grandson helping wake up the chicks

grandson helping wake up the chicks

Friday, January 28, 2011

A visitor at the door

So now we had four out of the five chickens we had originally started with. They appeared to be settling in to their new home. Each morning, they would come out of the coop and spend the day grazing and feeding in the yard. They would sun themselves near their favorite berry bushes and head back to their coop in the evening until the next day.

All was well, with the exception of the missing pullet. Where could it have gone? I found two spots in the fenced area where chickens could have easily escaped and repaired the holes to avoid another experience of chasing missing chickens. Our new additions were not especially tame, but were getting accustomed to our home and would now watch me as I would go about my chores in their house.  They eagerly awaited a refill to their food each day and to their water. I was finding that the food dishes were becoming empty before 24 hours passed. I guess I would have to upgrade to larger feeders. Their water appeared to last a couple of days.

We were making progress on the house, painting, scrubbing, gardening. Long days had gone by as we tried to get as many repairs done as possible before the moving truck brought all of our things from our prior home. The days were long but beneficial, as we were seeing our home materialize. Meanwhile, the chickens were settling and doing what chickens do.

But then, after three days had passed since the "escape", a knock came to the door. "Who could it be?" I thought, since we knew very few folks in our new home neighborhood. I answered the door, and found a neighbor I hadn't yet met and her daughter. The neighbor was holding one of my chickens.....the missing one! I couldn't believe it! She introduced herself and said she thought this (the chicken in her hands) might belong to me. Wow! I was floored. I thought for sure that chicken had been eaten by a coyote or some other demise. I never thought I would see it again. But there it was, with a huge bloody wound on the back of the head.

I thanked her as she handed me the bird. She said her daughter had found her and had put her in with their birds.  And, as I learned, she became "hen pecked" due to the other birds not knowing her. They were not welcoming and really would have preferred, I guess, that she was not there. My new neighbor had discovered that we had become new chicken keepers and brought her home.

"Now what?!" I thought, as I carried this bloodied and frightened bird into the house to show my husband and daughter. They did not want any part of this horrible looking creature, and I wasn't sure what to do about her wound. I knew I needed to do something....but what? This was not something I had read about when I was preparing for this new position as a chicken owner.

I put the bird with the others and immediately realized that she was being picked on in my small flock too. How could this be? She is one of their own and was only missing a few days! They all got along so peachy only a few days ago! I had to do some research and found the site where I was able to look up many of possible ailments folks have dealt with and advice about what worked.

Aha! I found out that this poor "hen pecked" chick was going to continue to be beat up on unless I did something to prevent it. I read about something called "Blu Kote" to apply to the wound, and I also read about "bag balm". The bag balm, it was said, tasted bad to the other chickens and would deter continued pecking.  That sounded good! Something had to be done and quick...I was afraid the others were going to be the end of this poor creature.

I bought some "bag balm" and trekked out to the coop to doctor my new charge. The coop, being fairly large, made it difficult to catch any of the birds. I had to block the door after the others got out and then go about trying to catch her. She frightened me a bit when she flapped her wings. But, I knew she was frightened and wouldn't hurt me. I caught her and liberally applied the bag balm to the back of her head. Poor baby! Her wound must have been one and a half inches wide and four inches long going down the back of her neck.

She didn't seem to mind the bag balm, yet was happy to get away from me after I doctored her. She went on her way to go outside. I waited and watched to see how the others would respond. The largest bird would peck at her when she came anywhere near the group.  Then two went after her. As they pecked at her, they got some of the bag balm on their beaks and didn't seem really happy with the result of the goop now on the end of their beak. I watched for awhile and thought I should wait to see what would happen. It was nightfall and the birds were getting ready for bed. Hopefully, all would be well and this bird would heal as good as new.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bringing the first chickens home

The chicken house was clean, had fresh straw, food, water, and fresh paint. We were ready to bring our new additions home! Al and I took her 4Runner (the same vehicle we learned how to bring home straw from the source) and our dog crate and were on our way. The pullets had been caught into a cage by the seller. I really appreciated that so we wouldn't have to chase them through the berry bushes like we did on our first visit.

We moved the chicks from the seller's cage to our dog kennel, thanked him for his trouble and travelled home. Al and I carried the kennel to the fenced run and opened the door for the chickens to make their grand entrance. They ran one by one out of the kennel to the corner of the yard, shielded by the berry bushes on our property. These must have been comforting to them (?)

We didn't know what else to do, so we went about our business and checked on the chickens after about an hour had passed.  A-OK ! How easy this was going to be, I thought and went back to my work in the house.  After another hour, Al and I checked again. This time, something was different. The thin elastic from the center of the bungee that held the gate shut had snapped, and the gate was wide open. Our dogs, Topaz and Maya, were inside the gate and there were only two chickens to be found. Far different from the five we started with.  I could hear the other chickens calling their friends, so I trudged through the overgrown berries that were surrounding our property in search of the missing.

Meanwhile, Al was trying to catch the two that were still in the fenced area. I could hear her squeal whenever the chicken flapped from scare. This was not Al's chosen chore, but she knew the birds were important to me and was trying to help.  She did end up catching the hen and with a scream and a cluck, there were now two safely in the coup.

As Al recuperated from the stressful chase, I continued my hunt. This led me through the yard to the side fence, where I almost caught a chicken. But, just before I did, it found a hole in the fence and had passed into the neighbor's yard.  Now, I had to take a different tactic. It was time to walk up the street, around the yard, notify the neighbors about the missing and try to bring one or more home.  We had two in the coup and three missing.

