Posts Tagged ‘outdoor cats’

Rainy days and Mondays are still exciting

August 17, 2009

We’re having a lazy, rainy day today. And yet there are still exciting things that have happened. First, we decided to let the little chickens out of their coop. I let them out before I let out the big chickens. The big chickens were none too happy about this, of course. Eventually I went outside with a plastic garbage can lid in had to let out the big chickens. I wanted to be prepared in case the pecking got out of hand. To my surprise, I let the big chickens out and they went the opposite direction, totally ignoring the little chickens.

Chicken Joe, mid crow

Chicken Joe, mid crow

Now, at some point there was a little pecking, mostly from Holly. Joe didn’t have to peck too much as I think he is secure in his place as top rooster and top chicken. So the little chickens were out ranging happily and peacefully. Last time I checked they were back in their coop roosting, probably to dry off since the ground is pretty soggy. I’m sure there will be more pecking as the two flocks reorganize into one or more flocks.

The other thing that happened is that Mama Cat went towards the creek. I followed her since I’ve been trying to get a look at her kittens, which were born around August 12. That’s the day she came back hungry and less round looking. I couldn’t find her kittens since they were somewhere near the creek and were hidden by the vegetation. A little while later, however, I spotted her moving one into the garage. I waited a bit to give her time to move them all, then went out to see where they were and try to get a look. I counted 3 kittens. Mama Cat was fine with me looking, but if I tried to reach in the box to move the kittens she would gently paw at me. I could tell she didn’t want me to put my hands in there, so I backed off. I’ll try to get pictures later, mayb when the sun decides to make a reappearance.

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Cats and kittens

August 14, 2009

OK, today you get pictures of cats and kittens. (Tomorrow might be snakes. I know you are all very excited!)  These were taken almost two weeks ago, so the kittens have grown a bit since then. They are still cute and playful, though.

Here is one of Little Gray nursing two of the kittens. The kittens are about 3 months old in this picture. They eat plenty of hard food so are obviously in the process of weaning (and have been for a while!). I find this interesting because I know that when people sell kittens, they sell them when they are around 6-8 weeks old. Clearly, they will nurse much longer when given the chance.

Little Gray nursing Captain Gray and Tubby Boat

Little Gray nursing Captain Gray and Tubby Boat

This is Tubby Boat. She has some beautiful markings and is pretty friendly.

Tubby Boat

Tubby Boat

This is Swirly, Jr. He is the only kitten who has the privilege of going both indoors and outdoors. We bring him in at night so he is safe. He sleeps on our bed and plays with our toes and snuggles and purrs. We are all totally smitten with this kitten! ūüôā

The cutest, sweetest kitten in the world.

The cutest, sweetest kitten in the world.

This is Swirly. You can see why the kitten is named Swirly, Jr. as they have almost identical markings. The biggest differences are that Swirly’s eyes are a beautiful amber color, whereas Swirly, Jr.’s are a little more brown. Also, Swirly, Jr. has a thin white stripe on his head. Of course, at the moment Swirly is much bigger than Swirly, Jr. We have other names for Swirly, such as Big Swirly or Uncle Swirly. Sometimes we call Swirly, Jr. Little Swirly or SJ or

Swirly rolling around on the sidewalk

Swirly rolling around on the sidewalk

This is Vicious, one of Mama Cat’s second litter. I thought Vicious was a girl, but now there is no doubt Vicious is a boy. He has turned out to be pretty friendly, considering our rough introduction

Much less vicious these days

Vicious, who is much less vicious these days

Here are Little Gray’s kittens playing.

Kittens playing. From left, Captain Gray, Swirly, Jr., and Tubby Boat

Kittens playing. From left, Captain Gray, Swirly, Jr., and Tubby Boat

A closer view of Captain Gray. He’s the least friendly, but I am sure that he will get friendlier as he gets older.

