She’s been hopping around with surprising vigor this summer, but I guess it was her time. Yesterday I found her face down in the grass against the greenhouse and I thought she was dead then.
I picked her up gently and her head popped up with the usual indignation Hey, what’s a chicken gotta do to get a nap around here? so I set her down again nearer the flock, but that was it.
She made a rapid transition. Often hens linger for a few days, standing around in a kind of half-asleep state before they go. I always wonder if they’re in pain when they go like that, but they seem to just slip away, from dozing to tucking their head under a wing for the last time.
I was working in the greenhouse and a hen started making a big commotion BaBWOCK! BaBWOCK!! (etc-)
I looked out just in time to see a red hen (chicken) on the perch of the high rise guinea house, just before she took off. She was most likely shrieking about her imminent long flight, like she was on the high dive board.
I turned back to work, and then it occurred to me – What was she doing up there? Could she be laying eggs in the guinea house?!
I got a step ladder, climbed up to see, and sure enough, she WAS laying in the guinea house. For a few days. Well THAT helps explain the loss in egg production I was troubled by.
But hark. She´s not the only one laying in there! There are lovely pale brown pointy guinea eggs in there too! What a sweet little nest.
Cool. Guinea eggs! She´s not laying in the woods after all.
Nice to know at least the guinea hen knows how to go inside her coop, even if she does sleep outside no matter the weather.
I have a long-running ad on Kijiji to divest of Silkie roosters, rather than axe them, and sometimes I sell hens and eggs. Keeping the flock manageable.
I think it´s simply hilarious to put them in EGGS boxes. No one else thinks it’s quite so funny. “It’s like the chicken and the eggs…which came first? The eggs are going to come out of the box, but not right away?… Oh never mind”. Also it´s like the Boxtrolls.
Anyway, two hens went for a long drive (they made hardly a peep), and got a major lifestyle upgrade. I got a text late in the day reporting that the hens had loved every minute of a shampoo and warm blowdry (I bet they did. I bet they’re simply gawgeous. ), and they also enjoy being held and petted. We’re not on the farm any more, Dorothy. They’re probably hoping I forget to pick them up from this spa weekend. It´s the bouff I´ve always dreamed of! I’ve always wanted a good blowout. I can´t even imagine how fluffy they got.
I did choose two of the shyest, most anxious and retiring chickens, because I had a feeling they were going somewhere to be pets, and they could appreciate the lifestyle upgrade. I didn’t know it was going to be a spa package upgrade.
Coming soon to a neighbourhood near you: purse chickens.
I have a handicapped chicken. I’ve no idea what’s wrong with her, but her right leg doesn’t support her weight. She hops and tries to step on her right leg but it collapses under her. I’ve grabbed her for inspection, and she happily hangs out in the football hold while I inspect her leg. I’ve gone all over her foot for slivers, and massaged all up her leg, but she doesn’t ever flinch, just sternly watches me palpating her stuck-out leg.
The first couple days she stayed in or right next to the coop, and then she roamed a little farther, but not all the way to our house like the flock goes every day. She seems to not want to get too far from the coop. I’ve had to put bowls of water in the woods in her range. It’s tricky to leave food out where she will find it before all the other chickens do.
She doesn’t seem to be in any pain, but she’s obviously limited and subdued. She’s got that injured animal wariness, hiding herself in the brush. It’s a mystery what is going on for her if there’s nothing she winces at, but she can’t walk on it.
I had another chicken die. No known cause, but she was an old chicken, one of the original set. I was getting eggs out of the coop and she was in there, and she didn’t skedaddle indignantly like they usually do. I moved her aside, and she settled down like she was going to rest a bit more.
I checked on her a little later and she was still there. I stroked her head and back (a dead giveaway that she wasn’t feeling well). Her upside down lids closed and she fell asleep while I pet her.
I checked on her in an hour and she had tucked her head under her wing and died:(
On the way to the greenhouse in the morning, to let the hens out of the coop, I was surprised to find one lone, chilly chicken outside already.
What the heck? Obviously she roosted in the pine tree for the night, and it seems a rabbit came by as well. It’s just strange that she chose to leave the greenhouse at all yesterday, let alone not return to the coop.
The greenhouse was open a few hours in the afternoon, and other than a quick novelty excursion to eat some snow, now that there’s a snow pack the birds generally choose to stay in the warmer greenhouse all on their own.
Except for this one.
