grandson helping wake up the chicks

grandson helping wake up the chicks

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken Politics

Now that we had figured out the problem to the egg laying (too many cocks in the house, for real), and eliminated the extra roosters, things were moving along nicely. Joan Rivers and Betty White were each giving us an egg every one or two days. And, we decided to name our rooster following a friend's suggestion. He was quite a lady's man, of sorts, so we'd call him Bill as in Bill Clinton. Or, "Dollar Bill" as Gary likes to refer to him.

I was checking on the new hens quite regularly (at least twice a day) and realized that the new hens were being harassed: not by the rooster this time, but by Joan Rivers and Betty White! I guess they really wanted to let the new girls know who was boss...and they were doing a very good job.

Our new hens: Lucy, Ethel, and Cher were very hesitant to come out of the hen house. When they would come out, Cher (the barred rock) made herself at home with both groups of hens. That was amazing. It seemed like Dollar Bill had taken quite a liking to her, and would often dance for her to try to get her attention. She really wasn't interested, and would squawk at him and go on her way. He was persistent, though, and eventually won her over.

On the flip side, Lucy (the smallest hen of the group) and Ethel, had not quite found their niche. They would both hang out together and cautiously make their way out if they saw that I had brought a treat. As they ventured out, the other hens (Betty White, especially) went after the new girls and pulled at their feathers to shoo them away. It worked! And, it really infuriated me even though I knew they were doing what nature told them to, and were establishing a "pecking order".

During the following weekend, I decided to try to coax the new girls out and intervene in this natural process, to ensure the stress-free environment for them. So, I got up early and trekked out to the hen house to check out the happenings. I found Dollar Bill, Joan and Betty out in the fenced run but no sign of the new girls.

As I entered the hen house, I saw Lucy, Ethel, and Cher on the floor of the hen house eating and drinking. Were they afraid to eat and drink when the old birds were there? It sure seemed that way. What was I going to do?

I spent a couple of hours out watching the birds and trying to observe the nuances of their interactions. Then I went inside and did some other chores, and checked in again every few hoursl Low and behold, I realized I really didn't have time to spend all day outside watching the birds and babysitting them to be sure they behaved themselves.

So, ultimately, I put vitamins in the water, gave them treats in separate areas and let Bill, Joan, and Betty out of the penned area for periods of time each day to give the new girls some stress-free time to graze.  Enough of the chicken politics....I had to move on and hope they'd all find their place. And, guess what? They did.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The coming of "D Day"

A couple of weeks went by, and still no eggs. My friends were telling me it just wasn't a good idea to have three roosters and they may even fight, injure, or kill each other. Wow! I hadn't signed up for that! So...I had to do some thinking about this.

Meanwhile, Gary asked the neighbors if they wanted a chicken dinner....and they came over with a cat carrier to catch one of the roosters. I wasn't sure about this but knew it needed to be done, so I helped them catch one...he was the biggest (as big as a small turkey). And, they took him away. They said they would do the deed when I was at work and invite me to dinner. I declined the dinner invitation but was glad they were considerate of the fact that I was not too keen on my chicken being someone's dinner.  So, now we had two roosters and two hens...what would happen now.

Days passed....still no eggs. I decided that maybe my girls needed a "mentor" to teach them the ropes, so I started looking for a couple of 1-2 year old hens to "teach" them. I found a gal about one hour away that was thinning her brood so that she and her husband could get away sometimes. This sounded like the perfect match so Gary and I loaded up the dog kennel and off we went to check out these girls.

We really liked the birds; one americauna, one mixed breed (small), and one barred rock that was very feisty. We brought them home and merged the birds. Immediately, both roosters cornered each hen and mated with them, then let them be. The new birds appeared to be stressed by all this "attention" so I stayed out and watched for awhile. The action continued and the new girls headed in the hen house for some quiet.  They seemed okay in there so I let them be for the night.

The next day, I went out and found that the new hens would not come out of the house, and only our original four Brahmas were free ranging out in the yard. No matter how I tried to coax the new ones, they declined the offer and would run back inside.  Hmmm...what to do? I decided to let them be for a second day, as they were getting down to the ground to feed and get water...just not going outside.

The third day, I went out and picked up each bird to take her outside. And this time, both roosters started to gang up on them again. That really annoyed me! I ran after the roosters until I caught one and hollered for the neighbors to come get him. I told them I was "over it" and he needed to go. They were glad I figured it out and were happy to get the beautiful bird.

After that, we now only had one rooster and five hens (between our original two brahmas and the three additions).  I was eager to see what would happen next. They seemed to get along okay, with the normal pecking to find order. Would we get any eggs now?

Yes, a day later, low and behold...our first egg was laid. And, not by the "mentors"....oh no. It was given by one of our Brahmas; Joan River's sister, who we decided to call "Betty White".  Now, that's exciting! We were on our way!

And, I think I'll ask my hubby to build a bigger nesting looks like our hen is a little on the cramped side in that box.

chicken house1

chicken house1
Our masterpiece ready for the chickens