A warm sunny Saturday, our first since last year, and we all took full advantage. The dogs lounged in the winter field, sprawled in the sun on velvet grass, jumping up from time to time to escort another hungry, hopeful raptor out of barnyard airspace. Somnolent equines sunbathed, twitching an ear now and then. Feathery chicken metronomes ranged in formation across the short turf, clipping the fine new grass with sharp beaks, occasionally glancing longingly at K’s well protected kale patch. 

That kale! A month ago they were poor frozen kale-sicles buried under two feet of snow. I was sure they would thaw to mush. Today though, plucky little kale trees stand tall, offering their purple green topknots to the sky, worshipping the warm rays. Lean, wrinkly garden gnomes with big hair.

Black Silkie has declared herself broody again. She just finished raising a crop of winter babies! I don’t think she laid more than a couple eggs before she decided it was once again time to set. Tonight I will move her and her eggs to the seclusion of the barn. Otherwise it will be mere days until the rest of the Silkie hens quit laying and join her. With Silkies, broodiness is contagious. And I have hatching egg customers waiting for eggs.

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Dear husband continued work on his shop exterior and from the barnyard I could faintly hear his power tools flare up from time to time, as another piece of metal siding got cut, or screw got sunk, or cedar shingle got stapled to a gable end.

K sowed seeds in the warmest parts of her south facing yard garden, early peas and sweet peas and other hardy annuals. Then hooked up the pump, preparing to easily water her new-sown plots throughout what they say will be a week of sun. A week of sun! If all goes according to plan, those seeds should fairly leap out of the ground.

At midday I drew the Wyandotte flock back into their pen with a handful of scratch, and freed the black chicken flock for the first time since moving my Marans in with my Barnevelders hens a week ago. The Barnie eggs I had hatched to provision my girls with a man or two had yielded a crop of bizarrely coloured cockerels, totally unsuited for breeding. Sigh. Back to the drawing board on the Barnie project. I wish people wouldn’t sell their experiments as purebred hatching eggs.

In the meantime, blending the Barnie and Marans flocks makes for one less coop to maintain, and gives the Marans a more pleasant abode for this time of year than their shady creekside pen. Fertility is poor with the Marans this year, and with fertile eggs in high demand, I am trying everything to make them more comfortable and thus promote happy chicken sex.

The Marans love their new home, with its sunnier aspect and roomier roosts. Egg production picked up immediately. The nestbox arrangement though, needed to be improved. Marans are not petite birds, and the four box diamond DH had built for me a couple years back was a little tight for birds of their size. I was tired of cramped birds staring reproachfully at me as they uncomfortably laid their eggs in those close quarters.

So I dug out a nestbox picture I had admired on the internet, consulted DH to ensure I started off on the right track, hauled out my tools, picked through the used lumber pile till I found what I needed, and got to work.

I was sure it would take me a couple days to finish my roomier nest box tower but much to my surprise and satisfaction, it was done in an afternoon. Good tools and a bit of experience, I reflected while admiring my creation, sure make the difference. There is honestly nothing better, in my opinion, than an idyllic afternoon in the barnyard, puttering. And a tangible goal met at the end is the icing on the cake!

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Last night when I went out late to lock up after my dear brother’s birthday dinner, there was a dark cinnamon marans egg in the bottom box, and a little Isbar hen installed at the back of the top box, brooding over a single sky blue egg. Nope little lady, you’re not taking over this box for the next 21 days. If you insist, I will move you to a broody box, and we’ll see how well you stick to your resolution.

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