Our Feral Chickens and Wild Birds

Two of our feral hens hatched clutches of chicks this past week.  Most of our egg layers are a half mile from the house in the back pastures, but we have a few mongrel yardbirds we keep around for tick control.  They rustle all their feed, raise their chicks, and poop all over our patio.  Here are some shots of the hens with their new chicks.

Pretty good nesting spot.   This old apple tree is hollow (but like a lot of apple trees, they can still produce fruit for decades after rotting to an extent that would destroy most other trees.

Pretty good nesting spot. This old apple tree is hollow.  Apple trees can still produce fruit for decades after rotting to an extent that would destroy most other trees.  It is quite possible that some of our apple trees are original to when this house was built in the 1850s.

Cozy inside her tree.

Cozy inside her tree.

21 days later (give or take).

21 days later (give or take).

IMG_20150614_121537711

Here is another group of chicks hatched in the lean-to off the garage on Sunday. There were two partially emerged that didn’t make it out (you can see these in the center) and one dud egg.  Fourteen chicks hatched successfully, so this is a larger-than-average group. The hen will have her wings full.

Also in the lean-to, between the roof and a windowsill, I found the nest shown below. I took the picture on tip-toe, so my hand was wobbly and the focus poor. Notice the dots all over the wood beam at the top? Zoom in and you’ll see lots of Red Mites. I’ve never noticed mites or lice infestations on our chickens, but these poor little guys must be getting bled dry. Just in the few seconds I was holding the phone near the nest, more mites dropped down from the roof and swarmed over my hand to take bites out of me.  I’ve seen mites in songbird nests several times.  Mites and lice can be a drag on poultry health and severe infestations hurt egg production.  This is more of an issue in confinement, but I’m not sure why our chickens seem to do avoid this problem altogether.  Perhaps because chickens take more dust baths than wild birds?  Maybe their grooming habits are better?  I don’t know.  I’m just glad we don’t have to deal with these little bloodsuckers.

Also in the lean-to, between the roof and a windowsill, I found this nest.  I took the picture on tip-toe, so my hand was wobbly and the focus poor.  Notice the dots all over the wood beam at the top?  Zoom in and you'll see lots of Red Mites.  I've never noticed mites or lice infestations on our chickens, but these poor little guys must be getting bled dry.  Just in the few seconds I was holding the phone near the nest, more mites dropped down and swarmed over my hand to take bites out of me.

The mites are all over the rafter, the back wall, and throughout the nest.  I’m sure birds don’t ponder existential issues, but if I’m allowed to anthropomorphize it seems like the mama bird must have lived in itchy agony sitting on these eggs.

(By the way Jerry, I made no attempt at identifying these birds.  The mother was a fast flyer not much bigger than these nestlings.  A day after this picture, they all fledged and disappeared.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: