Just as it is with children, when you have a slew of chickens sometimes it’s tough to keep track of them.
Oh the distinctive ones are easy enough to keep straight, Simon with her black polka dots, Morganne with her demure beard, and Spencer with his enormous 6 foot 4 inch height. But it’s the ones we purchased in batches, more specifically, the feed store bunch who are the most difficult to tell apart.
One might even be inclined to say that when you’ve seen a Golden Comet, you’ve seen them all. But while they may look very similar, as any chicken owner out there will tell you, each bird is uniquely different.
And when you have a fairly large flock, it can at times, be difficult to keep track of them all. Our birds graze in the enclosed dog/rabbit pen during good weather. We also have hawks, raccoons, and that lousy neighbor’s cat constantly in our yard. For safety’s sake, we need to be able to keep an accurate count of our chickens.
For weeks the kids have all been writing school introductory essays for their teachers claiming that we have forty chickens.
I’d edit each essay to thirty-nine.
Are you sure? They’d ask me.
Yeah, as sure as I can be. Continue reading
Well there’s frost on the pumpkin (yet another great benefit of living in New Hampshire – we get to legitimately use that phrase) and you know what that means, right?
Besides a mad scramble for gloves, mittens, and hats for the kids to wear to the bus stop, (which will then be removed and forgotten when the sun heats up the afternoon, thus beginning our annual donation of hundreds of winter items to various local Lost and Founds) it also means that we need to get the hen house ready for the winter.
Last winter we figured out that if we kept laying wood shaving in the hen house (as opposed to mucking it out each time) we were able to provide a rather toasty, somewhat insulated roosting place for our chickens. Between the poop and the moisture from the birds, there was also the added goodness of a little bit of fermentation/decomposition going on which then added to the overall temperature. Between that and roughly 16 inches of wood chip insulation, dare I say, the birds were relatively comfortable last winter.
In anticipation of the snow (which no kidding, is just around the corner) Marc and Logan spent Saturday morning mucking out the hen house (a job no one likes, but hey, it’s got to get done.) When they were finished with cleaning it out (which also included checking and rebanding the birds – I’ll talk about that tomorrow) and carting the used bedding off to the woods, they then put two fresh packages of wood shavings inside. Continue reading
The babies are testing their wings. As you may know, when you introduce new members to a flock there is always a bit of jostling that needs to happen before everyone can settle down into their assigned positions. Older hens are at the top, young rambunctious (and dare I say at times, obnoxious) youngsters are at the bottom, it’s the same way it’s always been – you can join us at Thanksgiving dinner but you have to eat at the little kids’ table *sigh*.
I had made a secure nursery inside the coop so that the littles would have a safe place to go when the pecking from the elders got to be too much (which initially was all the time). This turned out to be a welcomed haven of safety to which all the babies immediately ran to when they were released from the sleeping quarters each morning. Entire days were spent within the nursery walls. We were careful to make sure that food and water was always available concerned that the babies would never venture away from the safety of the nursery’s protection to where the rest of the flock’s community sustenance was located.
The problem is that our chicks are growing and will at some point need to introduce themselves into the flock. They can’t be protected forever and like it or not, at some point just like a mother Robin does, they will need to be pushed out of the nest. As I started worrying about how this was going to be humanely accomplished, I noticed that the chicks went from spending the day inside the nursery to spending the day on top of the nursery. (we used old wire dog crate pieces – they had holes small enough for chicks to pass under but not for older hens.) From up there they had (dare I say it? ) a bird’s eye view of the flock’s goings on.
View from up on high
The chicks are still safe from the older hens but now they are taking the role of astute observers to the activities around them. The water is located over there, Morgan hides in a corner escaping the wrath of the others, and the lame bird seems to be trying to put some weight on her twisted foot. The babies are watching the political dynamics in the flock and I’m sure they are taking notes.
In the meantime they continue to grow looking more like gawky adolescents than like Easter basket chicks. The time will come soon, when filled with insight as to how the flock operates, they will hop off the top of the nursery ready to play fair game with those who have become their family.