Insect nest, chickens, a new resource

While showing a visitor the top bar beehive last weekend, I noticed an interesting nest attached to the roof. As you know, the hive has been empty since the end of November, and some intrepid spider or insect decided to leave a legacy in this warm, protected place. I scraped it off and it is full of orange eggs.

Now, I've done a lot of searching on the web about who this nest might belong to, but I'm coming up baffled. It could be an orb weaver nest. We get a lot of these spiders in late summer, and apparently they lay one last clutch of eggs before dying in the first fall frost. The eggs overwinter, then hatch when the days get warm. It could also be a yellow sac spider, and the sac does look a little yellow. However they tend to lay either in houses or in the garden, I suppose they could pick an outdoor structure. We get a lot of black widows, but I've seen their nests and they don't look like this, and the nests are usually in the web.

Anyone have an idea?

I have put the nest in a jar and poked holes in the top. I hope it hatches and I get to see what comes out. I'm keeping it outside. I appreciate spiders, but I don't want them in my house, no siree!!!!

Of course, they may not even be spiders!

The chickens have been fun and interesting. First of all, they poop an awful lot. But it doesn't smell, at least not yet. Either that's because it's not hot yet, or because I have a good amount of bedding in the coop, which I do. I've had to clean out the house part once in the past week, because it got so poopy. I'm glad we got the new compost bins built in time.

The chickens themselves have a very nice smell, their feathers I mean. It's distinct but I feel like I've smelled it before, if that makes any sense. It's warm and barn-y. But extremely pleasant.

They make the most adorable peeping noises, all the time, even when eating. Then they make another sound when they are startled, kind of like "whaaaa?" That's what I hear, anyway.

They couldn't figure out how to get up or down the ladder from the house to the run for a while, but a few days ago they learned how to get down (gravity helps, doesn't it?). It took them until tonight to figure out how to get up, but they've finally done it.

They have access to food and water at all times in the run, but we've been giving them a daily treat of dried mealworms in the morning, and cracked corn in the afternoon. I also have been giving them greens (and hopefully slugs) from the garden, which at first they couldn't figure out how to eat. Every time I open the door, I make a sort of chirping sound, and it's working - now they associate me with delicious things. But they are still very cautious and don't like me making any sudden moves. The Rhode Island Reds are the bravest by far, also the biggest. Molly has even pecked my shoes. In the chicken world, she's a hero.

Actually, this is Ginny.

The Barred Rocks are the most aggressive, flying mostly at the Easter Eggers and keeping them away from the treats. Well you know I don't have that. Everyone gets their fair share. But even though aggressive, they are also the first ones to sink to the sawdust and nestle down with their eyes closed, which is pretty cute. The Easter Eggers seem shy and really don't like being handled, but they are scrappy. They are also the prettiest, in my opinion. But I think the Reds have really earned the first place in my heart because they are so brave and curious.

And finally, as I was out cutting greens for dinner, an acquaintance pulled up and asked me some questions about my garden. Turns out she runs a wonderful nonprofit called Sustainable Contra Costa. I've been perusing their website for an hour now, and I've even signed up for a class in greywater systems, something Tom and I have had on our list for a while now. They have some terrific classes. If you're in the 'hood, check 'em out!