Wednesday, November 09, 2005

And Now, Molting

OK, so you're enjoying your first season of small scale urban poultry farming and then in the Spring or the Fall after your birds have been around for about a year, you go outside one day to find your hens look a little shaggy...and seem to be losing neck and tail feathers...until one day they look almost exactly like Harriet, pictured above.

Is it some bizarre parasite or mite? Does your hen need medication or a good bath? No, it's just a molt, the shedding of old feathers and replacement with new feathers. Quite frankly we haven't figured out what the cycle is, because half the flock molted in the Spring, and some unlucky few are going through it now in the Fall--while it's rather chilly out!

Although Harriet looks pretty raggy, she's actually on the feather growing side of things, thus all the weird pokey looking things on her neck--those are called pin feathers. She still losing a few of her body feathers, but for the most part that has slowed down and new feather growth is beginning.

During this phase of feather growth, chickens require more protein to support the additional feather development, and they usually stop laying during molting. We typically try to increase cultured dairy, give more seeds, and also supplement with occaisional raw meat. (If you're a new visitor, please see my previous posts on this--chickens are not vegetarian. They will eat any protein they can beg, steal or hunt.)

I remember a more experienced chicken enthusiast warning me about the first molt--but even so, when our first hen began molting I was worried it was feather mites or some such thing. At night Michael and I went in to the coop, and while the poor molting hen was sleeping we accosted her with diatomaceous earth (like forcing a dust bath). In the end she didn't really mind it, and probably enjoyed the mid-rainy season dust bath--but it didn't stop the molting!

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It Was a Dark & Scary Night...

Talk about a scary night! It's getting dark much earlier now that fall is here--and with some of the hens still practicing their Houdini tricks, it can be a challenge to make sure we get home in time to put them in before the raccoons begin to prowl. And finding a missing black hen in the dark can be a real trick.

(It might be helpful to note that our part of town is technically in the city, but in some ways underdeveloped--we have a high raccoon population, and see many of them wandering our neighborhoods in search of eatables. Some of our friends had a taken from their coop and eaten by a raccoon, and the same raccoon later returned trying to drag another hen out through a hole in the coop roof.)

Puja (pictured above) is my daughter's favorite hen, and ours as well. She's pleasant, smart, doesn't screech, lays reliably, and best of all, seems to tolerate if not enjoy my daughter's special attention. If all Black Australorps are this pleasant, then perhaps we need a few more.

Last night it was already dark by the time we got home, so with my flashlight in hand I rushed out to the coop to lock up the door and do the nightly head count. Although I counted several times over to be sure, I seemed to be missing Puja, the favored black hen. I then went outside to see if I could find her, and no luck. After 40 minutes of searching I went and got my daughter to see if perhaps her young fresh eyes might spot Puja, but again no luck.

Finally, as we were getting ready to get in the car and go house to house on the street behind us (thinking Puja had jumped over the back fence perhaps), we checked one last time and found Puja on the cinder blocks bordering our neighbor's compost pile! Naughty Puja for continued escapism, but we were so relieved to find her!

The shot above is one relieved child, walking her favorite chicken back to the coop for a safe night of sleep.
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Autumn is Here Again

Autumn is here, and the big maple in the yard is beginning to drop leaves. The hens love to scratch in the leaves. We also like to gather the leaves and put them in a large mulch pile mixed with poopy hay from the straw. Over the rainy winter months the worms take over and break down the leaf pile--and the chickens venture in and eat the worms! Posted by Picasa

New Improved Access for Egg Gathering

Our daughter demonstrating the special access for the egg laying station. We've seen nicer nesting access, but it's pretty good for our needs--and it's easier to clean. In the summer we may put in special raccoon proof screens for improved ventilation. Posted by Picasa

Coop Renovation or One Big Happy Flock

Our other big news--the entire coop is finally integrated. We cut a hole in the wall separating both coops, and turned the back half into the nesting box/egg laying station, with a separate access for gathering eggs. Initially the roosts were all 2 X 4's but the hens hated this. Every morning we found most of them crammed on one roost that was a tree branch, so we took the 2 X 4's out, and put back in tree branch roosts. The back section has one remaining 2 X 4. Posted by Picasa

Naughty Mary has a New Home!

