Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cat Wars

I think I now understand my cat issues. Cats do not by nature want to travel in social groups, being the independent loner types. Groucho, above, has decided she is queen cat of the farm. She follows me around if I'm out, and Charlie around if I'm not. She is everywhere all the time. The other cats do not like her, and seem afraid of her. It has taken some convincing, but Squeak and Pus now both seem to understand that they do indeed have a place here, and I want them and will protect them from the evil Groucho. Groucho is as sweet a cat as any person would want, but seems to present quite another face to felines.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Black Piper

Three hens hatched out clutches of 10-15 chicks within 2 weeks. One was my tiny Silver Sebright hen. About 4 days after the third hatch, I noticed this one hen with a crowd, the bantam with only 5 chicks, and the other black hen with none.

Somehow this hen, the pied piper of chickens, managed to take on all the other chicks. There are 23 in this picture. She has managed to keep them all alive and healthy. I've never seen this behavior before. No one seems unhappy with the situation, so who am I to complain?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Squeak Squeaks

Tonight as I opened the door, Squeak jumped on the porch, looked up at me in hello, and sauntered in. I snatched her up in a hug, held her as long as she'd allow, and then did what she'd been waiting for - I fed her.

So all my cats have shown up. However, Pus, after spending the day in a cage that protected her (and her food) from the chickens, decided to go outside. She did not reappear when I needed to move on. I'll have to check for her again in the morning. Crazy cats!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cats, Cats, and more Cats

I have an abundance of cats. I came here with two, both strays I adopted at my last place. Now I have 5 that I intentionally feed, several more that lurk around the edges. Where do all these cats come from? We don't have any close neighbors - although one cat was the "dear pet" of the people across the street. He has been taken back down there a number of times, and keeps returning here. 

This weekend I realized that it had been some time since I'd seen 2 of my cats. They are pretty independent, but usually show up regularly for meals. I spent quite a bit of time calling and looking wherever I could think of, without success.

Tonight as I was driving in I saw a cat dart into the bushes. She looked familiar. I stopped, grabbed a flashlight, and called "Pus? is that you? Pus?" "Meow!" "Pus?" "Meow!" She was hiding in the brambles, afraid to come out. I had to sneak my way in past the berries. Pus came out then, and let me pick her up. She clung to me. She's fairly thin. She was also within a minute's run from the building she should be living in. 

Pus is back inside in front of a large bowl of food she is ignoring. She's been loved and pet, and hopefully is feeling safe again.

Now If Squeak will just show up again.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Millie's Big Day

Millie the rescue Pyr was not an immediate success as a working dog. I ran out of training time long before she ran out of enthusiasm for the chase. She has been living in a large field next to the hoof stock. She has chased down and killed 3 chickens during her stay here.  I did not have high hopes for her working future.

One evening several weeks ago I heard cheeping as I was feeding Millie. The cheeps were definitely coming from somewhere in her territory. Oh no, I thought - one of my chicks wandered in and got stuck down there in the dark. 

The next morning as I was feeding Millie I saw momma peahen and her 4 chicks wandering up the hill, followed by a peacock. Oh no. Not chicks, peafowl. Oh no. 

But the peafowl have survived, and I've seen them several times in Millie's territory. She seems to ignore them. Good dog. Odd, since I've watched her chase chickens. But encouraging - perhaps there's hope for her working career.

Tonight as I was feeding the hoof stock, I heard a goat's mournful cry. That sound is unmistakable. I had a goat caught in the fence at the back of the paddock. I took the hay in to the sheep, and walked to the back fence. There was Millie, thrilled to see me, next to my silly Nubian whose head was stuck on Millie's side of the fence. Millie was beside herself with joy and pride. She had stayed by this goat, protecting her, not harming her. She was rightfully proud of herself, and delighted to get my praise. She knew she'd done well, and was totally thrilled about it.

I guess this means back to training, and getting Millie in with the sheep. I don't think she'll ever be completely trustworthy with chickens, but she seems to want to have the company of my four-footed crew.  I love these dogs. Millie is so very pleased with herself, eager to be praised, and eager to perform her ancient tasks. Her youthful enthusiasm, lack of any kind of training for her first 1-1/2 years have led to confusion, but I think she's getting it figured out.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


It's becoming a familiar story, but it thrills me still. This morning I was met by a feisty little hen bringing out her 10 newly hatched chicks. 


Soon she tucked them beneath her warm feathers, shielding them from the world. These Sebrights are small and beautiful, and very good parents. They are also very good at disappearing when they want to hide their eggs and raise a family. And a joy to watch as they shepherd tiny fluff balls around the yard.

Late Summer Days

The sheep are outside mowing the sides of the lane. The goats and donkey are hanging with me as I cut down alders that have miraculously appeared on the side of the road, 6 feet tall and up to an inch in diameter. The saplings will become perches and chew toys for parrots. I cut smaller ones as browse for the sheep and goats for those days they don't get out to graze.

Down the lane a dozen chicks drift back and forth across the lane like black and white leaves dancing in the breeze. They dart in and out around sheep legs, as if what the sheep are eating must be better than anything else.

The goats sneak up and start eating my soon-to-be perches, which obviously taste much better than those thousands still growing beside the lane.

Another lovely day, as late summer again draws sunshine and warmth.

Monday, September 01, 2008

In the Dark of the Night

I usually share fun, interesting, and beautiful things here. But I have a farm that I try to keep as natural as possible. That means that everyone isn't always safely hidden behind wood and wire.

My chickens are entirely free range - they choose where to sleep and where to nest. Most sleep in the trees. My white hen gone bad nested just outside the fence, under some berry brambles. A well hidden lair.

Or so it seemed. For three weeks she guarded and trained her 15 chicks, losing only 3 to the many dangers for small, defenseless creatures. That's pretty amazing, since there are many ravens, hawks, cats, and other hungry predators around. And chicks are very small. 

And then. I was coming up the drive after dark, and saw an owl in the headlights. An owl on the road, with it's recent catch. Pulling and tearing, devouring a small white hen. My small white hen. 

This is a time of mixed feelings. I love owls. They are beautiful creatures who have an important role in the ecosystem. They are excellent hunters, and I am always in awe of their silent flight. They appear, and disappear, and I am lucky to see them. They are the most successful predator on my farm. Dogs have a difficult time guarding against a silent and swift winged predator.  It's amazing to me that I drove in as the owl was eating its prey - what are the chances of that? I only wish he'd been able to finish the meal, and at least go away full.

I am very sad to lose my sweet little hen who was such a good mother. Fortunately, it looks like her entire brood has survived. One chick has a limp, but I think I've counted them all. It's hard to tell. They do not hold still - as soon as they see me or the dogs they run as fast as they can to shelter. They hang out in groups of 4-6, but the groups are never far apart. I don't know where they are sleeping, it must be some place safe.

Life goes on. The cycle continues. Some live, some die so others can live.