She wasn’t sorry to stay under the tree, either, making no moves to go back to the greenhouse even after her sisters started up the food noises. With the “help” of the dog, and cutting well cut up by the brambles around the tree, I caught her, stuck her in my coat, and repatriated her.
ONLY move the chicken coop when the birds are in it. If they don’t wake up in it, then they don’t know where it is. Is magic! No coop!
I went out to close the coop last night. We moved it midday and the birds were happily milling around and under it all afternoon.
But in the evening, I went out to close them in, and what do I find?
Every single bird standing around in a confused cluster where the coop HAD BEEN. When I arrived, they were quick to tell me all about it, too.
You’ll never believe it! Our house is gone! Is mystery! Just gone! We found our way back here, like good chickens, even though there was this fence in the way, but there’s no house anymore! Is disappeared! We are very confused.
First of all, they had to make an effort to escape to the former location of the coop. It probably involved climbing up on the coop in order to fly over the fence. I was kind of impressed that every single bird was out.
Second, the coop is in plain sight, no obstructions (except the fence they crossed on the way out), about fifteen feet away.
I knocked down the fence, crouched down, and tried to slowly herd them towards the coop. Surely they would go Oh, there it is, and go in.
They ran around me and returned to the vacant spot. They were starting to slump down into chicken rest, too, getting dopey.
I opened the feed bucket by the coop. They came running to the sound, but then seemed to forget why they were there and drifted back to the missing coop. Sleeeepyyyy. No coop. Doesn’t matter….
I started scooping up chickens and stuffing them onto the top of their ramp. Now the chickens got agitated and started scattering and hiding in the brush. One of the chickens ran back out of the coop to rejoin the flock. The rooster attacked me for the first time ever; I must have grabbed one of his favorites. I’m glad he has it in him, but it was a shock (just scratches).
H.W. is all business about chicken snatching and rapidly got the remaining birds stuffed into the coop. Oh, here it is!! Even the rooster; not so tough once you grab him.
Beak count, and…one missing. Of course. Now it’s totally dark. I kept hunting, getting chowed on by mosquitoes. Eventually I found her, and the chicken catastrophe came to a close.
Since the tragic loss of the exceptional and beloved pet chicken Friendly last fall (I’m still sad), all the other chickens, indistinguishable in looks and behavior, have been just Chicken. Even Naked, once her proud new plumage got a bit dingy, disappeared into the flock.
Now that the hens have been released, there’s one chicken distinguishing herself.
Typically there are three hens that stick very close to the rooster. His girlfriends. They cuddle with him at night while the other four perch over the nest boxes. When he food clucks, the girlfriends dash up to him (as HW says, “Whatcha got, big Daddy?”), and the other hens barely glance up, rolling their eyes, “It’s probably just a stick again”.
After finishing last night’s new chicken installation in the wee hours, stumbling tired and bitten all over, the crowing came awfully early. Uhoh. I was afraid of the duelling banjos effect.
I let the little chickens out for the day and the rooster (I’ll have to call him his name, Snowball, now that there are three cocks around) was quite worked up, puffing and kicking and strutting, trying to crane over the field to see the source of the new crower on the block. There were a few little anxiety noises out of the coop- things must be a bit unfamiliar in there, but the coop switch seems to have gone off ok. It’s going back in at night that will really tell: the ramp is a lower slope, and mirror image – do these things perturb birds? They’ll have to turn left at the top now instead of right…are they ambi-turners? I didn’t put any mesh around the bottom of the new coop- it’s superfluous except for confining them in, which we haven’t done since the first week.
For a few loud hours the cocks just went at it, back and forth. The (full-size, conventional, red?) new rooster has a kind of strangled, uncertain crow. Like he’s not used to it. I suspect that means he was a subordinate rooster. That’s nice; low roosters are quieter and often quite gentle and mellow after being promoted. Also, I thought the Silkies were quiet, but standing right next to the new cock, Snowball is louder, from across the field, which is something. Unless he was really putting it on today.
They worked it out (finally, blessed silence). Sounds to me like Snowball won the yelling match.
Zombie tired, I went to put the hardware cloth back on the base of the big coop to let the big birds out. Today they must be confined, to learn that they live here now. Maybe I’ll let them loose as soon as tomorrow. Through the porthole, I could see three still perching and four walking around inside, and eating. I tacked all the mesh on and dropped the ramp. By the time I put the stapler away, there were three hens and a pair of feet down the ramp! Very impressive. But then, these are intrepid free-range chickens already, used to a big world of independence. How long did that small step for chickenkind take for the purse chickens? Which, by the way, I think would be hilarious, to go around with one of these chickens in a bejeweled purse. Too bad I’m not really into the right sort of purse, and I don’t think any of these hens would be into the purse either. It would be a great bit of performance art or social experiment though. I wonder how many people would even notice the beak. It’s kind of subtle in all that fur. H.W. regularly describes them: “Just picture a Shitzu. With a beak.”
These girls miss no beats! The box on the end is the most popular; I’d pick that one too. The Silkies never went in that one. The (new) rooster appears to have not gone downstairs yet, and he gets very upset when I open the lid. Hens are all relaxed and unruffled when I approach, or open lid, or talk to them. That’s nice; better for my self-esteem.
The roosters talked to each other a couple of times during the day. The new rooster seems to be getting his voice sorted out; he doesn’t always say the same thing. I thought the tone of the afternoon exchanges was different than the morning’s rap battle; more casual, conversational. I’m a rooster! I’m a rooster too! I hear you over there, we’re roosters! Yeah, roosters! Uh… yeah, roosters! Roosters! Ok, nothing more to say!
The teacup chickens not only found their way up the ramp to roost in the afternoon, but when I merely opened the peephole they took off down the ramp immediately. Oh. Busted. We were just leaving! They were outside for their longest day since the first week, still out and about when I went for the first time to stow them, then put themselves to bed nice and proper, in late evening. Yay! Effortless coop swap. The first time anything’s been effortless with them. They seem to like it better too – at least, they jump off the perches now without a second thought. It used to take minutes, hours worth of thoughts, sometimes.
I was a bit too optimistic about the new chickens finding their way up the ramp they found their way down so easily. I checked on them about five times, “What? Still up?”, and left them to it in case they were used to staying up late, until it was really, imminently getting dark, and they were obviously getting dopey and sleepy. Time for the stick. They reacted totally differently to the stick than the Silkies, looking offended by it, pecking back at it. Fuck you, stick. One hen went up the ramp and thump, I heard her jump to the perch. The rest, arrrgh. Maddening. They clustered, jamming themselves in a corner, backs to the ramp. I blocked off the bottom of the ramp and then ensued a long, frustrating period of poking them towards the ramp. They’d go right to the top and then when there was only barely enough room to poke their heads back down, they’d turn around or squeeze out and jump off the side. It was like they didn’t think there was anything in the dark space at the top of the ramp, but when they got their head up there, you could see the sudden relaxation, in their feet. Ohhh, this is exactly where I want to be. Then the going to bed was an inevitability. Thump. A couple more went up without too much trouble, thump thump, and at the last there were two stubborn ones and a big galoot of a rooster. My patience drained in inverse proportion to the number of mousquito bites I sustained. There was cursing. Over and over the hens would run to the rooster, who wouldn’t go near the ramp. Finally I got those two hens up. Just the naughty rooster left, making me crazy. He was spazzing out, and when I finally shoved him indelicately up the ramp, he went sideways with his head down, squalling about it. It was like he perceived an overhead hazard, until his head got up there high enough, and just like the hens, Oh. I see. I don’t think they got too distressed (enough to matter to eggs), on the whole. Not as distressed as I did (dozens of bites). They were already getting sleepy when the fiasco started, and as soon as they were up they were cashed out. The rooster was the only one who got fairly worked up, enough to squawk about it.
Well, too bad. They aren’t allowed out until they can find their way up to bed at night.
A four-egg first day: WOW. I’m very excited for when H.W. rolls up and proper chickens have materialized! “Whaattt? Eggs!?”
Is this a case of if you build it they will come? Or ask and you shall receive?
On my way home from a long Thursday of internetting and errands, I stopped in on a lady I’d bought excellent eggs from before. I’d left a note on her door earlier in the day, saying I wouldn’t knock late at night, but I’d stop to look for eggs left by the door. The last time we’d spoke she’d expressed the intention to downsize her flock in the fall, and we were obviously hoping to take some of her healthy, happy, friendly free-range birds off her hands when the time came.
No eggs at the door, but I dawdled in the driveway because I could see her tv on, and yes, she saw me and hollered out the door. No eggs today. She’s letting her birds go now though, she’s got them on Kijiji (!). I’ll come tomorrow! Tomorrow won’t work. Saturday not great…nothing working, because the best time to catch them is at night. I seized the evening.
“What about right now?”
