Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What's this going on in the coop?

If you are a regular reader, you know about the romantic trysts that go in the coop, at night Larry the 3rd squires his two little ladies to a roost high above the other chickens, I've never been there to see the actual flight but they must have good navigation to keep from bonking their heads on the roof.

Or perhaps they have.

Last winter we had a falling out, a lovers spat, differences between sisters? Whatever the reason, one chose to distance herself from the other two.

 Larry the 3rd must have brokered a peace treaty and since positioned himself between the warring factions.

Last summer the little red hen hatched a Serama chick and was foster mother to the four Wyandotte pullets, the five hung together all summer and roosted together at night. Lately I've found the little Serama by herself during the day but still hanging with her foster sisters at night. Since the invasion of the rats, I've been very diligent about counting heads at night to make sure no one was missing.

Last night she wasn't with her sisters and, after searching the coop, getting ready to interrogate the dogs, I looked up. 

Larry the 3rd's little harem is growing but will the other two little women accept her?

It's a soap opera around here, I will keep you updated.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Have I ever expressed my hatred of rats before? If not, it's coming out now and I have a very good reason, for now there are only three....

I knew something was going on when most of my hens quit roosting on their roost at night, instead sitting up in the nest boxes, on the window sill, even on top of the door. But didn't realize what it was until early last Saturday morning, I went to do chores before leaving for the Junk Roundup at Alton and encountered a rat in the chicken house, I'm not sure who was more freaked, me, the rat or the hens but I can tell you who vowed vengeance against the scurvy creature, ME!


At night I shut up the coop tightly and set a trap inside one of the little chicken doors with bricks piled to block the opening but no one took the bait. The little red hen was out in the blue jay cage, where I thought they were safe. After two days of not catching anything, I stepped it up and shoved rat bait everywhere around the coop that I could find, using a stick to poke it underground so nothing else could get it. I also found a couple of holes around windows that I patched with tin to make the coop a fortress against unlawful entry.

Friday morning I was doing chores, opened the coop door and stepped inside and found a dead rat in one of the chicken feeders, YIKES!! But at least he was dead. I had to get leather gloves to fish him out, I had the urge to beat the tar out of him but, since he was already dead, seemed like an exercise in futility and tossed him unceremoniously into the burn barrel.

Burn, baby, burn!

I looked around the coop and saw where I had bricks piled, I'd left a rat sized opening so removed the trap completely, I wanted all the doors shut and locked, and barricaded and booby trapped and tar and feathered and boiling oil and anything else that would rid my coop of the vermin.

And that was before I made the heart breaking find in the blue jay cage, my first inkling that something had gone terribly wrong was when I didn't hear the little red hen clucking, she is always talking to the chicks. Silence, I lifted the rug that kept the wind out and she was huddled at the back, silent. I had to nearly crawl into the cage to reach her and lifted, fearing the worst, three chicks popped out. I looked around, moving everything, hoping he was just hiding but the fourth chick was gone. I have no doubt a rat got it, they don't just disappear.

I moved her out of the blue jay cage and into one of the apartments in the chicken coop where I can lock them in securely at night. Then I removed the last of the food and water from the cage and left a helping of rat bait, which was gone this morning, so I left another helping.

I visited the coop a little later to see how they were settling in and there was a rat running round!!!! I grabbed a club outside the door to whack him but he was too quick and escaped. I know he came in the west door so I shut it up tight and went into the scratch yard with more bait, I found tunnels and I also found a dead rat in one tunnel. I shoved more bait in and then plugged it with a rock and stomped it into the hole.

To be absolutely sure I didn't have any rats in the coop at night, I retrieved the game camera from the farm where it is on duty keeping it safe from two legged rats and set it up in the coop. Nothing moved till early morning when the hens started coming off the roosts and I felt I could release the little red hen and chicks from the cat carrier I'd locked them into last night.

Kind of like locking the barn door after the horse thief leaves? 

