Bonding with Boz

When I got Boz, a mix of Kangal and Turkish Boz Shepherd, two very old landrace breeds of livestock guardian dogs originally from the Anatolian region of Turkey, my first goals were (1) bond well with him, (2) make him comfortable with new his surroundings, and (3) learn, respect, and stay within the boundaries of the 13 acre property.

So far, so good. Boz stays away from the dangerous road . He is curious and alert to passing vehicles, but thankfully leery of everything with an engine or motor — even the washer and dryer on the sun porch, his primary shelter, the noise of which he doesn’t like at all. He is content to remain within the confines of the property and loves our daily walks around the boundaries of the farm. And we have definitely bonded.

He is a puppy, though, only 4 months old, so he likes to play and chew. This was his original bed:

As we have bonded, he also wants to nip and play and wrestle with me like he would play with his siblings. He’s affectionate, but his “love bites” have resulted in frayed jeans, torn coat sleeves, and a little blood at times.

We’re working on this. It’s natural. At this age, he would nip and wrestle with his family. So I choose to be honored that he considers me family, but I have had to start teaching him that I am not a chew toy or a sibling capable of affectionately rough play and am doing my best to identify entertaining replacements for my arms and legs. I’ve purchased various commercial chew toys which haven’t worked too well while we’re walking around or I’m trying to tend to the chickens and fill the wild bird feeders. The most successful items, so far, have been an old towel and rolled-up feed bags.

I don’t want to discourage his affection, but I’d rather not lose more blood.

He’s a playful, sweet, good-natured puppy. We’re both learning.

Wild Turkeys & Mellow Boz

At the slightest sound or sight of me, the turkeys dash off. Smart birds.

I wish the wild turkeys would use the feeder I got especially for them. It’s been filled with 50 lbs. of cracked corn for over a month and is still 2/3-3/4 full. I’ve seen small wild birds on the ground around it, but no turkeys.

Boz is one sweet mellow puppy. He’s seen wild turkeys on our daily walks around the property, barked a bit, and been very interested, but has shown no desire to chase.

Comfy on his sun porch on a cold day. I even plugged in a safe heater for him. He’s not inclined to go out without a good reason.

Roger is Becoming a Rooster

Roger’s new green tail feathers

Roger is sprouting pretty green tail feathers and has begun to crow.

Roger has learned to crow.

His crow is a little crackly, but getting stronger by the day. He’s 20-22 weeks old now, has grown a lot and is nearly the size of the plump Garys (the fully grown Barred Rock laying hens). He’s a pretty nice rooster, not too aggressive with the young Australorp and Rhode Island Red pullets and, so far, still intimidated by the fully grown, daring and adventurous Garys.

Spoiled Chickens

Every morning, the chickens gather expectantly behind their door, clucking and warbling, and, if it hasn’t snowed, come streaming out as soon as I open it and gather around me in expectation of a treat. Some of them go straight to the flat bowls of warm water, others will begin pecking and eating from the mix of cracked corn, chicken feed, sunflower seeds, bird seed and oats tossed around the ground. Roger (the young rooster) and the 3 Garys (Barred Rock laying hens) gather around me, cocking their heads, eyeing me up, and expecting more. The Garys are especially expectant, a little aggressive, and come close to pecking at me as if I am food.

Apparently Happy Chickens. That’s Roger, the young rooster, on the ramp.

I’ve spoiled them. Already. What the Garys really want is meal worms. Since I bought a bag of dried meal worms a few weeks ago as a treat and supplement to their feed, they expect meal worms for breakfast and definitely know their favorite treat is in a purple and white bag. Leader Gary will peck at the bag of meal worms. Follower Gary will soon join in. Me Too Gary will lose interest in water or ground feed and wait for her meal worms, too.

Gary #1 – “Give me meal worms!”

There are 2 feeders, filled with standard, bagged, store bought layer feed, hanging in the coop, in addition to a hanging waterer. They don’t eat much from the feeders. This is supposed to be the proper feed mix for laying hens (or soon to lay pullets), but they prefer to eat from the ground. First, the meal worms are quickly devoured, with the Garys scarfing up the most, then, and only then, will they eat from the ground, and tend to pick the cracked corn, millet, or sunflower seeds. When I toss standard chicken feed on the ground, they mostly skip it in favor of the scratch grains and bird seed.

Since the birds don’t eat much of their proper feed, I’m beginning to wonder if they are getting the nutrients they need. Have I spoiled them too much? Is it like feeding donuts and candy bars to your kids instead of vegetables and fruit?