Many exciting changes since we last posted--the change I'm most happy about is that Naughty Mary, our New Hampshire (looks like Rhoda, just much smaller, and much more difficult) has found a new home.

Naughty Mary pioneered the finer points of chicken run escapism, repeatedly decimating our neighbor's garden, as well as ours. She also developed the uniquely annoying habit of roosting every single night in the maple tree, forcing us to use the ladder to retrieve her every night--before the raccoons could get her. And then, who could forget her primary method of communication, a screech that sounded like fingernails on a black board? For all these reasons and more, we found Mary another home. (In fact, it was the day we discovered Naughty Mary had eaten the neighbor's winter garden starts again that I looked at Michael and said, "That's it--we're getting rid of her tonight!")

Our friend Joe, who has a 5 acre property with a free range small flock, adopted both our Naughty Mary and a friend's highly aggressive auracana rooster, Mr. May. Joe reported, "Yeah, Mary is a hellion, but I don't understand why you think she's difficult." That is a sure sign to us that Mary was not cut out for the city chicken life. Initially her introduction to the new flock was tough, but then Mr. May arrived and levelled the playing field.

Apparantly Naughty Mary (who is now not so naughty), Mr. May, and all their new flock mates are doing well.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Snowy Anne, with the White Undies

This is the highly fashionable silver laced wyandotte, Snowy Anne in profile view. Posted by Picasa

This is the 3/4 view, where you can see that, um, Snowy Anne has white pantaloons shall we say? The amazing thing is that her sister silver laced wyandotte, Rosemary River, has a fuzzy grey/black bum, and the gold laced wyandottes likewise have brown/black bums. Posted by Picasa

Is it so wrong that we noticed that from the right vantage point, Snowy Anne's bum looked like a white fluffy heart? Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

City Chicken & the Savage Chicken-Inspiration & a Giggle Respectively

If by this time in the blog you might be thinking, "Hey, I'd like to do this too! I'd like some chickens, but where do I start?", I'd like to turn you on to the site that got me started, Katy Skinner's magnum opus The City Chicken

Katy's site takes you through the basics, FAQ, how to house the chickens, legal issues (not everyone can legally keep chickens in the city), how to care for chicks, as well as her totally cool pictorial history of her various flocks and their domiciles. Her helpful links include some of the best online resources available for the home poultry enthusiast. Katy's site literally convinced me that we could raise chickens successfully in the city. When I had questions, her encouraging response was great too!

After you visit Katy's site, you might want to cruise on by Savage Chickens for a giggle. All cartoons are done on post-it notes.

Let This Be a Lesson to You

This week we learned a painful lesson. Saturday I purchased not quite 40 winter garden starts, various boc choi, tatsoi, collards, and rainbow chard to plant for our summer garden. I was very excited that our weather had forecast rain and cooler temperatures for Monday and Tuesday, as winter garden crops don't like high heat.

Saturday hubby slaved bringing a truckload of compost, and I shoveled most of it into the garden, on top of some buckwheat cover crop and coop poop-laden straw (say *that* three times fast). Sunday Michael slaved breaking up the soil and mixing it all in, and I planted, watered heavily, very happy with myself that we were just in time to utilize the wet weather.

At work Monday, I waited excitedly for the rain to begin, and was so pleased that I wouldn't have to water in my starts again because it was being done for me.

When I arrived home I walked over to the garden to see how happy the starts were and noticed what appeared to be a start eaten by a slug. I thought, "Oh drat! Oh well, they do get some of the starts." So I looked at the start next to it, and it was eaten down to the stem too. Then I looked at the start next to it and it was also suspiciously missing leaves.

At that point I panicked and looked over every single area we had planted and saw nothing but bare spots or stems! Our slugs in the Northwest are aggressive in the garden, but no slug, even with the help of a little slug army, could eat nearly 40 starts in one evening! In fact, only one creature would be interested in such a thing--chickens!

