Our flock is in lockdown these days thanks to the avian flu, so we moved our mama hen’s broody box from the barnyard into the layer coop’s attached, roofed pen. Now, we thought, she can at least get her babies out for a wander, even if they can’t free range. They can sleep in the broody box at night.
Broody had other ideas though, that evening she tried to put her kids to bed in the main coop rather than the broody box. But to stay warm enough, little chicks need to sleep under momma in a nest. They don’t have feathers yet, except on their wings. We tried to convince mama otherwise by locking her and her family in the broody box for a few more days, but nope.
As soon as I opened the broody box again, off to the main coop they went, to practice going up and down the long ramp. At that point I threw up my hands. Mama clearly wasn’t going to listen to me. Nor could I leave the little family confined to the broody box for four more weeks, until the babies were old enough to roost. It was important that they be out and about with mama, having adventures.
That night when I went out to lock the coop, mama had gotten all her babies inside. I could hear one or two crying up at her from the coop floor. The tears didn’t last long though, by the time I finished chores and went back to check on the situation, all was quiet. Stubborn mama had taught all four of her kids to fly up (!) and snuggle under her on the roost. The roost is a 2×4 laid on its side, so it’s wider than the babies, which helps.
I’m glad my chickens are so adaptable. That’s just what one needs to get through a pandemic, as we have all learned over the past couple years!
I had read about getting hens to hatch duck eggs, and since I had fertile duck eggs, but no broody duck, I thought I’d give it a try. Spring was turning to summer, and so far, no prolific duck mama had come sauntering out of the bush with a passel of ducklings (also something I had read about).
So I gave a broody Orpington hen a half dozen duck eggs and put her to work. A week later, I went out after dark one evening and candled the eggs to see if they had started developing. Hmmmmm, none had. It seemed our Duckbert might be a dud as a stud. So I disappointedly pulled the duck eggs and gave her some chicken eggs instead. At that point, it was the shortest, straightest road to my Orpington finishing her brood cycle in a timely manner, which would keep her a happy, healthy hen.
Twenty one more days passed uneventfully by, at the end of which mama Orpington produced a most satisfactory passel of chicks. I added a few more chicks out of the incubator and all was well.
When a hen finishes her hatch, she moves the family, lock, stock and barrel, off the old nest and onto a fresh one. Once my hen had made the switch, I moved in to clean out the old, tired nest. And lo and behold what did I discover, tucked away behind the broken egg shells in the furthest corner of the nesting box? A duck egg! I guess I hadn’t got them all, three weeks before, when I had switched out the eggs. Oops. But it couldn’t possibly be alive. Could it?
It was possible actually. Muscovy eggs take 10-15 days longer than chicken eggs to bake. So if my Orpington had been sitting on that egg all this time, and if it WAS fertile, it would be due to hatch within the next week. And it was suspiciously heavy.
I took the egg into the house and candled it. Yep, there was a little duck in there. Damn! What was I going to do with one duck egg? And potentially one duck? Ugh. I was in the middle of tearing out my incubator room, preparing to move to a new one, and didn’t have any other hatches on the go. Singletons were a pain to raise. But I couldn’t just let it die. Sigh. So I unpacked my smallest incubator, plugged it in out of the way in a corner of dear husband’s shop, and placed the egg inside. “The chances of it hatching are slim”, I reasoned with myself. “But I have to let this play out.”
Over the next few days, as we continued with our reno plus the spring farming chore rush, the egg sat there baking in DH’s shop. I forgot to turn it. A bunch of times. It ran out of water (used for humidity) several times too. Daily ten minute cooling as is recommended for hatching ducks? Hahahaha. We were all just so busy. Whenever some member of the family asked, I told them not to get their hopes up and assured them it couldn’t possibly hatch.
Until the day DH came in the house and announced excitedly “there’s a chip out of that egg!” With the egg being in his shop, he’d taken a bit of a proprietary interest in it.
“Oh crap” I thought. “if the damned thing does hatch, what on earth am I going to do with it? I have no incubator room, no brooder. It’s all packed away in boxes!”
By the next day, with my family all eagerly awaiting events, and me warning everyone that this likely wouldn’t end well, the egg had a clear hole in it. It was a hard hatch, as is to be expected when an egg goes through as much as this one had, and it took another whole day before little Duckberta, named for her father, appeared. (We have no idea if she is actually female, she may be renamed to Duckbert the Second at some point.)
