Grit Blogs > Backyard Baers

Yellow Jackets, Poison Ivy, and a Rooster - Oh My!

Benjamin BaerWell, we are well into July and the summer projects are piling up.

I haven’t done as much work on the chicken coop as I hoped, but I plan to tackle most of those projects later in the year — I need to add two nesting boxes and adjust the roosting bar in the coop. I did build a new water dispenser, which went from two bottles to three and added a shelter. I was out near the coop one sunny day and realized there wasn’t much shade in the run. So, I took the old roof panels from the old coop and built a structure just to provide some shade and cover their food from the rain. This is when I realized our rooster is kinda overly protective of the ladies. I was in the middle of trying to get the panels up in the air, and all of a sudden the rooster comes out of nowhere, tearing up my exposed legs with his talons. I have since learned that anytime I get near the hens, he comes after me. Which is a problem, because literally every time I go in the run the ladies want to be right under my feet. Remember, the ladies were with me a year before he ever came into the picture. I was their first main squeeze and the rooster is clearly not okay with that. So, what am I doing to not get tore up every time I go in the run? Well, for starters, I wear tall boots into the run, which I probably should have been doing all along (flip flops probably aren’t the best choice for the run). But I give him his space while still keeping an eye on him (as he does me), and I keep eye-contact and don’t back down. He will come up to me with his feathers fluffed out, spreading his wings, and I just stand tall and stare him down. I give him the respect I expect him to give me, and so far we have managed to coexist. I have to say, it amazes me the little fear he has toward me. I’m over 6 feet tall and just tower over him, but it doesn’t faze him a bit. He has no problem trying to put me in my place, albeit unsuccessfully, but he doesn’t back down. Which I appreciate; it’s good to know if an intruder comes into the coop or run, the rooster is ready for battle.

When I’m not defending myself against a jealous rooster, you can probably find me painting, cutting down trees, or removing brush. I have probably spent the most time painting, which I absolutely hate. A lot of progress has been made, but it’s difficult to feel any sense of accomplishment when you look around to see how much you still have left. And, unfortunately, that is going to be the feeling for a while, as there is still a ton left. And once I finish painting the walls of the main living areas, I get to paint drylock on our basement walls. 

I can’t begin to count how many trees I’ve cut down, and I like trees. I don’t like to cut them down, but I can’t have trees towering over the house. So, we have removed every tree near the house (which our new roof and siding will appreciate), and I’ve been working on cutting them up to be firewood.

Over the July Fourth weekend, I managed to get caught up in a yellow jacket nest and got stung several times (this is the second time this has happened). I hope there wasn't anyone watching me with a camera, because I never want to see the sight that is my tall, lanky self taking off running with my arms flaring about and expletives flying as I try to escape the angry yellow jackets. I really hope no one ever has to see that spectacle.

I’ve also been removing brush. I’ve been tearing it off fence lines, getting it away from the house, and clearing out areas to eventually have some type of an open backyard for maybe a playset or tire swing. A lot of progress has been made with this; but, unfortunately, it has also exposed me to more poison ivy than is usual.

I’m no stranger to poison ivy. I typically have it every year from about April through September, as I’m extremely allergic. I recall once getting it as a kid on my arm to the point that my arm swelled up to be about double the size as what was normal — it was the first and only time I ever had massive biceps and triceps — and it resulted in excruciating pain. My grandfather was never the type to think someone NEEDED to go to a doctor, but I recall him taking one look at my arm and saying “We might need to get you to a doctor pretty quickly.” I know what you’re thinking: Hey moron, don’t touch the ivy! Well, I have looked at pictures to learn to distinguish the poisonous plant, read articles, applied preventative medicines,and wore enough clothing that you’d think I was preparing for the Iditarod; it doesn’t matter what I do, I cannot avoid the ivy. So, it has just turned into something I learn to live with. 

It hasn’t all been projects and hardships; there has to be a little bit of fun mixed in with the work. So we made a trip to enjoy some sun and water at the fabulous Smith Mountain Lake for a few days. Here is PKB learning the feel of a jet ski.

Photo Jun 24 1 39 48 PM