After doing chores this morning, I returned to the coop and there was another rat running around!!! I grabbed my club but again it escaped, this time out the east door past the little family huddled in the corner. Upon inspection, I found another rat hole, baited and rocked it then I set the camera back up to see if it came back.

No rats, but it is kind of fun to spy on the chickens as they go about their daily business, one of the little Serama hens pecking around.

Then she spies the camera....

"What the hey??"
One of my many trips where I stealthily grab my club and step in, hoping to use the business end on a rats head.

The Barred Rock hen, heading for the nest box to make a deposit.

Me again, no rat and I can't say that isn't a good thing.

The little Serama, finding a lovely patch of sunlight....

....going down.....

.....AAAH, there is nothing better than basking in a patch of sun.

I have no idea how bad my rat infestation is, I've battled mice before but I can handle them, I can't handle rats. With all the poison I've shoved down rat holes and how greedily they are gobbling it up, I certainly hope I have some very sick or dead rats. Tonight I'm putting the game camera in the blue jay cage to see how many come for the bait banquet.

At least I know the coop is secure until I get rid of the rest. Stay tuned for updates on the rat war.

Update, just out by the coop picking up some stuff and there lay another dead rat, that is good bait.

Updated again at 10 PM, just got home from a night out with friends, I went out to shut the chickens up and there was ANOTHER RAT scurrying around, although he was definitely feeling the effects of rat poison, he didn't quite have control of all his faculties. Murphy was right behind me and all I had to do was scream, "RAT!" and she dove into the coop and had him. By then Mollie was at the door and promptly took him away from Murphy! I had to get leather gloves and pliers again then told Mollie to "Drop it," which she did, Murphy tried to get him but I was quicker. He also went to the burn barrel. Then I brought the dogs to the house and gave them some cheese to try to wash the terrible taste of rat out of their mouths. Tomorrow I might cook them a steak as a reward. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

You'd think it was Spring around here....

....with all the new babies, first the two calves born late in the pasture, now it's chicks. The end of August the little red hen was broody again so I gave her 4 little Serama eggs, my thinking is you can't have too many Serama's. Besides, if there is another rooster, my neighbor girl, Jillian, wants one to replace her's that died last winter.

She was in the blue jay cage, very happily sitting on the eggs, as the days ticked by. A broody hen doesn't take much care so every few days I checked that she had feed and water and removed the huge masses of broody poop, covered in a previous post, it does not need to be addressed again, and left her to daydream.

Sept 19 was the much anticipated Alton Junk Roundup that Kim and I were going to pedal our junk again, this year we were joined by her hubby, Jeff and my sister, Rosanne. Bruce was gone fishing so that week was spent filling our livestock trailer with treasures.

It was a great day, people LOVE our junk!! (I was going to include some pictures of our junk but they are in a different format and for some reason I can't switch them to jpg, but trust me, we had GREAT junk!)

Continuing on, we had a very successful junk sale and I was home unloading what didn't sell when I heard a high pitched peeping. At first I thought it was a bird but then realized it was a chick, could it be that time already?? I beat it to the blue jay cage and there on the ground, where he had tumbled out of the elevated box, was a little yellow chick. He had gotten through the chicken wire enclosure and was frantically trying to get back. Up in the box, the little red hen was also very disturbed but she had three other babies to care for and couldn't leave them to rescue the wayward one. I captured the baby and put him back with the rest of the flock and received 'the look' from their mother.

I think I was forgiven when she had all four back in the nest.

The little red hen runs a tight ship and as soon as I show up, she ushers everyone back to the nest and tucks them under her, away from prying eyes.


"I'm coming, I'm coming!"

To get some pictures I had to deploy a diversionary tactic, a special treat as in a red raspberry.

It worked and one little chick watches in rapt fascination as she devours the berry.

"I can't believe she ate the whole thing!"

No, there are only 4 chicks, the unsightly blob is a steaming pile of broody poop she left behind.