I was so furious, that I will confess I thought about cutting a few feathered lives short. Later, when I talked to Michael about it, he did mention that Rocky, Mary, and another hen did get out and he put them back, but it never occurred to him that they had decimated the newly planted garden. While I was upset for a fair amount of the evening (ok, I confess, I don't get over things as quickly as I'd like), I'm happy to report all the hens are present and accounted for.

The moral of this story is good fencing is everything. Make sure all your chicken fences are high enough to keep chickens from flying out, with no gaps they can easily go under. We found at least one area where the chickens could easily get out and increased the height of that fence. We are now down to 2 hens that still get out, Seiji, who is so well mannered she would never destroy our garden, and Mary Mary Quite Contrary, who obviously didn't hesitate to eat a garden to the stems. At this point her main escape route letting her into the garden has been sealed off, so hopefully we will not have a repeat of this.

Portrait of Man Relaxing with Hens & Cats

Here is a portrait of the lead coop builder with the hens...sad thing is this was such a sweet shot just about 1/2 second earlier. All the flock was milling about him, until I came out with the camera. Unfortunately I think they thought it was food, and they rushed over to see what I had. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Leann's Happy Hen Gourmet Mash

Here's an "action shot" of the hens enjoying my world famous Gourmet Mash. 9.5 out of 10 hens agree this is the meal of their lives!

The mash often consist of a small quantity of layer pellets with yogurt, cottage cheese or kefiili (like kefir, a cultured milk product) plus odds and ends of whatever is available. The cultured milk products are very, very good for helping chickens stay healthy.

This weekend I made an amazing gourmet mash which made the hens extremely happy, and wanted to share this recipe with you poultry enthusiasts. Since it involves meat, if you are a new visitor, please check the archives for my post on chickens as omnivores--other poultry enthusiasts have assured me they see the same dietary behavior in their flocks too! We don't often feed them meat, but it has a dramatic positive health benefit when we do. Consider adding meat to your mash recipe in the early spring to help boost immunity after a long winter, after an illness, and during a molt to help protein depleted birds (feathers are all protein). You can also omit the meat or other items from this mash and add your own ingredients.

Leann's Happy Hen Gourmet Mash
feeds a flock of 20 (with enough left over that everyone gets some)

1-2 pints yogurt or other cultured milk product
1 pint low-salt cottage cheese
2 pounds ground beef
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch lemon balm
1 head garlic
1-2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
1 pint baby tomatoes
enough pellet feed to make a mushy consistency

2-3 casserole type pans

Put all the pans on a counter or work space where you can evenly divide the ingredients between the 3 pans.

-Add the yogurt & cottage cheese
-Remove leaves from lemon balm and add to pans
-Take parsley, and using scissors, snip entire bunch into small pieces
-Put in ground beef, yes, raw
-Slice all tomatoes in half and add

Mix with hands, getting ground beef and cottage cheese thoroughly mixed

-Add a small quantity of pellets to mash, enough to make it thicken
-Peel most of paper husks off garlic cloves, and add cloves to Cuisinart
-Add pumpkin seeds to Cuisinart, and blend until both garlic and seeds are in bits
-Add this mixture to mash

Mix well, and serve (put the dishes in various parts of the run so all hens, low and high in terms of pecking order, can eat freely)

I don't always use all these ingredients, but a little about what the benefits are for your flock:

Cultured dairy products are as beneficial for hens as they are for humans. Cultured dairy is high in protein and calcium, and the friendly flora helps prevent diseases and parasites in a flock.

Meat, as I've already mentioned, can be an excellent periodic supplement to a flock diet. This is especially true after winter, illness, or a molt when a hen's protein needs increase dramatically. Additionally, according to the Weston Price Foundation, there are fat soluble vitamins and activators that only meat can provide. Since raw is better, put your meat in the freezer for 2 weeks prior to feeding to your birds, to kill any possible parasites, etc. Feel free to search the archive for a post about feeding raw deer liver to the flock--they loved it!

Lemon Balm is a powerful antiviral--our flock was exposed to viral poultry pox, which is sort of like human oral herpes in that it is non-fatal and they carry it for life. So for our flock, treating with lemon balm is a good thing.