Captain Gray, one of Little Gray's kittens

Captain Gray, one of Little Gray's kittens

Summer update

July 22, 2009

OK, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Really I haven’t. We’ve just had such had such a busy summer that I almost wish I would fall off the face of the earth just so I could get some rest. Things are still busy, but in a couple of weeks we should be back to normal; that is, no one travelling and no one visiting. That is part of why I haven’t posted much. The other reason is that we have lost some animals and that is upsetting and not fun to post about.

We lost two of the New Hampshire hens one evening at dusk. The kids and I were out of town, so things were quieter, I’m sure. Perhaps that is what gave the predator the nerve to get them so close to the house. We also lost two of Mama Cat’s kittens and one of Little Gray’s. We found a dead kitten on our lane and buried it and we assume it was Muck. The other, Muggy, just disappeared. Her other two kittens, Stinky and Vicious, are still around and Vicious has even gotten to be pretty friendly with the other cats and with us. Of course, it could just be that she is in heat! I am quite sure Mama Cat is pregnant again, too.

Little Gray’s kittens are cute and playful and friendly. In fact, I have Swirly Junior on my lap right now. He sleeps inside with us at night and we all love him. We did lost Scotchy Junior, about a month ago. He was under the couch and got stuck in the mechanism for the recliner. We didn’t realize this until the next morning as we were getting ready to go away for the weekend and I was making sure all the kittens were outside. It was horribly, horribly sad and I feel guilty that a kitten died because of our own carelessness.

Anyway, the garden is going OK. Things are growing despite my almost total neglect. I’ve used some lemon basil from the garden twice and made a yummy chicken dish. We have green tomatoes, lots of herbs, cauliflower and carrots. I need to plant more for fall, so maybe next week I will find some time to do some more planting. I did lose all the corn, probably to some deer that ate it while the kids and I were out of town. I think that the kids are a great deterrent to animals that think of coming too close to the house.

The chickens are doing well. The Buff Orpington chicks are growing and are now in the coop/dog kennel thing. It is working well enough for now, though it won’t work well for winter. We are still planning on building a coop, but it it turning into a fall project rather than a summer project. We have at least two Buff Orpington roosters, possibly a couple of more. I think that Lula Mae is getting ready to lay very soon. She has been making lots of noise and clucking when she goes into the coop at night. Her comb and wattles have grown and gotten quite red, which is also another sign. The other hen, who we have named Holly, doesn’t seem quite as ready, but I think she is getting there, too. Chicken Joe wasn’t crowing much when we still had the other rooster around, but now he is crowing very nicely.

That’s all I have for now! I will post more pictures someday soon. I have to take some first! I think next week things will be calmer, despite the fact that Tom will be out of town. I will be home with the kids and Tim and will try to play catch up with the garden, the mowing, and the blog.

Wanted: Weekend Farmer (in training)

June 15, 2009

Wanted: Weekend Farmer to take care of animals

When: Friday evening through Sunday morning

Where: West Central Illinois

What: Take care of farm animals, including 14 cats, 20 chicks, 6 chickens, and 2 cows.

Details: Animals need food and water in the morning and evening.

Chickens on the stairs

Chickens on the stairs

Chickens: The chickens really just need to be let out of their movable coop. Open the screened front flap and prop it up with the piece of wood that was screwed into the frame but came unscrewed. This helps keep the wood from coming unscrewed and helps keep the door from blowing down in the wind. The chickens will rush out and flap their wings and act silly for a few minutes. Make sure to enjoy this part as it’s quite a show. Lula Mae is always the last one out. She’s the pullet with black-tipped feathers near her shoulders (not the technical word, but you know what I’m talking about since you are a weekend farmer being trained by a farmer-in-training). The chickens will range all day long and will put themselves back in their coop. In the evening, you can check their feed and water before you lock them in. Their feed is currently in a Farm King bucket. I will try to put it in a garbage can and label it before we leave.

