This and That

There’s no big news here, but there’s plenty going on.

A Great Blue Heron has been fishing. Lily chased it out of the pond three times yesterday. It’s a huge bird, and slow to rise into the sky, so I give it a head start before telling Lily to “get it!” There’s too many small goldfish in the pond, and I wouldn’t mind the heron eating a few, but I don’t want it stabbing The Beast, who is too big to swallow whole, but is still at risk for being stabbed. The fish eat algae and mosquito larvae in the pond, but they also need commercial fish food. This time of year, as temperatures drop, I switch to pellets made for cold weather. It’s easier to digest and won’t rot in the Beast’s belly when she slows down into hibernation this winter. I’ll stop feeding the fish in November. The Beast and her minions will spend the winter in a slow, sleepy, swimmy state under the big rock. The pump remains on all winter, so even though the shallows will freeze solid, there’s running water in their safe cave.

We thought that the worst of the biting insect season was over, but Irene’s rains created a perfect environment for mosquitos. Two steps outside and I get bitten. I have gardening to do and can’t bear spending anytime in the clouds of insects. The goats’ coats are getting thick for winter, so they’re not getting bitten too badly, but I’m not spending much time with them. They don’t understand why not.

Garnet continues to be the only Gem to be laying. She’s leaving me four lovely eggs a week. Ruby, the other Rhode Island Red of same age and same breed, isn’t laying. The other pullets make a big show of being interested in what she’s doing but are not yet following Garnet’s lead. I tell myself it will be soon. I tell them to hurry up, but I don’t think the Gems are listening.

There’s optimism in the young hen’s barn, but in the HenCam barn, my old hens are showing their age. Maizie, who hasn’t laid an egg since last spring, or maybe last year, is likely on her last days. Her abdomen is squishy. She’s standing in that penguin-like pose of a chicken who is uncomfortable and once in awhile she gulps. The other hens are leaving her be, so I will, too. She’s four years old and has had a good life.

Candy is getting ready for for favorite season – winter. She’s shedding her summer coat and getting an even thicker winter one. She’s putting on insulating fat. I’ll be taking down her shade tarp so that the sun hits her hutch so she can sun-bathe when it’s freezing out. I also bought her a new toy.

It’s sold in the parrot aisle of the feed store, but it’s perfect for bunnies. Rabbits need to chew to keep their constantly growing incisors short. The bell is a bonus. Candy rings it when we are late to let her out in the morning.

Candy was a star in my latest school visit. This time, the children came to me! A library full of second-graders in California got a tour of my backyard via an iPad and Skype. I walked around, showed them the Beast and the chickens and the goats. When I stepped into the HenCam pen, Candy came charging up to the iPad. I could hear the children’s hoots – it must have been quite a sight projected on their smart board! I wasn’t surprised that Candy stole the show. I’m already talking to the librarian about another visit in February. Those Southern California kids have never seen snow. Just wait until they see Candy on her snow throne!


  1. I love hearing about the day-to-day stuff with your animals :) And it gives me more daydream fodder for when I can have my own little farm!

    weird question: can you hear the mosquitoes?

    • They do….have you ever read the folktale “Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears”? I hate when they do that! Usually when you are sleeping!

    • Although the high-pitched whine of mosquitos drives my husband crazy, thankfully it’s not something that I can hear. Cicadas and frogs, though, are in range.

  2. Candy was indeed a STAR! She puts all those Hollywood types to shame! The BEAST is pretty hard to beat when it comes to an attention grabber as well! A wonderful time was had by all, Terry! Can’t wait to see you and the farm covered in snow! I already have my request for $ in to the PTA!

  3. Poor Maizie. Maybe she’ll recover. 4 isn’t that old,is it? I have one old lady who is almost 8, although all of her siblings admittedly are gone.
    I wonder if cold winters shorten their lives? However the bustle of life goes on and I too love sharing yours. Thank you for taking the time ! I think not hearing mosquitoes is probably a good thing – I would rather be bitten quietly than woken up by that infernal noise!

  4. Interesting comment by Jane from Hawaii, about cold weather affecting life span. I remember hearing about research that implies that cold & minimal diet actually lengthen life span, only I’m not sure what sort of creature was used in the experiments. (I think it was something microscopic!)

