Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Pelted and Drenched

Tuesday 15th May 2012
Sunrise has crept forward and broken the 5 o'clock barrier.
Daisy likes a bit of company.
If only my arms were longer
I could have fitted both of us into this self-portrait!

Main job today was a total clean out of the chicken houses. I poo pick most days, adding new bedding material (wood shavings or hay) when needed, but gradually all the mess sinks to the bottom and needs a good clean out once in a while. What sparked this was a slight drop in egg productivity and a few soft shells and otherwise malformed eggs. The girls are generally very happy and have a luxuriously free lifestyle, but I don't think this spring has been the best weatherwise for them. They much prefer dry and sunny to wet and miserable - don't we all! Back to the point. I just wanted to check that everything was right for the girls and who knows what creepy crawlies might be lurking in the hidden corners of those houses.
As there was a fair breeze, I decided to empty out all the houses at once, scrape back to the wood, then let the houses air out before giving them a very liberal sprinkling of mite powder (diatomaceous earth - search for it on the internet and buy a big bag, then you can use as much as you want fairly cheaply).

My plan, however, was very much interrupted by a sudden band of the foulest weather. Initially I got absolutely pelted with hailstones. This seems to happen everytime I put some new seedlings outside to get some fresh air. I took shelter in the shed until it passed over, then carried on with the task in hand.

I don't know what made me look up, but I did so just in time to see a couple of Wheatears chasing each other in the meadow, then head off along the dyke. These were the first of the year, very much in contrast to last year when at least 9 birds passed through, most lingering for a good few days. But that had been in mid April. This is mid May and these delayed migrants are in a hurry to get back to their breeding grounds. In fact, I'm sure the only reason they dropped out of the sky was to avoid the hailstorm which had just passed.
The view from inside Daisy's shelter.
Neither of us were going back out in this.

Having cleaned and scraped floors, walls, perches and all nooks and crannies, I left the chicken houses to air out and took a stroll down the land to see if the wheatears might have settled down for a while. This was a big mistake! No sooner had I reached the furthest point than the heavens opened. Stuck out in the open with no shelter possible, I legged it back as far as Daisy's pen, where I managed to persuade her to let me in for shelter.
Rain turned again to bouncing ice bombs.

Not long after, this little rain cloud passed through and I was forced once more to take shelter in the shed.

View through the shed window.

To cut a long story short, I never saw the wheatears again, I eventually succumbed to being drenched through and then just carried on in the rain, the sun came out and I finished the chicken houses.

Go to bed guineafowl, go to bed.
Guineafowl are a little different from chickens in their nature. They are more predisposed to wander off and explore, they are a wilder creature and they prefer to roost high up in a tree without a roof over their heads. Ours, however, mostly see themselves as chickens! That is, until it comes to bedtime. In general, all the chickens have chosen one of their houses in which to roost. It's a bit of a tight fit, but they seem to prefer this. There's always one, and not always the same one, which chooses a different house for the night though. The chickens put themselves to bed. Mrs Brown, in particular, seems to like her rest time, often going to bed way before dark and always the last out in the morning.

In contrast, the guineafowl are still wandering around or roosting on the fence as it's getting too dark to see. We then herd them, one at a time, into the house with the other chickens. This is fairly straightforward with two people. Single-handed it gets more difficult, like playing a game on the terms of some mischievous child. Round and round the houses we go, stopping many times as if to go into the house, then heading off round the corner again. This slow stalking of the guineafowl can go on for 20 minutes. It's always the male who goes in first, but if Lady Guinea decides she's not going in, Mr Guinea Guinea comes back out to check up on her and it's back to square one. It's tempting to leave them out, but there was a dead young fox not far away on the road yesterday, so the daily ritual must carry on.
In at last!

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