There’s been an accumulation of animal-related anecdotes that we’ve experienced … though some may seem unimportant or funny I do feel there is a lot to learn from them … so I’ll just put down those I can recollect for us to remember and you to do with as you please
Chicks and Chickens
We had an egg fertility problem with the chickens. Very few of our eggs hatched. We believe it was because there were 2 cocks for 6 hens. The cocks were constantly running interference preventing each other from mounting the hens … which may have resulted in poor fertilization. We eventually (too late to matter for this season) culled one of the cocks. We had 4 brooders – one of our own hens and 3 lent to us by our neighbors. The first two hatched 3 and 4 chicks which have been living together as a group of 7. The third sat on eggs from our neighbors and had a much better clutch of ~12 chicks. The fourth hatched 4 chicks.
We were actually “fortunate” that not many of our hens became broody because when hens are broody they don’t lay eggs. If you only have 5 or 6 hens and some of them are broody then egg production can drop pretty fast. For us even 2 or 3 eggs a day is way more then we need … but this can be an issue.
During all of this we moved chickens into the electric-netting and mobile shelter setup. Quite a few of the chickens jumped over the net. We clipped most of their flying wings … and most have taken to staying put inside the net. However one stubborn hen is the third broody (our) broody hen that sat on eggs from our neighbors. We have clipped both her wings and still she jumps over the net. Naturally, her chicks followed her as they are still very small and can simply walk through the netting (even though it is netting made especially for chickens).
We moved mother and chicks back into the fence perimeter a couple of times but then gave up on it … it seemed pointless. A few days ago we heard a sudden disturbance – we lost 2 of the roaming chicks to a fox in the orchard behind the house. One chick disappeared and another I found lying dead in the grass.
In addition, in recent days the hen has decided that her mothering role is over – she is no longer calling out to the chicks, she is allowing the cock to mount her and we think she is laying eggs. We have put her back into the fence perimeter and she is staying put. We have also put the chicks into the fence perimeter and they are not staying put – they are all over the place. We can (and have many times) herded them back into the fence … but they quickly go roaming again. We are not fighting it. We send them back whenever we can, we are hoping they will soon grow to be too large to leave … and hope that until then most survive predator attacks.
Ducklings and Ducks
We had 18 muscovite ducklings. We have kept them in a small mobile shelter together with their mother. We move the shelter around to keep them on as much green as possible. We let them graze freely a bit at the beginning of the day (on their way into the shelter) and at the end of the day (on their way back home to the barn) – they stay together and make the journey either way pretty much on their own. During two “end-of-the-day” journeys we lost 5 ducklings (2 the first time and 4 the second). We’ve been keeping a closer watch.
Side story: My grandmother on my father’s side used to make a typical Romanian dish … a kind of gelatinous pie made from boiled chicken feet. It has some chicken meat in it and is much loved in our family. My grandmother on mother’s side was Polish … she didn’t really like cooking but did enjoy having the family over. She was also in a kind of popularity competition with my other grandmother. At some point she too started making the same Romanian dish. However since she didn’t really care for cooking this dish came out a bit more “dangerous” when she made it because it had some pieces of bone in it … you had to eat it carefully. My younger sister was very small and I recall feeling discomfort whenever she ate the “dangerous” version of the dish. She was used to eating it in a care free way because my Romanian grandmother was very pedantic in her cooking … there were no bones. But I would cringe every time she ate the “dangerous” version in the same care-free way.
Ducks, being water fowl, are fairly clumsy walkers (compared to chickens). They are relatively heavy and strong animals and have impressive/massive webbed feet. Mother duck trampled two of her ducklings. One we found stiff-dead with a broken neck, the other we found lying on its side and managed to recuperate. I used to think it was cute the way the little ducklings follow their mother around in a single line. Now I cringe, much like I did for my younger sister, for the ducklings directly behind their mother afraid she will crush them without even blinking. Oh well.
Dogs and Bites
Andreea has mostly healed from her encounter with Rex the latest member in our pack of dogs. During the first days he was tied but now he is free most of the time. He is a great dog. He is very responsive, very energetic and very soft (even when he is bursting with energy). There is still friction between him and Loui … both will soon be castrated and that should help them get along better. For now we have to be attentive to them and let them know that neither one of them is in charge … that we are. Loui is usually the instigator … so he usually gets most of the attention.
When they share a common enemy the dogs are a very cohesive pack. They run out into the field together, attack together and bark together during the night. Rickyhas “grown” but is still a ridiculous excuse for a dog. A few days ago I found a dead fox lying in the grass between the house and the raised beds. I felt (a) sorry for the fox; (b) proud of our dogs; (c) relieved for our flock. The fox has been tossed into the compost pile (as was the dead chick).
Bees and Honey
The first of our hives is very well established. We have added and the bees have populated many frames. When I inspected it a couple of weeks ago there were quite a few frames filled with honey – even though we have had a rough season bee-wise (too much rain in the spring, disappoint acacia tree blooms, too hot in the summer).
A few days ago when I went out to harvest a couple of frames I was surprised to find that the bees had consumed quite a bit of honey. I decided not to take any for now. We’ll check again in a month or so and see what is available. Our priority is to leave the bees all the honey they need for winter so we don’t know if we’ll get any for ourselves this year.
The second hive is also coming along quite well. It is lagging behind the first hive because we made its transition a few after the first hive. There isn’t too much honey production but there is quite a lot of brood and they are making very nice progress building foundation. If necessary we will transfer some of the honey bars from the first hive to the second one to make sure they get through winter OK.
The third hive did not catch on. There are still some bees in it but there isn’t a queen and not much brood left. There was some brood and signs that the bees were trying to raise a queen but it doesn’t look like that worked out well.
Just Plain Funny
A couple of days ago I am standing on the gravel road that leads to Bhudeva and all four dogs are all around me. Suddenly, out of the weeds/grass appears a small creature that looked like a cross between a ferret and a mouse. In it’s mouth was a beautiful green lizard it had probably just caught. It shot into the middle of the road, found itself amongst 4 dogs and a giant (me) and there was a looooong moment of silence. The creature dropped the lizard … still silence. Then everyone snapped … some of the dogs went after the creature, some stayed to examine the lizard. I called out to Andreea to come and see the lizard in the middle of the road … and most of us lived happily ever after