Monday, February 19, 2024

Dem Devilish Donkeys

 Just to set the record straight.  Donkeys can be a pain in the neck.  Allow me to tell you what happened last week.

I've shown you how we wrap baling string from the hay aisle latch to a wooden post to keep the door closed during certain times of the winter.  Apparently the donkeys worked their little noses to the grindstone prying that door loose until they achieved access to the hay aisle.  Were they after hay?  Of course not.  It's what's inside those glorious garbage cans that is the ultimate prize. Chicken feed and Equine Senior.  Both are too delicious for words.  Thankfully they were caught before too much had been consumed.  When Rick and I say "it's always something", we mean it.

And here are the precious angels, taking a sun nap.


For this next video, you'll want sound up to catch the first few seconds.  This vocalizing is mild
compared to the earful I get when dishing up their Senior.

The little darlings love to forage in the woods outside of the donkey gate nibbling bark, sometimes leaves.  

And then there are the chickies.

They are quite partial to the sweet fruit food group -- bananas, blueberries.  Apples not so much.
So I was surprised to see how much they enjoy a couple handfuls of the salad starter bags I've been buying.  What makes it a bit curious is they don't enjoy all greens.  The times I've provided baby spinach, they turn away and ask for the "real" treat. 

And, of course, water from the donkey trough is gobs better than their own.  Of course.

Monday, February 5, 2024

The End of an Era

 Yesterday I lost my nine-year old matriarch of the chicken flock, Sweet Pea.  

No one will ever be able to take her place.

She had been feeling her age this winter, and in fact, I wasn't sure she'd survive another winter.  But of course didn't want to consider her death, she'd live forever. 
However, much as I didn't want to admit it I could see her slow decline.  Every evening for the past couple of months she was unable to hop/fly up to the sleeping area and would wait for one of us to pick her up and put her with the rest of the girls.

This is an older photo but there's my girl third from the left.

Last evening I went out to lock up and once inside the coop lifted Sweet Pea up to the shelf.  She flapped her wings as she always did when I set her down.  Then made an odd noise and collapsed.  I thought she had lost her footing so tried to set up upright but in hindsight think she was already dead.  It happened so quickly I just held her thinking she'd revive but no.  She was gone.

Long time readers will remember:
She was always my helper girl while I cleaned up donkey doo.  Always stepping onto the manure fork to help and I'd have to shoo her away.
She knew her name and would come when called.  I'd call to alert her to a new flake of straw just thrown for the girls, for she loved digging in to retrieve the good stuff. 

 I'd call when treats were thrown so she wouldn't miss out.  And in recent years she'd be on the far side of the pasture and would come (maybe after 3 or 4 tries).
She had a distinctive voice; I always knew when she was in the area and would say hi even if she wasn't in view.
Most recently she showed Sharone who was boss, getting in his face, puffing up and flapping her wings.  He bowed to her position in the flock.

She was one of the first three chickens we got in 2015.  Little did I know then how easy it would be to love her.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Scenes From a Teeny Tiny Farm

 Living "in the country" means sometimes things are done a bit basically, down to earth.
But let me back up a step.

This morning I texted the next door neighbor to tell her one of the horses was down and struggling to get up.  She responded almost immediately so I knew the horse would be helped soon.  However, the next text said the mare was going to be euthanized for reasons I won't go into here.  About 2:00 in the afternoon, as I was feeding donks, I saw two big piles of earth in the neighboring pasture and knew what that meant - Suzie the horse was being buried on site. To be honest I'm not sure I would have had the stomach for it, even if we had the right equipment to consider it.  It's pretty heart wrenching, especially with a large animal.  At least that's been my personal experience.  

OK, let's move on.

We've had above freezing temps overnight for the past week which has meant some significant snow melting.  Just take a look at the driveway.

Yea, so what's the big deal about that you ask.
The temps are now just below freezing at night which means some icing.  But with this lovely clear area down the middle of the driveway I have a pretty clear shot all the way up to the chonkeys.  No need for cleats and no need to worry about each step with the fear of slipping.  Huzzah!

With that melting we have a clearer picture of the damage done by the weight of the snow.

You're looking at the poles supporting the netting over the chicken run and no they're not meant to be in a U-shape.  Yup, the netting is partially on the ground so I worry about the hens getting their feet caught, but they're so eager to be walking around  in the no-snow zone I've not shut them out of the area. Rick says it will need to be rebuilt in the spring.  Oh good.

Next, hang on to your hats, it's a tour of the hay aisle..

 And how could we not include a pic of the three princesses.  We had an interior breakfast as there was the smallest bit of snow swirling yesterday morning.

  Princesses indeed...

Monday, January 22, 2024

Chickens Secretly Plan to Unionize?

 When last we spoke I was more than a bit fed up with shoveling paths and eating areas for the donks.  Well, over the past week I've continued to expand eating areas just so they can have a bit of walking around room.  And the ingrates do not appreciate the efforts and poop willy nilly in each of those areas.  So it means cleaning manure each trip before hay can be thrown.  I really wish one of you would speak to them about this.  

I think I also mentioned the donks wanted to venture out of the darn barn to dine.  No sooner was that statement out in the open than they refused to leave the barn.

 Sometimes its not worth trying to figure out their seemingly irrational behavior.

Its also that time of year when the latch on the hay aisle door is useless and we turn to baling twine.

