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a flying circus

April 27, 2012

This isn’t about the Flying Circus, although any of the five remaining Pythons are welcome

here any time of day or night.  I want to update you on the uptick in winged activity on the

farm since the return of spring.


The biggest news is chicken-related, although the hens are not the greatest fliers.  Recently

Hudi had a mid-air collision with my chest as she mistook me for the doorway of the green-

house.  We’ve lost half of our original six, but we’ve learned a lot and we’re ready to expand

our egg empire.


Last summer I built an 8′ by 10′ combination henhouse-hothouse for the girls, an idea I got

from a permaculture book.  They reside on one side, the other was to be fitted with shelves

for starter plants.  Metal mesh screening separates the two sides to keep the birds away from

the plants, yet allow their breath and body heat to warm the proposed vegetation.


The south-facing wall of the hothouse side was all glass.  I replaced it with a regular wall.

The glass will go into the 8′ by 18′ greenhouse next door.  Since the remodeled coop will

have two roosting areas, we’re leaving the screen in to help minimize conflict when we

bring in new hens.


We’re leaving this glass window in to allow natural lighting:

It was a duo-pane door.  I broke one pane in transport.  The shattered glass would collapse if

I tried to move it again.  Besides, it looks cool and gives the girls something to squawk about.


We’ve ordered seven more hens.  Like the original six, they’ll be ISA browns, a hybrid of

Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns.  They’re bred for their egg productivity, which

drops off sharply after a year or two.  Since we’re looking as this expansion as a bit of a

business venture, we’ll be putting leg bands on the new ones for possible culling.  This is

likely the last group we’ll name.


Beyond the coop, the bats and swallows have returned.  Jude made a triplex for the swallows.

We put that and a bathouse on the shed.  While the bats were wintering over in a nearby mine

shaft, we blocked off the openings in the siding of the house that they used last year.  The

accumulation of  their guano and urine is not healthy for our home or non-bat beings.


Besides the swallows, many other species of birds have returned.  The ubiquitous robins are

the basis of Slinkee’s cardio program, as she tries in vain every day to keep them out of our

yard.  A smaller bird I can’t identify likes to hang out in the greenhouse.  They make Slinkee

even nuttier because they sometimes can’t find the escape routes we’ve provided.


Tuesday I heard them chirping and saw Slinkee pawing at the heavy gauge plastic on the front

of the greenhouse.  I yelled at her to get away and she backed off.  I looked away for a second,

then heard a ripping sound.  I turned back to see Her Nibs disappear through the plastic like

Alice through the Looking Glass.  It’s a good thing I’m replacing that side with non-looking



The ducks are migrating back north.  I saw a wedge of at least a hundred  last week.  The dozen

or so who stayed on our pond last season are down to three: a male mallard and one pair of

buffleheads.  At their peak population, we had five female and two lucky male buffles.  I like to

think that the remaining couple are Biff and Muffy, who have been with us for five winters now.

Maybe we’ll see some ducklings soon.


The ruffed grouse have started mating, and they’re looking for love any place, any time.  We

know this because the males attract the females by drumming their wings.  It takes the

young studs a lot of practice to master this.  They create an accelerating series of sonic booms

as air rushes to fill the vacuum caused by their wing movements.


It’s very loud.  I was within 20 feet of one once when he ripped one off.  It was startling.  The

first time I heard it in the distance, I thought someone was trying to start a lawnmower in the

forest.  The sound carries very well in our little valley.  I’ve even heard it when I’m inside the

house near a window.  It woke me up this morning.


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