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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chickens in the Snow (Blog Seventy-four)

We often refer to our chickens, which were hatched last spring, as teenage chickens because of their relative youth and how they react to new things.  Their newness to the world was on display last Sunday when our birds experienced their first snow.

In short, they were both terrified and befuddled of the white stuff falling.  Around 3:30 when the snowfall was at its peak, Little Jerry and his five hens stopped moving and feeding altogether.  They huddled near one corner of their run and did not move for over 2 1/2 hours.

As darkness was approaching, we began to fear that they would not have enough sense to walk the few feet to their house and the warmth to be found there.  It is also a fair question to ask that as the birds were all cold and miserable and were not drinking or eating anything, why had they huddled in abject terror for such a long period of time?  Had they not enough sense to come in out of the snow?

Finally at 6:10, one of the hens moved out from the pod and began making her way to the hen house door and the rest followed in single file.  The next morning their behavior was also puzzling - they refused to leave the hen house even though the snow had stopped and was just a few inches deep.

Around 8:00 A.M, we placed food inside the hen house and periodically added more.  Around 9:30, we placed a slice of bread on the gang plank and brave Ruby and Tallulah, our two alpha hens, ventured out to nibble.  But when the bread fell off the gang plank, neither had moxie enough to walk  the few inches to the slice that was lying in the snow.

At last around 11:00, the flock worked up enough courage to come outside.  "The Sunday it Snowed" was not our birds' finest moment.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Waiting for the First Gobble of Spring (Blog Seventy-three)

This morning after conducting my daily routine of filling the feeder and waterer for our chickens, I lingered outside in the early light hoping to hear the first gobble of spring.  The sound was not forthcoming; nevertheless, it is nearly time for an annual rite of spring to commence.

Already, a number of other birds have begun singing their mating tunes.  Last month, the great-horned owls were in full vocal outcry and the mourning doves also began pairing off.  This month, the robins, cardinals, and Carolina wrens, among others, have voiced their desires for spring to hurry up and arrive.

Yesterday another sign of the upcoming season was on display.  Two male robins were chest bumping each other on a little postage stamp of a neighbor's front yard, determined that each would become master of this piece of turf.  The loser, no doubt, would be forced out while the winner was safe - until some other upstart comes along.

This spring, as always, I plan to spring gobbler hunt in my two home states of Virginia and West Virginia and aim also to go to Tennessee and North Carolina.  Last spring, I had my best turkey season, but this year could easily be my worst - or another banner year.  There's rarely any logic concerning how a year unfolds in the region's turkey woods.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sinking Creek Conservation Easement (Blog Seventy-two)

This week we basically finished the process of putting another conservation easement on the rural land that we own.  In April of 2006, we bought 120 acres on Sinking Creek in Craig County, Virginia and immediately after purchasing the land contacted the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) to put an easement on the land.

In November of that year, we purchased a 20-acre tract that adjoins the 120 acres, so that the viewshed would be protected and the 20 acres would not be developed.  The purchase was also part of our "good fences make good neighbors policy," meaning, in this case, no neighbors no need for fences.

For the past few years we have talked about the need to place those 20 acres under easement and this year we finally did so.  As usual, working with the VOF and the Western Virginia Land Trust was a pleasurable experience.

As a couple who enjoys the outdoor experience, we strongly recommend conservation easements as a way to protect rural America from development.  Land trusts exist in every state on the local, regional, and statewide levels.

Here are some helpful sites.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Buck, a Bushytail, a Bear, and a Bunny (Blog Seventy-one)

This past Wednesday was the last day of Virginia's squirrel season, so after leaving school and arriving home, I went out the backdoor to squirrel hunt.  We have a seeded, logging road that runs from one end of our 38 acres to the other, so I walked to our food plot, where one end of the travel way begins or ends depending on where one starts.

No sooner had I left the food plot and entered the road that I spooked the young buck that has taken up residence on our property.  The smallish two pointer, an obvious 1 1/2-year-old male, has been spotted by me a dozen or so times this hunting season.  I was glad to see that he had survived the various deer seasons.

Immediately afterwards, I encountered a gray squirrel, but it was spooky and soon scampered away when I began to slink toward it.  About a half hour later, I heard something rambling through the undergrowth.  The animal turned out to be a black bear, perhaps not having denned somewhere because of the warm weather.

Moving on, and with darkness descending, I jumped a rabbit that likewise was moving along the logging road.  The cottontail was moving so fast that a shot was impossible.

Indeed, I spent the last hour of squirrel season not killing or shooting at anything.  No matter, it was a great evening to ramble through the woods.