Category Archives: Free-ranging-chickens

Cunning, Intelligence and Free Ranging Chickens

I don’t think this applies to caged chickens, but my experience with caged birds is limited.  All I can actually tell you is that free ranging chickens are some of the most cunning, cagy, calculating, communist creatures on the planet.

A free ranging hen can calculate to the second how long it takes my eyes to narrow, my jaw to clamp, pause listening, and spring out of my chair when I’m trying to do something on the comp and I hear a chicken on the porch.

A free ranging hen can judge almost to the inch how far and hard a person can throw a rock with any accuracy.  A free ranging hen can predict almost exactly how far and how fast a 70 year old man can run swinging a stick before he gives out.

A free ranging hen is able to predict within a few seconds how long and how loud it can cackle and raise hell just outside the window before it needs to start dodging rocks or running into the bushes.

A free ranging chicken recognizes a slingshot and knows the difference between a slingshot stretched as an empty threat, and a slingshot with just about a bellyfull of chicken games.

A free ranging chicken usually won’t eat ants unless it thinks a person would rather it didn’t, in which case it will.  The whole flock will stand on a red ant bed pecking, so long as the ants aren’t carrying off their feed to the ant bed.

A free ranging chicken will ignore hard cat food scattered around on the ground away from the porch, but it will sneak around trying to find some on the porch everytime it thinks a person’s in the middle of something needs concentration.

I subscribe to the philosophy the reason the chicken crossed the road was for practice.  Training dodging cars.  And motivated by some human being not wanting it to cross the road.  Try to get a chicken to cross the road and it’s going to stay home cackling under the window or crapping on the porch.

Old Jules

Dancing With Roosters

Good morning readers.  I’m obliged you made a swing by here.  I’m going to do my best to give you something to have read by the time you leave if the Coincidence Coordinators and the commie phone line will sit still for it.

I’ve about decided I’m going to have peace and harmony around here, and I don’t care who I have to kill to do it.  The roosters are driving me nuts with their sneaky non-harmonizing ways.

The Great Speckled Bird surprised me by surviving the winter, feeling better most ways than he has in a longish time.  But more crippled up than ever.  Not much use of the one leg anymore, one wing weak or useless.  So when he falls, the usual ritual is to lie on his back waving his legs around.  Struggling for a shift in reality to get into a position where the one foot can get a hold on something.

But even so, he’s out there ranging with the hens, doing what roosters are supposed to do as often as he can see his way clear to do it and he can find a willing hen.

But meanwhile I keep my bachelor roosters penned most of the day.  Mainly because they’re of a mind that if I’m not looking it’s okay to open up a can of whoopass on TGSB.  They can knock him down and peck the bejesus out of him in less time than it takes to tell it.

But I’ve digressed.  I was going to tell you about dancing with roosters, which is the only way a person can establish harmonious society with them.  A rooster isn’t long on understanding the ways of a human being, but he does understand who’s the cock of the walk.  And if he doesn’t understand, or he forgets, he’s forever trying to reassure himself about whether he’s boss, or someone else is.

A rooster has two main dances.  One he does for the hens, which I’ll describe some other time, though it’s important to know how to do it so’s to keep him and the hens on their toes.  But the one used to communicate “I’m a contender,” and “You want some of this?  Come get it!” is an absolute necessity.

The last couple of days when the bachelor roosters and TGSB were out concurrently I’ve had to do a lot of dancing around stiff-legged, acting like I was pecking the ground watching them out of the corner of my eye and flapping my arms threateningly.  Reminding them if they want to mess with TGSB they’ve got to go through the bull-goose-looney to get there.

I think where I slipped up was when the warm weather started I quit wearing my red stocking cap they considered a comb, and forgot I’m a rooster too.  Got thinking they could each be a contender.

Old Jules

The Great Speckled Bird: Respecting our Betters

The Liar: The Great Speckled Bird, Part 2

News from the Middle of Nowhere

October Quietude, Dead Bugs and Old Roosters

Guard Cats – In the Interest of Harmony

In the pic they’re patrolling in Placitas, New Mexico.  But it’s the same here.

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

There’s a rich-people kind of house up the hill, a quarter-mile south of me.  It sits on 90-odd acres of land, has a barn worthy of the name, and it’s been sitting vacant during all the years I’ve been here.  Vacant, but for sale.

But a couple of weeks ago a couple of strangers pulled up in front of the cabin on a four-wheeler with side-by-side seats.  It’s the first time I’ve ever had an unexpected visitor here except Gale or Gale and Kay.  Naturally I scrambled out to find out what they wanted.

Turned out he’d just bought the place and wanted to introduce himself to his nearest neighbor.  That done, he left saying they’d be moving in soon.  Friendly exchange.