Duckberta was quite weak, but rallied enough within 24 hours that I thought she just might make it. We set her up in the laundry room, in a Rubbermaid bin with a grate over it; a heat plate, food and water inside, and stepped around her as we went about our family life. She started in crying pretty quickly. Lonely, as singletons always are.
DH helped, by taking her into his office next to the laundry room, where she snuggled and tunnelled around inside his hoodie as he used his computer. This is the man who generally has nothing whatsoever to do with the farm animals, except driving the hay truck once a year. He has taken a liking to ducks though, and before long Duckberta had him wrapped around her little webbed finger.
After a couple days of ongoing peeping complaints, at times strident, from one lonely little duckling, I realized mama Orpington could spare a child, and I brought Duckberta a little Barred Rock buddy. He quieted her down immediately, and they lived together quite happily for a couple more days. By that point though, we were all getting tired of stepping around a smelly chick brooder every time we went into or out of the laundry room. It was time for a more permanent solution.
I wondered if mama Orpington would take Duckberta under her wing, if she showed up with little Barred Rock? It was worth a try. That night after dark, I took the chick and the duckling out to the hen hotel and slipped them under mama’s skirts where they settled down immediately.
The next day, Duckberta was ambling around the brooder in the middle of a crowd of 17 Barred Rock and Rhode Island Red chicks, just another one of the gang. She didn’t move as quick, and she made more of a mess when she ate, but other than that, she seemed to fit in just fine. Thank goodness. A couple days later when I accidentally spooked mama off the nest one night, I noticed that Duckberta had staked out the prime nest real estate, right under the middle of mama. Evidently she was coping just fine.
There have been a few challenges, like figuring out how to get her the extra vitamin B she needs to grow strong. But we are working things out as she grows, and, a much faster grower, she is now twice as long as the chicks, although not quite as tall. A duck out of water in one sense of the phrase, she has taken to life with her chicken family like a duck to water!
Although the day she comes across her first real puddle or pond, she will likely give her poor dear mama a heart attack by jumping right in for a swim. As ducks do.
One of the cool things about living for twenty-plus years on the same piece of land is being able to see the long term results of our actions. Like the 150 foot hedge that we planted along the busy road fifteen years ago. It’s twenty feet tall now, ten feet wide and impenetrable. And beautiful in the fall.
Or our “winter field”. The winter field got its name because it is the only field that stays dry enough that we can have the horses on it a little bit in mid winter when everywhere else is too muddy. To protect both the land and their feet, our ponies spend much of the wet season in their roomy barnyard paddock, on top of some serious drainage (4 feet of rocks, gravel, then hog fuel).
When we first moved to our muddy valley, a couple horses had been left too long on the winter field, nibbling it down to bare earth. After the horses left, we did nothing (no money, no time and three small kids) and by the next spring, much to our relief, it had greened right up with a mix of grass, clover and plenty of weeds. A couple years later we started putting our own horses on it. They ate down the grass each year, but not the weeds, because horses are picky. We tried to encourage the grass, because more free grass means less outlay on hay to feed hungry horses. We did our best to avoid overgrazing and kept the weeds sort of under control by mowing, hand pulling and, one expensive year, even plowing the whole bloody thing, fertilizing and reseeding. We tried the same approach in the northwest field. Sadly, a couple years later, both fields looked just the same; grass, clover and plenty of weeds.
More years went by, and then in 2012, we got six chicks and built their coop next to the winter field. By 2013 we had lots of chickens (that’s another story), who happily free ranged in the afternoons year round, nibbling greens and enjoying bugs, scratching things up a bit but not too much, leaving their droppings behind.
Life continued, and here we are another eight years later, with the winter field transformed! Especially the area nearest the coops which looks amazing. The thick emerald grass is trimmed slightly tall and fairly even by the flock’s sharp beaks, and completely weed free. It looks like the ‘after’ picture of a weed n feed commercial, except for the chicken poops nestled here and there. Ten feet away, the grass is still lush, with scattered bits of clover. Ten feet more, the grass / clover mix is more pronounced and there is a weed or two. About forty feet away from the coops, where the birds don’t hang out as much, it looks more like the before-chicken winter field.
It has to be our free range poultry who have made this dramatic difference, nothing else has changed! It appears that given the right set of circumstances, chickens are superb groundskeepers.