Parsley is extremely high in minerals and vitamins. I've also been known to use granulate kelp and dulse.

Garlic is a potent antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitical, and antibacterial. Organic poultry farmers rave about use of garlic, and the mash is the best way I've found to get the girls to eat it.

Raw pumpkin seeds are noted in Chinese medicine to be excellent at expelling worms and other parasites in humans, I hope this is true for hens. If nothing else, it's a great vegetarian source of protein and zinc for the flock. Zinc is another immunity booster. Sunflower seeds are a great substitute if all you want is the protein boost.

Tomatoes are reputed to be useful in changing internal ph so that a hen's body is not hospitable to parasites and other disease bearing invaders. I have also heard that pomegranete seeds and cranberries are useful for the same thing.

Have fun making your own mash--your hens will love you for it!

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Protocol Change

Hi Folks,
One of my other blogs was comment-spammed by a bot--translated from geek speak that means some programmed spam found its way into the comments field on another blog. For now, folks will need to complete a verification prior to posting comments. Thanks for that extra effort, it keeps the blog on track and free from unwanted advertising. Back to our regularly scheduled chicken post!

Eggs-citing News!

And now for something completely happy! Here's a comparison pic of the egg laid by Mary, our first hen in the younger girls group to begin laying. This is officially her 2nd egg--yesterday's was even smaller if you can believe it, but our daughter wanted it for breakfast so this morning so I don't have a picture to share.

The first eggs a hen lays are always smaller; compare Mary's egg with the egg in the photo from a mature 1 year old hen. You might remember I wondered about whether Mary was a rooster since lately she seemed, well, generally not nice. Her transition to laying might explain why she took a turn for the worse, personality-wise. (Just the other day, when retrieving her from someplace she wasn't supposed to be, she was flapping at me frantically and I found myself saying, "Mary, you make me want to cook you! Now cut it out!") We noticed a general irritability in the older flock hens as well, right before they started laying. It seems like they know they should be doing something, can't figure out what that something is, and might even be physically uncomfortable until they lay that first egg.

Frankly, it makes sense to me--I can imagine I'd be pretty darn uncomfortable too, and I really don't understand how they lay eggs day in and day out and stay so even tempered! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rest in Peace...

Today has been a very sad day. The hen pictured in the foreground, Heather, suddenly developed a condition that quickly proved to be fatal. We had a very sad evening burying her, and hope that she is enjoying the chicken equivalent of Happy Hunting Grounds, where the dandelions are always green and leafy, there are plenty of worms and bugs to be had, and enough grain to fill the gizzard...sleep well hen Heather. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Integration Process--An Update

Some folks have inquired recently--how is the integration of the flock going? At this point the little girls are about 16 weeks old, and not quite 3/4 the size of the big girls, so we are still being cautious. Michael tends to be more full steam ahead than I am about these things, so sometimes we find a balance!

What's at risk, they're all just a bunch of small-brained chickens, right? Perhaps brain size is part of the issue, who knows--but the whole pecking order thing is very, very real. One piece of reality is that dominate hens in a flock will keep lower ranking hens from food, and sometimes water. I observed that with our first group of hens, and am seeing it now with this group as well.

So, some days we open up the portion of the young pullets' (that's technically what I should be calling the non-laying juvenile hens, pullets) run so they have access to the mature hens' run. Mostly the mature hens invade and eat all their food, while the pullets run to the back 40, and have to be coaxed back to their coop before sundown. I prefer that we only open that fence on the weekends at this stage, since if the hens are in a "mood" on a very hot day and keep the pullets from water, the pullets could quickly overheat and die. But Michael being more daring likes to mix it up a little!

We are still waiting to see if there are any roosters in the younger group--initially we thought one of our barred rocks, Rocky was a rooster, but now I have my doubts as s/he is pretty darn mellow. However, the New Hampshire (red in color) has become a rather pushy creature, and spends a lot of time running around making odd screeching and squealing tire type noises--which could be the beginnings of learning how to crow!