Then yesterday I went up to Gale’s and he was there.  They’d just done their moving into their new home.  He and Gale were discussing things and I sat down for a quick cup of coffee before going on about my business.

I’m hoping you won’t shoot my dog.”

Is it a chicken killer?”  Thinking whatever danger there was to his dog probably came in the form of dead chickens.

“It’s never been around chickens.  It’s a mutt, a rescued dog, part lab, part herder, part pit-bull.  What killing it’s done was cats.  I had a lot of feral cats on the last place I lived.”  He paused.  “I know you have cats down there.”

That gave me pause for thought.  While I was thinking, he added, “If you see him, he’s gun shy.  Just fire into the air and he’ll run away.”

I’m a man who has a huge respect for how badly neighbor problems can intrude and make life a hell for both neighbors.  But I’m also aware that animals can cause neighbor problems lightning-fast.  Quicker than almost anything else.  For instance, there’s almost nothing that will piss a man off worse than killing his dog, no matter what the dog was doing at the time of demise.

“Tell you what.  I’ll make sure my cats don’t come up here killing your dog if you’ll make sure your dog doesn’t come down here killing my cats.”  Seemed a fair enough proposition to me.  I pretty much figure if my cats go up there attacking his dog, anything on his place, he’s welcome to shoot them, but it would be more fitting if he came down here and put a bullet between my eyes.

He expressed a concern that his dog might mistake me for a cat, saying that since I’m around them I’d have their scent on me, but I assured him that wasn’t a concern.  I’ve never met a dog I couldn’t stand off.  And I shouldn’t have any reason to be around this one.  During my years here I’ve only set foot on that place a couple of times.  Once because of cows, and once challenging some people who were up there loading things into a truck.  I just politely asked if they had permission, and noted the license number of the vehicle.

The man’s 74 years old, seems a nice guy.  Ex-pilot.  And if we need to talk we  probably will enjoy most things we might discuss.

I surely hope my cats don’t go up there attacking his dog, though, because I’d expect him to shoot them. 

Old Jules

 

Shinola, etc.

I’ve been coming across the word disambiguation somewhat frequently on the web lately. It always brings a smile when I see it, gives me a momentary ambition to disambiguate something.

But the problem is that I don’t know anything much.  Even inside the 21st Century where uninformed opinion is respectable, almost universal, and carries the certainty and power of positive speaking, I just don’t know anything much.

Besides, the dialup connection, or WordPress is being a pure D Communist this morning.  It’s taking me forever to even load the site.  I’m rolling on the floor with joy everytime it tells me it can’t find the webpage.

So instead of disambiguating you readers on some uninformed opinion I have, I think I’ll give you a quick and dirty on something I know something about because I’ve discovered it around here and watched it happen.

I’ve told you about the Great Speckled Bird and how he’s in decline because of something he did in his youth to cripple him up something awful.  One side of him just doesn’t work the way it ought to, and it causes him a lot of pain and distress.  I’ve expected him almost every morning to be dead when I go out to turn them out for free ranging.

But  I’ve been making up orange-peel tincture and treating him with it for a longish while, and it always makes him feel better after I’ve done it.  Sometimes when he’s in particular pain he actually volunteers, gimps over and sits around near where I am, hinting.

I don’t have arthritis troubling me, but if I did, the Great Speckled Bird testifies it’s the way to the truth and the light, orange peel tincture.  He says it’s the difference between Chit and Shinola.

Costs almost nothing to make, too.  Just put your orange or grapefruit peels into a jar of vinegar instead of throwing them away.  In a while you’ll have a tincture.

Chit and Shinola disambiguated.

Old Jules

Today on Ask Old Jules:  State of Democracy?

The Consequence of Premature Whatchallit

Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a visit.

The Toothless Soothsayer was going to be my post for today, but as I was working on it yesterday I accidently hit the ‘PUBLISH’ button and it became history.

It’s going to be a busy day here.  It’s been almost a month since I’ve been to town for provisions and I’ve got a list two-pages long of things I’ve runned out of already, or that I’m down to bare bones on.  The cats have been threatening to go on strike if I don’t get some other flavors of canned food, the chickens are fighting the cats for dry cat food, and the deer are complaining about what’s available to steal from the felines and chickens.

I thought I’d stocked up enough on the old kind of cheap lightbulbs, but the cheapo ones burn out a lot faster than a person might expect.  I’m hoping I can find a few more on the shelves to snag before lightbulb-Y2K happens. 

Most of you probably haven’t noticed what’s happened to the price of feed grains, but I expect you’ll be seeing it on the grocery shelves in the form of pricetags before long.  The price of chicken scratch is up about 25 percent from sometime a while back, and layer pellets up almost that. 