Regenerative agriculture is having a moment right now, and I totally get why. One regenerative ag strategy involves running livestock lightly on the land where they can forage their own feed, fertilize with their droppings, and disturb the soil moderately with their activities, improving fertility and production. Our winter field, before and after introducing chickens, is an accidental testament to this idea. It’s quite remarkable.
Around here, as we experiment with more regenerative approaches (my new raspberry patch is ‘no till’ and RG uses lots of the techniques), the health of the soil and the plants and animals that it nurtures just keeps improving.
If I had the time and energy, I would have chicken tractors, staffed by feathery groundskeepers, set up at forty feet intervals all over, and let the place really go to the birds.
With more than a foot of snow falling over the last couple days, getting around the barnyard has been a trial. Especially hauling full water buckets. RG came home today from a weekend at her boyfriend’s (it’s ok, covid safety is important to our family, he’s in her bubble) and promptly shoveled all the hundreds of feet of trails I had stomped through the drifts while doing chores, right down to bare ground. She also texted me a few times as she worked, to warn of particularly slippery areas. ❤️
DH cleared the whole driveway, multiple times. And worked on our road along with the other neighbourhood guys and their tractors. A narrow lane really, that dead ends not far past our place, the municipal plows don’t exactly prioritize it. He also carefully filled the back of my truck with snow, packed and levelled for safety, in case I need to go anywhere. We have a fairly large parking area and drive, his snowbanks are now taller than his tractor. ❤️
Chores were so much easier this morning, even though I had some fence repair to do. George had once again knocked down the electric line between him and the donks, in a fit of pique about the weather I’m sure. I can tell it was him and not the donks because a) he is the one with the temper; and b) the donkeys have not set foot outside their stall since the ground turned white. I had to move their water inside, when I realized about twelve hours in (!) they had not gone for a drink since it started. The chickens don’t like it either. All the barnyard crew are getting fed up with this white stuff, they tell me so every time I go out to see them. Except the ducks who love to eat it, puddle around in it, and turn it into a soggy poopy mess, much like they do bare ground.
I am getting fed up with it too. I don’t know how my prairie relatives manage their version of our Canadian winter. Better than us west coasters handle this snow I’m sure…
As a havoc-filled 2020 continues to unfold in all its dismal glory, I am, like everyone else I suppose, doing my best to keep calm and carry on. Pandemic and lockdowns, a crazy president refusing to admit he lost, climate change breathing down our necks, ridiculous conspiracy theories deluding millions. 2020 will surely be a year for the history books, and we’ll all be able to say “yep, I was there…” and have a story or two to tell, hopefully stories where everything turns out ok.
I find that keeping busy helps, and so I do, falling asleep each night planning projects and spending my weekends accomplishing them. There’s work too, to fill my days, and chores, and once or twice a week there’s errands off the farm. It’s thankfully easy to keep busy around our muddy valley.
Yesterday after some deep coop cleaning in the barnyard, I finished tucking in the garlic bed for winter with a thick blanket of leaves; going forward I will focus on raking leaves for chicken pens. I wish the leaves would dry up a bit, the birds enjoy scratching through dry, crackly leaves so much more than damp ones. But it is November after all, so I’m not holding my breath.
November as usual has been cold, and wet, and dark, and yet I love it so much. One of my favourite months, November provides plentiful opportunities for savouring the chill alongside warmth’s sweet contrast; for labouring in the crisp air until I must peel off first one layer and then another to cool myself; for long quiet evenings in front of a crackling fire, listening to the rain tapping on the skylight. One dusky, slightly surreal day last week, heavy clouds dimmed the light so dramatically from sunrise right through to sunset that it felt like a day long eclipse. There’s just so much potential for cozy in November.
November was my mother’s least favourite month. A prairie girl born and bred, she much preferred the sunny winters of her youth. Our rain forest weather was hard on her at times, although she loved living on the coast. Mom’s been gone for many Novembers now, nine to be exact, but of course I think of her often. Like the other day, as I was traversing the soggy, slippery northeast field dragging my empty wheelbarrow pony-cart style, having just spread another load of leaves on the garlic beds.
There was this perfect little puddle, you see. Not a run-of-the-mill mud puddle, rimed with muck and no bottom visible, this was one of those short lived mudless puddles that briefly appear in low spots after a heavy rain. A crystal clear miniature watery valley, a freshwater tidal pool, each blade of grass and bit of colourful leaf litter suspended as if in glass; silent, peaceful, still. It looked to be just perfect for stomping in, so I gave in to my childish impulse. Dropping the wheelbarrow handles, I went all in, swishing the water over the toes of my boots, rinsing a layer of mud away and stirring up the depths into a most satisfactory squishy, muddy stew. Take that, 2020! And then my inner voice spoke up, “For goodness’ sake you silly old woman, you’re almost 59! What are you doing?”