There are still a few more weeks for any roosters to mature enough to be the strutting, regal and noisy creatures we expect them to be...stay tuned for the next episode!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Dangers of the Collective

One thing every one should be aware of is that when you bring animals into your life that have a natural herd or flock mentality--that can be a good thing, or that can be a bad thing! Personally, if a sheperd had been grazing my flock near a cliff, I might have asked (yes, perhaps quite loudly), "What were you thinking?"

We've seen this time and again with the chickens, all it takes is one hen to run after a fly, and suddenly every hen is running in the same direction! We've heard the same is true of sheep especially...why am I now thinking of the rallying cry of the Star Trek Borg, "You will be assimilated--resistance is futile!"


It's a great moment--the first time that both flocks are out in the yard together! It was nearly impossible to get a shot of the hens all together, as the little girls ran away every time I tried to take a picture!

On the whole this was a successful integration experiment--"pecking order" is a very real phenomenon! The older hens ran the little ones away whenever there was a tasty morsel of food to be had, which is part of why we are rearing the flocks separately for the time being. Several weeks back, Michael extended the outdoor run for the little girl so that they have a 10' X 20' swath that just into the big girls run. The 2 flocks are separated by wire, but get to see and hear each other now.

Our experience the last time showed us that it was important to wait until size differences had decreased. We didn't wait as long last time and there were some definite bumps. With the last group (the auracanas and buffs being the youngers, with the black australorps, sex link, and Rhode Island Red being the olders) we noted early on that the younger hens seemed to be chased away from the food bowl--and if our neighbor Mike hadn't found her in time, the lovely Seiji Brown might have died from the rigors of pecking order. That's another story for another blog post, but for today we feel we are on track with a slow integration of the flock.

This time around, with a suspected rooster in the flock, once he is "of age" he will command the obedience of the whole flock, which we hope will make blending the different age groups much easier--he will become the main event instead of the new hens...then when everything is settled, Rocky the Rooster will be going to live in the country with some friends of ours who need a rooster (and can legally own one). Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 27, 2005

Summertime, and the living is easy...

Here are the "Little Girls" preparing for a mid-day nap under the rhodie. They are quickly gaining in size, and their cute "peep-peep" is turning into a very sqweaky pre-cluck--imagine a cross between Lauren Bacall imitating a hen clucking and a rusty wagon wheel and you'll have an idea of what they sound like.

Maryann, the New Hampshire in the front (quite frankly we can't tell the difference between the New Hampshire and the Rhode Island Red!) has a very distinct honk that she makes--I don't know if it will last, but the chicken sounds like a goose!Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Seiji Brown - Houdini of Hens?

This is a lovely action pic of Seiji Brown, as she scratches in the grass--after she has smoothly escaped from the run! Seiji is our last "Big Girl" hen who can still fly. After multiple attempts at improved fencing, limb pruning, and erecting barriers to keep the hens from escaping (usually into our neighbor's garden to eat the most delectable of all veggies, his starts), Seiji is the only hen who can still escape from the run.

The other hens could sometimes manage escape by jumping from limb to limb on the firs and pines, and then with a graceful "Squawk! Squawk! Squawk!", they would flap their wings frantically while they would propel themselves from the tree trops. Quite frankly, it was very conspicuous but I don't think stealth is part of the chicken temperament. Every time we heard the squawking we knew a chicken was in our neighbor's garden, would go out and promptly remove the naughty hen.

Since hens are truly "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" type creatures, once a hen was in our neighbor's garden, they would usually forget about the mother lode of tender veggie starts to nibble upon. They would immediately realize they had been separated from the flock and begin frantically looking for a way to be reunited with their sisters.

Seiji is the hold out though. Seiji can actually fly from the ground up into the trees or over the fence, and sometimes even on to the roof of the coop. And she does so on a daily basis--she lets herself out of the run, goes to Fuzzy's sleeping box (pictured much earlier in the blog), lays her lovely blue-green egg, scratches around a bit, and then puts herself back in to the run. She doesn't seem to mind being away from the flock, and never wastes time being frantic about how to get back in--she knows she has the ability to get in or out of the run anytime she wants.

