Tag / backyard chickens

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Coming Home

I had a terrific time on the West Coast and now I am finally home.  I missed my family and those chickens.  My husband, the chicken sitter, tells me that they all were good and he was able to take care of them without any problems.  I think he actually might have even enjoyed it.

I got in really late and woke yesterday morning to a dusting of snow on the ground.  Even though it was cold, I was excited to see my chickens!  As usual, when I let them out there was a race through the door.  They didn’t even seem to notice me.  I was a little bit saddened.  Maybe, they had forgotten me.  No sooner had that thought entered my mind when Chocolate came over and gave a quick nuzzle. However, even he soon left for the scratch that I had just thrown into the run.  Just like I always think my kids grow when I am gone, I swear my chickens grew too.  Their combs are becoming a deeper shade of red as they enter adulthood and complete chicken puberty.  Does this mean that as my chickens age, they too don’t need their mother as much?  At least, they won’t ask me not to kiss them in front of their friends!

We are expecting rain for the next few days and since the chickens spend the majority of time inside the coop I wanted to tidy things up.  So despite a fine drizzle in the afternoon, I cleaned the coop.  To my surprise, I found no red mites at all.  The food grade diatomaceous earth did the trick!

Today the chickens are 20 weeks old.  This means eggs any day now.  I added fresh straw to the nesting boxes and even added the nesting blend that I ordered in the mail.  It smells so good, like aromatherapy for chickens.  Who knew such a thing existed?

So, returning to this rainy, cold, soggy weather sure put a damper on the weather high that I was experiencing after returning from Southern California.  However, I do have to say that despite the current nasty Cape Cod weather, my heart was warmed from seeing my families again, and that is something that no matter the place can only happen with them.

Chickens

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone!  Even the chickens are getting treats.  I ordered a few things including more Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth, a treat ball, nesting box blend and a pest pistol.  Boy are those chickens spoiled! 

I love the diatomaceous Earth.  See my October 2010 entry Fossils for Chickens for more information about it.  I also ordered the girls a treat ball.  It can be stuffed with all types of vegetables and goodies to keep the girls occupied from boredom.

I have always been intrigued by the nesting box blend.  I thought, why not give it a try!  Here is their exact description of the nesting box blend.  I could not have said it better.

Think of this as a daily way to ward off the creepy crawlies and bugs that love to bug your chickens. Adding Nesting Box Blends to nesting boxes during regular scheduled cleanings keeps your chickens calm and free of mites, lice etc. Can be used along with Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. Contains 100% organic, fair trade herbs, flowers and oils blended for a soothing and bug free egg laying experience.
Younger chickens often experience stress when they begin to lay eggs. Even older experienced layers can feel stress from time to time. Allow this special and caring formulation to benefit laying hens of all ages – your eggs will be even more wonderful!

You will find all of the above mentioned treats at http://www.treatsforchickens.com/

So with that said, hope you find yourself with some human treats of your own on this very special Halloween day.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

A Simple Twist of Fate

This morning I was out opening up the girls.  I can’t call them the girls anymore because from the coop was the distinct call of a baby rooster learning to crow. “OOO OOOO DOO”.  Pathetic but true, my little black Silkie Bantam, Chocolate is another rooster.  (Strangely enough, there have been tales of female hens developing male characteristics.  The hens stop laying eggs, crow and grow spurs!)

My heart sank again.  The reasons were many.  Probably the thought that I had to rehome him was the saddest.  You see, Chocolate was the runt until Peanut left.  Interestingly, he never really grew.  Despite all the others in the flock his growth was almost stunted.  However, once Peanut left, Chocolate had a growth spurt.  He has now surpassed his sister silkie, Feathers, and started to grow a larger comb and wattle.

In my heart of hearts, I do have to honestly say that I had my suspicions early on.  Peanut and Chocolate were always doing the “rooster square-off dance”, Peanut was always picking on Chocolate and the fact that he although healthy, was not growing.  When I compared Chocolate to Feather, I noticed that Feather’s comb is almost non-existent although she does have a wattle. Chocolate definitely has a comb! Their feathering is almost identical and so are their blue earlobes.

Chocolate is one of my favorite chickens.  He is a complete love.  Docile and gentle, he loves to hop into my lap and nuzzle into my body.  He loves to be stroked and even closes his eyes in contentment.  I can always count on him to come visit me first.  I really do love that little guy!

But then, I had an epiphany about rehoming him…My neighbor has a dog that barks all the time.  A rooster’s noise is not that much different.  My kids love him and he loves them.  He is a sweet boy who is earning his keep in the hen house.  He guards the girls at night by keeping watch out the window.  When it is raining, he stands at attention like a soldier at the door waiting for the rain to let up.  He lets all the other girls out of the coop in the morning before him, how chivalrous!  There are also no laws about roosters in our town.  There has been talk about creating ordinances in regards to chickens and roosters but nothing so far.