Stomping in puddles is what I was doing, like a little kid. What an idiot I am at times. As shamefulness began to creep over me on its sharp little claws, a stray thought came too, a gift from my mom that made everything ok again. The memory of her advice, given in the toast she made at my 21st birthday party, “Value your inner child, don’t ever grow all the way up. Hold on to her magic because you will need her sometimes.” Yes mama, I will. I do. Love you. Thank you.
I visit the barnyard at least four times each day, and never without a pair of gloves on. This habit is so ingrained I feel quite strange without them.
I find light duty gloves to be indispensable in the barnyard. They warm my hands, have saved me from many cuts and slivers, and keep the poop just that little bit further away from my actual skin.
They also cost money, get dirty fast, and it’s hard to find comfortable ones. After trying many styles and materials over the years, I have developed a clear favourite; light printed cotton ladies gardening gloves with stretchy cuffs. They are easy to slip on and off and thin enough that my fingers stay nimble. You can’t beat the price, and they sail through the laundry beautifully.
Lots of people like the stretchy nylon gloves with rubberized fingers and yes, those are comfy, I used to buy Costco packs of the Gardena ones before chickens. But chickens means poop, and poop means more frequent laundering. The rubbery gloves don’t do well in the dryer. After I got chickens, I grew tired of ending up on my knees every laundry day with my head inside the dryer, peeling half melted gloves off the drum walls. So I went all in on the cotton ones.
As all gloves do with such frequent use, mine develop holes from time to time. Curiously, to me anyway, it’s always the right hand that gets the holes, very few on the left, and I’m left handed! You would think it would be the other way round. The holes are often at the fingertips, also a prime danger zone for poop-to-skin contact. But rather than chuck them and pull out a new pair, I like to repair my gloves.
When I have collected a few pairs that need fixing, and they are fresh from the wash, I will sit down with a needle and thread, slide a holey glove on my right hand, and sew up the holes with my left. As noted above, since most holey gloves are right handers, and I am left handed, this works well.
When I have to fix a left hander, I use the same strategy. I have learned it is better to force a glove onto the wrong hand than to wield a sharp needle with one.
It takes only a few minutes to stitch up each glove, and my effort gains me months more use out of each pair. This makes me happy. There is a great deal of joy to be found in mending, if you look for it.
Three weekends of satisfying work, and I am rewarded with a snazzy new rooster coop. The first residents seem delighted with their new digs. It may have been sparked by an uncomfortable night moving birds out of a crappy old chicken tractor, but this has in reality been my first big Covid project.
Circling the wagons, improving infrastructure, provisioning the household,increasing personal food security. This all brings me comfort and a sense of control in a world where normal looks a long way off.
I know it’s not just me. People everywhere are busy with Covid projects.Starting new gardens, refurbing or enlarging old ones. Adopting new pets or expanding their livestock holdings (in our case, with ducks). Keeping sourdough starter and scobys, making kombucha and bread. Even Dear Husband turned out a few loaves.
I have to laugh at myself though. I only figured it out today, as I was sitting out there drinking lemonade, admiring my accomplishment. My tall, secure coop, with spacious roosts. My fully netted pen. My grassy 2500 square foot free range yard. Sure it works for roosters, but do you know what we actually have here? The perfect turkey setup.
I have considered turkeys for a few years now, and of course researched their needs thoroughly, on many a snug winter evening by the fire. An informed farmer makes for a successful farmer after all. But I never pulled the trigger on a turkey project because usually, one or another of my neighbours have birds available for the big three turkey-fuelled holidays, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s much easier just walking down the road, handing over some cash, and toting home a delicious zero mile diet roaster. This year, neighbour S is raising them and I’ve already put my name in.
I honestly didn’t mean to build a turkey shed, so I have to have a good laugh at myself. I’m such a turkey sometimes. 😂But I couldn’t have designed a place more suitable for raising turkeys if I had tried.Even my subconscious is in prepping mode I guess.
MaybeI can pick up some turkey eggs next spring, try to hatch a few, see how it goes. Something to muse on, this winter by the fire.
