Tag / backyard chickens

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Psychology for Chickens

Chocolate is getting feisty!  When I went to look for eggs over the weekend, I was pecked at twice.  I was shocked to see this from my usually docile boy.  He was definitely telling me that he did not want me in the coop, but this was never going to fly with me,  I need to be sure that I can get the eggs, refill the feeders and clean the coop at my leisure, not his.

I am a huge fan of the website http://www.backyardchickens.com/.  I have utilized it as a resource since getting my chickens this past Spring.  Everything, and I mean everything, you ever would want to know about a chicken is on this site.  So, this weekend, I took the plunge and joined as an official member of the site.  I posted an introduction about myself and then posted about my situation with Chocolate.  Within a few minutes, people started to respond.  I was amazed.  Over the course of about a day, I had about five suggestions on how to deal with Chocolate.  I was thrilled and started to take some of the members’ advice.

I thought all along that his behavior and his rooster dance, aka the sideways two step, was his assertion to let me know that I was one of his girls.  However, because I was always in charge with the food and the water, I thought he would always think of me as head hen.  Apparently, caretaking is not enough.  According to suggestions, I needed to show Chocolate that I am the boss, the ultimate head hen, no matter what he thinks otherwise.  So with new advice in mind, I took to action.

First and foremost, Chocolate is no longer allowed to dance near me.  He is also not allowed to partake in humpty love in front of me.  If he tries to do these things, I must stop him by flapping things at him and make him step away, keeping in mind not to use my hands or feet.  So, yesterday morning, I did just that.  At first he looked at me confused.  I stood my ground and he started to get the message.  In the afternoon, when I looked for eggs, he came running into the coop.  He did not peck at me.  So, I grabbed him with assertiveness and held him for a while, whispering nice things into his ears and stroking his feathers under his chin, on his belly and back.  He enjoyed this and I felt him relax and calm down as he snuggled into the down of my coat.

Late in the afternoon when I returned to http://www.backyardchickens.com/ to see if anyone had any other suggestions, there was one more.  The suggestion was to turn him over on his back like you would a baby and show him your dominance.  So, as I returned outside in the early evening to lock them up for the night, I did just that.  I cradled my rooster like a newborn.  He looked at me strangely.  I held him for about twenty seconds and then I returned him to the coop with the girls.  This morning when I opened the coop and he came bolting out, he noticed me but did not visit like he usually does.  Who knew that psychology works on chickens?!

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Humpty Love

I knew that at some point it would begin.  This morning was strange.  Maybe love was in the air.  Yesterday, Chocolate decided to crow like crazy in the morning.  He was non-stop for about 20 minutes.  That had never happened before.  I just kept thinking, I can’t let you out until eight.  So, after about 10 minutes, I decided to put some scratch in the coop as a distraction.  It bought me about 10 minutes of time and he was at it again.  Finally eight arrived and I let them out.  He flew out of the coop like a crazy man!  He was going all over the place, excited and dancing.  I had never seen this side of him before.  Before going in, I checked the nesting boxes and discovered a silkie egg.  This was the first time I had found an egg that was laid early in the morning before I let them out for the day.  Interesting;  was all that commotion because of the egg?  The egg was the only thing new in the coop.

This morning, I heard nothing, no squawking or crowing.  It was strangely quiet.  Something was different.  So, as I usually do, after letting them out, I filled up the food and the waterers and started to observe and say good morning to the flock.  There was Chocolate.  He greeted every hen in the run.  Typically they do not give him the time of day.  I think sometimes, they think of him like a bad blind date.  However, when he got to Dolly, one of our new lavender silkies,  she saw something in him the other girls had yet to discover.  He did his little rooster dance and then she squatted down.  He climbed on top!  It only lasted a matter of 5 seconds but he did it.  He tried once more and she allowed him again. 

Nature is so incredible.  I’ve now thought that she is the one laying eggs.  So somehow, nature has just taken it’s course.  When the kids see it, they will want to know what is going on.  I’ve given some thought about that.  Since they were really little, they have witnessed our neighbor’s dogs, animals at the zoo and even at the pet store doing what comes natural.  As all toddlers are curious, we just called it “humpty love” for the sake of escaping details.  I can’t wait to hear what they will tell me when they see the chickens having humpty love!

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Updates from the Coop

Well it has now been about a week since Dolly, Autumn and Meesha were introduced to the flock.  The transition has been surprisingly smooth.  They are quickly reestablishing a new pecking order.  I think that Feathers is the happiest.  She is no longer at the bottom of the order.  She is even doing a little pecking herself.  When I do notice the pecking, it is rather gentle, much like a reminder.

Chocolate is thrilled.  He is no longer as bossy to the girls and he seems to be content.  He now has seven girls to harrass at any given time.  He has shown off his rooster dance to every girl.  However, none seem the slightest bit interested.  Instead, they just go about their business.  As far as I know, he has not tried to hop on anyone’s back yet.

Tilly still is head hen.  I’m glad.  She is maternal-like to the new girls.  It is nice to see.  She will peck them now and then but it is usually to say, “Hey I’m standing here at the water.  I will not move but you are welcome to stand next to me.”

We have also had 2 silkie eggs laid.  I scooped another one out this morning.  I think it is Dolly that is laying.  I am hoping that she will influence the others to lay soon.  They should start anyday now.  It is really just a waiting game.

Finally, tomorrow night is the Barnstable Agricultural Commission meeting regarding rooster regulations for the town of Barnstable.  I have done my best to rally together all the chicken owners that I know.  We are sure to attend.  I am thinking that I will mostly observe at first and try and gauge people’s postitions on the matter.  Wish me luck!

