Turkey Tracks: The Divas: Two Ancondas

Turkey Tracks:  January 4, 2014

The Divas:  Two Ancondas

I have two beautiful chickens of the Anconda breed.

Here’s an image:


It’s an Italian breed, and like my Italian friend Gina Caceci, they talk with their whole bodies and souls!

They also lay beautiful white eggs.

Unlike my friend Gina, the Ancondas are having a hard time building up any trust in me as a caregiver, food bringer, coop cleaner.  Everything I read says they are very cautious and prone to extravagant emotion, but will settle down eventually.

At the slightest wrong move–oops–off they go flying up, while screaming at the top of their lungs.

Their names are Annabelle and Queeny.  And I can only tell them apart when I see them together, though Queeny  is darker and larger than Annabelle.

Last week one of them flew out of the coop as I went to fluff the bedding with my trowel one morning.  She landed on the roof, and when I went to shoo her back inside, off she went down the snow path to where the turkeys hang out.  It was clear she was not going to come back inside until she got ready to.  As I didn’t want to leave the whole roof open in the bitter cold, I dug out and pried open the lower coop door–thinking she would go home when she got cold or hungry.

The lower door is the flap at the bottom of the coop in this picture.


And here’s why I would not want to leave the roof open for very long–the heat loss is too extreme.  I am cleaning out the coop here–thus the red buckets at the side of the coop and the open egg box door.


By the time I got to the kitchen and looked out the window, the other Anconda had joined the first.  One sat in the limb of the pine tree, watching the turkeys below her.  The other sat on a snow bank, sunning herself.  I was too outdone to go out and take more pictures.  Besides, I did not want to spook one of them into a snow drift that I could not get to easily.  Or drag on my boots, mittens, hat, coat, etc., again.

Here’s what my friend Toni Venz wrote me from California after I told her about these babes:

Not only are Annabelle and Queeny emotional, I do believe they are divas, too. There is proof with one above on the lower branch and the other catching some rays. Next you will be supplying sunglasses and SPF 30. With more snow there or coming, no wonder they are emotional. I would be. Actually I am thinking of all you are doing.

So, the DIVAS they became…
When I went out to lock up the now exposed coop at dusk–which is about 4 p.m. these days, I could not find one of the Ancondas.  One had returned; one, it seemed, had not.  I did not see any evidence of violence in the snow.  And it was so bitterly cold–well below zero–that by the next morning, the remaining Anconda had bloody feet, likely from frostbite. I installed a red lightbulb in the coop, which I’m leaving on day and night.  I am never sure where the line is between the weather being too cold–beyond the birds’ ability to cope–and letting them sleep in the dark as they hate being lit at night.   (I have seven chickens to up the body mass and warmth in the coop in the winter.)  And often, it is the moisture the chickens generate that causes the frostbite, rather than the cold itself.
There was no way I could check outside of the shoveled paths as the snow is thigh deep and we live on a hillside.  I gave it up for the night, and spent the night thinking of a documentary I watched years ago where a Maine woman found her missing chicken (she had a nice flat yard) in the cold, frozen, brought her inside for some reason, and was startled to have the “frozen” bird wake up and to recover–which took a few days.  I wondered if my chicken would miraculously appear in the morning.
When I checked the chickens two days later in the morning, Queeny and Annabelle were both in the coop.  ???????  How did that happen?  Then I realized that I had opened the door to the cage and had gone back in the house for fresh water as the faucet was frozen, and I didn’t want to stress it too much.  My missing chicken had been hanging out in the cage!
Last night, both Ancondas were choosing the cage over the coop.  These  DIVAS are sleeping in the heavy mat of bedding at the very back of the cage–which means they are mostly safe, but not entirely.  Here’s what I wrote Toni:
The divas are now refusing to go into the coop at night.  I think they don’t like the red light bulb.  They are sleeping in the piled up bedding at the end of the cage–and the cage is covered with four or five tarps for protection from the elements and heat retention and banked with snow, top and sides.  I locked the other chickens into the coop, after four trips out in the dark to see if the divas had relented, as I didn’t want to risk the safety of all.  Chicken coops are often breached by predators and everything inside killed.  A determined animal could get into the cage…  But not likely into the coop itself…  One hopes…
Today there was more drama as I took advantage of the break in the weather to clean out the coop.  It gets dirty much faster when the chickens are so confined.
It didn’t take long for one of the Ancondas to fly out of the coop.  And she landed in a snow bank, feet down.  Stuck!  And at least a stride or two into thigh-high snow for me to get to her.

Here she is before she decided to depart the coop–half in and half out of an egg box.  She was planning escape all along as she was the only chicken present as I shoveled out old bedding .  And I had thought she had just been visiting with me, in the way chickens do.  Or, maybe, wanting to lay an egg.  (They are starting to lay again, and I’ve had to throw out about six frozen eggs over the past few days.)


And here you can see the fresh water bowl with a heat warmer in it and the red light bulb burning.  John put the cage over the bulb as the chickens attempt to get close to it and break it off–which is a real fire hazard.  Remember that I am no where near a fire hydrant so not presenting fire hazards is always an issue.


I am adding these pics so you can see what the inside of the coop looks like.  Here’s the doorway into the cage.  You can also see the two roosts–one across the coop and a lower one in the corner.  I pile a lot of fresh bedding into the egg boxes and behind the lower roost/perch as some of the chickens like to sleep in those spots.  You can also see how wet the inside of the coop gets–which is from the chickens’ moisture.  That’s why I leave that little vent window open.


I was able to lift the DIVA up with the flat of the shovel from the lower side, and she flew to this shrub–where she sat and observed as I finished cleaning out the old bedding:


Meanwhile, the starving turkeys were gathering in hopes that I would be putting out some food.  The bedding is full of food “billed out” while feeding and…other nutrients.  As soon as I dropped the first load, they closed in.


Once the coop is cleaned out,  I put in clean bedding.  Here’s what a “bale” of bedding–pine shavings in this case–looks like.


These pine shavings are a local product from a lumber mill not too far west of Camden.  And these shavings are really good absorbers of anything wet.

I pried open the lower door once more and, after moving the Anconda up and down the snow paths a few times quietly, in she went.

And now that I am finishing this post, it’s dusk and time for me to lock up the chickens for the night and to make a cup of tea and quilt a little.

My friend Gail Nicholson says we have picked up seven minutes of daylight since the solstice.