Cats and Chickens

My mouse patrol seems to have settled into a comfortable routine. We have five cats that visit regularly, four of which haven’t missed a day in weeks aside from a very rainy two-day period a little over a week ago. One is Quicksilver, the male shelter cat that I adopted the second time around last year.  His female friend and the two female kitties from round one never returned. Given the time that has passed, I think it’s safe to say that they never will. The other three are either neighbors’ cats that have found a new source of easy food or strays who have decided to call our place home. Regardless, I’m pleased to have a near-constant feline presence. All it’s costing me is an eleven-dollar (thirteen pound) bag of Kit and Kaboodle every month. The mice should have ran for the hills long ago – the ones that didn’t get eaten that is.

My three hens are pretty consistently making three eggs every two days. Fifty percent production in the dead of winter is quite acceptable. I really hope that my precautions against the heat are effective this summer. I plan to add one more layer of UV blocking cloth in late spring, and lay a cut piece of PVC pipe along the ridge line to keep the fabric from touching the peak of the roof and transferring heat through to the inside. Between that and the gable exhaust, maybe it’ll stay below a lethal temperature, since they are too stupid to just go outside and find shade there.

I have a confirmed schedule for bringing the new birds home. I’ll pick them up six days hence at 1300. The farm is over an hour away, so by the time they are loaded and I make the return trip, there won’t be but a couple hours of daylight left. I have the same XXL dog crate that I used for the cats’ initial confinement set up in the storage building on a pallet. I’ll probably just dump them in there from the travel crate and let them settle in, leaving the doors open until dark so they can get some sunlight. I’ll be working the following two days, so I’ll probably let them stay there, just opening and closing the doors with the sun. On the following Monday, the integration will begin.

In the mornings, I’ll move the pallet (with the tractor) from the storage building to the outside of the current run. I’ll put it as close to touching as possible so the two sets of birds can inspect each other closely through the fencing/crate bars. I expect both groups to be quite curious about each other initially, but eventually lose interest.  Once they’re actively ignoring each other, I should be able to let the new birds into the coop and run proper. At that point they get to work out a new pecking order, hopefully with much less blood than if I just dumped them in with the three old biddies on day one. Until I’m comfortable doing that, at night I’ll move the pallet back into the storage building and close the doors. Most predators wouldn’t be able to get into the crate, but Old Man Winter is still hanging out and I want my birds to stay healthy.

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