Chicks: The chicks are pretty easy. They just need feed and water. They have two feeders in the brooder. They think they get special treats in the purple-bottomed one. Please do not let them in on the secret. You will have to check their water. Most likely it will be spilled or totally mucked up with bedding. Either way it will need to be dumped, cleaned out quickly with the hose on the well pump near the house, then filled and placed back in the brooder. Yes it is reddish inside from the iron in the well water. Don’t bother cleaning it as they don’t seem to mind. The silly chicks will most likely knock it over or muck it up before you leave, so you might want to check it again. Their feed is in the brown garbage can closest to the workbench in the garage. I will try to label it before we leave.

Cows: The cows do not need water as they have a big tub with an auto-leveler. Just make sure to leave the handle of the well pump UP so that it will continue to fill up. Their feed is in the garbage can closest to the garage door. There are two buckets in there, to be filled up about 1/4 to 1/2 way. The buckets and the fence tester are in the garbage can with the feed. PLEASE remember to put them back in there as the garage is too messy for me to find them if you put them somewhere else. Proceed to fence while calling cows. I’ve also started to say, “Come on, girls” to get them to come to me that way. If you get here late enough, they will be waiting for you at the fence. Just ignore their puppy dog sad eyes as they are just trying to make you feel guilty for sleeping in. Also feel free to remind them that you are just a weekend farmer filling in for a farmer-in-training. I’m sure they will understand. Repeat in the evening, making sure to check the fence again. If the fence charge seems low, you will need to walk the fence and check for problems. If there are problems, you will have to call Scott the Farmer as fixing the fence is dangerous and you are not getting paid enough to bother with it.

Indoor cats: There are two indoor cats. Only one, Riley, gets soft food. He only gets a half a can, maybe less if he didn’t eat all his food from the previous serving. This is because Cleo does not like soft food, not because we are mean to her. Riley will meow and meow until you feed him. You might want to do this first unless you can ignore his meows. He also is not starving, as will be evidenced by his youthful figure. The cats might need fresh water or more water. More importantly, they need ¬†reassurance that we did not abandon them for the cute outdoor cats and that we will be back soon to worship them.

Outdoor cats: They will act like they are starving, too. Little Gray might actually be very hungry because she is still nursing her litter. Mama Cat will act as if she is starving, too, but she isn’t. She is mean to the other cats, so when you open the soft food cans you might have to push her away from the other cats so she will not attack them. That is, unless the chickens are around, in which case she is meek and humble and lets everyone else eat first. However, then you have to keep the chickens from eating the food so the cats can eat. This is not easy as they are very persistent little buggers. It might be easier to feed the cats before you let the chickens out, but then ¬†you might have to listen to crowing. Maybe you can block it out. Anyway, the cats get between 3 and 4 cans of soft food. It depends on how many show up for breakfast and how hungry they look and how much food the chickens swipe. Use your best judgment. They also get hard food, which is in the pantry to the left as you enter the kitchen. I usually just fill up the empty soft food cans with hard food. Their water is in a ceramic dish near the well pump. This is the water for the chickens and the cats. Just make sure it is full when you fill up the chicks water for the second time.

All of this should only take about 15 minutes each time, depending on which order you do it. If you let the chickens out first, then you will have to stand guard so that the cats can eat. If you feed the cats first, you will still have to stand guard so that Mama Cat doesn’t eat all the food and then you will also have to listen to the roosters crowing to get out. Really, the cows are the easiest as long as you are mindful of the fence. It is electric and from what I hear, it does hurt. I am scared to death of the fence, so I have not gotten shocked as I am very, very careful.

No worries. My aunt and/or cousins are taking care of the cats and chickens. My aunt has way more experience with animals than I do, so she really should be training me. I have to talk to Scott the Farmer, but I am sure he will want to take care of the cows himself, assuming he has time. Boy, having animals makes vacations hard, doesn’t it?

Kittens

June 9, 2009

¬†Here are Little Gray’s kitties, who are now 5 weeks old. They are still in the garage and are starting to play and explore. They are tiny and so cute! They seem friendlier than Mama Cat’s kittens were at the same age. The kids call them Scotchy, Swirly, Little Gray, and Mama Cat because each kitten looks so much like the older versions. I tried to tell them this was confusing and we could at least call them all Juniors in order to keep them straight. We tried to think of names last night, but I wasn’t all that impressed with the names we came up with. I have no idea what we will end up calling them all, but I will, of course, let you all know.

