Band of Chickens

Last week was as sunny and warm as the previous was rainy and chilly. Today is the warmest day yet. The forecast was for rain–and all afternoon the clouds have darkened and we’ve heard occasional rumbles of thunder. So far, however, the storms have slid just north of us. The storms are supposed to bring cooler temperatures as a cold front moves in. I’m glad for cooler temps because the warmth and high humidity are oppressive and causing me to move in slow motion.

EJ painted the ceiling of the porch and around the door this afternoon, while I did laundry and wash dishes (in slow motion).

Later, after EJ finished painting, we went out to the coop to put bands on the legs of the hens that we hadn’t gotten around to banding last year. The bands are colors and have charms, so I given them names according to their color or charm. Last year we banded Henny Penny, who has a red heart band on her leg (because she’s my favorite), Butterfly who has a butterfly charm (she talks a lot), and Bluebell who has blue band.

The chickens all came into the coop when I entered, especially since I put oatmeal in their food dish. They love outmeal. With all but Captain AmerROOca inside, I shut their little door so they couldn’t get out and then tried to capture an unbanded hen. The chickens all erupted into panic, filling the coop with a hurricane of feathery movement and angry squawks. I opened the little door whenever a banded chicken wanted outside and closed it before an unbanded hen could leave. The fewer banded chickens in the coop the less turmoil there was. I caught each unbanded chicken, one at a time, and held her while EJ banded her, then I released her outside. When they were banded, I gave each one a name: Sunshine has a yellow band; she pecked at her band after it was on. Tilly has a teal band (Tilly sounds almost like “teal”). Ladybug has a ladybug charm on her; she bit my sleeve as I held her. The fourth hen escaped outside before we could band her. I may not bother trying to band her. I will be able to identify her since she is the only one without a band. I will give her a name as soon as I think of one.

A lot of roosters seem to be rather mean, but our Sassy isn’t. I think he is remarkable. Yesterday I held out a treat for him. He took it (politely) and then dropped it on the ground for his hens to eat. He does this every time I give him a treat. He really takes good care of his flock.

Earlier last week I thought I had killed Shelob. It was an accident, I swear it! The ducks quickly get their pool muddy so I dump the water out every evening when I go out to put all the poultry to bed. I try to vary where I put the pool and which direction I dump the water. The night I almost killed Shelob, I dumped the pool in the direction of the fence. I didn’t think the water would go as far as Shelob’s lair, but it did, and it flooded her hole. I didn’t see her for a couple of days so I wondered if I had killed her. But if I hadn’t killed her when I flooded her hole the first time–deliberately but ignorantly because I didn’t know who the hole belonged to–and if she isn’t killed when we get downpours, then I thought she could probably survive when I accidentally flooded her hole the second time. But you never know, it’s possible that she can only survive so many near-drownings. However, a few days later I caught her quick movement when I went out to gather eggs, so she’s alive. I wasn’t sure if I was sad or glad that she survived. She scares me, but she’s interesting all at the same time.

I got to wondering what the inside of wolf spider holes look like. Do they construct their lairs so that they aren’t easily flooded? I searched Youtube and found a video about what a wolf spider lair looks like:

In the process of looking for information about their lairs, I found other information about wolf spiders:

Wandering wolf spiders rely on speed and camouflage to escape predators. They have good vision and are very sensitive to vibrations in the ground that help them detect predators. Some species hide in tunnels in the ground. Wolf spiders will bite to defend themselves if necessary.

I have seen how quick Shelob is. And I figured she had good vision and felt ground vibrations because she zooms down into her lair when I’m still several feet away.

Wolf spiders do not spin webs and reside instead within burrows. These burrows may be open or sealed with silken doors. In rainy seasons, wolf spiders plug their burrows with pebbles and build turrets to deflect floodwater. Twigs may also be placed at the top of the burrow.

I had already seen how Shelob builds a turret around the entrance to her lair. I think it’s fun to place duck feathers near her lair. A day or two later, the feathers are glued around her entrance. Her “turret” is getting higher.

Mating for wolf spiders is a dangerous affair because males are sometimes killed and consumed by females following mating. However, males often survive to mate again. 

After mating, the female wolf spider seeks an isolated, covered location within which to lay her eggs. Females lay approximately 100 or more eggs, which they encase in a silk sac. Wolf spiders exhibit unique parental care behaviors. Female wolf spiders often carry their egg sacs with them. When eggs are ready to hatch, the female wolf spider rips the egg sac open in order to release her spiderlings. Spiderlings then swarm the female’s body and legs, where they remain for protection. They stay with the female for a couple of weeks, at which point wolf spiderlings disperse. They are then ready to begin fending for themselves.

I am very aware of Shelob because her lair is only a few feet from the gate into the poultry pen. I don’t want to get too close to it, so I’m very aware of where it is every time I go out to care for the chickens and ducks. And because I’m so aware of her, I wonder about her.


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