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Sweet Dreams

I was worried about the first night for the three new girls.  During the day, the pecking was minimal but when night time came around, would they go up into the coop at night?  Would my old flock allow it?  So as dusk grew near, I kept checking.  Finally they went into the coop.  I did not see anyone in the yard, but I had to be sure.

Outside I went.  As I walked over to the coop, I saw that everyone was up inside.  However, I wanted to get a bit closer of a look.  I climbed into the run and peered into the little half moon door.  Those chickens never cease to amaze me.

From all the horror stories about flock integration on the internet, I was sure that at best I would find my original flock sleeping in the nesting boxes and expect to find the 3 new girls in the opposite corner on the roost.  Instead, I discovered a situation that even I would never have imagined.  Inside mid-coop was Oyster Cracker.  She was pacing back and forth, much like a soldier guarding a castle.  As you know from my previous posts, before we knew that Chocolate was a rooster, she was taking on the role of guard chicken.  Now, she was showing me that she still was a guard chicken.  She was pacing and growling.  So funny.  I instantly thought that she was keeping both flock separate.  I looked in the corner closest to me expecting to find the new girls but they weren’t there.  I glanced over to the nesting boxes.  I found all of the chickens old and new mixed and huddled in the nesting boxes together!

I could not believe my eyes.  Was the integration going to be this easy?  Time will tell.  I think that Oyster Cracker was patrolling to be sure that no other new girl would enter the coop.  I promised her not anytime soon as we now have a full house.  I closed the door for the night, feeling confident, successful and incredibly joyous.  We are one step closer to a unified flock.  Even though they are different colors and breeds, they are all snuggled together despite their differences.  What a fabulous reminder of tolerance and acceptance from my girls especially during the holiday season!

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

It’s Official, I’m One of the Girls

I spent this weekend doing my least favorite thing, fall clean-up.  We typically rake the leaves six times during the fall season.  This weekend was no different than any other year except for the occasional chicken that wandered by.

Since we have had a few hawks in the yard this week, I had tried to entice them back to their coop with scratch and their treat ball.  I was worried that if I moved away from the girls, a hawk could swoop down and catch dinner.  I had finished raking near the girls and needed to move on. Unfortunately for me, they were just not ready to go back.  Instead, they were content under the gigantic rhododendron bush at the top of the driveway next to the garage.  I kid you not, I think it is about about 25 years old and is about 12 feet wide by 10 feet tall.  I could hear them underneath scratching at the leaves and calling to one another to show off their finds.
So nervously, I decided to rake about 50 feet from the rhododendron bush near their coop.  As I was cleaning leaves and debris to the side, my neighbor who I had not seen in ages struck up a conversation with me.  Distracted by our conversation that had gone on for about 5 minutes, I did not notice a little friend at my feet.  It was Chocolate.  He was scratching, puffing out his feathers and talking.  It took me a second, then I realized.  Chocolate was trying to tell my neighbor that I was part of his family.

I scooped him up into my arms, gave him a nuzzle and a thank you then gently set him down.  He continued to stay by me.  As he stood with me, along came the rest of his flock, no coaxing necessary.  He has made it to top chicken.  Although little, he has gained respect of all the girls.  I was glad that much like a guard dog, I had a rooster by my side!  Who would have thought?  I now know that they think of me as part of their family.


Book Review: Raising Chickens for Dummies

Rating:  *****

This is an excellent book for those interested in backyard chicken raising.  The authors, Kimberly Willis and Rob Ludlow, are extremely knowledgeable.  Even though I am not a huge fan of the “dummies” books, I have found this book to be an easy read, not too technical and quite thorough.

Topics covered in this book are choosing chickens, purchasing chickens, three chapters on housing, feeding, pest and predator control, flock maintenance, health problems and illness, raising your own chicks, eggs, butchering and useful tips.

As you know, my criticism of the last two books was the health section.  Although limited, this book helps you to determine whether you need to see a vet and does discuss in a bit more detail common chicken ailments.

This book simplifies chickens so that anyone can participate in this fabulous backyard hobby.

Appetizers Recipes

Buffalo Chicken Dip

This yummy buffalo chicken dip is awesome for game day on the weekend.  You may even need to double the recipe!  Serve it with tortilla chips and it is sure to be a hit at your next party.  One note of caution, I do not recommend substituting the brand names listed below.  I have and it was just not the same deliciousness that I remembered.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Well, He’s Definitely a Roo!

He finally stood still and posed for me!

I’ve been back now for 4 days now and there are definite changes in the coop.  Chocolate is definitely a boy!  He has emerged a rooster- as the leader of his girls.  I feel proud for him.  He was the underdog when Peanut was around.

Now he is one of the biggest in the flock, developing a beautiful comb, wattle and streaming neck feathers.  I have not heard him crow anymore.  Is there such a thing as a quiet rooster?

Yesterday, I let them free range after 3 continual days of wind and rain.  They were so happy.  Like Pavlovian dogs, every time I walked back and forth from the coop to the garage, they thought that I had scratch for them.  Chocolate and Tilly were always the first to come running.  They are getting braver and are even considering entering the garage after just recently feeling comfortable crossing over the pea stone driveway.   I must have made that trip 8 times before I brought them that scratch.

The two of them make a great pair.  They seem to have mutual respect for one another.  Plus, he is not a bully.  My heart was touched when he came over and spoke to me.  We carried on a 5 minute conversation. Then I picked him up and nuzzled with him on my lap.  As usual, he snuggled right in making little clicking sounds of gratitude with his beak.  Although his feathers were cool to the touch, I could feel his little body warming up as I held him.  Then I smelled his back feathers and gave him a kiss before returning him to his girls.  I have to say, he is a lover not a fighter, and for that I am thankful.