So for now, he will stay.  As long as he continues to be affectionate and sweet,  I will do whatever is necessary to keep him in the family.

Chocolate free-ranging with his girls today

Chickens Coop Care DIY Projects Eggs Health Issues Predators Seasonal Care

So You Want to Raise Backyard Chickens: 2 of a 5 Part Series

Storey-KGTKC-MCaughey-photo11-1wp

GOING SHOPPING

Preparing for the arrival of the chicks was so exciting!  It was almost like Christmas.  We counted down and with each passing day, our anticipation rose!   In our household, it was a family affair.  I ordered the chicks in February for a June delivery date.  Why did I wait so long?  Well, I had a few reasons.  I wanted to do more research about their permanent coop and run.  I also knew that the chicks would grow very quickly.  In fact, at about 6 weeks they look like mini-chickens!  I wanted the kids participate in the experience as much as possible, so I waited until summer vacation.

Chickens Coop Care DIY Projects Eggs Health Issues Predators Seasonal Care

So You Want to Raise Backyard Chickens: 1 of a 5 Part Series

So, how do I go about this, you ask? Well if you’re like me you read everything you can get your hands on, check the internet and dive head first into something figuring you’ll just troubleshoot along the way.  However, there is some planning to optimize your chicken experiences that will make life easier.  So, lets start at the beginning.  How do I get the chickens?

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

A Surprise Visit from Peanut, Well Sort of…

I have a good friend whom I have grown even closer to because of our love for chickens. She helped Peanut for a week before he was rehomed.  I was afraid that he was going to be too disruptive with his cock-a-doodle dooing every 5 minutes.  Once he figured out how to do this, he was non-stop!  I was sure my neighbors were going to complain.

My friend agreed to take him.  She lives in a wooded area of Cape Cod and has a large flock.  She has two roosters and about 10 hens.  So, Peanut went to Camp Chicken at her house.  He stayed about 2 weeks and loved the attention from the new girls.    He was never formally introduced to the flock and remained partitioned off from the rest.  They could however talk and see each other through the chicken wire.  Her Buff Orpington, Fuzzy,  really took a liking to him.  Dusky, her Silkie Rooster mix, did not care for Peanut.  One day, Peanut escaped from his enclosure.  He was loose in the large run with all the other chickens.  All of the hens retreated except for Fuzzy.  They had made a love connection!   Upon my friend’s discovery of this escape, she said Dusky was standing by the entrance to the hen house and crowing, as if to say, “Stay away from my girls!”   Who knows how long this chaos lasted?

Once Peanut was returned to his enclosure he remained at Chicken Camp for a few more days.  We took him to his new home on the farm and that was it, or so I thought….

Little did I know, my dearest friend had taken some photos.  Yesterday, I drove up the drive and saw two little squares folded in tissue wrap.  She had made Peanut t-shirts for the kids!  It has been about 2 weeks now since rehoming him.  My eyes welled up with tears at seeing these adorable shirts and Peanut in all his glory.  It was nice to see him again, even if it was on a t-shirt.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Chicken Bonding

I never thought that the chickens would also extend into my social life.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been able to break the ice, warm a chill to a room and create new friendships based upon my chickens.

Talking about the chickens always surprises people.  “Really, you have chickens?” “Where do you keep them?”  So many of these types of questions are always fun.  People are always taken back by the fact that I have chickens in my backyard.  “Oh they’re so dirty.”  Well, not really.  I am not on a farm with a pig sty in the back.  They are more like keeping a rabbit, somewhere between a cat and a dog.  Their area is realtively clean with minor maintainance. If you have any odors, there is a problem somewhere or it just rained like crazy and everything is soaked.  The birds themselves are clean too.  They do a great job at preening their feathers and the only time they needed help from me was when they had pasty butts as chicks!

It is also terrific to meet someone with chickens too.  All types of people keep chickens from the highest class imaginable to the immigrant population raising the birds for the table.  Chickens reach everyone.  I am surprised when people respond that they too have chickens.  Conversations just seem to flow from there, much like comparing and bragging about your own children.  People compare breeds, personalities, techniques and even consult each other about problems.

A few times now I have arranged a playdate for my kids at a new friend’s house.  After spending sometime there, I hear what I think is a rooster.  I ask, “Do you have chickens?”  and they say YES!!  Like most people, I do not suspect it.  The coop and run are not in plain view.  Sure enough though, upon further exploration either tucked back behind some large rhodedendrons or in a corner niche to the side is the coop and run.