I don’t know. The Annies and Ritas — 3 Australorp and 3 Rhode Island Red pullets — have grown a lot in the last few weeks. Roger is sprouting pretty green tail feathers and crowed for the first time yesterday. And the Garys are laying 2 eggs/day. If they’re growing, fed, watered, and apparently happy, that’s what matters most, right?

We’ll see. As always, I don’t know what I’m doing.

Winter Beauty

We had rather thick, early morning fog for a few consecutive days earlier this week. Since it was below freezing, it formed a white rime covering all the trees and cold surfaces.

Winter View

It’s pretty.

Chicken Pen Trees

More or less. I miss working outside. Winter put a stop to my fencing, shed building, wire pile removal, and other projects.

The sparrows’ wire pile.

The sparrows will miss their wire pile. 25-40 sparrows regularly use it for shelter.

Fencing and Building Project Halted for Winter

There’s >1000 feet of rolled wire fencing and 100 metal posts buried in snow about 30 feet in front of the snow-covered sawhorses and partially built small animal (or storage) shed.

I should learn to be more cold hardy. Maybe I should take up cross country skiing. There’s plenty of room for that in the pasture and some paths through the woods. I could get a bit of exercise and enjoy the snow rather than just look at it from the warmth of the house.

Nah. I’ll fill the bird feeders, have another cup of hot coffee and watch them from inside the house.

Chickens Are Cool

And cold, I suppose, now that winter has set in. They don’t like walking in snow, but they seem pretty happy. No signs of frost bit yet, either. Very gentle, curious birds. Roger, the young Rhode Island Red rooster, and the 3 Barred Plymouth Rock hens, are especially friendly, approaching closely and expectantly when I’m around, eager for a treat or simply showing that they know the hand that feeds them. They will all readily eat of my hand. Watching them, feeding them, and just hanging out with them, makes me happy. And, man, do they love meal worms! They recognize the bag and scarf them up like crazy when I toss them around the pen or coop.

I chose dual purpose, cold hardy, heritage breeds for a reason and I’m glad I did. So far, they don’t need to be babied. They just need fresh warm water at least twice a day and prefer fresh feed, scratch grains and meal worms tossed around the ground. They have hanging feeders filled with standard poultry feed and a waterer inside the coop, but they prefer to drink water from flat bowls and would rather dine on whatever is tossed on the ground, so long as they don’t have to walk in too much snow.

I only named 1 chicken — Roger, the young rooster (cockerel) who has yet to crow — because I couldn’t tell any of the pullets or young hens apart. My sweet, quirky, imaginative, 11-year-old daughter Ally named the Barred Rock hens Gary. Ha! They look identical, but there is a difference in their behavior and personalities. There’s #1 “What’s Up! Don’t Fence Me In” adventurous leader Gary. She’s the first to approach me closely, look at me expectantly, eat out of my hand, follow me around, fly out of the pen and wander freely around (before there was 10-12″ of snow on the ground). Gary #2 is the “Looks Good to Me, I’ll Follow Her” hen and Gary #3 is the “Wait! I’m With Both of You, Don’t Leave Me Behind, Give Me Some Time”” gal.

Only the Garys are old enough to lay eggs so far. Even in winter, I collect 2, sometimes 3, eggs/day.

Their eggs are tastier, more vibrantly flavorful than any store bought eggs I’ve ever had.

Then there’s the 3 Rhode Island Red pullets. They’re about 18 weeks old now, have yet to lay eggs (as far I know). I’m calling them Rita. They tend to hang together, too, like the Barred Rocks and are growing by the day. Calm, curious, apparently happy.

And 3 Australorp pullets, black feathers and feet, also about 18 weeks old. The 3 Annies. They tend to hang together, too, are a little shier and a little smaller than the others. One of them was the last to climb up on the roosts in the coop at night. She would huddle in a corner at night for a couple of weeks, but now goes up to one of the 2×4 roosting bars, huddled close to her Australorp sisters at night.

Last, but not least, is Roger, the one and only rooster, a Rhode Island Red cockerel about 18 weeks old. He’s the closest one to being a pet, doesn’t care to be pet or held or picked up, but, along with Gary #1, will follow me around like a little dog. He has yet to crow, has grown the most in the few weeks I’ve had the chickens, and is sprouting pretty greenish tail feathers.

All of them mix well and get along very well, though they tend to hang with their own kind. And no fighting that I’ve seen, though there is a bit of a pecking order, with the 3 larger Garys at the top and the shiest Annie at the bottom.

Roger has begun to get a little randy with the Ritas and the Annies now and then, but he seems to know better than to get too forward with the Garys. The older, larger, more seasoned ladies will have none of that. Thus far.