Little Gray's orange kittens

Little Gray's orange kittens

Little Gray's gray kittens

Little Gray's gray kittens

Lots and lots of chickens

June 8, 2009

This chick apparently missed the memo about not roosting on top of the waterer.

Not supposed to roost there, silly!

Not supposed to roost there, silly!

Here are a few more pictures of the 4 week old chicks that I took last week. They are doing well, despite the fact that the bulb in the heat lamp went out sometime last night or this morning. I was totally freaked out, but they are all ok and perked up as soon as I put the new bulb in the lamp. 

4weekoldBO1

Four week old Buff Orpington chicks

4 week old Buff Orpingtons in their brooder

4 week old Buff Orpingtons in their brooder

Here are some of the big chickens enjoying their favorite bush. It provides shade as well as a nice place for dust baths.

Chickens favorite bush

Chickens favorite bush

And finally here is a picture of Swirly. He is a sweety and is my buddy. He has the most beautiful amber colored eyes. He follows me when I feed the cows. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was trying to kill me by tripping me since he weaves in and out of my legs and I really have to watch my step.

Swirly

Swirly

Garden covers

June 3, 2009

If you’ve looked at the pictures of my garden, you probably noticed the covers on the garden frames. These covers are necessary to keep out critters of all sorts, including rabbits and deer, raccoons and opossums, and cats and chickens. The cats and chickens seem to get in the beds the most: the cats to poop and the chickens to take dust baths or to peck at bugs and sometimes growing plants. This is not good, thus we have the frames. So far they seem to be working well to keep everyone out. A couple of weeks ago, Karen at ChickenSense commented on the garden covers. I figured it was worth a post to show how they are made. I can’t claim much credit as the idea is from All New Square Foot Gardening and the work was done by Tim, with a little bit of help from the kids and me.

Tim started with 2″ X 2″ pieces of lumber and cut them into 4′ sections. Then he used a screw to connect the corners. This part made a square and is the bottom of the cover. It is the part that rests on the the 2″ X 6″ pieces of wood that we used for the frames. Next, he took the chicken wire and stapled it onto the wood. This is the hard part since the chicken wire is in a roll and he had to hold the frame down while unrolling and stapling the chicken wire to it. Tim did this by himself more than once, but said it was easier when I helped him.¬†

Corner of garden cover

Corner of garden cover

Chicken wire stapled and zip tied together

Chicken wire stapled and zip tied together

After the sides of the cover are stapled on, it’s time to cut two or more pieces for the top, depending on what size chicken wire you are using. We used zip ties to connect the top pieces with the side pieces. The little white things are what is left of the zip ties after Tim clipped off the part hanging out.¬†

Zip ties to keep top and sides together

Zip ties to keep top and sides together

Side and top of garden cover

Side and top of garden cover

Zip ties holding top and sides of chicken wire together

Zip ties holding top and sides of chicken wire together

The great thing about these covers is that they are fairly quick and easy to make, while also being inexpensive. You need wood, zip ties, a staple gun with lots of staples, a few screws, and some chicken wire. The covers are lightweight and the kids can lift them so they can get a little snack of lettuce while we are in the garden. I’m not sure the covers would keep out a determined raccoon, though. I say this because we did see Swirly try to climb one and it kind of caved in. The garden is pretty safe from deer, rabbits, cats, and chickens, though.¬†

Eventually we plan to fence in the garden, but these covers work well. The frames can also be used to provide shade for garden plants or, if covered with the sort of plastic used in greenhouses, could be used to extend the growing season. So even after our garden is fenced in, we will still use these frames.