Cut up from the berry bushes and trudging through the yard, I trekked up the road to notify the neighbors of our missing three. As I reached one neighbor's home, I saw one of our missing running toward their chickens. They saw the chicken and helped me catch it, so now we had three. I took it home and added the hen (?) to the others and continued my search.

By this time, it was almost dark. The only thing that was helping us was the fact that the chickens were all white and could still be seen in the dark a bit better than other breeds. Al had had enough fun and retreated to the house with my husband, Gary. I was on my own in this venture, as the others felt the chickens would find their way home on their own. I felt that I should try my best to find them, especially since it was the very first day of their arrival. No luck, after much searching, and Gary convinced me to give up on the task until daylight.

I went in the house to take a nap and after about an hour, Al ran in and woke me up saying "I hear a chicken screaming!" Oh my gosh! I was thinking as I jumped up and outside, flashlight in hand. And, low and behold, Maya was standing on the deck with one of our chickens right next to her. I guess Maya had been investigating the area and spooked the poor thing out of the vegetation. Now we had four.  Where could the other one be? What a horrible chicken mother I was!

Depressed, exhausted, and incredibly cut up and bleeding from my excursion into the berry bushes, I decided to get some rest and see what the light of day would bring.....with new bungees on the gate, and four out of five chicks put to bed for the night.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Learning how to care for chickens...where do you start?

As soon as I figured out our new home had a "chicken house", I began talking with my friend, Val, about her new flock. She told me that it was very easy to care for them and gave me updates on how things were going (she had started with chicks).  I asked her questions every day...How do you know what to feed them? What kind of home do they live in? What kind of feeder and waterer do you use? Aren't you afraid they'll run away? She saw my interest grow, and on our last day at work together, she gave me a book called "The Joy of Keeping Chickens, the ultimate guide to raising poultry for fun and profit" by Jennifer Magyesi.

I was very excited and couldn't put the book down! It was better reading than a romance novel for me! Now I had to find some chickens....but our house wasn't going to be available for a month or more. What was I going to do? Look for some chickens, of course.  And, when you shall find!  I found the ad for "brahma pullets", which I learned were kind of like preteen chickens....and these had feathered feet! How cute was that?!  It was unknown whether they were male or female, and the seller wanted them all gone. So, I agreed, with the condition that he would keep them until we could get into our home.  "No problem." he told I paid the man, and off we went to get ready to move into our new home.

The month passed, and we still were not in our home. The lady who owned our home had all kinds of troubles, including purchasing a foreclosure with severe plumbing problems. This was delaying her vacating of our home. Meanwhile, we waited. I called the gentleman who was holding my chickens and told him the situation. He was very kind and understanding...and I told him we should be in the house and able to pick them up soon.

The day of Gary and my 5th wedding anniversary, the call came that we would be able to move into our home the next day! As we entered the house, we realized we had more to do before our furniture came than we thought. Wallpaper to remove, rooms to paint, weeds to pull, overgrown plants to cut back, carpet to rip out and put in other flooring, and on and on and on....when will we have the chicken house ready to pick up our new addtions? I wasn't sure but went about buying supplies -- food (pellet or crumble? I was told crumble was better for little chickens so that's what I bought), water dish (metal or plastic, huge or not so huge?), straw (where do I buy that? oh -- look in the paper and drive to a farm to buy it right off the truck!), and clean out that chicken house of the junk that was previously stored there along with the numerous wasp nests and inhabitants! Yuck! I think the inside is ready!

I decided we needed to take a break from working in the house and get the chickens' house painted. I asked my daughter, Al, to help. I told her I needed a big favor...and I knew it was big because she HATES painting.  She agreed and we were ready to get ready for the new babies.  We bought some "oops" paint in several colors and went to work! We painted bright pink on one side, and periwinkle blue on two others. Then we "decorated" with splatter paint in green and blue and finally spray painted peace signs and flowers on all sides. As sometimes happens when people get enthusiastic, we also painted each other quite a bit...but had a blast doing it! Our masterpiece was ready for the new chickens. We would bring them home the next day!

Friday, January 21, 2011

My first post....a little bit of background I am, ready to start my first blog.  And about chickens, no less. Amazing!  Well, it all started with a move from one state to another to find a happier location to live and work. The home we chose happened to have a "chicken house" in the back of the property, though it was very neglected.  It was the summer of last year. My daughter came to stay for the summer to help us spruce things up and move in. This included stripping wallpaper, pulling weeds, scrubbing walls, and a multitude of other chores.

 In the midst of the craziness of moving, we had a delay and needed a place to stay for one month since our old house was ready to be inhabited (and not by us) and the homeowner of our new place was not in any hurry to vacate. As we bided our time in the 1 bdrm place we called home for a month, I cruised craigslist quite often, just because....we had no t.v., Gary and I got tired of staring at each other, and it was always interesting to see what people had for sale. Besides, we would probably need things in the garden type area when we DID get to move it to our home.

One fine day of cruising on craigslist led to an email to a posting on "chickens for sale".  From there, we made a visit to the home and subsequently plopped down a twenty-dollar bill to purchase 5 chickens.  Were any of them roosters? I had been told roosters were not necessary for eggs but couldn't tell at 6 weeks which were which. The gentleman selling the chickens said for us to take all 5 or none at we took the five. 

They were so cute! All white with black necklaces and furry feet! What could be better than some new chickens!

chicken house1

chicken house1
Our masterpiece ready for the chickens