This one seems to be a camera hog.

I thought they were all Serama eggs but there seems to be some inter-breeding going on since there are two yellow chicks and three of them have feathered legs. The little red hen and a cochin bantam hen both have feathered legs, I think Larry Jr. and Larry the 3rd are venturing out into the flock and spreading their seed.

Those naughty boys.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Cow Mamas and their babies

Instinct is a wonderful and amazing thing and that is never truer than when our two heifers calved in the pasture this summer. These were their first babies, they did not go to birthing classes or read books, "What To Expect When You are Expecting That First Calf," they did not have mothers, grandmothers, sisters or friends to turn to with their questions. I'm not even totally sure they know another being is growing in their stomach until they push it out on the ground. We've had heifers give birth, turn around to see just what that was and jump back, eyes bugging out, ears at attention. Obviously what lay there was not what they expected.

#40 reassuring herself that her calf is okay after I had the nerve to pet him.

While we were gone to WI, #23 successfully gave birth to this little guy, we could finally close the books on calving season at French Farms.

Since the creek was still high, I was looking for #40 and her calf, I found the heifer away from the herd, looking and bawling her head off so I was immediately worried. Way down the pasture I saw a brown cow with two little calves and I knew we didn't have any twins. #40 forgot she left her baby with #33.....

....he was safe and sound and so glad to get back with his mama. It's fun to have a play date but come lunch time he wanted his mother back. 

While I was in the pasture, I drove the 4 wheeler around and looked at all the cattle, the high water doesn't faze them much.

To get from one side of the creek to the other, the calves dive right in and swim across.

The bulls were feeling frisky and started sparring with each other, #9100 is no longer the baby and can pretty much hold his own with Louie.

I found Fancy and her baby was also having some lunch, what a pig, he had milk all over his face. He'd pull down on a nipple until it snapped back, then he would bunt her in the bag. I know that had to hurt but she just put up with it.

This is one of our future cows, she will have her first baby next year and she is such a friendly little girl. Her baby number is 23, her future cow number is 35. She has a beautiful white face until she wools around in the creek bank, I don't know why they do it but they love to rub dirt all over their faces. Maybe it helps keep the flies away.

Back to my musings on how these heifers instinctively know how to care for their baby calves. It was too muddy to feed silage in the pasture so Bruce let the herd come up to the house to eat from the bunks. I noticed #23 was there but no baby. I asked her where he was and she gave me this sly look that said, "Just try to find him."

I took that challenge and drove the 4-wheeler around the pasture until I discovered him tucked away in a thicket, like a good boy, not making a peep. 

By the time I drove out of the pasture and back down the road, she had eaten her fill, left the herd, crossed the creek and was calling him. That was his permission to leave his resting place and come have some breakfast of his own.

About three days later, she decided to introduce him to the rest of the herd and brought him along to the house to eat.

"Baby cakes, meet all your cousins."

I think this goes back to their wild ancestors, to survive, they stashed their calves for a few days, away from the herd, to get stronger and be able to travel. Deer also do that to protect their tiny fawns, I've read that fawns have no odor, the mother stays away, only going back for feeding. Predators have a harder time finding the babies.

Mother Nature is so very wise.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Airs Above the Ground!

"Come one, Come All to the Hummingbird Show!"
"Nightly Performances!"
"Bring your own chair, Ooh and Aah along with the crowd!"
"Daring Maneuvers, rivaling the Blue Angels!"

This is a rare moment when two hummingbirds are actually feeding at the same time, usually that isn't allowed.

This little guy was taking a moment to rest on the stepladder.

The hummingbirds are around all day but night brings out the craziness and they zoom and zip, dive bombing each other, lying in wait above in the branches of the tree to surprise an innocent victim.

Bruce is not as enthralled as I am but our neighbors, Brian and Carol, came over last night to enjoy the show. We were sitting just a few feet away from this hanging feeder and we were right in the flight path, tiny birds zooming between and around us, intent on being the king of the feeder.

