20130122_094521Black Rabbit having its greens with the Chickens

Changes,
tweaks,
adaptations,
remodelings
never end
in the barn,
in the village
which rabbits,
chickens
and guineascohabit.
Because we don’t like to keep
rabbits
in small hutches,
we give them a big pen
on the outer edge
of the barn.
But because that pen
has a cement floor,
we also built them a pen
inside the barn,
where they can burrow.
And now,
again,
they have burrowed
their way out of the rabbit village
and into the rest of the barn,
where chickens and guineas
live.
Chickens and guineas
could always get into the rabbit pens,
so we would close the door to the outer pen
to feed rabbits
their greens.

The hens and rooster
are crazed to get to the greens
when we enter the barn.
A black hen jumps as high as our waist
to peck at the greens bag—
repeatedly.
Now that the rabbits hop freely
around the entire barn,
they and the chickens
eat their greens together—
though we still toss some greens
into the rabbit burrows,
to be sure they get some.

Ann has now built a foyer!
just inside the barn entrance—
at the gate from the alpaca pen—
so the chickens and guineas
will be able to get out
when spring comes
without the rabbits
getting out too
(she built it around a cement
doorstop.)
Life with animals
is a never-ending series
of occasions
to be creative.

 

I’ve lost track of the possums
we’ve trapped
in the barn.
We also trapped one skunk.
But for a week now
we have not trapped
a predator—
though we smelled a skunk
in the alpaca pen yesterday.
Mr. Darcy wore the scent
all day.
Five guineas are still alive
and have been released
from their sequestering
and are doing fine
in the barn.
But we’re keeping
all doors closed,
for now at least.
Baby chicks,
to replace all the chickens lost
at the farmhouse,
are growing fast,
learning to relish insects
we toss in their indoor pen
at the pond house.
In several weeks
they’ll be ready to graduate
to a bigger pen
and we want that to be a safe place.
The barn is old
and difficult to secure,
though we try;
my, do we try.
Our intern, Michael,
suggested we build a chicken house
inside the barn—
a place the chickens could roost at night,
when skunks and possums and raccoons
come calling.
Michael has now built
the chicken house in the barn.
It will be a few weeks
before its residents arrive.
We think we can keep it secure.
And we hope they like it.
It’s quite fancy!
Thanks, Michael.


New Chicken House Inside Barn

Inside of chicken house inside of barn

Chickens’ back door

Chickens’ front door

 

 

Chickens settle in the barn
while the grass is tinged with gold,
but the guineas
keep their beaks to the grass.
Earth rolls up,
sun disappears
and the cloudless sky turns a warm pink.
It’s almost dark
when the guineas,
still bug-hunting out in the treeline
let me approach without them scattering
in three directions,
and slowly
in a huddle
let me herd them to the barn,
each taking one last look about—
causing me to hold my breath,
lest they change their minds—
before entering the door.
Mockingbird seems reluctant
to give up the day too.
With last light
it broadcasts one final flurry
of song
from atop the cedar tree.

We try to keep the barn
secure,
covering every hole
with wire,
conscientiously clasping every gate,
nailing strips of wood
beneath every door.
We want to keep
the birds and rabbits
safe.
Cats climb through small holes
high along the tops of wire walls,
in spite of our efforts.
But they don’t bother the others;
in fact, the hens share nests with them.
We lost a guinea fowl
towards spring
and reinforced
the big door after that.
To our amazement,
we later found a possum
in the barn, dead.
But we kept skunks and raccoons
and owls out
all winter.
When spring comes,
we watch for the first Barnswallow
and then bend back
a small section of wire
along the east wall.
They’ve been coming to this barn
forever.
They zoom into the barn
through the hole
—about 10 inches by 18 inches—
at top speed,
to find last year’s dried mud and straw nests.
These artful fliers
race in and out of the barn
all summer
and dive for untold numbers
of mosquitoes.
Shaped like little dive bomber airplanes,
they are pretty little wonders,
their plumage a velvety blue and brown and apricot.
Only for the Barnswallows
would we allow a security breach.
Welcome home Barnswallows!