“Well sure!” she says, “I’d be glad to reduce the flock right this minute. I’ll get some bug spray on. What’ve you got to put them in?”
Good question. It just so happened I bought a 75 gallon rubber waterer (stock tank) this very day. And I’d done laundry, so I had a sheet I could throw over them.
We picked out birds in the barn and shuttled them into the tub in the back of the truck one at a time. I stroked their necks as I walked with them and they made quizzical noises. It’s a difficult thing, choosing birds out of a big flock. In five minutes or less, you are Fate, completely changing the course of their lives, and choosing their new social network for them. Such an arbitrary thing. Will the ones you don’t choose die miserable in an overcrowded cage elsewhere? Are you picking out two sworn enemies and forcing them to be irritated together for the rest of their lives? I took the probable best girlfriend of the rooster that came with me, who was perched next to him, a couple more from that lineup, and then a couple of outliers. She choose a couple as well. She also stopped me from taking one I said I liked. “Oh you don’t want Henrietta. She’s a real hag!” Close one. We plopped them into the tub and they squawked and flapped minimally. Only one attempted escape.
Oh, and then she mildly resisted taking any money for them! I forced $20 on her, a bargain.
The birds snoozed on the way home while I was consumed by one big question. How am I going to move that coop alone?
H.W. was gone on a 3-4 day bike tour around the southwestern third of the province’s coast. Just before he left, we moved the just-finished mini coop to the treeline and set it right next to the original coop. I hadn’t even thought about how to transfer the little chickens into the new coop, but it wasn’t an urgent matter. However, with a half dozen full-sized cluckers aboard, it was suddenly very urgent. There was no way I could deposit new birds immediately next door to the tiny Silkies. Even if I kept either group confined, it would be incredibly stressful. I had to transfer the Silkies into the mini coop, and then I had to move the big coop as far away from the Silkies as was reasonable. At least across the field. That heavy coop was made to carry like a litter with two people – and not easily at that. In light of the poser of how to accomplish moving that behemoth alone, transferring the little hens seemed hardly an issue.
And it wasn’t. I got home and prepared the mini coop with fresh green bedding and stocked it with their familiar feeders. I opened both coops and with a red headlamp on, plucked each bird off the roost and gently placed it onto the roosting branch in the other coop, starting with the cocks. Protest was pretty minimal. It’s nice to touch them. They look so irresistibly touchable, and indeed, they feel as soft as they look. When fully conscious though, they want no part of being touched. One rooster fell or jumped off, but the others stayed where I put them. I budged them closer to each other for warmth and they shuffled together on their perch. Done.
Now for the hard part. Vaguely hoping I could do something with the garden cart, I got the cart (full of firewood, other side of woods) and pulled up to the big coop. Phew, the cart was taller than the legs of the coop. I figured if I could get the cart under the coop I could probably get it across the field. It worked. The worst part was the landing leg of the cart, which bound up constantly on grass. If I lifted it high enough to snag the grass less, I lost the coop off the back. Not gonna lie, it was one hell of a wrestle, a few feet at a time, by headlamp, all the while attacked by mousquitoes. It’s just not right that they can bite through denim. I was dripping with sweat and stumbling by the time I got the coop set by the apple trees. This is well after midnight by now. Definitely time to actualize idea of putting an axle and wheels on “just in case” one of us ever has to move it alone. However, the trip across the field was ultimately faster and easier than I expected. Yay. The coyotes were fulsome in ominous song, and the moon full. Fruition. (Finally, respectable chickens on the farm).
After that, carrying the tub full of birds up the driveway was child’s play, with only a couple of rest stops; very grateful though that I got the 75 gallon, not the 100. Driving home I wasn’t even sure how many birds I had. The number of trips barn to truck was unclear now. Was it a half dozen birds? Or six hens plus the rooster? I peeked in on them squatting and dozing in the tub: seven heads!
After a bit of rest to settle from the jostling they got on the walk up, I put them in the coop, placing each one on the roost. These are robust birds. They’re plump, and heavy, and hot with feathery chicken warmth, and you can feel the strength in their muscles. They seem HUGE after handling the Silkies. Like housecats compared to gerbils. Not petite housecats, either. The cock is a magnificent showy rooster, with a long tail. They fit perfectly in the coop, exactly like I imagined. I think it can hold some more still, more than comfortably. They stayed where I put them, barely even noticing the transfer, I think. What must that be like? Go to sleep, wake up in an entirely new environment?