Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chick & Guinea update

The chicks are doing fine.  They are all running around their coop, they are as active and hyper as chicks can be.  The foster mama hen is a great mother and is showing them what to eat and how to scratch.  Soon they will be able to go outside with the other chickens.  We want to make sure the mama hen will protect them and the babies will stay with their mother before we let them loose.  Plus the babies have to be big enough to survive a peck or two from the other chickens before going outside.  The foster mama is getting anxious to get out of the coop.  I can tell she's tired of being inside cooped up when spring is starting outside.


The guineas are all separating into pairs.  I guess over the winter they were dating one another and now they decided who is going to be mated.  I thought they were just surviving the winter, who knew they were actually flirting and dating one another!  During the day they separate all around the house.  Before they used to stay in one big flock.  Now there's groups of guineas everywhere you can see, and there's guinea calls coming from everywhere.  Every now and then a few of the pairs will join into a small group.  I cannot figure out how many males and females we have.  In the evening, they all join back into one big flock again in front of our house.

I'm assuming the female guineas will start laying eggs in their nests all around the house, if they're not already laying.  We'll have to start looking for their eggs again.  We are now ready for the guineas to become broody - Randy acquired some small cages to put over the female guinea at nighttime to protect her from fox and raccoon when she's sitting on her eggs.  The females become broody after they get about 20 eggs in a nest, and they constantly sit on the eggs to hatch them.  The wild animals are sure to kill her overnight if she's sitting blind on the ground in the woods.  There's a better possibility that she will not be killed when she's sitting during the day as the fox and raccoons are not that active during the day.  It's always very tough to separate a broody guinea hen from her eggs, I've gotten in fights with hens trying to separate them from the eggs, trying to encourage her to go fly up into a tree and roost at nighttime to protect herself.  The hens attacks me, hissing at me and biting me.  The fights get bad because the male guinea comes to protect his mate and fights me, too.  The male will fight me, but he still leaves his wife alone on the ground in the woods overnight to fend for herself.  But now we are ready to help her, protecting her with a cage.  We'll see if this tactic works if/when we get broody guinea hens.

We are already dealing with fox issues this spring.  A couple weeks ago I heard the guineas screaming and looked out back behind the house and saw all the guineas running as fast as they could run, and there was a fox galloping alongside them!  I flew out the back door and started running after the fox.  If anyone could have seen they'd have laughed - a flock of guineas running, followed by a galloping fox, followed by a running human!  The fox took off, there was too much commotion that day for a guinea dinner.

Last week I looked out back and saw the guineas way behind the house, about 250 yards out.  And there was the beautiful red fox crouching low, getting ready to ambush the guinea fowl.  It was drizzling and freezing cold outside that day.  Before I could even open the door, the fox started it's crouching dash at the birds, mouth open ready to bite a grey guinea on the outside edge of the flock.  I just knew that bird was a goner.  I flew outside, barefoot, into the freezing rain, screaming at the top of my lungs, my arms swinging overhead trying to make myself bigger.  The fox was running at the birds, the guineas all stood looking at me like I was insane, all their heads were up and their necks were long with surprise.  I screamed "Nooooooooooo!  Stoppppppppppppp!!!!!!!!" and ran as fast as my bare feet would take me.  The fox looked right at me and then back at the guineas, still running for the grey bird, mouth open, ready to bite.  The fox must have been hungry.  I screamed again, getting close to the fox and guineas.  The guineas were all frozen in place, terrified of me, thinking I was nuts, not even realizing that there was certain death so close for one of them.  At the very last second the fox swerved to the left and took off bounding away, jumping in high leaps, leaving the guineas after all.  I was still screaming at the top of my lungs.  I had acted on reflex, I didn't take the time to get a weapon, or even shoes or a coat.  I quickly ran back inside, got a gun, shoes, a coat and hat, and dashed back out.  I herded all the guineas up to the chicken coop and hunted for hours until the sun set for that fox, but he was long gone.  I don't think I could have killed him, but I would have shot near him, scaring him for sure.  I think that if he actually had a screaming guinea in his mouth that I could shoot him to save the bird.  I have never actually killed a fox, I'm not a hunter, or even a real farm girl, for that matter.  My husband is the farmer, I'm just getting by here on the farm figuring it out as I go.  But I don't want my farm animals, the livestock, to suffer and die, and I know that fox will kill every single guinea and chicken in my flock if they have the opportunity.