The flock is free ranging a lot further than they used to because I’ve cut down of how much I put out for them.  It’s a tightrope, making sure they have enough to supplement their forage, but keeping it down to a level so’s they don’t waste it, which they’ll do.  They’ve always been spoiled, profligate, ungrateful birds.  But now they’re being driven by necessity to range out a quarter-mile, which is the idea behind free-rangers but too good for them to allow them to appreciate it.

A while back my laser mouse with a cord went out, and digging around I found a cordless one I’d never been satisfied with from several years ago.  Out of hunger I put a couple of triple-A batteries in it and found it worked okay.  Couldn’t recall why I’d abandoned it.

Then I discovered it goes through batteries something ugly.  It’s a gas hog and I don’t think my need to have a cordless mouse is worth the price of keeping it on the road.  Probably it’s going to be me tied to the comp at the end of a fiber-optic cord again.

If you’re travelling out in the vicinity of Grants, New Mexico, and you see the cat at the top of the page, tell her Hydrox, Niaid and I said hello.  I doubt you’ll see her because she vanished in 2003 and we figured she’d joined Mehitabels #1 and #2 on permanent mouse patrol.

But you never know.

Old Jules

Weird Thrift Store Haul

I don’t have a clue what this thing was originally intended to do.

Neither did the people running the Salvation Army Thrift Store.

I watched the value reflected in the price tag for about six weeks falling from the original $50 to $14.95. 

Every time I went in there I folded it, unfolded it, stood it up this way and that way, squinted at it trying to figure out what it was for, but seeing other possible uses the people who designed it never thought of.

This thing is a tough, expensive piece of work. 

It was evidently intended to lock something in, or out.

And clamp to something along one side.

Whatever it might have been, it’s about to become a part of something else.  I pointed out to the manager that it’s been there at least six weeks.

He picked it up and examined it every which way, same as I’d been doing.

What do you suppose it is?”

“I figure it’s a way to block off the wind going through the chainlink door into my chicken house.  They just added a lot of extra parts.”

“Five bucks?”

“I’ll take it.”

“Bring me some eggs next time you come to town.”

Old Jules

A Bullying Commie Americauna

Bullying’s getting all out of hand here since the weather’s cooled.  I’ve written about this hen before, probably under the heading, News From the Middle of Nowhere.  She’s always been a Communist from earliest chickhood.  But most recently she’s begun spending her nights locked up with the two younger roosters, one a Black Silky, the other a Silky/Australorp cross.  Then, after everyone’s out ranging, I let her out of the young rooster pen to range with the rest of the flock and do her laying in the same nests as the other hens.

The chickens are allowed to bully the cats here because it’s the lesser of two evils – the cats all know and respect the fact chickens aren’t to be bullied, whatever their feline instincts argue otherwise.  So naturally, the chickens are well aware of this and bully the hell out of every cat that gets in the way of whatever catches their eye.

Sooooo.  I re-established the cat houses for the cold weather and the felines explored and tested each for personal priorities and preferences, not taking into account the Commie hen.  The cats know those are THEIR shelters.  The one this Communist is sitting in is the preferred sleeping place of Shiva the Cow Cat.  Not a nesting box for Communist Party meetings between chicken and egg.

Unfortunately, Shiva also knows she’s not allowed to swat the bejesus out of the hen when it becomes a contest over who gets to take over the Shiva-house.  So Shiva snoozes until the Commie arrives, then the chicken comes in and gives her a couple of pecks, Shiva exits out the other side, and Ms. Commie settles down to drop a bluegreen egg.

But that’s only a piece of the bullying going on here.  I was going to tell a bit about an 8-9 year old kittenish cat named Tabby who’s begun testing my patience by bullying the hell out of the older felines. 

But I’ll save that so’s I won’t be tempted to use language strong enough to cause the lady-readers to blush.

This place is looking every day more like a bunch of human beings trying to get along.

Old Jules

Halloween in the Middle of Nowhere

I heard a helicopter out there somewhere and was slipping into my orange jump suit while I headed out the door.  The helicopter faded, but I encountered a gathering of cats and chickens as I hopped off the porch.

Hydrox:  “Is that how you’re going to dress for Halloween?”

Me:  “I haven’t given any thought to Halloween.  What are you guys going to do?  Is Halloween something you’re thinking about?  You used to hate it when we were in Placitas.”

Hydrox:  “I don’t knowCoons driving us off the porch every night, you shooting them through the window screen.  Hauling their carcasses out to the meadow on a grain-shovel.  Something BIG carrying them off.  Life’s sort of scary around here.”

Great Speckled Bird:  “That ain’t the half of it.  Coons and skunks trying to dig into the chicken-house every night gives me and the hens a case of the willies.”