Picture Friday – Cats and Chickens

May 29, 2009

This morning Tim let the chickens out before I even got outside. When I did finally make it outside, this is what I saw: 

Cats and Chickens eating cat food

Cats and Chickens eating cat food

Cats and Chickens

Cats and Chickens

When I was picking up the cat food cans last night, I couldn’t grab the bag of hard food, too. I thought I could make two trips, but naturally I forgot to go back out. So last night some critter came and ate a bunch of hard cat food and made a big mess. This morning the cats and chickens were working on cleaning it up. They are living quite peacefully together, which is good because I was was a bit worried to let the chickens free range because of the outdoor cats. I guess they are one “predator” I no longer have to worry about. The two cats are Swirly and Little Gray, by the way.¬†

Here are a couple of pictures of the chicks. They are doing well and are eating a ton! Scott the Farmer has been mixing up chick feed for me that is mostly natural. He’s trying to make it with out genetically modified (GMO) ingredients so that it is all natural. Some of the ingredients are natural and some are organic, but some are GMO foods. The Big Chickens also eat the feed he brings, but it has more wheat in it so that it is lower in protein since they are older than 6 weeks. ¬†

3 week old Buff Orpingtons

3 week old Buff Orpingtons

One of the 3 week old chicks

One of the 3 week old chicks

And, finally, here is a picture of Little Gray’s kittens, who are now 4 weeks old. They still seem so tiny and helpless. I think Little Gray is doing an great job for being such a young cat herself.

Little Grays kittens - 4 weeks old

Little Grays kittens - 4 weeks old

If only I could get the kids to just pet the kittens and not move them around. I won’t even mention the things they have done while unsupervised with the kittens. They aren’t doing anything deliberately bad, they (mostly Moira) don’t understand that the kittens are babies. Moira also likes frogs and is very talented at spotting and catching them. We bought a small, plastic terrarium so that she can keep the frogs overnight. We have an agreement that they can only stay overnight and that she has to let them go in the morning. She isn’t always happy to let the frogs go in the morning, but so far, so good. I’m afraid that there is one in the house now, though, because it was in a different container last night and now it is gone. As long as it doesn’t jump on me, I’ll be fine. I tend to squeal when frogs or spiders or weird bugs land on me. I’m trying to be more like Mo and be less squeamish.

Chicken observations

May 20, 2009

I was out watching the chickens the week before last while taking a break from the garden. I watch the chickens a lot, but I am usually mulit-tasking This day, though, I was only laying on a blanket watching the chickens. This is really fun and relaxing and I should do it more often. Anyway, I noticed a few things. We definitely have two roosters (cockerel, really since that is what they are called until they are a year old), and one of them does not stay all that close to the pullets. I’ve noticed this more since then and am thinking this rooster is not a keeper. On this day that I was watching him, he also got freaked out by something and then suddenly attacked one of the hens by biting her near her ear. Not nice, Mr. Rooster!¬†

I also noticed that the hens really look different, but that you have to look closely to see the differences. I was laying there, watching them and writing down notes so that I could tell them apart. I noticed that one has a ring of black tail feathers. You can’t really see the black feathers from the top or the front, but if she is walking around, scratching at the ground, you can see the ring of feathers. Another hen has some black near her hackles. It’s hard to see from far away, but up close is easy to see. This hen is also a little darker than the others. One of the hens is a bit lighter and I think is the chick that was always a bit smaller and lighter in color. So anyway, now that I can sort of tell them apart it is time to give them names. We were planning on using the names of my grandpa’s sisters. I made sure this was OK with him since he reads my blog. He said it was fine and it actually worked out that we have 4 hens. He had five sisters, and four have already passed away, Aunt Hazel being the most recent. So I figured we would name the four hens after the four who have passed away: Lula Mae, Rosalie, Georgie, and Hazel. As soon as we figure out which is which, I will take pictures and post them with their names.¬†

While I was watching them that day, a hawk flew over head. I did not see it at first, but I did notice something was wrong as they were all peering at the sky with one eye and making a sound I have never heard them make before. I cannot describe the sound, but it must be the “hawk” sound that I’ve read about. I looked up in the sky and finally did see the hawk, but it was long after they saw it. They happened to be outside the movable coop (for some reason it seemed that they could not find their way in) in a huddle anyway. So they were not easy to spot and the hawk moved on.

