Captured Moments – SoCo the cat

Good morning

There is a mostly feral cat that lives at a house we have been working on.  The owners moved and left him and he has never quite trusted again.  He cannot be picked up and rarely touched.   He is wily and will not enter a container of any form no matter how hungry.  We make sure he has food and we think there are others in the neighborhood that do as well.   I was able to sit very still and he came close to me, even put a nose to the camera.  If I moved towards him at all, he ran away.  He was content to have me in his yard space, but no touching.  

He has been named SoCo for the area he lives in.   He is watching me from across the yard.

Approaching with caution

Hey, what is this thing?

Sharing space and a big yawn after eating. (Collage made with Ribbet)

Captured Moments – Fall color

Yesterday was the first day of fall in the northern hemisphere.   Here in central Texas, we do not have the stereotypical fall colors unless we have cool wet weather.  I went back and looked through some photos from previous years and found September fall color.  Grasses and a few from trees and vines.  🙂  Hey, I will take what fall color I can get.

 

(below) Leaves with oil painting effect.

 

Captured Moments – Raising chickens part three

Good morning,

Part three is a reissue with some additional information.  After our losses we decided we needed a better coop.  It started like this:

 

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Now for the cute and fluffy part of the post, then there will be more photos of the new coop and run after.  

We purchased twelve, three-day-old chicks on March 09, 2016.  They are red sex links.  Click here for more on this breed of chicken The Lowdown on Red Sex Links

Here they are at six days old.

What are you looking at? Red Sex Link chicks 6 days old.

What are you looking at?
Red Sex Link chicks 6 days old.

 

Red Sex Link Chicks at 15 days old.

Red Sex Link Chicks at 15 days old. They are getting feathers!

 

Red Sex Link Chicks Approximately twenty days old. They are now getting some color to their feathers, more red is showing and they have sparse tail feathers.

Red Sex Link Chicks Approximately twenty days old. They are now getting some color to their feathers, more red is showing and they have sparse tail feathers.

This is a good link for beginners to learn about raising chickens Backyard Chicken.com Frequently asked questions of raising chickens

We have raised chickens before.  We started while living in town. Truly a backyard chicken venture.  Then we moved to a place with some land and allowed the chickens to free range.  They loved it!  We loved that they kept the insect population under control.   We made sure we closed everything up at night and all went well for the first two years.  Then hens started to go missing.   We finally discovered that a fox and her kits had taken up residence close to the house in a rock pile (go figure).  She and her kits were well fed but we lost all of our hens.  She attacked during the day while the hens free ranged.   We also lost the rooster to a different predator that came in the evening before we had the coop closed up.  We have since built a new coop with some added safety features and hopefully these chicks will live long happy lives.

The new coop is ready to go and has a large run.  These babies will not go outside (except for field trips)  until they are fully feathered out and the temperatures stay above 65 degrees.  We have an automatic door now that opens at dawn (or a little after) and closes at dusk.  We hope that this will prevent the door from being left open after the hens have put themselves to bed if we are not home.  The plan is to not allow the hens to free range unless we are home.  We know that we have fox, raccoon and opossums in the area (in the yard some nights).

Side view of new coop and run

Side view of new coop and run

Looking from roosting area to front of run

Looking from roosting area to front of run

Looking from front of run to roosting box

Looking from front of run to roosting box

Automatic door

Automatic door

Chicks on their first field trip outside – 22 days old

 

Chicks in the bluebonnets

We still need to build the nest boxes and set up the feed and water for the new coop.  there are so many ways to set this up and I just haven’t made up my mind which system I want to try.

I would love to hear any suggestions on nest boxes, feed or water systems you may have tried.

Additional thoughts 9-22-2017

We wish we would have made the coop just a little bigger.  It would have allowed for additional chickens to be added if we wanted.  As it is, twelve large chickens is about max depending on personality of the chicken.   This breed tends to get bored and peck one another and pull feathers.  The run is great, but they need to free range or, once again, the pecking starts and the egg laying goes down.  This breed has been the most reliable layers we have ever had.  They have only slowed laying when “cooped” up for long periods, but other than that, they have continuously provided eggs 365 days a year for over two years now.  Because they need to free range, we have lost a few to predators.  Scarily enough, one of these events was while I was out in the yard with them.  We had a very fast fox  grab a hen when I went into the garden shed to get a tool.  It was kind of unnerving to know we were being watched that closely while working in the yard.  Overall the new coop has been great.  The automatic door by Chickendoors.com has worked flawlessly and the chickens are great about getting in the coop before the door closes for the night (now).  We had to manually open it a few times for the stragglers until they figured it out.  

 

 

 

Captured Moments – moving at a snails pace

Good morning

I am having a hard time keeping my momentum going today.  I was sitting drinking my second cup of coffee, looking through photos and came across this snail photo.   It was taken after it had rained.  The house we lived in at the time had a very healthy snail population and it was common to see their silvery trails along the sidewalks in the morning.

I started playing around with the photo in Topaz Studio (procrastinating), and thought that the snail and I had something in common.  Moving slowly, although I think it would have beaten me today. This may be a three or four cup of coffee morning. 😉

This filter reminds me of some of the photos that came from an old Brownie camera I used in high school.  It must have had a leak in the seal or a crack and I would get a rainbow  or light leak effect on my photos. The filter is named Low fidelity in Topaz Studio.

This filter gives it a gritty feel, more texture and I like the blue hint on the head. It is called wfcSoft2  in Topaz Studio.

