There is progress on many fronts here at Skookumchuck Farm!
I spent Saturday working in the large chicken coop while the hens and Brewster foraged outside in the paddock (and periodically came in to see what I was doing). My building skills aren't anything to write home about, mostly because we lack some of the tools that I probably need to do a real bang up job, but I made due with what I had on hand. The big coop got major ladder roost destruction (yeah!), followed by the installation of a carefully chosen, measured and pruned apple branch for a new, higher roost...all 120 inches of it. (It's recommended that chickens have 10 inches of roost space each.) I realized the front and side walls of the coop completely lack framing, so I had to rearrange my design, bolting the new nest box shelf to the front wall, just inside the door, and angling the new roost diagonally on the back wall nearest the door to the run. This little bit of construction took most of the day, but it was rewarding. I cut apart an old bench from the paddock the girls had destroyed with their vigorous itching/rubbing on it, so that bench seat became the shelf on which the three plastic nest boxes sit, wired on to cup hooks underneath for stability.
Everyone was a little thrown by the changes, but when I left them for the evening (after fetching Brewster and putting him in the big coop where he belongs) five of the hens were already up on the new roost, and Brewster flew up to join them. Unfortunately the three pristine nest boxes became sleeping and pooping zones for three hens. Hopefully they'll figure out they're to lay their eggs there tomorrow, when they'll be locked in all day long. I perservered this evening and caught two hens and Brewster and assisted them to the roost, one by one. Hopefully everyone will get the hang of this over the next few days.
I'm not finished, of course...but the combining of hospital coop and big coop will need to wait until next weekend. I just couldn't get it all done...
Because I spent too much time checking on Bridgit! I suspect she'll be calving in the next few days. Her pin bones (pelvic bones) are spreading out, a sure sign...and tonight I actually looked at her udder instead of just feeling it (it's hard to see under all that hair, and not terribly safe to have one's head down by a back leg - cows can kick, as evidenced by the bruise and knot on my ankle, but that's another story). Her teats are still somewhat soft, but they're filling up at the top, a sure sign her milk is starting to come in, and on a first calf heifer, that's a really BIG sign!!
So...tomorrow morning I'll begin my a.m. checks before work. If I find her in labor, I have to stay home...no work, no grocery store, no errands, period, until we have a calf on the ground. And judging by Sheila's attentiveness to Bridgit today, sticking close to her side and grooming her face and shoulders (who, Sheila?? What??), things are starting to happen!