Discovering and exploring a coop set-up that is not your own is sometimes like a kid in a candy store.  I love to see how other people do things.  What are their issues?  What are their successes?  How are their birds laying?  Where do they lay?  Sometimes the coops are rustic created out of an old dog house and sometimes I feel like I am entering a chicken Taj Mahal.

However, my favorite times are when the FedEx or UPS guys come to deliver a package and get a kick out of the chickens.  I love their surprise and how the regular drivers always inquire about the girls and pay them a quick visit before they leave.

Perfect strangers are becoming friends over one common bond…the chicken.

Chickens Health Issues

Yogurt Mondays!

Did you know that chickens love yogurt??  It is such a fabulous food for them.  I feed them plain organic yogurt with live and active cultures. ( It is important that they don’t get any extra sugar.)  When they see me coming you should see the commotion.  It is crazy!  There is so much yogurt flinging and they get it everywhere.  Some of the added benefits of adding yogurt to your chicken’s diet include calcium for egg laying, promotion of a healthy digestive system and assisting in the balance of the “good” gut bacteria.  Next time when your girls seem bored…try some yogurt.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Do they understand me?

I really do believe so.  Before I had chickens, I wasn’t really sure how smart they were.  I thought that they were cute and all and had come to the conclusion that would be enough for me to start raising them.   All the girls seem smart.  Tilly knows her name.  When they are free ranging outside and I do not see them immediately, I just have to call her name and she comes out from where she is.  It is so adorable because as head hen, wherever Tilly goes, the others follow.  They all run to me so fast.  Sometimes giddy in fact.  But contrary to belief, they are not looking for food, they are sometimes just looking for love.

Yep,  my chickens love to be loved.  They each take their turns.  Depending on their personalities, some like to be held and snuggled like little babies and some just love a good stroking of their sides, back and underbellies.  You may even think that I am crazy, but I love the way they smell too.  They smell warm, sweet and comforting.  Next time you are with your girls, give them a smell.  I promise it will warm your heart.

The girls also recognize their favorite treats.  I can put many different ones inside of the run but they always like broccoli, grapes and strawberries the best.  At first, I thought that it was the red coloring of the strawberry that they were attracted to but the other treats proved me wrong.

The girls also can spot danger.  Oyster Cracker always serves as the lookout.  When she sees something out of the corner of her eye, she lets out almost a low growl of a dog.  The chickens stand perfectly still and stop whatever they are doing.  I can pick them up easily when they are doing this because they are just like lawn statues.

They have their own language.  I am trying to decode it but they all understand it.  Some of their favorite chicken lines express happiness, I found something, don’t do that to me, come here, follow me, where are you,  let’s snuggle.

I believe that some of these things are born into them and they just being chickens know how to do these things, but I truly do believe that they experience emotions, have a pretty high level of intelligence and have social rules and orders.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Home Sweet Home

So, as I am sure many of you have searched and searched for the perfect coop for your girls.  I did too!  I spent months searching and deciding whether I should order plans, concoct one from various designs to build or just order something.

Initially, I ordered a small coop from http://www.mypetchicken.com/.  However, it was soon apparent that it was rapidly being out grown.  I also found that I had to replace the cheaply made hardware if I was going to protect the chickens from any predators.  This first coop is now used as a nursery as well as a place to quarantine anyone who doesn’t feel well or is injured from the rest of the flock.

It took me about 3 months of intensive searching to find ultimately what I believe to be the perfect chicken coop.  A man named Dan Cohen from Michigan has a company online called
www.greenchickencoop.com

He makes the coops from scratch with really great sturdy materials.  The coop itself is really terrific.  It takes only 5 minutes to clean out.   The floor inside has industrial grade linoleum that makes even the most caked on doo doo scrape right off!  When the eggs come, the handy little door opens to reveal 3 nest boxes.  I added the extra windows in the front with plexiglass slide-outs in warm weather and a small plexiglass vent on the side.  Dan truly was extremely thoughtful in creating this home for the girls.

The run comes in 3’x 6′ sections.  You can order them seperately.  I ordered 3 sections to create a 6’x9′ run.  Just perfect for 6-8 standard size breeds.  All the screening on both the coop and the run are 1/2 inch hardware cloth as well.  Often during the middle of a beautiful day, I find the girls lounging in their house.  They love it.

The area where we live on Cape Cod is known for predators.  We have racoons, foxes, coyotes, fisher cats, oppossum and owls.  I purchased additional hardware cloth and dug a 12″ trench around the run.  I buried the wire around the entire run and folded the top into the run area as well.  I hope this will be enough protection.  Time will tell.