Captured Moments – Phidippus audax (Spider)

Good morning!

I was cutting basil in the garden the other morning and had not brought a basket  with me, so I carried the armload of fragrant herbs into the kitchen clutched to my chest so as not to drop any.  I then washed it in the sink.  Much to my surprise, when the water drained there was a small black spider sitting in the bottom of the sink, looking rather put out.   I know it as a fuzzy jumping spider. It’s official name is Phidippus audax.  They are common around here and I love their colorful,  iridescent  chelicerae (mouth parts), which are a lovely teal green on this young spider.  I read that the marking may be orange tinted in juveniles (wiki). The ones I usually see have white markings.

I brought him to the garden and he clung to the flower petal for a few seconds.  You can see the orange tinted spots.

It didn’t take long to recover.  It turned to face me, then quickly disappeared under the flowers.  I wish I had been quicker with the camera and he less traumatized.  I love the color of the chelicerae in the photo below.  

 

There are some wonderful macro photos online that are more clear than mine if you want to see more of this cute spider close up.  

 

Captured moments – Fragrant Sensitive briar

Good morning

Still one of my favorite flowers of summer, the Sensitive briar (Mimosa microphylla Dryand), has a small bright pink flower with a delightful fragrance.  The vine is prickly, but it is worth a few finger sticks to get close enough to enjoy the fragrance and appreciate the delicate beauty of the flowers.

To read more about this plant click here: Lady Bird Johnson wildflower Center

Captured moments – Cheerful zinnias

Good morning!

I bought a pack of zinnia plants from one of my favorite nurseries, Blanco Gardens in  Blanco, Texas  this summer.  They had yellow, orange, light pink and dark pink flowers in the mix.  These zinnias grow in a mounded form and are excellent bloomers, especially is you deadhead frequently.    The butterflies seem to like the cheerful orange ones the most.  Our fall weather has been mild with temperatures in the 90F during the day dropping into the low 70F at night and these flowers are not showing any signs of slowing down.

zinnias

Captured Moments – Raising Chickens part 2

We moved to ten acres just outside of the city.  We brought our remaining hens* and their mobile coop, set it up and attempted to make it secure from burrowing and digging predators.  (*We had lost one hen to a dog we were dog sitting.)
They loved having a larger area to forage and our dog was a good deterrent to any wildlife that might want to have chicken for dinner.

During our first few weeks in the new place, the neighbors rooster came to visit.  He was grand and the girls were smitten.  He spent a couple of hours , but did not manage to lure our girls away , so he went home.  We never saw him again.

The chickens continued to stake out their range over the next few months and a factor we did not consider was that they might range farther than was safe.   We lost a hen early on and took precautions to try to keep them closer to the house. We made sure our dog was out when they were free ranging.  The hens tend to put themselves to bed at night, so we just needed to make sure we are home to close the coop.   When you work, have kids with extra curricular activities, sometimes this did not happen in a timely manner.  We were lucky for a while.

These are two of the Black Copper Marans.

The chickens seemed to like our small black and white kitty.   They would follow her on her explorations.  Luckily, she stayed close to the house.   In this photo she has her paws on a rock.  She is fascinated by rocks.  She claims them as hers, plays with the smaller ones and sits on the larger ones. Not judging.  It’s her hobby and it doesn’t involve killing anything.  I take that as a win.

A year went by without incident. We still had five hens, a Brabanter, a Barred Rock and three Black Copper Marans.   A  lady we know asked if we would take some White Leghorn  hens and a rooster that she had rescued.  They had never been outside the small enclosure she had for them.  We agreed to take them and she brought them coop and all.  There were four hens and the rooster.  Day two, one of the hens died.  No visible reason, maybe the stress of the move.  We kept the chickens isolated from our flock until we were reasonably certain that they were healthy.  It took a while to get them to not run away into a corner of their pen when we approached.    We began leaving their coop door open, trying to entice them to forage with our hens.  Once free, they decided no more coops. This was unexpected.  They preferred to roost in the cedar tree in the back yard.  If we tried to get them out of the tree, they ran for the woods.  So they became tree chickens.  The rooster was very wary but not aggressive.  We named him Dude, Dood from a line in the movie The Island.

Outside of the aversion to a coop, the two flocks got along nicely.  Dood was very protective of the hens.  We were beginning to think we did not have predators in the area.  That maybe our dog and us being outside a lot, caused it to be an undesirable place to hunt.  We were proven wrong.  We lost chickens over the next year and a half.  We started seeing opossums, raccoons and hawks. We knew there were fox, coyote and large wild cats in the area, but had never seen any.  When we started losing chickens at an alarming rate during the day, we were perplexed.  They were still free ranging during the day and in the coop at night (even the Leghorns had started coming in the coop at night)  Then my daughters friend called for us to come look out the window,  there was a young fox on the rock pile behind the house.  It then became clear what we were up against.  A sly and opportunistic mother fox with three pups, was feeding her little ones chicken.  Our dog was older when we moved but had become more frail and arthritic and was no longer able to be a guard for the chickens.  I did not want him trying to chase any animals.  When the fox realized we had discovered her den, she moved her pups and we did not see them again until two years later.

Well fed fox pup.

We ended up losing all of the hens and then Dood to the fox and other predators.   I spoke with our veterinarian, who also has chickens that free range, and they said pretty much everything likes chicken.  They even have problems with hawks upon occasion.  Part of having  space to raise chickens was to give them freedom to forage.   It was time to build a new  larger coop with an enclosed run.

Up next, the new coop.