Honestly, if she continues to be this responsible about it (and doesn't, instead, let herself into our neighbor's garden to peck his tomatoes to shreds) I don't mind a bit! Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Sheep & Chickens, Best of Both Worlds?

Recently a teacher my husband subs for suggested that we might be very happy with a couple of sheep (this was a day or two before the truck engine blew up). While I am very tempted, we have to resolve the issue of a replacement vehichle first so we can continue to enjoy the flock we already have. As a fiber arts enthusiast (oh please don't confuse that with skill or anything!) I would love to have sheep!

However, if you are in the Eugene area and would like some Shetland cross sheep we can connect you with the owner. These sheep are not for eating! The are small sized sheep, so not the best choice for meat--but their high quality fleece will make you very happy if you like to spin, felt, weave, knit...additionally, we have been told the adults are quite friendly.

Lambs are $40, sheep are free--but all must be going to good homes, and my guess would be going in pairs at a minimum as they are flock animals and will be unhappy in isolation. If you live in the Eugene city limits and have a lot of 20K feet or larger, it is legal for you to have sheep--and chickens of course! Still a little unsure, check out this site for inspiration!

Traffic Jam in the Coop!

Nesting box pile up! This is what happens when a bunch of hens decide they all want to lay right now! There were nesting boxes not in use, but even so the always resourceful auracanas decided to buck standard convention and lay in a rustic, home made nest, visible to the left of the wooden pespi crate nesting box! Posted by Hello

I Was Here First!

Here is the close up of the nesting box pile up--2 buff orps stuffed into one nesting box. The funny thing is that there were 2 other nesting boxes not in use! Chickens, like young children, always place higher value on what others already have... Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Hens Gorge on Garden Greens

Today we did a major weeding and clean up in our garden, removing most of the winter greens that bolted with the increasing daylight and temperatures. The chickens gorged themselves today on greens and aphids! These girls are spoiled.

Posted by Hello

The Hen Snack Bar

Here is a pic of the partially moved "worm bin". If you scroll down to the "Hen Hilton" post, you might be able to make out a pile of logs with what appears to be straw the Fall we raked up all the maple leaves and mulched our garden--but we had such an excess that we ended up with a pile on the cement pad in front of the coop over the winter and spring. When we would let the hens out they would run to this pile and peck around, so we began to assume their must be snackables in the composting mass of straw and leaves. And wow, were we suprised! We found tons of worms, including a bunch that were as thick as my pinky and several inches long! We decided to try to clear off the pad and move the worm pile into the run--although I don't know how long it will remain stocked with worms. You can see the pile here, encircled by logs, and butted up against the fence. On the other side are cinder blocks which our neighbor uses to enclose his worm bin/compost pile. Posted by Hello

How to Discourage Broodiness

You might be wondering exactly why we have a cage in the chicken run when we refer to our hens as truly free range. This is our "Broodiness Discouragement Cage".

A hen goes "broody" when they decide to lay on a clutch of eggs, as if to hatch them. The hen will fluff up her feathers to elevate her body temperature, and pluck her breast bare to keep the eggs warm and humid. With modern breeds this natural motherhood drive has in many cases been bred out of the hens, and sometimes if hens go broody they don't always sit until the chicks pip out. Certain breeds and types of chickens (such as bantams) are noted for their fine mothering skills, but not all hens possess this anymore.

In our situation especially, without a rooster, our chickens will never hatch out a clutch of eggs. But still, they get broody. Increasing amounts of daylight can bring this on, and perhaps some breeds are more sensitive to this tendency than others. About a month ago, two of our hens, Puja, a black Australorp, and Goldie, a Buff Orpington went broody--and stayed broody!

When a hen goes broody, they rarely leave their nest, although ideally they leave the nest once a day to eat, drink water, and poop (usually the largest chicken poop you have ever seen in your life, but that might be more detail than some would like). So for chickens without a rooster, or with a mothering instict that has been bred away or into a flawed form of what nature intended, it can actually be a big deal if they go broody and stay that way. We heard from both the extension service and several feed stores that hens can starve to death or dehydrate.