Since then, for the rest of the week, there have been no fox sightings. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hike in the woods

Spring has finally arrived at Razzberry Corner!  The weather was very nice, and so today I took a hike by myself in the woods.  Come along, it was just a short walk, but still interesting...

Not far from my house, down past the chicken coop and the big pine tree, deep along beside the fields, is a natural spring.  I like to check it out when I start my walks.  It is just amazing how water comes from underground and forms into a stream.  And that stream joins other streams from distant places and they make a little river.

And even cooler than that, there are what I call underground caves here.  The caves are not really caves, as to me real caves are made out of rock, and my caves are formed in hollow areas of dirt and mud, but not rock.  But it's still amazing to see caves underground, where the ground wells up and there's space underground.  This cave goes under the roots of a tree.  I climbed under the roots to see how deep it went.  There are other caves, too, but I only photographed this one.  I have always wanted to discover a cave, so I guess this is one thing on my bucket-list that I can check off.  I felt like a groundhog when I was investigating the caves.

Funny thing was that I saw cat footprints in the mud outside the caves.  I don't know what cat comes down here, evidently one of the stray cats.  There were also coon prints and of course deer hoof prints in the mud.

After the caves I checked out the little white house, which is an empty historic house on the property.  A huge flock of black vultures circled overhead, keeping an eye on me.  They must have a nest nearby, probably in the brown house.  There's another historic house not too far from the white house.  I call it the brown house, and it has no glass in the windows.  I bet the vultures chose the upstairs of the brown house for a nest this year.

The little white house has an outhouse, which I walked by.  It's all falling apart, but is still interesting to see.

I walked down past the little white house in the woods and started up a group of deer.  They bounded away snorting.  The song birds were scratching in the leaves for bugs, making a lot of noise in the dried leaves.  I found the remains of a raccoon.  I don't know what killed it.  I found it's tail and some fur.  The vultures probably cleaned up the rest of it.  Near the raccoon I found some old red bricks.  I wondered about the people who made those bricks, and how they ended up in my woods.  Was there once a house there?

I continued to climb through trees and vines in the deep woods.  I followed deer paths.  A hawk screamed overhead, and a pack of crows called to each other.  Eventually I came upon part of an old hunting stand.  It's all falling down now.

I even found an old broken shell from a box turtle. 

The walk in the woods was very peaceful, but I have chores to do before the day is over.  Thanks for coming along.  Springtime and warmer temps will be here soon and I always do more hikes in the summertime.  Next time I'll check out the brown house and will look for the vulture nest...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chick photos

The chicks are doing fine.  They are a few days old now and are getting big.  We got 4 white leghorns, 3 silver laced wyandottes, and 3 red sex links.  They all are supposed to be pullets.  I would have taken more wyandottes, but the store didn't have anymore.  I really didn't want the leghorns, but Randy really wanted some leghorn hens.

The foster mama hen, Charlotte, is a great mother.  However, she was only broody for maybe 4 days at the most.  And now she still wants to sit.  She's not walking around with the chicks, she just wants to sit.  For the photos below I drug her out of a nest box & sat her out in the coop.  The chicks are active and run around her, she clucks to them and shows them what to eat, but she doesn't even stand up.

What amazes me most about the whole foster mother hen and store bought chick process is how well the babies adapted to the hen.  They had never seen a hen before, but as soon as we put them under her wings they cuddled and snuggled and loved her.  They listen to her clucks and want to stay close to her.  They climb all over her and snuggle up under her wings when they are tired.  I think they would have grown up fine without a mother hen, but they truly seem like happier chicks now that they have a mother hen.  I raised chicks without mother hens & with mother hens, and I will always choose to use a mother hen if I have one that's broody.  

