More feral chickens

I found a nice lady on a nice farm to take my feral rooster. With the coop empty, I set the trap up again.

The very next day, I had a second rooster trapped. He spent one night with us, then went to the farm to join his brother.

And this morning, Byrd trapped a feral hen in the coop. This is not the momma hen of the roosters; this is the roosters’ sister. She is a smooth tan color, very pretty.

We are going to try and integrate the hen into our flock. We made this decision in part because the momma hen and the third rooster were still in our yard this morning, and we needed the trap cleared quickly so we could try to catch them, too. 🙂 So we dumped the feral hen into our chicken coop.

So far, she’s scared, and the other hens are doing a bit of pecking as they reinforce the idea that she’s the lowest chicken on the totem pole. But they haven’t really fought or anything. I think it will work out.

Unfortunately, the process of catching and moving the feral hen into our coop was noisy and chaotic, so the remaining rooster and hen ran off and haven’t come back yet. No worries, it’s only a matter of time. So far we’ve caught a chicken every single day that the trap is open.

Now I have to come up with yet another chicken sound to name this chicken. So far we have used: Peepers, Squawkers (deceased), Cluckers (deceased), Cackle, and Bawk Bawk. (The oddballs are Miss Red and Crooksie.)

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Fried Chicken

Not really. But it’s hot enough outside.

The oppressive heat nearly killed the red sex-link (I’ve started calling her Miss Red). She’s the heaviest-feathered of the bunch, and also the largest, so it stands to reason that the heat would take her down first. I had to take her inside (easy to catch when she’s gone into heat shock) and hose her down with cold water in the shower. She finally stopped wheezing like a 90-year-old man that had just run a 10K.

From that point on, I made some changes in the coop. First, I found an old fan in our storage unit and put it out there. Then, I put a big pan of water under the fan, to create cooler air. And this weekend, we added a misting system to one side of the coop so the chickens could get nice and wet.

It seems to be working pretty well, except that the moisture produced by the misting system is attracting a buttload of flies.

The lesser of two evils: "I'll stand under the mister if it keeps me away from you."

The lesser of two evils: "I'll stand under the mister if it keeps me away from you."

In other news, our vegetable garden now doubles as a massive fire ant mound. YAY!!! (/sarcasm) I literally cannot stick a shovel into the ground without starting an angry swarm.

I had to talk to our pest control guys about something that will kill the ants without killing my chickens. We finally decided to use bait (which will kill the chickens), but to limit the bait to inside the garden only.

I figured that since the garden is fenced and the chickens don’t get into it, it will be okay to use the bait.

That is, until the chickens found a hole in the fence and got into the garden. They ate about seven nearly-ripe canteloupe before I spotted them and chased them out. 😦

And now I have two days to figure out how to repair the fence in such a way that the chickens cannot possibly get into it once the ant bait is down. (Bait goes down on Wednesday.)

Sheetrock is not food

We hit our first major chicken farmer problem today.

We spent much of the day tearing the walls out of our back addition. Crumbles of sheetrock and tufts of pink insulation covered the dirt outside the back door, remnants of what didn’t quite make it into the trash trailer.

I didn’t intend to let the chickens out today, seeing that there was so much debris near the chicken coop, but I suppose it gets dull being stuck in a muddy coop for several days in a row (free range prevented both by heavy rain/flooding and our construction activity). So today after I made a last check for eggs, two of the braver hens darted out of the coop as I stepped out. They were literally pressed against my leg on the way through the gate–that’s how desperate they were to squeeze out of there.

So I reasoned, well, since two of them are out, I suppose I should let the others out. And I did.

The next thing I hear is Peepers: “Bip-bip-bip-bip-bip!” I’ve learned that this odd peeping sound means, “I’ve found something yummy!!” All the hens come running as fast as they can when he makes this noise.

I look down to see what he’s got and I’m horrified to see him pecking at a little piece of sheetrock. Peepers thinks sheetrock is edible. Worse, he keeps telling all the ladies that he’s found something delicious!

So I start flapping my arms and screaming “NOOOOOO!!!!” After scaring the chickens into the safe half of the yard (far from the construction site), I get Byrd, and together we herd the chickens back into the coop. Squawkers gives us a really hard time.  She did NOT want to go back into the coop!