Time for a new rooster coop I decided, as once more I found myself crouching on hands and knees persuading reluctant, sleepy cockerels into transport crates. It was the night before freezer camp and I was crating up 2020’s first batch of winter chicken dinners.
The bachelor coop was still perfectly comfortable for its inhabitants, who stood an average of eighteen inches tall. For me though, at five foot seven, it was a little tight, and hard to clean, and after three years, starting to come apart at the seams. It had lasted pretty well for a recycled boxspring floor with plastic pipe studs and chicken wire walls, but I was ready to upgrade.
After conferring with Resident Gardener and Dear Husband, I decided that the rooster coop should stay in the secret field but move to the other side, tucked under a hedgerow for shelter, with its back to the rising sun (to help keep them quiet in the mornings). It should be big enough to walk upright into, for ease of cleaning and handling birds. And the doorway wide enough for a wheelbarrow.
A new fence and gate would let the young cockerels free range over the whole bottom half of the secret field, snacking on bugs and grazing, turning the secret field’s output into chicken. A new pen, attached to the coop, would give them somewhere to stretch their legs when they couldn’t free range.
With that vision in mind, I picked up 30 eight foot 2x4s and a role of half-inch hardware cloth on my Wednesday feed run, carried it all down to the job site on Thursday and Friday using the “grab a couple and take them with you every time you walk by” strategy and started construction Saturday morning.A quick couple questions to my carpentry mentor DH and I began putting together the base. I only had a couple hours to spend on it though, Saturday is coop cleaning day and I had my regular chores to get done.
Today I had no competing priorities, and was able to spend the bulk of the day down in the secret field, working on the coop. So much fun. I used up all but two of the 2x4s, and finished up most of the framing. My new rooster coop is looking pretty good so far if I do say so myself…
It’s that time of year again, broodies sitting on eggs or raising babies all over the barnyard, with varying degrees of success. Lots of my Marans are broody this year, which is a bit strange. In all the time I’ve kept this breed I’ve only ever had one or two wanna-be mommas. My sister has a Marans broody from my lines, and it appears that now I do too. Except I seem to have seven or eight. Luckily they have mostly been doing a good job, especially for first time moms.
The latest one hatched a surprise Wyandotte x Marans chick last week. It was a surprise because I thought I had put a couple infertile eating eggs under her, to give me time to gather fertile ones and then hatch chicks in the incubator for her to raise. Or at least I thought they were infertile.I also didn’t realize the placeholder eggs had been under her for quite as long as they had, until one morning I walked into the barn to hear peeping coming from her nest box. Uh oh, we’d had a little accidental hatch, and well ahead of the incubator hatch too. Damn, now I couldn’t give her any extras, her singleton would be a week old when the next group hatched. I would have to do the work of raising that batch myself.
In retrospect, I am glad I didn’t give this Marans any more responsibility than she already had because she turned out to be not particularly interested in mothering. I moved her and the chick out of the nest box into clean quarters, as I do after every hatch, putting them in a large brooder with some two week olds and a heat lamp. After making sure momma was fine with the two week olds, I left them to their own devices.
Over the next few days, little singleton settled right in, playing with the big kids then running under momma’s skirts every time he needed a warm-up. But momma wasn’t happy. She just kept pacing the fence line, all day long. She totally ignored the older chicks, and kind of ignored her singleton. He really had to yell to get her to stay still long enough for him to warm up.
I thought momma might be happier back home, and thus do a better job with her baby, plus I knew from past experience that her baby would be safe with the mostly calm, laid back Marans and olive eggers, so I took them home to her flock, and then carried on with my day.
But at dusk when I went to lock up, what do you think I discovered?Had indifferent momma made a nest in the fluffy thick shavings I laid down in her preferred corner for that purpose? Was she snuggled in for the night with her baby? No. Of course not. She had hopped up high on a roost, leaving her baby behind on the floor, where he was stomping around peeping pitifully for her to ‘get down here!’
Now the logical next step would have been to take momma and baby out of the Marans coop and put them in a small private brooder, with no roost. And honestly I did think of that first. But when I looked up at the rows of black chickens, preparing to scoop her up, I realized I couldn’t tell which one was momma. And she sure wasn’t talking – none of the 20 black hens looking back at me showed even the slightest interest in the complaining baby below.
So what could I do? I scooped baby up instead and walked him back to where he had come from. He would just have to bunk in with the older chicks, in the only brooder with a heat lamp.
