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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chickens and Snow (Blog 122)

We have experienced two snowfalls in Botetourt County over the course of the past week or so, and the precipitation has been very stressful for our quartet of hens.  The first snow was the most traumatic as about three inches of very wet slush fell which caused the netting over the run to collapse.

The collapse of the netting caused the post where the solar unit is located to crumple, which, in turn, caused the solar unit, which protects the perimeter through the means of two wires, to fall to the ground.  The falling of that post caused the gate to the run to not shut correctly.

So Elaine and I after dark that snowy day struggled to reset the solar unit post and to fix the gate to the run.  When we peaked inside the hen house, we only saw three of the girls with Little Spotty Hen no where to be found.  We feared that she had been injured or even killed by all the "collapsing" that was going on.

Finally, Elaine found Spotty under the hen house.  The next day she was limping, so indeed she may have been injured.

Yet another snowfall took place this Friday with the hens spending much of the day either in their house or under it.  It is very clear that our Rhode Island Reds do not like snow.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Chicken that Won't Go to Bed (Blog 121)

In Elaine's and my fascinating foray into rearing chickens, another aspect of chicken behavior has manifested itself.  My job is to let our flock out of the hen house in the morning while Elaine's is to put the gang to bed in the evening by making sure all four hens are ensconced in their abode.

But for the past six weeks or so, Dot, who ranks last in the pecking order, has refused to go to bed no matter how late the hour.  Elaine has become increasingly frustrated by Dot's obstinacy, so I have been more and more taking on the evening chore.

This is how things typically unfold in the evening.  Ruby, our alpha hen, goes to roost in the house a good three minutes before any other hen.  Little Spotty, who ranks third, enters next and immediately pitches up next to Ruby.

Three or four minutes more elapse, then Tallulah, second in the pecking order, goes into the house.  It is at that time that Dot goes to the far end of run and awaits at the door.  Elaine refuses to pick up Dot and place her in the house.  And then the two of them engage in a battle of wills concerning which will do something next.  Often the two of them are out there until after dark.

Friend J.J. Alderson who lives a few miles from us says that she has a half dozen or so chickens that likewise refuse to go into their house.  Her misbehaving flock flies up to a table outside the Alderson house and wait for J.J. to see to their bedtime needs.

I won't participate in Dot's stalling tactics (who knows what is going on in the mind of a chicken anyway), scooping her up when I enter the run and placing her on the gangplank leading into the house.  Dot always goes straight in when I do that.

I was wondering if other chicken owners have experienced this behavior and if they could e-mail Elaine and me about their experiences or perhaps post comments here?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bunnies and Bushytails Behind the House (Blog 120)

With Virginia's long deer season over, I can now enjoy some of the most relaxing hunting possible - pursuing rabbits and squirrels behind our Botetourt County, Virginia home.  Late in the afternoon today, I am going to take a walk on the seeded logging road that runs throughout our 38 acres and visit brier patches, clearcuts, and brush piles for bunnies and hardwood hollows and pine glades for bushytails.

Few pleasures in life are as soothing as being able to walk out your back door and go hunting and fishing.  When Elaine and I were considering whether to buy this land in 1988, I told her how meaningful and special it would be to me to own it.  Of course, the land was expensive, like just about any property, but she was sweet  to let me have it.

In the 25 years we have owned the land and the 24 that we have lived on it, I have made numerous habitat improvements, thinning trees so that the survivors could produce more mast, having clearcuts done to benefit songbirds and game animals, creating a food plot, and planting oaks and white pines. In January and February, I have planned more Timber Stand Improvement projects.

So today around 4:00, I am going to walk out my back door and take that walk.  Whether I bring home any game or not is irrelevant- the joy of being outside, as always, will be paramount.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Virginia Deer Season Ends (Blog 119)

As I write this, it is 4:40 A.M., and I am preparing to take my son and son-in-law deer hunting in Craig County, Virginia. Today is the last day of the late muzzleloader season.  After killing a deer on Monday, I am satisfied with the amount of venison in Elaine's and my freezer, so I won't be carrying a gun.

The temperature, according to, will be around 10 degrees in the mountains of Craig this morning, and I am not looking forward to venturing out in the frigid air.  Though we will be dressing as warmly as possible,  I wonder how long we will last out in the elements before the car heater beckons.  Making things worse is the fact that the wind is howling.

I started deer hunting on Labor Day Saturday, participating in Roanoke County's first urban archery season.  I was aloft in a tree stand about 30 minutes before sunrise, and the temperature was about 65 degrees.  By the time I descended, the temp was around 80 degrees, and the mosquitoes had begun to eye my skin with increasing aggressiveness.  No need to worry about them today.

I am looking forward to going squirrel hunting on Saturdays in January.  One of the great joys in the sporting life is pursuing wintertime silvertails behind our Botetourt County home.  On a warm, say 40 degrees, Saturday afternoon, I like to sit under an oak tree, reading a book and periodically scanning the area for movement.  If I don't bring home any bushytails, no big deal.