Charlotte has raised several broods of chicks in the past, so we knew she'd do fine with chicks.  My only concern is that she wasn't broody, sitting on eggs, long enough.  Hopefully she doesn't sit like this for another 2 weeks, which would have been her normal broody cycle if she had eggs under her and they hatched after 3 weeks.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Last night we got 10 chicks!
We wanted to start early this year with chicks.
We gave them to Charlotte, who was broody.  She had only been broody 4 days, so we weren't sure how'd she do with chicks so soon.  But she's been a mother hen several times before, and she accepted them just fine.
I'll keep you updated!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

She's got big butt

Our hen Bonnie, a former shelter hen, has a big butt.

And because of that, Bonnie is due for another bath soon.  She is truly the largest hen I've ever seen.  And for some reason, she always gets poop stuck below her rear end.  I don't know if the poop problem is because of her weight issue or what.  None of our other hens are fat.  It's hard to put one out of 17 on a diet.  I think Bonnie is actually healthy, and she appears to be a happy hen.  She just has a big butt, along with a big everything else.

She doesn't have diarrhea, her droppings are not running, she is not sick at all.  None of the birds are sick.  Bonnie is energetic and happy and healthy. 

The poop gets stuck on her feathers below her butt/vent.  I think it's because her butt is so very large and round and fluffy.  I tried cutting the feathers around and below her vent so they just weren't so darn fluffy, but I didn't do a good job.  It was more of a choppy cut.  I did it right after her last bath, when the feathers were wet.  When the feathers dried I realized what a bad "haircut" I gave her.  And right after the chop job I noticed she got poop stuck in the fluffy feathers below her butt again.

Luckily, Bonnie loves baths, as do all my chickens.  I think I'm destined to give her baths every few months.

I love my hen with the big butt!  Baby got back! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Peeps - who doesn't love them?!

You know, those sugar-coated marshmallows that just melt in your mouth?
I could eat the whole box in 3 minutes.  

I try not to even buy them because I know I cannot say no to them.  And my waist is continually expanding from eating junk food.  I am working on my sugar addiction...

Right now it's Easter time, and so the store shelves are lined with such wonders, just begging to come home with me.  I try to avoid the junk food isles of the CVS like the plague. 

Last week my darling, caring husband went against my will and brought home some Peeps to me, thinking he was being kind.  Or maybe he was trying to be evil, I don't know.  It didn't matter, there were Peeps... 

You can't just eat one - I dare you!

I ate them all, of course.  I was in the middle of painting my nails and got the Peep sugar stuck to the wet nailpolish.  It didn't matter. Nom nom nom... 

There will be no more Peeps in this house!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chicken pen cleaning

Last Saturday I took a shovel out to the chicken pen and started digging.  I found about a half inch layer of hard crap covering the ground, especially the well-walked on area near the food station.  Wow, it was nasty.  I dug up this layer off approx a 10 x10 foot area so the chickens have clean earth. 

I didn't realize that after 3.5 years the poop builds up like that.  The pen is open to the air and rain, I just assumed it would be washed away.  Guess not, it builds up.  Gross.

So now I have a goal to totally dig up all the earth in the chicken pen.  Our chicken pen is huge.  There are trees and bushes in the pen.  It will take me a while.  But I want a clean area for the chickens to enjoy.  Maybe I'll ask Randy to get  a load of new dirt in his dump truck...  I can only imagine the chickens will be so happy as we bring in wheel barrels of fresh dirt!

I read in a magazine that people put down wood chips and such in their chicken pens.  The pen, not the coop.  What do you use in the chicken pen?  I know many people let their birds free range.  I cannot let the birds free range or they will die, they have to be in a pen with a roof for protection from hawks and foxes, owls, skunks, opossums, random dogs, the list goes on and on....

Inside the chicken coop I use straw or hay.  Right now I'm using hay as the feed store was out of straw.  The chickens love to peck at the grains.  I know some people rave about the deep litter method of coop, but it just sounds nasty to me.  Smelly, nasty.  I cannot do it, I"m sorry.  I like a fresh clean coop.  I recently read the Henny Penny Rose Cottage blog where she used to use pine shavings and changed to sand in her coop.  She now scoops out her coop like a kitty litter box!  I clean mine out with a shovel once a month. It's not a major chore.  The chickens love a clean coop, so it's satisfying.  Maybe one day I'll try making the coop a sand box and see how they like that!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Life with Chickens

Let's talk about chickens.  I haven't mentioned them in a while.  Much of my day Saturday was spent with the chickens outside.