It has been a few days now, and things are going great for little singleton. His bunkmates all snuggle together to sleep, and he just worms himself right into the middle of the pile where I can’t even see him. The heat lamp is only on at night, but he seems to have no problem making it through the day with no momma to warm up under. It helps that it is summer, and that the brooder coop is snug and dry, he can always get in out of the wind. The little guy is actually thriving!He even has a “bird of a feather” to flock together with, another little black chick who is much bigger than him now, but not for long.
I am pretty impressed with this little guy’s resilience, it’s a talent we could all use lots of in these most eventful days. I hope that I will prove to be as strong and resourceful as my little singleton. It’s sure worth a try anyhow, just look at him go!
Happy Canada Day everyone. And as our most wonderful Dr Henry says…Be kind. Be calm. Be safe. ❤️🇨🇦❤️
Quail are so common in our muddy valley that we have a Quayle Road just down the way. In the summer months we see them a lot. They dash along the roadside in single file family groups, pacing us for a few seconds before plunging into the brush. Mini roadrunners with legs flying, flouncy headdresses bobbing in front of them as they go.
California quail were first released in the Victoria area way back in 1861, a hundred years exactly before I was born. They thrived, as immigrants tend to do, and are now common all over our valley and indeed most of the west coast. In the fall and winter they congregate in “coveys” consisting of a few adults of both sexes and a bunch of youngsters. Female quail choose a new mate each year in early spring, and the happy couples leave the covey to hatch and rear their brood before rejoining, kids in tow, in the fall.
One day a few weeks ago, I noticed a lone male hanging around the chicken coops. That first day, he introduced himself by standing on top of a barnyard fence post, chuk-chuk-chuk-ing at me for all he was worth. When I got too close (rudely ignoring his warnings), he burst up into the air, flew over my head and then dove for the nearest bush, where he hit the ground running. California quail are far better runners than fliers. They use their wings much like chickens do; only in a pinch, and to escape delicate situations.
A few days later, Resident Gardener approvingly noted how well puppy Arrow was doing with his livestock guardian raptor training. “He ran off a quail!” she enthused, “he knew it wasn’t a chicken!” I politely refrained from pointing out that quail may not be chickens, but they ain’t raptors either. Nor did I mention that I had already met this particular quail.
Arrow may have run him off that day, but not for long. Our new little sentry is very much still around, popping up every single time I go out to the barnyard. And every time, I get a stern talking-to, in quail-speak, for daring to set foot in what he evidently feels is ‘his’ chicken empire. It’s a blessing that quail aren’t physically aggressive creatures, or I would surely have had my eyes picked out by now. This plucky little fellow, even smaller than Tiny Chicken, has adopted my flocks as his own, lock, stock and barrel. He stands guard from dawn to dusk, usually on the bridge railing (sadly now unfit for human hands), and roosts up high in the willows at night.
As you might imagine, I am out in the barnyard a lot, enjoying various chicken keeping activities, and I have become accustomed to his constant surveillance and commentary. Our little sentry continues to get himself quite worked up at my presence and so far he is careful to keep a healthy distance. I hope he gets more approachable over time.
When the roosters call out a warning, the little guy goes ballistic, echoing their concern in his most enthusiastic manner. But it doesn’t work the other way around. When he freaks out because, say, I’ve shown up, the chickens don’t listen. They know I am no threat.
Our barn cat is wary of him now, after their recent run in. The other day as I was filling feeders, Callie decided to come on over for a quick visit and neck scratch. She had made it halfway across the paddock separating the barn and the coops, when a brown and gray feathery spitfire launched himself at her, claws first. Scoring a direct hit, he beat her with his tiny wings, chuk-chuking loudly all the while. Recoiling in utter shock, Callie turned tail and ran to hide in the barn, while our little sentry drew himself up, gave his headdress a satisfied toss, and returned to his post. I believe it is only a matter of time before he does the same to Arrow.
I wonder why he is all alone? Did he find a mate and she meet a tragic end? Or was he fated this year to be a bachelor, with not enough females to go around? Did he willingly strike out on his own, eager for a big adventure? Or get the boot? I will never know his story, only that I am now part of it.
I probably shouldn’t be encouraging wild birds to stick around, they carry disease as all wild things do. But my flock free ranges all day anyway, I couldn’t keep them insulated from wild birds unless I fenced the sky. Strong healthy birds fend off disease, so I will focus on good husbandry, and give my birds their freedom, and enjoy my little solitary sentry. I wonder how long he’ll stay?