Life with chickens
After three years of owning chickens I’d love to say they’re an easy way to keep us in eggs. While not totally the case I’d still recommend them. The initial months are spent nervously hovering and checking on them and egg production isn’t consistent but they’re pretty easy to keep really and good fun.
We got three chooks in 2014 and thought we had everything sorted prior to their arrival but had to get our neighbour to help clip their wings when they flew out of their run the minute we got them (first we had to catch them!). Our home made chicken coop took four men to lift into place but a storm lifted it, chickens and all, over the fence in the middle of the night soon after we had them. We raced out and managed to get them into the house for the rest of the night, still not knowing how to deal with these things. They were going through the usual stage of working out their pecking order prior to this but the next day all three sat together in their run as friends – well, survivors maybe.
Three years on we’ve gained two and lost one so we now have a small flock of four chickens. If they’re all laying four is a good number for the two of us. Here’s a round up of the flock.
Initially we got two Plymouth Rocks and a Wyandotte. The Plymouth Rocks were supposedly 18 months old and going through a moult when we got them but I’ve no idea if they were really that old. They were good layers from the time we got them but had quite bad scaley legs we treated for mites several times. They weren’t friendly at all and it’s taken a long time to get them to hand feed and be able to handle them – probably due to their upbringing rather than the breed. We called them Janis (a rocker) and Dot (Dorothy – survivor of being thrown up in the air). In the middle of last year after months and months of her not laying and also being an absolute bully we despatched Dot. We had two more small chickens by this point and all five had stopped laying for some time. A few days later the four remaining laid again. Bizarre. Was it the removal of the bully or the threat of what might happen to them?
Butter Chicken – we got this Wyandotte when she was about to start laying and apart from an earlier broody episode she has been a great chook. She is super friendly and lays well. She loved to sit on hubby’s knee when feeding in the early days and will randomly fly up onto my shoulder when I go to feed them. (I haven’t clipped the big girls wings for years and this proves she can fly high enough to get over the fence if she wanted to. Fortunately she chooses not to).
Pebbles – we’re not sure what kind of chook she is – she lays blue eggs so has some Araucana in her. Friends found her in ‘the city’ and couldn’t find the owner so she home stayed here. I’ve posted earlier about her friendship with Chino which continues. She’s spent the last few months getting out of the run in order to come and hang out at the house with us and Chino. In theory I don’t mind the chooks being out but they scratch up the mulch in the garden and any new seedlings get destroyed. She also poops around the house and Chino is such a softie I had to stand guard when feeding him to stop her stealing his dinner. Ridiculous. I finally worked out she was getting out under the gate so I think I’ve put a stop to that. She hasn’t gone broody at all and lays really well so I can tolerate this friendliness.
Annie. In January 2016 we got another Araucana cross pullet from our neighbour to keep Pebbles company as she got bullied by the big chooks initially. (Obviously we needn’t have bothered as Pebbles prefers to hang out with the non-chickens anyway). Annie started laying in May but went broody around June and this continued on and off until February this year. I’m not sure if she laid anything in that time and we spent many hours trying to stop her going broody. In February after putting her in the broody cage again for several days (and nights) she finally snapped out of it. And then went straight into a moult, so technically she probably didn’t stop being broody, she just started moulting. Although maybe it was hubby declaring – ‘this has gone on enough! She’s for it” that did it. The fact that she went straight into moulting wasn’t endearing me to her but she’s started laying! I wasn’t sure initially (three of them lay brown eggs so it’s hard to know who lays what) but today we’ve had four eggs from four chickens. Yah!! Despite her raggedy appearance she’s trying her best. After months of me picking her up and throwing her out of the nest and putting her in the broody cage she is actually very friendly now. Unfortunately she’s not bonded with the other girls during all this time apart, they pick on her and she spends alot of time on her own. The upside is that she goes off foraging and doesn’t wait around to be fed like the other (lazy) three do. I’m thinking she could be a keeper after all.