They grow up so fast!

IMG_9743It seems like just yesterday when I could pick Dimsworth up in one hand and Hawthorne in the other, but today I heard Hawthorne let loose with his very first gobble! I absolutely love listening to that noise. Hearing that goofy, wobbly sound is my favorite part about having turkeys, and now I’ll get to hear it twice as much since we have two boys! They’ve been rather irked at me these past few days, since I don’t like to let them out of the Turkey Chalet when it’s pouring down rain. Somewhere in the back of my mind is that stupid urban legend I read on the internet that talks about turkeys being so dumb they look up at the rain with their mouths gaping open, then they drown. While I’m fairly certain that isn’t true in the slightest, they aren’t smart enough to come underneath the sun porch so they end up soaking wet. I make sure to give them extra treats to make up for the confinement.

Despite the wet conditions, all of the critters apart from the goats have been happily stuck duckrunning outside, ignoring the rain. The ducklings, especially, seem to revel in the mud. I still go outside at least every hour to check on them, since they’ve reached the curious stage. I usually have a sixth sense for when something is actually wrong, and can usually find the errant duckling pretty quickly based on the plaintive note that creeps into their usual happy chirping. Just the other day I found a duckling that had jumped into a feed bucket, but couldn’t figure out how to jump back out. The 17 chicks are equally as curious, and so far I’ve had to untangle one from the deer fencing, and lift up a bucket that had fallen onto another one, trapping it inside.

guineaI hope the guinea fowls never get into any serious trouble, because according to the literature I’ve read they can only make a few syllables in terms of noises. But man do they make the most of them. Gene has taken to calling them the guinea howls, since they never, ever stop shrieking. They shriek when they’re happy, and shriek when they’re vexed. They shriek for the sheer joy of hearing themselves shriek. Good thing I actually like the noises they make, and they tend to put themselves to bed around five pm so at least our evenings are quiet. Good luck trying to sleep any later than dawn with your windows open, though. I figure since we’re the only ones on our block that don’t have small kids or grandkids, this is payback for all the years of us having to listen to other people’s little kids yell and squeak.

Dusk chores is definitely the loudest time here at the farm. All the critters think they should be lucky enough to be fed first, particularly the ducks, and they get progressivelyIMG_9596 louder as they watch the turkeys getting their kibble. The turkeys are first in my feeding routine, because if they aren’t they literally push the ducks away from the feeder and eat their chow. Gene scoffs at me for having a routine and refusing to deviate from it, but I think the critters are happiest when they know what to expect. I even say the exact same thing every night while I dump the feed into the various receptacles. Gene, who at this point is weary of being cooped up in the house, came outside to keep me company while I did the dusk chores tonight. He decided to help round up the ducks into their pen while I dealt with the turkeys. As I was scooping up duck chow, I heard him swearing. I asked him what was wrong, and he said the ducks were refusing to go into their area, scattering in all directions instead. I asked him if he told them he was going to feed them, and he looked at me like I had three heads. I demonstrated by bellowing, “Who’s a HUNGRY duck????,” then stood back and watched as they lined up and marched in through their gate. They’re definitely creatures of habit, just like their mama.

We’re going to need a bigger coop….

chicksAs the sun rose this morning, I lurched off the deck to do the dawn chores in more of a fog than usual, thanks to the allergy pill I’d taken the night before. It took me several minutes to realize I was being greeted by far more hungry chicks than normal. The two broody mamas with their five hatchlings quickly figured out if they accompany me to the shed in the morning, delicious kibble will be flung their way. Now they beat me to the shed door every morning, cheeping impatiently until I come outside. This morning, I was greeted with 12 more balls of fluff, accompanied by the white Leghorn I thought we’d lost to a coyote a few weeks ago. Turns out she was sitting on a clutch of forest eggs all this time. I’m kind of embarrassed that I couldn’t find a bright white chicken, no matter where she was nesting back there, but she must have had an excellent spot because I looked for her several times. She didn’t even do me the courtesy of letting me follow her back to her nest tonight, since she decided to commandeer a nesting box in the big coop to shelter her brood at night. I’m just glad she’s fat enough that all her babies can fit underneath her.