    But when it comes to goldfish, I read that it’s good for them to “hibernate”, since they grow fat for that very purpose, and here in S.Cal the pond goldfish tend to be plump. Apparently serious goldfish keepers put theirs in chilled tanks for that very purpose.

    • I haven’t seen studies, but my commonsense tells me that my chickens show no stress from the cold, but that the break from laying, and the long time they’re given to recover from the molt, is a health bonus. I also think that, all things being equal (like in my coop where everyone gets the same care) long-lived chickens stay around because of their genetics. And, since chickens aren’t bred for long lives, but for a short and very productive two years, you see a lot of variation after that.

      • Yeah, the genetic impact of how we raise them for short lives is bound to create a wide variation. My oldest so far was a bantam rooster and the present hen – both made it to 8, but a dog got my beloved little rooster back before I had my electric fence.

        • Yep, it does seem like egg laying proficiency in chickens shortens their lifes. That’s why the ornamental birds like the Polish who are just their to look pretty might end up living longer, if they don’t get themselves killed because of their own ditziness. I wonder though about the barred rock though, they have both lived quite a long life. If you can Terry see what kind of blood line they came from, and maybe see if they have other relatives that have lived as long. It would have been interesting to see if any of Edwina and Eleanor’s daughters would have lived as long as their mothers had.
          I was reading that Plymouth rocks tend to be a breed that live a long time as well. So I wonder how many others out their have Plymouth rocks not even of the barred type that end up out living two or three generations of normal life spanned hens.

          • I have four barred rocks who are 2-1/2 years old. I know 1 or 2 are still laying, not sure about the others. Only 1 has ever been sick and they are all pretty robust and sassy.

  5. Funny story about herons, I have a buddy that has a very nice backyard pond set up with many variations of koi. He was having problems with a heron having some for lunch.
    He came home from work one night and noticed several neighbors out and cameras in hand. He was a bit confused by the sight. When he stepped out of his car one of the neighbors asked “are you raising exoctic birds now too?” and pointed to the roof of his house. He yelled, “MY FISH”. Then proceeded to spray it with the garden hose to get it to fly off, apparently no fear of humans.
    It was a blue heron. By the way he lives in St Louis proper so they have an amazing ability to locate food.

    • I’m not surprised his neighbors were in awe of that bird. The one in the pond is about as tall as I am – 5 feet. It was back again today. Lily went after it. Good dog, Lily!

  6. It’s funny about Candy and her bell. I have a bell hanging on my front door handle. There has been one there for more than a decade. Recently my 16 year old cat has discovered that if the bell rings I will come to see who has come in. She does it bc the kitchen is in the front of my house and she figures since I am there, I might as well feed her.

  7. I enjoy hearing about your other farm animals. Candy is one smart and strong willed rabbit, it seems. It’s hard to think of hens being “old ladies” at the age of 4. I’ve wondered if the free ranging makes their legs stronger or wears them out sooner. My hens cover a lot of ground every day so I think about these things:-)

    • Being active and outdoors makes them stronger and healthier! All of my vintage poultry books talk about the benefits of fresh air, sunshine and foraging for chicken vitality. Fat hens have serious reproductive system issues. Indoor air harbors respiratory disease-causing germs. Much better to be our and about!

  8. Poor Mazie, but orneriness can only carry you so far. I know she has lived longer than you thought she would. Herons can be a pain the butt, too bad their isn’t a way to scare him/her off for good.

  9. We had a koi pond where we use to live and put a net like a tent across the top about 7 feet above the pond. We had no trouble after that. I understand you can get water to spray too with a motion sensor on it but both things are probably costly. A dog is great protection and free except for love and food.

    • Wild birds take baths in the pond and Lily likes to go for a swim, so I don’t cover it. I’ve put up a bird statue that I hope will deter the heron – they’re territorial and supposedly can be fooled.

  10. i am soo ready for some coool weather ! i am sure our goats an chickens are too (he will be one in november)

  11. terry, my little silkie hen lola sounds like she has a cold its kinda like she is sniffling or something how do i know what is okay?please help-kristen