Teen Love

The girls are seven weeks old now and are beginning to transition to the coop.  While I’d hoped to have them permanently outside by now, our schedules and the weather have interfered with the best of plans, delaying our timeline.  We’re moving forward and close to moving day.

The weather warmed substantially recently, jumping from highs in the 50’s straight into the 80’s, even topping 90 degrees last week.  As such, the need for the heat lamp was negated and the girls learned to live without their red lamp.  It was nice to lose the red glow of that lamp, but it did require adjustments on the chicks’ part.  The big adjustment was overcoming a fear of the dark.

It didn’t occur to me that they’d be afraid of the dark, but after weeks of light 24 hours a day, then having an evening arrive when darkness fell, it was in fact, scary for them.  I went out to check on them and while it was over 80 degrees in the garage, they were clustered together in the corner.  After a few minutes, I realized that they were afraid of the dark.  It took them a few days to get used to the natural cycles of day and night and now they seem content to hunker down for sleep at dusk.

To make things more interesting (and cooler), they began spending more time outside in their future home.  We worked hard to get the run completed so they could spend days outside in this warm weather, enjoying the breezes and nature’s bounty.  Like kids being called in at bedtime, they did not like relocating after the freedom, space and bounty of edibles the run offered.   While they look so big in their brooder now, they look small in their big run and clearly have more growing to accomplish.

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Biosecurity:  hardware cloth buried into trench and backfilled to keep digging predators at bay.

 

 

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First outing to their new run- Wowsa!

 

They went straight to work and decimated the greenery pretty much right away, enjoying the growing clovers I seeded, the grasses and wild violets.  I brought them slugs galore as I worked my garden early mornings and removed them from kale, Brussel sprouts and lettuce.  Picking slugs from my garden is more than just integrated pest management to me now as I’m able to pluck them and provide these tasty treats to the girls who readily accept them, making this chore more enjoyable and meaningful.

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The kids stayed inside the run with the girls for a while so they wouldn’t be “afraid,” but it was unnecessary as they clearly loved exploring the new area

 

 

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Bumble, the Buff Orpington, is no longer bright yellow as she was as a chick, but remains steadfast in her loyalty to my son.

 

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Those girls went to work, hunting and pecking, clearing away greenery and eating at will like kids in a candy store.

 

They enjoyed lots of fresh greens as well and found blooming stalks of arugula to be tasty and fun as I hung them from a ladder that used to belong to a playset and now serves as a temporary roost in the run.  Watching them jump up to reach certain blooms a bit out of reach was entertaining as they can reach the lower ones just fine, but seem to need to get to those upper ones.  It’s also fun to watch them stop and listen intently at all of the new sounds of the backyard, particularly those of birds.  Not to fear though, our loyal pup remains on duty and they seem just fine with his presence.

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What was that?!  A pileated woodpecker sounds a lot like something out of the Amazon!
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Trusty pup on guard

The voyage to their run allowed them to literally spread their wings.  They practiced flying- past, over and on top of friends and onto perches for better vantage points of the yard.  While the playhouse ladder seems a little slippery, they still use it despite the addition of some branches.  It seems they rotate through venues and everyone gets a turn.

 

 

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The Rhode Island Red trying the new roost.
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Branch from the woods serves as a low roost.  Here the Welsummer is enjoying it.
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Ethel, the silver laced Wyandotte, also enjoying the branch.

They look like mini versions of their adults selves now and the kids have taken to renaming them, again, as several look quite different from their week old appearances.  They’ve grown in lovely tail feathers and combs are beginning to show as well.

 

 

 

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Teenaged chick(en)s looking more like their breeds, showing off tail feathers and the beginnings of combs.

 

Sweet Ethel, the silver laced Wyandotte, is still a concern and we’ve joked, calling her Fred at times, but I don’t want to jinx her as she’s one of my favorites, so she remains Ethel to me and in fairness, the other birds seem to have caught up to her in size so maybe she’s a hen after all, or so I continue to hope.  Lulu is no longer the smallest, that title now fits Lucy, the golden laced Wyandotte.

