Chicken Education

I went out last night with the dogs to feed all the animals.  Mouse had to go on a leash.  Annmarie had multiple issues with him helping herd the sheep the night before.  He is now fast enough to keep up with Zeke so as the sheep were driven to the barn, Mouse kept getting in front of them and balling them up.  This resulted in the sheep finally scattering and Mouse getting carried while the actual working dog put the sheep into the barn. 
I took mouse out on a short leash.  We walked up onto the hillside and stood still while I directed Zeke to push them into the ram pasture and then into the barn.  Zeke did do it with a minimal amount of swearing.  He wasn’t perfect or the swearing would not have been necessary but it wasn’t painful and my throat didn’t hurt from yelling.  Once the sheep were headed to the barn, I turned mouse loose and told him to “put them in the barn”.  He ran right for the sheep and Zeke was pushing them into the barn so I am sure he thought he did it. 
We fed the sheep.  Mouse has decided that since the sheep poop in the barn he should also.  We are still working on discouraging this. So it has to be thrown out the window so a human doesn’t accidently step in it.  Sheep poop is not like dog poop!  I cleaned up the momma area in the barn, added some more straw, pulled in a hay feeder and tossed out the eggs some chicken had laid in a secluded corner.  I was impressed I managed to throw the eggs 15 feet through a 2×2 foot window and never splatted one on the inside of the barn!  I wasn’t sure that was possible when I started.  I am not known for my baseball skills.  Tomorrow, I will fill all the feeders in the momma area.  I even propped open the back door so they can get out to water on their own.  Our mommas should start dropping babies any time now, January is going to be a busy month. 
I told the dogs we were done and they ran over toward the house.  I still needed to collect eggs and check on the chickens.  My annual chicken report is coming up next week so we will see how I did.  I am not really sure how I did for the year actually.  I heard this poor chicken hollering in distress on my way to the coop.  I started running to the coop and hollering a generic “NO!” at the top of my lungs.  It didn’t matter I could not see the offending parties, I knew someone was at fault.  The automatic chicken door was closed so the chickens should have all been inside the coop.  Mouse had a chicken cornered in the chicken yard, the chicken had its head through the chicken wire and was trying to get away from the dog.  He was tasting the chicken with his mouth, no blood but pure chicken terror was involved.  I hollered “NO” and threw my gloves at the dog.  I scooped up the chicken who then started flapping and trying to get away.  I had to grab a leg to hold onto it, so it ended up hanging upside down flapping and screaming.  Mouse thought this was fantastic!  He kept trying to run in and bite the chicken.  I kept hollering “NO” and smacking him every time he lunged at the chicken.  We walked around the side of the coop and Mouse was circling me four feet away out of reach.  I shook the chicken so it would flap and make noise.  This excited Mouse who came in a couple of more times for some chicken tasting.  All he got was a couple of more smacks and “NO!”.  By the time we made it to the coop door Mouse was keeping his distance.  I shook the chicken one more time so it would squawk, Mouse looked at the chicken and exited the chicken yard.  He wanted nothing at all to do with the chicken.  I tossed the stupid bird into the coop, fed the chickens and collected eggs.   I know this is not the end of the chicken terrorizing but one small victory at a time is needed to teach him to obey and avoid certain things. 

This morning after letting the sheep out of the barn I had to holler at Mouse, he was tearing around the outside of the chicken coop fence, scattering 30 chickens every which way.  He was having a grand time!  I was able to call him right over to me at the barn.  See he is learning. 

Christmas with the puppy.

Fenced in Christmas tree

We opted to not put any glass or breakable ornaments on the Christmas tree this year.  We knew the puppy would offer challenges to the tree integrity.  So only plastic and fabric ornaments were used in the creation of our holiday tree.  Our first problem was the tree skirt.  If you run really fast and jump on the skirt it acts like a sled and slides across the floor.  Great fun if you are a puppy.  Next was the foot button cord for the tree lights.  This makes a great chew toy.  Finally there are the ornaments themselves.  He took an immediate liking to the Disney plastic characters.  After Tinkerbell and Pluto were slayed we put up the dog fence to protect the tree.  He then proceeded to get up on the couch and reach over the arm and pluck ornaments off for destruction.  All the good ornaments are dead and he now leaves the tree alone. 
Offending party

Near Calamity of epic proportions!

