!  Legs were going ninety miles an hour but to no avail.  After about half a minute he stopped trying and just lay there on his back.  It certainly did take the wind out of his sails.  🙂

I took my time closing the nest, went around to the main door, opened it, and told Roo exactly what I thought of his recent behavior.  Then I used the grabber to flip him back upright, after which he immediately retreated to the rear of the coop where his girls were still happily scratching and eating.  They were not impressed with all this bravado on his part; they didn’t even notice!

Will this little episode make a difference?  I don’t know.  Everything I’ve read about roosters getting snotty like this says to smack the rooster or grab him – anything to let him know YOU are alpha, not him.  And no, we’re not talking smacking to hurt him.  Believe me, he has not been injured in any way.  I’m hoping to injure his pride and give him a little healthy respect for me again.   We’ll see.  The next usual suggestion I read is to put him in the stew pot!  I’d like to avoid that, and in fact would give him away rather than kill him.  He’s a beautiful bird. Plus I’ve finally taught him to crow properly, but that’s another story.

7-23-15 The Critters — July 23, 2015

7-23-15 The Critters

Yesterday I checked the remaining babies in the blue parrotlets’ box and found that of the four, the youngest looked like he might be bloodied.  The only way to be sure was to pull the box and get a good look.  The three older ones looked great with nice full crops, but the youngest actually looked to be bruised over much of his tiny body.  It was what you might imagine if one or both parents had bitten him but not to the point of breaking skin.  Just as disturbing was the crop which had very little in it.  I banded the two oldest and put all into another container in the brooder. Next regular feeding was at 7 PM, but when that time came I found that the youngest hadn’t made it.

S**t happens, as they say.  Doesn’t make it easier, but it’s a fact of life.  I actually take a lot of comfort in what a very smart friend told me not too long ago.  She said that the percentage of surviving birds born in nature is a fraction of those surviving for us breeders.  It makes sense if you think about it.  In nature the birds are plagued with all the problems we might see as breeders, but they also must deal with predators and less-than-ideal weather conditions.  It’s no wonder that breeders’ success rates are far greater.  We have to remember that when we do lose a baby this way, and focus on how many made it rather than the one that didn’t.

I now have only one baby left to pull for handfeeding.  The single baby from the pied pair is possibly just barely big enough to band, but I believe I can wait one more day.  I’d like to give the parents as much experience as possible since this is their first time.

I currently have eleven to handfeed, and the smallest of those only weighs ten grams.  With that in mind, I am going to a six-feedings-per-day schedule.  It means the older kids will not get stuffed quite as much so that they will still be empty at the time of each feeding.  The littlest ones need that extra feeding since their crops are just so small they don’t hold a lot of food.  Six feedings means feeding every 3 hours and 10 minutes.  Not a lot of time to get things done in between, but hopefully it will only be four or five days, a week at most, before I can once again go to five feedings.

On the chicken front, the chicks are now in their 8th day of life, and we have not lost a single one!  Last night when I checked them before going to bed, I watched several of them hopping, chest-bumping, and getting enough height that I knew today would be the day to cover their brooder.  So this morning I got a wrought iron cage grate and placed it over the brooder.  It just barely covered the container, so basically it’s a perfect fit.  Now I don’t have to worry about kids hopping out!

Hubby Scott was able to get most of the metal roofing done on the outside coop last night and will finish it up tonight.  After that the only thing remaining to do will be to fence their outside yard and then get the electric fencing back in place.

This morning Roo came right over when I opened the coop door and tossed in some scratch feed.  Apparently he thinks he is six feet tall and about 300 pounds, judging from the swagger and strut he now has.  He used to be so mellow!  I guess having a small harem at your disposal will make even the most mellow male a real ass!  I whacked him with the plastic scoop.  Did that stop him?  Sure, after the FOURTH whack!  What a beast.

As I sit here writing, Opal and the young formerly-lone male are again beak-fencing.  She is another beast.  At least he is beginning to hold his ground, though he is still the one to give in and retreat.  I’m still hoping they will reach an understanding.  If only I could give some of Roo’s bravado to this little guy…

7-22-15 Harvest — July 22, 2015

7-22-15 Harvest

I have a garden every year.  I HATE gardening.  I hate planting.  I hate weeding. I hate the heat.  I hate the bugs.  I love when it’s time to harvest something.  That is the only thing that makes me do it every year.