We also heard numerous methods to discourage broodiness, including dunking the chicken in water, or submerging their head. Now, I don't know what people are thinking, because chickens can catch cold and die if they get wet and then chilled, and I refuse to believe that submerging anyone's head in water against their will would be useful. We had also heard that putting broody hens in a cage that was suspended from a branch or beam so it could swing would dispell broodiness. That sounded about as fun as vomiting on a ride at the county fair.

Let me be the first to tell you that hens can be treated humanely, it's a great thing to lead with. We decided after researching it and asking for more information on the broody cycle that the most important thing was that the hen's body temperature had to be reduced in order to disrupt the hormonal cycle that was telling these hens to sit on the nest until they had chicks pipping out. So we took our two broody hens, and put them in a 3.5' X 3.5' cage, which we hoisted on 4 stumps. They had ample food and water, and we weighted a piece of plywood over the top so they couldn't get out.

The wire bottom cage prevented the hens from keeping their body temperature elevated. At night we put the hens in the coop of course, and after two days the broody cycle was disrupted! We expect the formerly broody hens will go into a molt nearly immediately, and maybe resume laying eggs in a month or more.

Today Puja and Goldie were out with the rest of the chickens--although periodically Puja or Goldie would wander back into the coop and check out the nests. Michael or I would quickly open the coop door, and say to formerly broody hens, "Oh no you don't! Don't you even look at that nest! Get back out side or we're putting you back in the cage!"
Posted by Hello


It's a milestone when pullets begin to roost, which is what they are doing here on this branch. Our weather lately has been quite chilly, and the chooks have figured out that this is a nice way to keep warm. Posted by Hello

Where's the Snacks?

Here is a pic of the "Big Girls" rushing me in anticipation of snacks. The quickest way to a chicken's heart is through the stomach. While it's sometimes annoying to have 10 or 15 rush me whenever I go in the run, it's also a very reliable trick for "herding" them. We are continuing to get about 1 dozen eggs a day, although with the additional 4000 square feet of forage area, I think some of the hens are confusing about where to lay their eggs! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Rooster on the Horizon?

Possible rooster alert! We have our eye on that one, a possible fella in the bunch. Just to the left of our lovely red/brown Mary Ann, we think that chook, known as Rocky, could be a rooster. We are keeping an eye on him. It can take several weeks to be absolutely certain.

There are good reasons to have a rooster, but also some good reasons not to. It's illegal to have roosters in the city limits, even in an on and off again incorporated patchwork zone like ours. While the rooster can do a fine job protecting the flock from danger, they also eat an incredible amount of feed--and in our situation where we aren't so interested in hatching out our own chicks, the whole breeding thing is not a high priority. Additionally, besides being noisey, roosters can become aggressive. Friends of ours who have a rooster in their small back yard flock have reported their over 1 year old rooster has become aggressive toward men! Likewise, roosters always have to be watched around young children--they can do serious harm with their spurs, especially to eyes. Posted by Hello

Inside the Luxury Chick Nursery

Here are the chicks bedding down after we chased them for 15 or 20 minutes--in the mud and rain mind you. They're just like kids that don't want to go to bed, except they run much, much faster.

This is another view of our friend just to the left of Mary Ann the New Hampshire (red/brown chick)--we've noticed an unnusually large comb on this one, and overall size is larger than the other chicks... Posted by Hello

All Hail the Chicken Fencing Guru!

Michael is nothing short of amazing--he put this chicken fence across our neighbor's back yard in 2 hours--and there's a portion that I couldn't fit into the photo. Our neighbor has agreed to let us pasture our chickens in her back lot in exchange for free eggs. This will add another 4000 square feet of fenced in forage access for the hens. Michael only has to put the gate in and secure some "leaks" in the fencing to make it all secure.

Originally when I posted this I listed the square footage as 2500 square feet--Michael measured it and found I was way off! The hens are very, very happy with the extension of forage area. We've been joking about continuing on down the street, just fencing the back of everyone's back yard--"You're not using this area, are you?" Our neighbor suggested we could then get a goat!Posted by Hello