  The snow and ice collects at the door and its impossible to close.  Earlier this past week it wasn't wrapped securely and the donks succeeded in getting the door open and helped themselves to Equine Senior stored in a garbage can (with a lid).  Yup, those noses can do just about anything given enough time.  Fortunately they didn't consume a dangerous quantity or we would have needed emergency medical treatment.

Speaking of medical treatment (on a small scale), last Monday I was worried about Sweet Pea's comb.  I did not wait for the next morning but schlepped back out after dinner and schmeared her comb with an herbal salve from Fresh Eggs Daily.  And gooped her up a couple more times during the week when the temps were plummeting overnight.  This stuff has lemongrass oil, vitamin E oil and rosemary oil.  Her comb color improved markedly after the first application.

Each morning when I open the coop door, out pile the younger crew.  I walk in, turn the corner and there are Sweet Pea and JoannieLu in front of the heater.

 In this photo the heater looks threateningly red.  Please don't gasp and sputter.  The photo is deceiving.  It's not that red nor can they burn themselves.

But there is something afoot with the youngsters.  They seem to be innocently gathering but when I approach all conversation stops.  I'm suspicious and wonder what they're planning...


Monday, January 15, 2024

Snow Shoveling For the Darn Donks

 The two videos I'm going to show you illustrate what was happening two days ago.  Five inches of snow is not a big deal in Michigan, but this stuff was so wet and heavy.  One friend said it was heart attack snow.  Have to tell you, I was feeling my age.

This morning I fed the donks in the driveway so I could shovel an eating area - they were tired of eating in the barn and welcomed being outside in spite of the cold. (also being in the barn for extended periods means there's manure from one end to the other)

As for the chickens, we've been leaving the door to the porch open but leaving the radiant heater on (I've not seen anyone venture outside).  Many chicken keepers will rake you over the coals if they hear you're using a heater.  And yes, I do understand the risks, BUT, I've seen my two seniors stand in front of it when they felt the need.  I am a bit worried about Sweet Pea; her comb may be frostbitten so I'll doctor it tomorrow morning.  Nighttime temps have dipped down to subzero numbers twice and it looks like we've got a couple more frigid nights in the coming week (then we're back up to double digits).  Hay and more hay for the donks and protein and scratch with corn for the hens.  

I also discovered today the heater for the chicken water was dying so had to look for a replacement this afternoon.  Guess how much that sucker cost -- $58!  But what choice did I have.
And two tines of the manure fork broke so that will be Rick's job tonight.
No more problems please.

On a smling note, my African violets are blooming - a first in years.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Loss, Mud, and Shenanigans

So much news from the teeny tiny farm.

I'll start with the bad news.  Marigold died on Christmas Eve.  She had been lethargic and we had just started a worming regime, but she died the next day.  I will forever find it difficult to diagnose chicken maladies.

She was the last of the four girls adopted from the Michigan Humane Society in 2019.  She used to roost on top of the yellow door separating the two coop areas and I still hesitate before moving the door thinking she's up there.
It's never easy losing one of the girls when they've been part of the chicken family for years.

Moving along to the weather and how it impacts the ground.
For two weeks we had too much rain which meant we had mud and nothing but mud in the donkey yard.  There were a couple of high ground areas where we could throw hay to get the donks out of the yuck.  Felt like it would never end.  And then it froze.  And in all the places in the mud where humans and donkeys had tread, there were/are divets.  Deep divets.  Walking in the yard feels like a balancing act.  The donkeys choose their footing very carefully too.     
As I write this the rain has returned.  Donks have stayed in the barn all day.  Can you see me shaking my head?

I continue to find Sharone's behavior fascinating.  For a brief period while a freshman in college I considered pursuing animal behavior/psych courses.  But interests seemed to change every semester...
Anyway, just a couple of days ago for the first time that I have witnessed Sharone sounded the alarm to the hens.  Everyone quickly scooted into the coop, although two girls were in the barn hay aisle.  I saw nothing -- no hawks, no ground predators, who knows.
He continued to sound the alarm on a more subdued level, but wouldn't you know it, he hid behind the yellow door mentioned earlier as his hiding spot.  That's him right behind the mesh.

And then, Sweet Pea assisted him with the call to alarm.  
Sharone on the right, Sweet Pea on the left.  The urgency had dissipated but you can get a feel for the sound.

This surprised me.  Is she the matriarch being the oldest?  That sweet girl will be nine years old next month.  Equines lose their standing as they become elderly (witnessed that with Natural, when he went from king of the herd to a lesser standing with age).  But chickens?  Don't know.

Speaking of equines, we'll end this post with me herding the three ruffians from a walkabout around the house back to the donkey yard.  Do I sound I bit vexed?  Yes, yet another trip back and forth.


Monday, December 18, 2023

Hay Prices - Yikes!

 In our corner of Michigan the first taste of snow arrived just after Thanksgiving.

But it evaporated quickly and we all got spoiled with higher than normal temps.  Until today.
And the donkeys are not happy.

Heck no, we're not coming out of the barn.

But apparently the little we have will leave on Wednesday so no white Christmas.

The other big news at this teeny tiny farm is hay.  Do we have enough?  Where do I get more?  And how much does it cost?

Our hay supplier, for the first time since we got the donks, left Michigan for the winter.  Which meant we needed our full winter supply by Thanksgiving.  We filled the horse trailer, we filled the hay aisle, we put some in a storage shed.  But I worried we wouldn't make it until he comes back in the spring.  So I started calling around.  Found two places with hay.   I'm used to paying $6/bale.  I just paid $11/bale!  Believe me I only got the bare minimum to make sure I wouldn't have to worry.  
Good golly miss molly.