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Wild Turkeys Return!

Wild Turkeys Have Returned!


So glad to see you!

I used to see 9 wild turkey hens regularly. It was always 9, no more, no less, precisely 9, for 2-3 months. They would be out in the pasture, at the edge of the woods, and usually work their slow, methodical way up into the yard and feed around the oak tree under two bird feeders.

With winter coming on and my general affection for these (and all) birds, I thought they would need a food source to stay around, so I bought them a feeder of their very own. It looked perfect for the task, sits up on 12″ legs (still in the box below in the only picture I took thus far), and wasn’t cheap ($225!) — especially for wild animals that aren’t expected to making any contribution toward paying the mortgage on the Small Calm Farm. But I really like having non-predatory wild animals around and they definitely need food in winter, so I’m thinking I should feed them. They’ll add some needed life and color to the place during dulling times.

Wild turkey feeder
wild turkey feeder

I put a 50 lb. bag of cracked corn in it and set it up at the edge of the wooded area between the neighbor’s field of harvested sorghum and the yard, a place where I can easily see from inside the (warm) house from a distance without disturbing them. A month passes. It snows. It turns cold. It stays cold. It snows more. It snows again. Winter is here to stay. Nothing. Not a single turkey for weeks. Sparrows, juncos and other birds gather around it sometimes. But no turkeys. Not a turkey in sight for weeks.

Then, finally, today, turkeys! They scratch around on the ground, digging down into the snow. through the snow, eating the bird seed fallen to the ground around the oak tree, the seed the smaller birds haven’t eaten.

Fine. Whatever works. But you have your own dining area! (Off to the right of the oak tree in the distance by the tree line.) It’s just your height. I got it just for you! C’mon, man!

I’ll figure it out. In time. I want these big birds to know this is their home. I’d like to see them every day, or at least regularly.

Turkeys are VERY wary birds. At my slightest movement, they were off and away from the dreaded human with a camera. Before they sensed my presence, they were having a great time.

Lesson learned. No more turkey pictures. Gotta figure out how they will go to their own feeder.

Greatly Missing Green

I certainly miss the green of spring and summer, and the colors of fall.

Winter is so drab and lifeless.

I’m not cold hardy, either, so my daily outside projects — other than refilling wild bird feeders, opening the chicken coop door in the early morning, changing frozen water containers, collecting eggs, and closing the coop door at “night” (about 4:00 p.m.) when the chickens have gone in to roost — have stopped.

The ground has pretty much frozen, so the 5 acres of fencing I had barely started is on hold.

But the birds are thriving.

I have much respect for birds. All birds. They are hardy and active and welcome signs of life across an otherwise dulled land.

More Cats or NO MORE Cats?

I suppose the CAPS in the title gives away my current thinking.

Since Scootch died, Nico sits under these two bird feeders a lot, just waiting to pounce on a careless bird.

I really liked Scootch. She was special, more than a farm cat. Scootch bonded to me. (And me to her, despite my general distaste for cats.) Nico, though, was bonded to Scootch. So I had been trying to transition both cats to becoming house cats. Scootch loved being in the house. But Nico wouldn’t enter, not with me around. So, now, instead of having 2 house cats or 2 outside cats, there’s 1 one dead, should’ve-been house cat buried under the pine trees and 1 very vocally miserable farm cat. Nico mews constantly when I’m near, won’t let me pick her up and still won’t enter the house on her own. She will sit 6-10 feet away from me, mew, and wait until I leave to eat the food I give her. She’s sad, I suppose. So am I. Without Scootch, Nico is a constant, irritating, sad reminder of a special animal we’ve both lost.

Nico still won’t come into the house or let me get closer than 6-10 feet from her. I have debated whether to (1) capture her and take her to a shelter, (2) capture her and force her to be a house cat and eventually expect her to “warm up” to me (and me to her), or (3) obtain some other farm cat for her company.

Number 3 is out, I think. I don’t really want another cat (and innate bird predator) and there’s no guarantee that another cat would bond with Nico or she with it and I don’t want to play cat psychologist. I just don’t want this miserable cat to vocalize its misery all the time. I’m not inclined to trap and force a nearly feral cat into the house where it might “like” me (and me, it) while becoming a clawing, curtaining-climbing, restless house cat. Nor do I want to keep a lonely, distant, outside cat who only reminds me every day of how we both miss Scootch.

Poor thing. I feel sorry for her. She needs company. Somewhere else.

I never wanted cats. Until Scootch. Without Scootch, I can do without Nico.

So, I have a farm cat in need of a new home. Must trap it first.