The chickens have been doing so good these days.  The majority of our chickens are over 3 years old.  Let's see, Dotty and Jade are probably about 2 years, and Penny and Bonnie were shelter hens, so we really don't know, but I think they are both about 1 year, give or take.  And Freckles is probably 4 years or more, we got her as a hen.  But most of the chickens are about 3 and a half years old.  We have 15 hens and 2 roosters.  We get 5 or 6 eggs/day right now from our hens.

Having chickens has been a great experience for me.  I'm so glad we got them.  I didn't really plan on having chickens, and I didn't know anything about raising chickens when it all started.  I was the "suburb" girl.  I only knew about what I considered "normal animals" - dogs and cats, even parakeets and hamsters and fish, but that was all I knew.

It all began when Randy wanted to surprise me and came home late when day with 2 huge boxes filled with chicks and a mother hen (Freckles).  I ooowed and aaaawed and held the chicks and laughed as they pecked my fingers.  And eventually I asked him, what do chicks eat?  Do we even have chick food?  He shrugged, and I knew we were in for some trying times. 

Now here we are, 3.5 years later.

We've been through chewed off wings, bloody combs, bumblefoot, broken feet, wings, legs and hips, seizures, unexplained sudden deaths, tumors and autopsies, spur removals, cock fights and rooster attacks.  We've raised our own chicks from eggs using broody hens and without broody hens, rescued abused hens from the animal shelter, even provided advice on chickens to the shelter employees.  We have a number of chickens buried in the chicken cemetery who didn't make it along the way. 

The biggest surprise to me was that chickens have personalities.  Yeah, they might not think deep thoughts, but they have specific likes and dislikes that are unique to them.

I have never eaten a chicken I've raised.  I just can't do it.  We raised a number of roosters which Randy has butchered, but I cannot eat them.  All the hens are named and are considered pets.  Especially now that my hens are getting old and laying is slowing, there's no way I'd ever butcher them and eat them!!!  Freckles still goes into the nest box every day, but never lays an egg.  Such a sweet hen.

At nighttime I go into the coop and give all the chickens on the roosts a pet and say their name as I go down the line.  Some of them, like Freckles, get nervous knowing I'm working my way to them.  Muffin the rooster always tries to peck me as I pet him.  Sometimes I scoop him up and hug him just to piss him off.  Man, does he hate hugs!  I'll never forget the night I got pecked in the eyeball!

I'm going to get some new chicks soon.  I have chick fever!  I'm hoping that my favorite mama hen, Charlotte, goes broody soon, so we can raise our own eggs.  Charlotte, even at 3 and a half, is a great hen.  And I want to add some new breeds of chickens this year, too, so I'm looking forward to some new chicks.

Feel free to tell me about your fav chicken experiences!       

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Just go with it

There's always so much to do here, and never enough time.  Today we moved our clocks forward - so basically I started out losing an hour right off the bat.  Razzberry Corner blog has been terribly neglected because of this time management issue of mine.  The problem is that time just goes too fast these days. 

Back when I was a kid, time used to drag.  Remember the lazy childhood days when you were bored, there was just nothing to do?  How come as an adult you don't have those types of days anymore?  Now it's rush here, dash there, making lists along the way so I don't forget things.  And good grief if I lose a list, then it's all over!  I never completely finish a list, so the uncompleted items get carried over to a new list.  It's a never ending process.  Oh, how I miss those simple days of childhood boredom....

I seem to think that if I'm going to post something here on the blog, I should have something momentous to discuss.  But, however, there's nothing major going on here, just days flying by, blending into the next day, then the next week.  So, I'm going to try a new approach.  I'm just going to write whatever I'm thinking about, even if it doesn't seem all too important.  Let me know if you enjoy reading the blog from now on.  And then there's the photo issue.  I think if I don't have a photo to go with the blog it's not worth posting, and I don't always have photos handy.  And so there's no blog post...  So, along with my new simplified mindset of posting, please forgive me if I don't post a photo with every blog.  Sometimes it just takes too long to grab the camera and go outside and snap some shots and then I get sidetracked and the blog post never happens.  I'm just going to go with whatever is on my mind and write simple and sometimes short posts.  Sound good? 

