Yesterday we set up an elaborate configuration of the electronet so the chickens could roam a little near the greenhouse. They've been booted from the barnyard because they tend to head straight for Stella's stall and scratch the bedding into canyons and hills. In the summer it doesn't matter as much, because Stella is plenty warm. But in winter we practice what is called the deep bedding method. We lay down straw (and cedar chips) over her stall floor, pick up poops every day, and add to the bedding layers periodically. Eventually it gets deep enough, and the composting process gets underway. As long as we keep it fairly clean, the heat generated by the bedding pack keeps Stella warm and comfortable all winter. In the spring we muck the stall out down to dirt level and put a lighter layer of bedding down. The winter bedding goes into the compost bins and turns into lovely soil to put the garden to bed with in the fall.
Where do these Yard Birds enter the picture? Well, after being lured back to their pen with scratch, they somehow bumped the gate open and were performing pest removal services in the front yard when I pulled up to the gate. After shooing them back in, we realized there really isn't much they can hurt plantwise this time of year, and their eggs are so much nicer when they are busy all day. So we've been letting them out in the yard for a few hours a day. It's so fun and pastoral to see the happy chickens scratching around and finding goodies in the grass. And the dogs enjoy following the flock to do poop patrol. Ew!
Here's a picture of Mark in a former job as Darth Vader's trained attack parrot. Well, actually it's from a really cool website about Quaker parrots that made a page for Mark 12 long years ago when the internet was still a fairly new thing to me. It's called Quakerville & if you look around hard enough, you can find more ancient pictures of Mark, and even one of me c.1995! Mark, now being a middle-aged parrot, got his first taste of sherry last night. Not a popular beverage, judging by the rapid head shake which sent sherry spraying and his blinking, watering eyes. Mark does enjoy red wine (never white!) an occasional sip of beer, and loves coffee with cream & sugar in the morning. All in moderation of course. A parrot the size of a large robin can't indulge too much in such conviviality. He also loves cheese and will take savage bites from a piece, leaving a U-shape divot like a miniature shark wound. He loves pizza crust, but no toppings. Beans, but only if you make sure there is no offending broth or sauce left on them. Pasta, as long as he can put it in his treat dish and nibble it without having to get his feet messy by holding it. And he loves ice cream so much that he'll gobble it down fast enough to get brain freeze. Or at least that's how I interpret the brief pause in intake for headshaking and watery eye-blinks.