Having a decent garden is a challenge.  Up here we are a good two weeks behind the rest of the folks only a couple miles away in either direction.  The altitude here almost gives us our own little weather system.  We’re in our own little world.  Which is great because there are not as many people up here.  For that benefit, I can live with the weather.  Easily.  When you start up the road towards our house, four and a half miles away, you can watch the temperature drop.  By the time you get here, we are 5 to 10 degrees cooler.  In the summer, that’s a great thing.  In the winter, it also means that where they may have rain two miles in either direction, we probably have snow.  In the spring, when those same people are welcoming spring, we still have snow.  Lots of snow.  I don’t care; I like it.  But back to the garden…  we are a good two weeks behind everyone else when it comes to planting in the spring, and we often have a frost a few weeks before those same people.  Basically we lose nearly a month of growing time.

Last year the garden was the worst ever.  Nothing grew.  Even the old standbys, the zucchini and beans and pumpkins, did nothing.  Not a single pumpkin.  Very disappointing.  The one thing that does grow up here and grow well, is blueberries.  Not the spleeny little wild blueberries – though there are plenty of those – but the high bush blueberries we planted some years ago.  They LOVE it up here!  They are huge berries, nearly as big as the end of my thumb, and very tasty.  I usually freeze over 20 2-cup packages of them every year and eat plenty right off the bushes, too.  Last year was no exception – the blueberries were the saving grace.

This year the garden looked the most promising of any year I can recall.  We’ve had plenty of heat, sun, and rain.  Yesterday I picked my first magda squash, which is a delightful hybrid that is much better than zucchini.  Picked another today and there are many more growing.  I actually have tomatoes this year, which is super rare.  I picked a couple today and there are more coming.  Also picked enough green beans for a meal today, and there are two spaghetti squash coming along very nicely already as well.  Got to love the harvest time!

The blueberries are now coming in as well.  I picked 2 cups yesterday, another 2 cups today, and there are still tons on the bushes and plenty not even close to being ready yet.  072215Blueberries

Now THESE are blueberries!

Yup, the harvest makes the whole thing worth it.  🙂

7-21-15 I’M WATCHING YOU, ROO! — July 21, 2015

7-21-15 I’M WATCHING YOU, ROO!

I remember – and it’s almost becoming a fond memory – last winter when Roo was feeling so poorly.  He was very lame, hardly able to get around.  We checked him for bumblefoot.  No signs of that.  There was nothing visual to account for his lameness, and we thought maybe he had some kind of super arthritis, despite his young age.  Really we had no clue.  It was actually his problem that first got us thinking about trying to raise some more chicks so that we could keep another rooster, just in case.  The tricky part was that we really hoped Roo could be the dad, and it wasn’t looking promising.

When spring came, Roo started to feel better.  (Doesn’t it work that way for ALL of us?)  When we heard him finally crow again, both Scott and I were so happy.  I’m talking ear-to-ear grins, if you can believe it!  We were just overjoyed to think he was feeling better.  So we isolated him and the blue hen and the other mille fleur (which is what he is) to a smaller coop.  He continued to recuperate until finally he was not only crowing a LOT, but also doing “the deed” with both hens.  At that point I started to save the eggs and the rest is now history.  The 14 results are beauties…

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But, as I began this story, I said I almost remember his lameness fondly, because he has now become a BEAST.  The 7 hens and Roo are now in the coop which has been doubled in size.  They are still awaiting their outside yard, which is going to be tripling their former outside area, but have plenty of room in the coop.  This morning I went out to toss them some scratch feed in the coop and to check their water.  I opened the side door, and Roo came charging up to the opening with THAT LOOK.  If you’ve ever had a feisty roo, you know that look.  He started stomping his feet and acting like a loon.  I made a great show of swinging my arm in his general direction, but he held his ground.  He either knows I’m bluffing or he figures he can take me.

I wanted to open the big window in the coop and couldn’t reach the latch, so shut the door and went back to the workshop for a step-stool.  When I again opened the door to the coop, there was Mr. Ferocious again, stomping around.  “HEY, I’M WATCHING YOU!” I shouted, again waving my arms around like a crazy woman.  He cocked his head at me and stomped his feathery feet again, clearly not intimidated in the least.

Maybe if he could be just a little lame again…