Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rainy Thursday, Molting Chickens

I've been out of town for the past 3 weeks, but returned late last night.  It's nice to be back home again.

I was in southern GA, where the temperatures were in the 90's every day.  Hot and humid and sunny every day.  Back home in MD the temperatures started getting cooler, leaves started falling.  The days started getting shorter, autumn arrived.  And then while I was gone the chickens started molting for the first time.

Wet Guinea Fowl
Short day lengths serve as a signal to birds to renew plumage in preparation for the coming cold weather.  Chickens lose and replace their feathers yearly during late summer or early fall.  The first thing telling us of the molting season was feathers on the ground in early September.  Then, while I was in GA, I was told my favorite rooster, Leggy, only had 2 tail feathers left.  No chicken appeared to go totally bald, although there were so many feathers on the ground in the chicken pen.

Leggy with 2 tail feathers
Now that I am home, it's seriously raining here in MD and the chickens are all wet, so I cannot get any good molting pictures.  I didn't want to soak my camera, so I only took a few pictures before securing the camera.  The young chickens which were still teenagers when I left have grown up and now are full size birds.  The very small chicks are now teenagers.  And the Guinea fowl are all adult size now.  I have lots to post about the Guinea adventures, but will save that for future posts! 
Raspberry and a Guinea leave the coop


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Visiting Deer

We've been having a lot of whitetail deer visiting us recently. 
I love deer, I think they are fun to watch, are very gentle.  And the fawns are so much fun, they act just like puppies when they play. 
The deer don't really damage anything - we keep the garden fenced.  We don't like having deer ticks around, but we raised the Guinea fowl to take care of that issue.  Plus we've been visited by wild turkeys for the last week, and they love to eat bugs.  We used to have so very many deer ticks and large dog ticks, but this year (so far) the ticks haven't been much of a problem.  Although I don't credit the Guineas for this at all, as they don't leave the chicken pen area

We provide the deer with a salt and mineral block in our back yard, and a bucket hangs on the fence - I fill it with corn during the winter months when snow is on the ground and food is hard to come by for the deer.

These are the latest deer that have been visiting this past week- two young bucks.

Two bucks can't share one salt block!

Two bucks, the smaller one is angry because he gave up his turn at the salt block

Previously two does and two fawns had visited.  They were both first year does, both still nursing their first babies.  The fawns still had their spots.  Early in the mornings when the sun rose the fawns liked to romp, jump, run and chase each other around the back yard.  It was always a pleasure to watch them play.  I wish I had taken some pictures of them.  The does and fawns stayed about three weeks.  Sometimes other does and fawns would join them and stay for a day or two, then leave.  When the two bucks arrived the does and their young left. 

Here's a flashback to last winter's visitors.  This herd stayed with us quite a while - so long I started to name them!

Deer in backyard January 2010

I named this little fuzzy guy Little Deer
We always find antlers on the ground in the yard.  The bucks shed their antlers every year and grow new ones.

This is the latest to our antler collection - a young buck had died out in our woods near the main road.  We collected this last month.

Memories from the February 2010 snowstorm.  The deer found safe haven under the cedar trees in the back yard where the snow was not so high.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Skunk Attack!

This morning before the sun rose the Guineas were warning us of danger.  They were making their loud obnoxious Guinea noises.  They sleep up in a tall, huge pine tree over the chicken pen at night time.  This morning, little to our knowledge, a large skunk started prowling around the chicken pen, trying to find a way in.  The Guineas saw and started screaming.  Good watch-Guineas. 

Randy went out to see what was going on and walked up on the skunk as he (the skunk) attempted to enter the chicken pen.  Randy was putting out chicken food for the day.  The skunk and Randy took a good long look at each other.  The chickens were locked up in the pen.  The skunk was on the outside of the pen.

The Guineas all flew to the ground outside of the chicken pen at that time, screaming bloody murder.  There was so much noise going on, so I went outside to see what was happening .  As I watched, the skunk attacked one of the Guineas who was nearby on the ground.  The Guinea got sprayed by the skunk.  The Guinea then got confused and attacked the outside cat, Jerry.  Jerry was up on our front porch observing and eating his breakfast when a large, stinky, screaming Guinea fowl came running at him, wings up in attack mode.  Poor Jerry- he ran for his life and hasn't returned yet.  He never finished his breakfast. 

Randy killed the skunk.  It had to be done.  It was done quickly.  The skunk smelled so very bad, worse than I have ever imaged it could smell.  I guess I never was around a skunk up close and personal before.  He and I cleaned up the area and locked all the Guineas up with the chickens for the day.  They deserved a day of rest with the chickens.  Randy and I both smelled of skunk all day.  My co-workers in the office didn't appreciate me today.  The yard still smells.  I'm sure the one Guinea fowl still smells.  Everything around here smells now.

And all this happened before 7am this morning.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wild Turkeys and Guineas

Recently a flock of wild turkeys has been visiting us!
They remind me of our Guineas ~ they sort of look similar to Guineas.  But the turkeys are bigger than our young Guineas.  The turkeys have been hanging out in our back yard, while our Guineas have been hanging out in the front yard. 

I didn't see any male turkeys, just females and older baby turkeys.  Here is a mama and one of her babies.  it looks like turkey mamas talk to their young all the time just like chicken mamas do!

Baby turkeys, I know you are big teenagers now, but your mama Turkey is serious, you better listen to her!

What, Mom, did you call us?

Mama turkey is quiet, her children have wandered off without her.  They just don't listen...

We've been banishing our Guineas from the chicken pen, we want them to free range and eat bugs. But they don't want to be free birds, they want to be in the chicken pen still, so they hang close to the chicken area right now. They were raised by chickens, I guess they think they are chickens. If the Guineas saw the wild turkeys I'm concerned they would follow them and leave us behind!  They may then realize there's life outside the chicken pen!

Here's a few pictures I took today of the Guineas beside the chicken pen, on the outside trying to get in.  The Guineas now fly up and sleep in the trees at night, and fly down to the ground in the morning.  In the afternoons we normally open the gate and let them into the chicken pen because they have dutifully sat outside the fence all day, attempting to enter through the gate.  Guess they don't realize they could just fly over the fence to enter the chicken pen!  During they days they often fly up into low branches of trees around the outside of the chicken pen, but none of them have gone over the fence to get in.  One day one of them will realize he can just fly over the fence, and then all the others will follow.