Growing Pains in the Coop

Bamf is now six and a half weeks old, and pretty much fully feathered.  That means she can regulate her own body temperature now, and doesn’t have to sleep underneath Amy, who has been showing signs of tiring of motherhood.

Jeff and I agreed it was time to let Amy and Bamf out of the brooder pen and back into the flock. The chickens were ready, but the enclosure wasn’t.  The hardcloth openings on the enclosure will keep in a big chicken (and keep out raccoons), but they won’t keep Bamf from slipping through.  We had to go around with chicken wire and reinforce the sides.

Jeff also worked on the door, putting in a barrier to discourage chickens from escaping when I open the door to put in food, water, and treats.  He also reinforced the wires in the door itself, because one of the center wires had popped loose and left an opening large enough for a small chicken like Sera…or one of the cats….to slip through.

Amy did not realize she was free from the brooder right away, but once she did, she spent a lot of time trying to escape Bamf.  It made me terribly sad, but I know that’s how the chicken thing works sometimes.  I knew it was going to be really bad at bedtime, because Amy was going to run off to the roosts with the rest of the chickens and leave Bamf alone.

And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.  Bamf spent several minutes calling and crying around the enclosure, and Amy ignored her.  Finally, I went in and captured Bamf, who screamed bloody murder and tried to escape–hen raised chicks are not nearly as friendly as human raised ones–and put her in the big coop.  She called and cried and still, Amy ignored her.  I blocked the exit and waited her out.

I did notice that while Amy thought she belonged on the roost with the other chickens, Maalik and Abby disagreed.  They pecked and bit and beat her with their wings.  When I went back to check on Bamf, who had quieted and gone to sleep on one of the lower roosts, Amy had been dumped off by the other girls and was trying to get back up.

It’s my hope that the flock will discipline Amy until she accepts her responsibilities and in the morning, I will find her taking care of Bamf again and helping her to find her place in the flock.

We’re not out of the woods yet.  Bamf doesn’t need Amy to keep her warm enough to stay alive, but she does need her to help her find her place in the flock until she can withstand the pecking order squabbles to find her place herself.

This is all new to me, too.  I am back to seeing Bamf as Schroedinger’s Chick–both alive and dead at the same time until I observe her.

Cross your fingers.

Castor’s Nest and Other Nonsense Around Here

Jeff’s fishing in Koocanusa this weekend, so the “kids” and I are home alone.  Twice I’ve gone looking for Castor in the house (the cats are not allowed upstairs with my mom, so I have to keep tabs on them), and both times I have found him here.

Castor's Nest


In a lovely little nest he’s made in my bed.  Yes, he scooched the blankets all around himself and then hid under them.  I haven’t been able to get a picture of him actually in the nest, because as soon as he’s discovered, he clambers out for scritches.

What’s adorable about it is that it’s almost exactly what Jeff does.  And you don’t know how many times I’ve come downstairs to find my big, tough, manly-man but completely allergic to cats husband watching TV, sniffling and blowing his nose, with Castor curled up against his chest.  Or lying on his arm.

When Jeff knows he’s going to sleep but the cats are in the room with him, he’ll put on Animal Planet for them while he covers his eyes with a pillow (Alaska native trick) for a nap.  (And for clarity, when I say Alaska native, I mean born and raised; if I meant First Nations native, I’d say which Nation.)  They love it.  When birds come on, they make that clicking chirp that says, ‘OMG if you were really here I’d eat every bit of you.”


They are going stir crazy.  Finally the snow is leaving the ground and the girls are tired of looking at each other’s butts. I’m going to let them out as soon as I’m done here, but all of them are lined up at the enclosure door.  I’m actually going to open the coop door for them today. The enclosure door has a loose wire down the center and it’s now created a gap big enough for a skunk and possibly a smallish raccoon.  Not to mention my little feathered escape artists.

I’ll try to get video of BAMF today, but if I do, I’ll have to use my charging cable to upload from my phone.  It may happen, it may not.  But she is adorable. She’s clearly a mutt. My pure little white chick now looks about as pure white as the snow melting crazily out here. But she’s getting big, and she’s three days from six weeks old, and one week away from release from jail the brooder pen.

She was adorable yesterday.  She and Amy had knocked over their water fount, so they were thirsty.  Normally, BAMF won’t have anything to do with me, but she was so thirsty, she stood there and drank and drank, looking right at me.  I love it when she does that.

I have to get the enclosure fencing reinforced with chicken wire so the holes are too small for a six week old chick to escape.  I also have to check for “slip under” areas.  I noticed one today that looks problematic.

She is completely accepted by the flock, so there are no worries now about rejection.  I’m sure when she is older, she’ll have to endure some pecking so she finds her place in the flock, but it’s clear she belongs.  Huge relief for me.

If I buy silkie chicks this year, I think I won’t need to buy any more for a good long time.  I have a brooder pen set up now, so any broody hens we’ll move after the hatch.  I think I’m going to get good at this. Silkies are very broody.


Not a lot to update here, other than Tweedle Dum is still figuring out the mechanics of turkey sex, and he’s still terrible at it.  I do not understand why, but he and the hens seem to need to do it only when I’m going in the enclosure door.  And then they do the deed RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR, blocking it so I can’t escape. I have to wait until they’re done.

Turkey toms are not very smart and they form odd attachments to human females.  They will hit on their favorites.  Oh yes, I’ve been getting the dance.  And Dummy places himself between me and any human visitors, making sure to fluff up and show tail feathers.  “THIS IS MY HUMAN FEMALE.  BEGONE.”