Guinea #1:  “You think that’s bad?  What about the possums climbing around up in the trees looking for US?  It’s gotten so we’re flying around blind all night long finding branches in other trees.”

Shiva:  “It’s whatever it is carrying those coon carcasses off that worries me.  If we run out of coons it’s liable to come up here looking for the only thing outside worth eating.  Cats.”

Guinea #2:  “I resent that.”

Me:  “Whoooooah!  What is it you guys want?  I’m doing everything I can think of to keep you safe.”

Long pause.

The Great Speckled Bird:  “How about we have a celebration of Life?  Of surviving this long?  That might be fun.”

Niaid:  “Yeahhh.  That sounds good.  We could pretend we’re coyotes and you could open some of those special treats for us.”

Guinea #1:  “No need for anything special.  You could just open a can of what you give THEM,” gesturing with her beak toward the cats, “We’d love to get some of that.”

Tabby, muttering:  “You guys STEAL enough of that already.  Running us cats off it when he’s not looking!”

Great Speckled Bird:  “Nevermind!  Nevermind.  No point fighting among ourselves.  Let’s keep on track here.  How about you give the cats the special treats, and open some canned cat food for the rest of us?”

Americauna Hen:  “Yeah! Cool.  And we’ll have a big celebration of LIFE before you lock us into the fortress tonight!  Then if a coon or skunk gets in we’ll die happy.”

Guinea #2:  “Or if a possum grabs one of us before we know it’s up there.”

Hydrox:  “Or if whatever-the-hell’s carrying off those coon carcasses comes up here and catches one of us cats.”

The Great Speckled Bird:  “We’ll come knocking before sunset.”

I started pulling off the orange jump suit and opened the door to go inside.  Behind me I heard Niaid, “If he doesn’t do it we’ll dress up as a SWAT team and go after him.”

Tabby:  “What would we get him for?”

Hydrox:  “For being HIM!”

Old Jules

 

 

Friday limerick and flock update

The head-count of chickens and truants
Considering sub-plot and nuance
Suggests there’s a vixen
Requiring a fixing
Or else a coyote’s influence.

Old Jules

Building A Salvage Chicken-Hilton – One Man Band

Follow-up construction details:

I’ve mentioned and shown pics of the chicken-house built from discarded shower doors, etc., several times here.

“A chicken-house fabricated entirely from salvage, discarded shower doors, camper shell roof, refrigerator shelves, whatever came to hand free”

White Trash Repairs: Throwing Down the Gauntlet

From the ground:

I said when I made the post I’d be talking more about it, but way led onto way and I never got around to doing it. 

This was a one-man-band project.  The footprint of that structure has about an inch-or-less of topsoil over hardpan caliche or limestone.  Digging holes for the uprights wasn’t something I wanted to contemplate.

I knew I wanted the pickup camper as a roof, the shower-doors as part of the walls, wanted uprights with lateral stability without digging into limestone.  But otherwise it was plan-as-you go, driven partly by material availability.

Those lower walls are two sides of a huge packing crate I picked up for $5 from a guy in Kerrville.  Bought 30# of large lag-screws [$1.00 per pound] from Habitat for Humanity Recycling Store for the project because I anticipated difficulties in the lateral stability department.  The shower doors were free.  The 4x4s were from the same guy who sold me the packing crate.

I used the crate-sides to get three of the uprights generally in place by bolting them together.  Trust me when I tell you this ought to be a 2-man job.  I fudged on a lot of things by not paying a lot of attention to right-angles because I couldn’t be two places at once and knew I wasn’t going to live forever.

I took about a week building it, but probably it could have been done in a day with two people working.

As you can see I trenched below the lower walls and dug to bedrock, only an inch or two, to level the lower walls and provide a base for the corner posts.

Before putting the camper shell on top I built an interior frame and stabilized it with a steel bed frame salvaged from a junk pile:

Once that was in place I ran the front bumper of the truck up against it from whatever angles I could get to it, hooked a chain to the uprights from other angles pushing and pulling it with the truck to test the lateral strength.  We get some high winds and I didn’t want it coming down, even if the additional strength the camper shell structure would add became fractured.

I constructed a lean-to ramp using 4 2x12s and positioned the camper shell diagonally on it, skidded it up with a come-along until I had it in place, then bolted it to the top frame.  As I was finishing, Gale dropped down to see how I was doing and helped a lot during the final positioning of the shell.

The camper shell was missing the door, so for ventilation I used salvaged refrigerator shelving.  It keeps the predators out but allows a good breeze.  But to keep out the water I added the additional planks at an angle sloping away from the roof runoff.

Other than that there wasn’t much to it.

Old Jules

Three Dog Night– One Man Band