So we are now facing a few options.

1. Move the hen house and chicken coop into the “safe” side of the yard, and erect a plastic barrier to keep the chickens on that side of the yard when they range. This is my preferred option. Byrd objects because he thinks the chickens will ruin the grass under the coop. He’s right, but then again, the winter rye grass that’s there now will be dead in another month anyway, so what’s the big deal?

2. Erect a plastic barrier around the construction area to keep the chickens out. I think this is harder because it will cramp Byrd et al when they are working on the house. They will have to be careful not to let debris fall outside the barrier, and they will have to keep their tools and trailer within the barrier. It’s not much space.

3. Stop letting the chickens free-range until the construction is complete. I don’t want to do this to the chickens. They really love their range time. And construction might last for months.

Guess we’ll see what Byrd decides is the best option.

More Chickens

Oh my. I have more hens. I bought two more, and got an additional one for free.

We are now officially one chicken over the city limit (five chickens) but I’m really hoping no one will notice. I’m buying the neighbors’ silence with eggs.

I got a black sex-link and a red sex-link. These are prolific brown egg-layers.

The black sex-link has very pretty feathers with a metallic green sheen. Her eggs are smallish, and she is the smallest chicken of the bunch. She’s also one of the braver hens, and will come around to eat things from my hand with Peepers and Squawkers while the others peer at me suspiciously from around the corner of the hen house.

The red sex-link is missing most of her feathers, poor thing, but I think a bit of time and some free ranging will do her some good. She lays HUGE eggs.

The third hen is another Ameraucana. She was given to me for free because her beak is a bit crooked; the top and bottom parts don’t come together perfectly. She eats fine, but I can see how this might be a problem in the future, because the beak doesn’t wear evenly. Well, we will see how it goes. This Ameraucana is also fairly small–she’s very young–and she has a lot of white feathers around the head and neck. I wonder if she will stay this color? She’s very pretty.

Peepers is truly in heaven. He spends all his time strutting his stuff for the ladies. (They are not impressed.)

The amazing thing is that with three more hens, we get three more eggs a day–so in the one and a half days I’ve had them, I’ve gotten five eggs. The eggs are a lovely array of pastel blues and light pink-browns. They’ll be killer for Easter and I’m hoping their flavor will give me an edge in Mousse-fest 2009 (my family’s annual mousse-off).

I do have some photos of chickens and eggs but haven’t uploaded them yet. Will do it soon.

Still need names for the new hens, too.

Also, the Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour is coming up! I’m so excited. I want to see what other people’s coops look like.

Chickens are dangerously addicting.

Spring Days

I’ve gotten over my initial worries about letting the chickens roam. Nowadays, I open their coop for free range in the backyard from about noon to dark. The chickens put themselves back in the coop when it starts getting dark. They haven’t left our backyard yet, even though the back fence is a mere four feet high. Hopefully they realize there’s a dog over there (untested around fowl).

Chickens framed by wisteria about to bloom like crazy.

Chickens framed by wisteria about to bloom like crazy.

Where'd my ladies go?

Where'd my ladies go?

This used to be a leaf pile. Then the chickens came. Now it is a leafy expanse.

This used to be a leaf pile. Then the chickens came. Now it is a leafy expanse.

On the back porch for a drink from the dog water bowl. Over 90 degrees today, and we were all panting--chickens, dogs, and humans.

On the back porch for a drink from the dog water bowl. Over 90 degrees today, and we were all panting--chickens, dogs, and humans.

Success with Star

With a lot of training over the last month or so, I’ve managed to knock Star’s prey drive toward the chickens waaay down.

Now I can let the chickens roam loose in the backyard for several hours in the afternoon, and I don’t have to put them away (which is like sheep herding only much crazier) every time I want to let the dogs out for a bit.

Of course, I still supervise when dogs and chickens are in the yard. I can tell Star still has inappropriate thoughts about doing bad things to the chickens, and when I see that look come over her face, I get her attention right away.

But her behavior has changed distinctly. It is now very manageable and I expect her to get better over time.

Dozer, as always, is completely unconcerned with the chickens. He’s been around all kinds of critters since he was a little puppy, so it’s no surprise.