I just wonder what the whole business outside the enclosure door is.  Does he think this is some kind of seduction?  I should video this to show you how bad he is at it.

Dear Gods, this is the depths to which I have fallen.  That turkeys want to have sex with me.

Home with the birds

Today was a lovely Sunday at home with the chickens and turkeys.  Well, the cats, too.  And the husband, Jeff.  Not necessarily in that order.

I let the chickens out of the enclosure. With all the predators around, and having lost some rare breeds to one or all of them (we’ve only seen feathers from one lost bird), the girls and boys only get to come out under supervision.  I check on them from time to time and do head counts.  With the turkeys as an early warning system, too, the birds are better protected.  While the predators decide whether Tweedle Dum, my tom, is worth a fight, enough time can be bought for me to come out with the shotgun and make sure everyone is okay.

So the girls and Azrael, my Rhode Island Red rooster, were out.  A couple of the girls stayed in.  Einstein, my buff Naked Neck, really doesn’t care if she goes outside again.  She’s more than happy to stay in the enclosure and feel safe.  She’s the last of the original four.

Scarlett, on the other hand, the last of the second set of four, is an inquistitive Red Star who likes to be the last one in at night, if she can help it.

Amy, the buff Orpington who is mothering the now nearly five week old chick I’ve named BAMF Snowflake (as a fuck you to fascists everywhere and also because she’s white as urban snow and yes, that stands for what you think it stands for), really wanted to go with them, but she’s not allowed.  Not until BAMF is fully fledged AND big enough to escape a crow.  When BAMF is six and a half weeks old, she and Amy will be released from the brooder pen and allowed to roam the enclosure. Outside time will be negotiated later.

At least, that was the plan.

Until I went to check on the girls and found BAMF running frantically around the outside of the brooder pen.  I called out that I was on the way to rescue her, and wrestled with the baling wire that holds the door shut, got inside….and found BAMF sitting placidly behind Amy in the brooder pen.  So she’s perfectly fine getting in or out on her own, thank you, and doesn’t need my help.

Well, that’s not happening.  I found the exits, two of them, just small enough for a five week old chick to slip through, and I had Jeff round me up some plywood to cover them.  Meanwhile, BAMF escaped again and there was a mad chase all over the enclosure.  I wouldn’t freak out except she’s not fully fledged yet, and it’s very easy for her to get chilled and die.  After five weeks of keeping this baby alive in the snow, rain and ice of North Idaho weather, to have it all go to hell because the little shit is an escape artist would suck.

Finally I caught her, put her back in the brooder pen and sealed off the exits.  Then, since dark was coming, I started letting the girls back in the enclosure.  I have to let them file in one at a time, because the turkeys want to come in, too, and I can’t have them in there knocking everything over and then stepping on poor BAMF.  The girls all try to follow Azrael in if they can, because Az gets really pissed at stragglers.  He and Castiel, the beta rooster (and a gorgeous partridge cochin), will wingslap and nip anyone who slips in the door after everyone else is in.

Naturally, Scarlett got a whooping, as usual.  And I went in the house and sat down to let Twitter depress the hell out of me.  Then I looked up and noticed Mikey, one of the partridge cochins, trying to quietly find a way back in the enclosure.  So back I go, outside, to try to help poor Mikey sneak in without getting wingslapped.  Timing is everything.  We both waited until both roosters had mounted someone else and then I quickly opened the door and Mikey dashed in.  I think she got away clean.

Later on, as I read about more corruption and bullshit and obvious lying, I looked out again and saw that Tweedle Dum, the turkey tom, was trying out his new moves on one of the Bourbon Red hens.  As in, climbing on, splaying the poor girl’s wings on the ground and biting her head.  I don’t ever want to be reincarnated as a turkey hen.  Ever. I said something to Jeff about it, and he came out to watch.  Grimly, he joked, “Yeah, baby, I love it when your wings are all splayed out in the mud and shit.” Dummy held her down a long time, because I’m really sure he has no idea what he’s doing.  I’ve watched him before, and I’ve never seen him get past the girls’ tails, which they cleverly spread on the ground, covering the cloaca. It’s sad, really.

Then I heard meowing from above, and noticed Castor, the nine month old boycat, was on the deck and had no idea how to get down.  I should have left him there, but I knew he’d just cry in front of the slider up there and beg to be let in, rather than find his way down.  He’s not allowed upstairs, so that wasn’t happening.  (Kitties that go upstairs in my mother’s domain get tossed outside.)

I held up the sled for him to run down.  I put it on my shoulder, so that he could run down past me if he liked.  He decided to try it.  First one paw, then another.  Then he picked up one of his back paws and WHOOSH! Flew right past my head, over my shoulder and onto the snow.

He’ll probably never do that again.

Well, now everyone is tucked in for the night.  Kitties are in the house and fed (and staying downstairs.)  BAMF’s under Amy–last I saw her tonight her head was poking up out from under Amy’s wing–and the chickens have all gone in to roost.

The only one still making noise is Dummy, who is upset that one of his hens is missing.  He’s gobbling and fluffing and gobbling and fluffing up there on the roost, and the sneaky little hen is hiding around the corner, roosting quietly on the rack next to my office window.  She keeps looking at me as if to say, “Please!  Don’t rat me out!”

I bet I know which one she is.