I should keep a camera by the bed. Lily, the good farm dog, has taken on a new job. Early in the morning she lets me know that she has to go out and protect the… frogs. A great blue heron has discovered our water feature where there are frogs galore. And fish. Ugly goldfish. I’d love it if the heron ate the fish so that I could have an excuse to get prettier ones. But no, Lily goes out and does her job, and the heron goes fish-less. Although, I assume it’s eaten some frogs. Must be getting something because it keeps coming back, despite the dog that chases it away.
I live a short 35 minute drive to Boston (that is, not during rush hour!) so it’s not like we are way out in the country. However, this little town is an oasis surrounded by suburbs. By a fluke of nature – lots of rocks and wetlands – it wasn’t overbuilt. And in the 1960s a large dairy farm here got turned into a state park. Also, Harvard University owns 900 acres of forest right next door. There’s a lovely river that runs along the boundary of our town and other waterways that reach into New Hampshire. Which means that we have wildlife corridors. A moose was spotted on my street the other day. I didn’t see it. But I do think I should keep that camera ready.
We have numerous predators. Coyotes. Bobcat. Fisher cats and other weasels. Fox. Hawks. But I worry most about domestic dogs. We’ve had golden retrievers, pointers, jack russells, vizlas, all come gallomping through the yard, circling the coops and harassing the chickens. Their owners must think that they are home, lazing in the yard while their people are at work. But they’re not. The other day, two overweight dogs wearing collars and bandanas came tearing through the yard, frantically in pursuit of deer. They were in full prey drive, their eyes rolled back so you could see the whites. Oblivious to the road they crossed to get here. Poor Lily, the good farm dog, could do nothing to protect her property. I was glad that little Scooter was inside. Those dogs could easily have switched from chasing the deer to going after a tiny brown dog.
Our dogs stay in the yard. We have an invisible fence, which was the right economic and aesthetic choice for our property. But I’m thinking about putting up a solid fence. Not to keep out the coyotes, but to keep out the dogs.
Horticulture Magazine has devoted 6 pages to the pleasures of keeping backyard chickens. It looks like one of their editors got some hens, and decided to make an article out of it. She has a nice looking coop. Very clean (I guess these photos were taken soon after acquiring the birds!)
I’ve been trying to convince my editor that,
a) what with HGTV, style books and shows are trendy and that
b) chickens are also trendy
so why not have a Backyard Barn Style book. Wouldn’t that be fun?
And now for my soapbox: I know that people in the “fancy” – that is, those who show poultry – are worried that fewer and fewer people are enjoying their hobby (obsession for some.) But, overall, the number of small flock holders is growing. This is good news all around. It means that the producers of all of the things that we need to keep chickens, from waterers, to feed, to brooders, to the hatcheries that sell us chicks, will stay in business. It also means that there are more people to advocate for keeping domestic farm animals on a small scale. More people to keep an eye on NAIS. Don’t know what that is? Go here.
We went away fro three days to meet our 1-week old nephew and of course that’s when HenCam goes on the fritz. My crack IT professional, Steve (who also is my nice husband) is at work trying to figure out what is wrong. We might need new cameras.
I get a lot of inquiries from viewers who would like to have their own HenCams. If you just want to watch your own flock for your own use, then go to a store like Radio Shack and they can set you up. BUT if you want to broadcast a live-streaming cam like mine, be prepared for a lot of expense and bother! I can’t tell you how to go about doing it. Steve could, but he says that if you have to ask how, then it’s probably beyond the ability of your home system, anyway. Trust me, we’ve paid an electrician $$$ to run cables out to the coop. We’ve got a room in the house just for the computers (it’s the only air conditioned room here!) and Steve does a lot of software stuff that I don’t understand.
It’s all worth it. I love sharing the girls with you. Hopefully, Steve will have it fixed soon, and HenCam will be back to the quality picture that the system is designed for.
Don’t worry – Candy is fine! You’ve probably noticed that her hutch has been moved to the side of the coop. This is her summer home location. In the winter, her house is in the sun, and she sunbathes at the top of the ramp every morning. But, as soon as it gets warm (it was in the high 70’s yesterday!) we move the hutch into the shade. Rabbits die from heat prostration and it is essential that their housing is in a shady spot out of direct sun. Candy is a lop-eared rabbit, and staying cool is especially hard for this type. Rabbits’ ears are their air conditioners. In hot weather, they stick them up away from their bodies, and the blood that runs near the skin in their ears cools in the breeze. Lop-ears can’t do this. Their ears are always hanging next to their warm fur. They need help to stay cool and healthy. So, Candy’s house has been moved. I’m sorry that you can’t see her there, but it is better for the bunny.
Buffy Update: Whatever is wrong with Buffy isn’t going to go away. I assume she has a terminal illness, like cancer or liver inflammation. She spends most of her time sitting, although she can still get up, eat, drink and roost. She doesn’t have that look of fear that sick animals often get, and so I am leaving her to live out her remaining days in peace. Fortunately, the flock that she is in is the nicest group of girls. No one is bothering her (as so often happens when a hen is sick and in with more aggressive birds.) The other day, three hens joined her on the floor of the coop, and they all took a communal snooze.
Yesterday, I let the hens out to free-range while I did a spring cleaning in the asparagus and mint bed. The girls got right to work, eating grubs, aerating dead bits of grass, moving around leaves. Helpful. That is, all except for Snowball. She came over to see what I was doing. Such a lazy girl. Most hens kick up their own bathing areas by scratching up a loose hollow of earth. Not Snowball. She waited and watched until I had done the work for her – a nice, loamy, rock-free corner of the vegetable patch – and then she settled right in.