Heat lamp fire in chicken coop.

The chicken coop caught on fire!!  I went outside just at first light to let the sheep out of the barn when I started to smell smoke. I looked over at the chicken coop  and saw smoke pouring out of it. I ran over to the coop in my tennis shoes, dress slacks and leather coat. I did check the door to see if it was hot before opening it. If it had been hot I would have had to just call 911.  It was cool so I opened the door. My heat lamp had been knocked down and was hanging three inches above the wood pellets. A two foot area was blackened and hot.  I immediately unplugged the heat lamp.  Surprisingly, the chickens looked alive.  They were clucking and throwing a fit but the outer chicken door had not opened up yet as it was still too dark.  I left the door and ran for a bucket of water, I had not gone ten feet when I realized I had left the door open and was now feeding the fire much needed oxygen.  I went back to shut the door and there were now flames shooting out of the floor of the coop.  I shut the door and ran for the old house to retrieve a five gallon bucket, along the way I found an old metal watering can I filled also.  I used the old metal watering can to put out the fire.  I then raked all the hot coals and wood pellets outside the coop onto the ground.  Once I had those cleaned out I went and got my sawzall and cut all the burned wood out of the coop.  I then took a small axe and whacked on the wood floor to get all the hot charred wood out of the floor.  Once all that was done I soaked the area in water again.  Once I was certain it was all out I went inside and told the family of our near miss.  Sarah wanted to know why I did not get a picture of the coop with smoke coming out the door.  I told her that there is a time for photography and a time for fire fighting and they don’t always coincide.  Priorities in life are a necessity. 
I had been wanting to update my baby area but it was working for me so I didn’t really see a need.  This is a good reason to make some improvements.  The first one is going to be lining the area with concrete board.  No more fire hazards after that, and I will be screwing my heat lamp in place so it cannot be knocked down.  Funny thing is I unscrewed it two years ago, I used to have it permanently mounted on the wall so it could not fall.  I guess I should have left it that way.  I will also use some hardware cloth on inside so the little birds cannot get in and eat any of the food. 
Amazingly, no chickens were killed in the fire or from smoke inhalation.  They have started laying better!  I am getting way more eggs than I was prefire. 

Sawzall all burned material out of coop even though it was still hot.

floor of coop burned.

Outer wall of baby area.

Down draft fan completion nearing

Stovetop downdraft fan

On Thursday I had the heating guy come out and look at installing the duct work for our downdraft fan.  He wanted to look at the owners manual for the fan, but despite some desperate searching it was no where to be found.  I printed one off the internet five minutes before his arrival.  He actually read the instructions!!  The horror and determined that the four inch ventilation damper I had obtained is insufficient.  He said he would contact his suppliers.  He called the next day to say that he could not find one for vinyl siding.  So now the onus is back on me to locate the proper wall vent and call him back.  I will be searching for that tonight so I can get this project done and laid to rest before the end of the year.
The best part is I will not have to crawl under the house in the dead of winter.   A very nice thing indeed. 

A step closer to walk in closet.

Oven area needs some cupboard doors.

I had the custom cabinet guy come out on Wednesday to give us a quote on the walk in closet.  I walked him upstairs and gave him some scribble scratches on a few pieces of scrap paper.  He seemed happy.  We then proceeded downstairs where I said I need doors for the oven area.  We settled on plywood that are filled and sanded and ready for paint.  This works out well for the overall plan of repainting the cupboards.  As an added bonus he asked me if I wanted doors on the stovetop enclosure also!  I told him to throw those into the quote also!  This will catch me up on all outstanding doors except in the laundry room.  The kitchen is high visibility so I am really happy.  The quote will be here in a week.  He told me as long as I didn’t need the job done before Christmas he had plenty of time.  I told him the new year works well for us. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.  The walk in closet is a big deal and takes a huge load off.  It will be a great way to start the new year. 

Stovetop needs some cupboard doors.