Pit bulls and chickens, living in harmony? Can do!

Third Egg

Cluckers finally laid a third egg.

Well, that’s not entirely true. She’s been laying an egg every day since the second egg–but none of them had any shells! There was just a thin membrane and a puddle of albumin.

I think this was my bad. I did not have oyster shell or grit in the coop, thinking the chickens were getting plenty of calcium and minerals from the dirt they were eating. Lesson learned. They have plenty of both, now; I bought and provided these things yesterday, and Cluckers laid an egg (with shell) this morning.

I ate the second egg fried. I think. Actually, I don’t know how to cook any type of egg except hard-boiled. But this time I decided I wanted a fried egg, so I cracked the shell and let it sit in the pan and cook. I guess that’s fried. The yolk was not runny, it was cooked all the way through. Is that sunny side up? I really have no idea what all that means. I guess I’m going to have to learn how to cook eggs.

Anyway, the second egg was quite tasty.

Merry Christmas to Peepers

It may be 70 degrees outside, but it’s still the holidays. I got Peepers a bale of hay for Christmas; she is loving life right now. Byrd and I spread the hay all over the ground inside Peepers’ coop (on top of rye grass seed–I hope some of it survives and grows). The hay is softer, cleaner, and warmer than the dirt/dead grass, and I can rake it out and replace it when it gets messy.

So today Peepers is busy scratching through the hay, eating it, and doing whatever chickens do.

I also got her some “cat grass” (not catnip–the regular grass stuff in the tiny pots at the pet store). She eats it from time to time but is not a big fan. I don’t know what type of grass that is. Maybe rye.

12-24-08-peepers-in-hay

What you lookin' at?

What you lookin' at?

Happy holidays!

Smart Move

The heat lamp was a smart move, and perfect timing. Almost immediately after we got it installed, we had a series of freezes and even some sleet.

The heat light stayed on for days. And Peepers stayed in the hen house most of the time.

Today I went out and gave Peepers some mealworms as a treat. She loved them, of course. But I tried to get her to fly up for them, and she just hopped a little and gave up. I wonder if it’s hard for her to fly because she can’t see out of one eye?

I held her for a while and picked at the feathers until she got tired of it. She fluttered, so I opened my hands to let her fly to the ground… and instead, she sort of plunged and face-planted in the dirt. Lack of depth perception?

Aside from her reluctance to move around a lot, she seems to be okay. Maybe hens slow down as they get older. Or maybe it’s because she’s visually challenged.

This weekend I’m going to take her out into the yard again so she can have some greens and do some exploring. I’m also going to get some hay to spread across the dirt in the chicken coop. I think I’ll put some rye seed under the hay so she’ll have some fresh grass to eat in a few weeks. (The grass here is completely dead because of drought.) I’ll probably grow some rye in a pot on the back porch, too, because I bet she’ll eat a lot of the rye seed in the coop.

I have a potential chicken friend in the works, a hen from a local farm. That might cheer her up a bit. Or it might piss her off… I dunno.

A Stretch of Calm

With Byrd’s night work, nothing has gotten done to finish the hen house. Sorry. Peepers has adjusted to sleeping in or on the nesting box, though—probably because it’s finally cold at night (and for a short while, during the day) and that is the warmest option.

Peepers does not like the Blue Heeler puppy we’re fostering. She squawks and runs around in the coop when it comes near. I try to keep the dog away from her as a result. Funny how she knows that Dozer (our big old pit bull) is okay, but Titan (the heeler) is not. I guess it’s because she was around Dozer as a tiny chick.

Dennis the Viszla gave us an award today, and I am honored for it… I love reading his (and his Dada’s) blogs and I’m rather envious of the wit displayed therein. Thanks, guys! Here’s the award:

i_love_your_blog_award

I would like to pass this on to the following blogs:

  1. Mina and Celeste (Rinalia has been very helpful with chicken info)
  2. Tess (Japanese food, yummy)
  3. Leila and Quizz

I’m pretty sure the rest of you regular commenters have gotten this award from me or Dozer already. 😉

More from the chicken front when something interesting happens. I think within the next month or so, we should be at the point of getting additional chickens. Stay tuned…

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