Around the Place

by Lisa Linderman on May 15, 2010

in bees,broody,chickens,honeybees,rabbits

Tonight we “installed” the new swarm.  It’s even bigger than the last one, clearly the biggest by far we’ve gotten of all four wild swarms we have living here.  The install wasn’t nearly as big a fail as the last one, as it’s not raining and it’s not cold, but the bees are not at all sure they want to be in the Warre hive, and are apparently more interested in living in the Home Depot box.  When it gets a little cooler out tonight, I”ll go back out and do round two of coaxing them into their new house.  They are mellow and sweet, but easily confused.  By that I mean that they don’t target me or Todd, and they aren’t loud or aggressive, but they do cloud WAY up into the air when I dump them out of the box or disturb them, which is different behavior than in previous swarms.  These girls also made a LOT of comb in the last 36-ish hours in the box.  Busy girls!  Hopefully they’ll get it figured out, as they’re a lovely bunch.  At least I don’t have to worry about the rain tonight on them, in case they do retreat to the box instead of the hive.

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In Chicken World, the babies are almost as big as their foster mother, who is admittedly the smallest of our chickens and about half way between a bantam and a standard in size.  Most of them have fully feathered “chicken pants” inherited from their Cochin father, and they’re hilarious.  My two favorites in coloration are one that’s almost pure black, and one that’s black with grey or white splotches (I think it’s going to look like a Cuckoo Cochin when it gets older).  They seem to be hens, given that they were the last two to develop anything resembling a comb and still have no wattles, so I’m hoping they’ll get to stick around.   Two more are basically buff cochins in appearance, only with sparsely-feathered legs, and four are kind of a mottled black/gray/buff mongrel look, three with feathered legs and one with feathers only to the knees. 
Two days ago, we had a Husky get into our yard and harass our chickens.  That’s unusual, given that the coop is way at the back of the yard behind the house, a couple hundred feet from the street.  Somehow it spotted the chickens and ran in, and began attempting to get into the coop door.  Apparently the coop is dog-proof, as he did his level best for a while before we discovered the situation, and all he managed was was to make a slight dent in the wire.  Excellent to know, because if a Husky can’t manage it, a raccoon or oppossum isn’t making it in.
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Tonight Todd was doing something near the chicken coop, and was startled by a swallow flying out from behind the coop.  Well okay then.   It came out of the bird house installed on the back of the coop, which we’d really intended for bumblebees!  Last year the birdhouse hung on the cedar tree, and it was full of a colony of red-belted bumblebees.  When winter came and the colony died off, I cleaned it out well and had Todd hang it on the back of the chicken coop, about 6 feet off the ground, theoretically for the bees.  At the same time, we hung a brand-new wood birdhouse about 20′ up behind the garage, facing out on a lovely open area where swallows swoop all the time.  Remind me never to try to guess what’s going to want to nest somewhere, or to try to guess where the bees will want to drink, or guess what a swarm will do.  They never read the instructions! 
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Speaking of bees, ours have discovered that the decrepit concrete birdbath in the backyard is the perfect watering hole.  They land on the edge, and sip from the wet concrete.  Even if they fall in, which is unlikely given the design of the birdbath, it’s not far to an edge where they can easily crawl out again.  I never managed to keep it full for the birds (I keep one full out front near the bird feeders), but now I have to keep it full for the bees! 
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We put up a chicken fence to keep out the chickens.  Works well on them, but the rabbits have chosen to chew their own bunny doors in it.  I’m concocting some more nasty garlic and onion and soap and cayenne and egg mixture to spray on the fence in hopes of keeping Peter Rabbit away from the fence and the veggies.  We’ll see!

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