The five (yes, we’re up to five now!) ducklings are having a fantastic time in the newly ducklingsrenovated duck pond. Gene’s swim ladder is working perfectly, and I added a pile of safety rocks at the other end, just so they’d have a choice of exits from the pool. Ducklings, especially young ones, tire out easily and might drown if they don’t have an easy way to get out of the water. Now that the pool is toddler proofed, I don’t feel the need to run out there every thirty minutes to make sure no one is having trouble in the water. Don’t get me wrong – I still do it, I just don’t feel compelled. I can watch the ducklings paddle around in there for hours, scrambling up the safety rocks, then jumping off the swim deck to do it again.  I also feel a lot better now that we’ve convinced mama duck to sleep in the Duck Mansion at night with her brood, rather than on her exposed nest.

Dusk is my favorite time of night here on the farm; chores are done, and I can sit outside watching the sun set and listen to the soft noises the chickens make while they settle themselves for the evening. The peacefulness is occasionally shattered by the indignant squawk of a hen pushed off a particularly nice roosting spot by a jealous roommate, or by the sharp crack of a .22 coupled with a celebratory whoop as Gene partakes in his favorite nighttime pursuit – ratting.

Sweet, sweet freedom

luigiAfter spending a few weeks in a quarantined brooding box, Vinni and Luigi finally got to come outside and live in the big wide world with all the other critters. Although getting them out of the brooding box proved to be quite the rodeo, at least for Abigail and Gene, they took to outdoor living right away. After being extricated from their box amid a squawking, hopping, hissing cloud of angry feathers, they spent the afternoon in a wire cage in the chicken coop so the chickens could get accustomed to their presence (and so they would have a few solid hours to calm down, nothing in the avian world gets fussier than a guinea fowl, apparently). Last night, I dumped them out of their wire kennel in the dark, then let them out this morning at dawn to roam. According to a few articles I read, guineas take 6-10 weeks to figure out where “home” is at night, IMG_9606but ours took to it right away. They quickly figured out that if they see me coming, treats will follow shortly, so they both barrel up to me whenever I walk out there. Not being one to disappoint, I always have some sort of delicious edible handy. They fell right in with the flock, and even roosted up tonight with no prompting from me. Apparently they are voracious insect hunters, and have even been known to kill rats and mink. They’re smart, too – you can’t keep bee hives with guineas around, since they’ll stake out the hive and snap the bees out of the air as they exit, one by one. They’re like a more calculating, even uglier version of the turkeys.

turkeysDimsworth and Hawthorne, for their part, haven’t even noticed the new arrivals, despite the family resemblance. Vinni and Luigi spent the better part of the afternoon exploring the pasture, and the turkeys didn’t even bother to give them a second look. They were too busy trying to out puff each other. I’ve never had two male turkeys at the same time before, but apparently both of them are feeling a tad inadequate in the others presence, and do what they can to prove they are, in fact, the fluffier, fancier turkey. They’ll puff up and circle each other for hours, much to my great entertainment. They don’t fight, they don’t squabble, they just have this endless puff-off going.

The pasture is definitely getting full, especially since our broody duck’s eggs are startingduckling to hatch. So far today we have three brand new ducklings, which of course prompted a safety review of the area surrounding the Duck Mansion. I decided that I didn’t like the looks of the crevices surrounding the duck pond (I now have a great respect for landscapers that can magically make the hole fit the pond), so I screwed wooden planks to the pond rim in any spot I thought a duckling might disappear down into. Gene also devised an ingenious wooden swim ramp that angles down into the water, so the ducklings should be able to exit the pond with no problem. So far, the ducklings haven’t left the nest, and the new additions to the pond scared the adult ducks to the extent that they wouldn’t go near the pond until darkness fell, but I still consider my handiwork to be an unqualified success. I’m optimistic that way.