And to the victor goes the spoils, a well earned drink of the sweet nectar to recharge it's tiny body.

I was watching one bird drinking from the feeder and his little feet were scrabbling, searching for a foothold, I was wishing this feeder had perches on it.

But you must never be complacent, you must always be vigilant or you run the risk of getting bonked on the head by an invader.

They are ferocious fighters as they duck and weave in the air, smacking each other in the chest, the later it gets the more frantic are their actions. But it is not all war, I saw a little hanky panky going on in the branches, twice! It didn't take them long either! I felt like a voyeur but I figured it wasn't something that many people ever saw so that made it okay.

I'm going to miss these little guys when they are gone.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

I'm entering a new phase in my treatment

It's Thursday morning at 10:30 and I'm sitting in a not so comfortable 'recliner', it has one setting, with pre-meds dripping into my port, the Rituxin has not even been started. I knew Dr. Rao was being overly optomistic when she told me in July that it would only take a few hours to complete. She did assure me there would be no ill effects so I put my big girl panties on and drove myself.

Bruce was very willing to come but I know he has lots to do gearing up for harvest and sitting in a rather uncomfortable chair for several hours, watching me sleep, would be rather stressful to him. I told him I can always call to come get me if I'm not fit to drive. And with our new phone, I can be assured of reaching him.

People continue to ask me how I feel and my standard reply is that I feel as though I've never had anything wrong with me.

A few hours later....

...the Benedryl did it's job and I slept most of the time, the nurses fed me dinner and at 1:30 I was ready to go, feeling great, quite refreshed I might add. I called Bruce to tell him everything was fine and I'd be home after running errands.

I found out I only have to go to Storm Lake once this treatment period and that will be next week. Dr. Rao will be in Cherokee the last two weeks and then I will be free for 6 months. It's a very small price to pay for good health, I'm feeling so blessed!

Thanks for all the good wishes and continued prayers, they are greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

2015 Harvest underway

I was rudely yanked from my hummingbird hypnosis when Bruce announced that it was time to chop silage, I knew this day was coming and I don't end up working very hard, so it was no big deal. It was a big deal.

It started out innocuous enough, I took my camera and book, a big jug of water and a granola bar to stave off any hunger pains to the tractor. Unfortunately for me, the Big tractor with all the bells and whistles and air conditioning was tied up with the baler and couldn't be switched over just yet so I got the little White. It was rather warm out but I figured it wouldn't kill me and we had been scoffing at the schools around who were letting out early because of the heat.

"Why, in Our day, we toughed it out, kids these days are such wimps!"

Little did I know what lay ahead for me.

Bruce was ahead of me with his new (to him) Fox 3000 silage chopper and all was well. Chopped cornstalks and ground up ears of corn were flying into the wagon.

The barn swallows were beside themselves, feasting on all the bugs that Bruce was scaring up and everything was right with the world.

Suddenly it all came to a grinding halt, the chopper was plugged, well that happens sometimes. You pull all the cornstalks out, feed them back in manually and continue on your merry way.

And he did....

...until it plugged again.



...and this is how we spent the last week. It was hot and I had no $%!@## air conditioning, I wanted to be like the kids in school, I wanted out of that tractor!!

Then the air conditioning went out in Bruce's tractor also and he was working a whole lot harder than I was.

Tempers flared with the temperature but he was not going to give up. We chopped on Sunday, we chopped on Labor Day while others were celebrating the end of summer, we just wanted out of that $#!@%!! field!

My hard working hubby was looking a little defeated as he once again, unplugged the chopper and was heading back to his tractor.

He tried everything, even spending 2 hours removing the grinder bars, sharpening each one, flipping them over and bolting back on. With high hopes we went back to the field.....


Finally late Monday I heard those words, "It's good enough." 


Then God treated us to a spectacular sunset....

....and all was right with the world again.