Just go with it, that's my new motto.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Brindle cat

This blog post is dedicated to my sweet Brindle.

Brindle was a feral cat.  Notice her tipped ear.  Someone around here, I'm assuming a neighboring farm, keeps getting feral cats with tipped ears.  They end up at my house, starving, with diseases, covered in ticks and fleas.  People, stop getting feral cats and letting them loose without taking care of them!  Cats need to be fed and taken care of!

Brindle was terribly wild, starving but still so sweet when she made her way to our house.  Once she found that we will take care of her she never left.  She lives on our porches, under the bushes, and in woodchuck holes when she gets very cold or wet.  She's always around somewhere, chasing mice, watching the guineas, down by the barn, somewhere.  We just have to call her and she comes running.  In the summer time she puts dead mice on our front porch as gifts.  

Brindle looks like someone took black and orange and put in a blender, but didn't mix it all the way.  Brinnie lets me pet her, but it took months to get her to this point.  During the coldest nights of the winter we grabbed both Brinnie and the other feral cat Benjamin and put them both in our bathroom so they'd be warm.  Brindle was terrified, she did not like being locked up.  She cried nonstop.  She was nervous and continually bathed Benjamin to calm her nerves.   Benji hates to be bathed and licked by Brinnie.

Brinnie was very happy to be let loose the next day.  For days afterwards she wouldn't come within 10 feet of us.  Now, months later, she's still more cautious around us, she lets us pet her, but if we try to pick her up she runs.  (Benjamin, on the other hand, tries to go back into the house whenever we open the door.).  We don't let the 2 outside cats in at all unless we lock them up, so they are separate from the inside cats.  We have experienced too many cat diseases around here.

Brinnie is always happy to see me.  When I come home from work she runs out and jumps up on my car in an attempt to get close to me.  She stares at me through the windshield before I get out of the car.  If I have to walk back to the trunk of the car she runs along on top of the car beside me.  I always have to double check when I close the trunk to ensure she's not going to be locked inside.  Yes, I always have Brindle cat footprints on my car.  But I live on a farm - I often have chicken poop on the bottom of my boots, too.  That's life.

I don't like the name I chose for her - "Brindle".  It started as "that brindle cat" then was shorted to Brindle.  I have called her Brenda, she's cool with that.  I also tried calling her Brittany, she's ok with that name, too.  But I always end up calling her Brindle, Brin or Brinnie.  That's just her name.  She doesn't care what I call her, as long as I give her pets and love and food.  Poor little wild cat Brindle.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Guinea fowl

I love my guineas.  If you don't have guinea fowl and you have a farm, you should get some.

Here they are saying hello to me.  They are always happy to greet me and run to me.  But they always keep a few feet away from me.  There will be no contact with humans...

Guineas cruising by.

We'd had a few nice days lately.  I think the birds' hormones have been kicking in - spring is on the way.  The males have been chasing each other and trying to be dominant.  They've also been dividing up into pairs or small groups and have been going off to be alone.  Yeah, spring is coming.

The males stick their wings up and chase each other.  Below a light gray male guinea is displaying this behavior. 

I believe these are two brothers at the feeding area.  These two were called "piebald" color when they were chicks - they used to have some white on them when they were tiny chicks, but it went away.  It appears they are actually a pearl gray/royal purple mix.  I like the spotted feathers underneath their dark wings.  In the background is a pearl gray guinea hen, the spotted one.

The guineas don't mind the two outdoor cats, Brindle and Benjamin.  Here's Benji walking by.  However, if another cat comes around, the guineas gang up on him and chase him away.  They are very protective and don't like changes.

Two guinea hens walking down the road, talking about guinea hen things.

I cannot wait for spring to come to see all the excitement with all the guineas.  This is the biggest group that we've had to survive winter.  Hopefully we have a good mix of males and females.  They will be chasing each other around, will be making nests and hiding their eggs.  Maybe even we'll raise some of our own guinea keets - we have never been successful in hatching our own guinea keets before.  There's always goals.