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Little Lulu is no longer the smallest and is clearly trying to establish herself in the pecking order now.  Here she is eating some grit.

 

They still love plain yogurt or cottage cheese mixed with oatmeal as a treat and readily eat it out of the cup when it’s presented.  The other new offering was watermelon.  I can’t explain how excited they get when I deliver slabs of watermelon, other than to say it’s kind of like how I feel when I cut into that first melon each summer.  They peck away at the fruit, eating all the way down to the rind, and then that disappears too.

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Enjoying cottage cheese and oatmeal.

 

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Cold watermelon on a hot day hits the spot!

Watching them enjoy their run has brought me great joy.  I love hearing the quiet, contented language they share with one another, cooing and clucking softly as they roam.  It’s particularly entertaining when one hen finds something of interest, a dried leaf for example, and everyone races to see what she has and a big chase ensues, wings at the ready and feathers flying.  Stray ants that wander into the run are met with a sharp eye and a quick snatch.  And then there’s just the nonstop hunting and pecking.   They are thoroughly enjoying their run.

 

As for the coop, it is now stained inside and out.  The corners inside need to be caulked for when I clean it out.  A poop tray and roost are to be constructed this week and then more hardware cloth is needed on smaller, top sections to keep any interested predators out.  What we’ve learned from this experience is that it’s a lot more labor intensive than anticipated, but it has been a labor of love and it’s rewarding to sit back and watch these chick(en)s and their shenanigans.

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Not done, but getting there. 

 

Bees are doing well too.  We are at the tail end of the nectar flow.  My large hive has five medium supers full of nectar which should soon be capped as it cures into honey.  Exciting!

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Workers investigating some damage I did when separating frames.

 

The small hive is superseding.  I’ve been waiting on them to decide to do this on their own as their queen is over two years old now and likely running low on sperm stores.  Had they not begun the process soon, I would have ordered a new queen to replace the other one myself.

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Supersedure queen cell cup- you can see how elongated the cell is to accommodate a queen.  At this juncture, it contained royal jelly and a larva, uncapped.  The location of the queen cup indicates a supersedure rather than a swarm as the swarm cells tend to be low hanging on frames and supersedure cells tend to be on frames.

 

Last week, I checked on them and found a queen cup filled with royal jelly and a larva, not yet capped, so less than a week old, per bee math.   I inadvertently ripped another one open when I separated frames which upset me, but fortunately the other is intact.  The new queen should emerge in about two weeks but then she needs time to find a drone congregation area to mate with several drones and store her life supply of sperm.  This puts this hive behind a bit, but at the end, weather permitting and uncontrollable circumstances aside, they should find themselves in a good place with a new reigning queen to continue their lineage.  I will keep a close eye on this hive as supersedure is not a slam dunk and many variables can impact the outcome.

The vegetable garden is really taking off as are ornamentals with this burst of warm weather.  Lettuces are still booming despite a few hot days.  Arugula has bolted and bloomed, but I let this happen every year as I love the blooms.  Blueberries, strawberries and sugar snap peas are already forming, just in need of warm days to ripen.  My fig tree finally leafed out and now seems to be growing before my very eyes.  Lots of blooms from ornamentals as well and my meadow grasses and flowers are coming in too.  It’s all so lovely this time of year.   Welcome summer!

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Arugula going to seed- hens loved some of these stalks when I cut them and hung them upside down from roosting ladder.
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Lemon balm on left, Johnny Jump Ups violas in center, bread seed poppy on right
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Potatoes, Brussel sprouts and garlic
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Lovely tree peony in foreground and hollyhocks reaching high in rear.
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Peonies
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Fig returning just a few days ago and leaves growing quickly
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Returning mountain mint, rich food source for bees
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Pollinator bed beginning to show:  Joe Pye Weed, New England asters, Bee balm, butterfly weed, California poppy, Cardinal flower, Coneflowers, Bachelors Button

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