In other news, the chickens are free ranging for large parts of the day. It just depends on what is going on. I don’t like to leave them unsupervised, so Sunday and Monday they didn’t get out much. Then on Tuesday I let them out and I ended up getting bonked on the head by something and wanted to go inside. So I left them out and they ranged all around the house and the garden areas. They seemed very happy about this situation. I wanted a breed that would do well free-ranging or in confinement and New Hampshires are supposed to do well in either condition. The thing that I didn’t read is that once you let them range, they will not be happy being confined. They are not happy being in the movable coop for long. Even if it were bigger, I just don’t think they would want to be in there for very long. They love ranging. The benefits of free ranging chickens are numerous. They are obviously happier, therefore they will be healthier. When they start laying eggs, their eggs will be healthier as well. They are eating lots of bugs and weeds, which in turn means they are eating less feed. This is exactly what I wanted to happen.

I do worry about hawks still, but now that it is spring I can easily see how much shade and cover the chickens have to hide from hawks. The bigger concern is the outdoor cats, but so far the chickens seem quite unconcerned about Swirly or Little Gray. The chickens did have to set their boundaries with the cats, but they did that and now don’t pay much attention to those two cats at all. Mama Cat seems fine as long as I keep her tummy full. I’m sure she will disappear again once her kittens are older, but hopefully not before we can get her fixed!.

Morning chores (and another tick)

April 16, 2009

So I do have some morning chores now. I am trying to switch the laundry every morning so that the dirty laundry doesn’t pile up and so that we aren’t doing a lot of loads back to back, which is bad for the septic system. The laundry is upstairs, so I can do that while I am showering or getting dressed (and searching for clothes!). Then I feed Riley the cat his soft food so he stops meowing. I check the water for the indoor cats and change it as needed. Then I go outside to feed the outdoor cats their soft food.

Right now the chickens are in the garage in their movable coop, so I go in there to check their feed and water. If it’s nice, Tim and I will cart them out to the garden. Soon it will be warm enough that we can leave them out there all night and just shut them up in the coop part. It’s time to get started on the hen house, though!

Now part of my morning chores will include walking the fence line to check the cattle. I don’t know if all¬†cattle farmers do this, or if it’s¬†because our fence is a one wire fence, but Scott the Farmer¬†said we’ll need to do it daily.¬†We don’t actually have the cows yet, but I figured I’d better incorporate it into my morning routine. Besides, it’s a nice walk (good exercise as it’s uphill, too) and a good way to work up an appetite for breakfast, which will be the next chore to do. Oh, and today I can take pictures to post.

Last night Tim found another tick after he showered. I checked the kids, which is pretty easy with their new Tick Season Haircuts, as I call them. Aidan’s is a buzz cut. He said he wants a mohawk next time, which is just fine with me. I’m not sure Marvin will be so cool with that, but we’ll see. His haircuts reflect on him, of course, so if he does something¬† unusual people in town might talk, I guess. ūüôā

I will probably do another post today even though I don’t like to do two posts on one day. It is¬†5 weeks since we¬† got the chicks, so I owe you all some pictures from last week and this week, as well as pictures of the fence if I can take any good ones (I am so not a photographer, but I will do my best). Today we also need to go into town to get two long hoses – one for the cows, one for the garden – a watering can, and some more bedding for the chickens. We also need a trough for water for the cows, but not sure how big of one we need. I’ll have to call Scott the Farmer to find out.

I’m also going to stop by the tree nursery to get more potting soil and to see when they can come till. In the meantime, Tim and I built two more frames for the garden yesterday. Now I have 3 4′ X 4′ frames. I need to plan the garden a bit more before I build more frames, as yesterday I was reading about how to plant the Three Sisters (planting corn, squash, and beans together as the Native Americans did) in a square foot garden. So, more planning and tending of the seedlings, too. Not sure when I will find more time to blog today, but I will try.

Anyway, I’m taking this short break while waiting for Tim to get dressed so we can walk the fence. Now I must go get some water and take my vitamins so we can go for a walk.