Our family just keeps getting bigger! Joette and I shared a laugh about having a family portrait done with all the family, that would include dogs, cat, and chickens. We laughed but in the back of my mind I was setting it up. There is now a baker’s dozen here on the Singh backyard farm.
We picked up our girls from Animal Place yesterday and I was told they may take some time to get used to us as they were factory farm chickens. I imagined them to be weird and skittish. Part of their upper beaks has been cut off so they don’t peck each other when bound in unnatural conditions…such as factory farming where they are kept packed in a dark and unnaturally lit barn laying eggs all day and night. They go crazy as any hen would not being able to move and having 700 other hens packed in a tight space with her, not to mention the fluorescent lights 24 hours a day and no rest.
So, I assumed my hens would have some PTSD. They are actually very mellow. They didn’t complain when packed in a crate and put in the back of our truck. They didn’t complain on the long drive home, one of them even laid an egg in the crate on the drive from Grass Valley. They took to their coop and yard quickly, ate heartily and went about exploring and scratching. They have a very long run the length of the side of our house. Last night they put themselves to bed and, although we installed two perches, three of them crowded together in one laying box.
This morning they all slept in. They are good and sweet hens and don’t seem bothered at all when we go in the coop. They didn’t even blink a chicken eye at the dogs. They were not happy about the cat. Maggie was bored with them immediately as I know she would be. She lay by their coop and looked sleepy and disinterested and the hens complained the whole time until I brought her in. The neighbor’s cat may be an issue. Spirit has been on the fence looking at them hungrily all morning until I turned the hose on her. She is a tiny cat and I’ve been reassured that chickens will give a cat a run for her money. I’d rather not find out.
I’ve spent the morning looking up hen facts, chicken poop and all it’s forms and colors online, pecking orders and other social facts about how to keep the chickens happy and healthy.
I’m a bit nervous. It seems that these hens will be fairly easy and content being that they have gone from factory cages to a luxury yellow cottage and a big yard, however, chickens are extremely bright, get bored easily, and will give each other a hard time if one gets sick or injured. They may have to establish a pecking order as I witnessed a bit of it this morning. They have a new life and new home and the girls will have to figure out who is going to be the queen. I have never been great at dealing with large groups of people and chickens are going to keep me busy.
I have also realized that we are not going to be traveling anytime soon. Dogs, cat, chickens, gardens…Lordy lord. I’ve really grounded us here. Thank goodness I love being home.
My poor hens are scraggly and dirty. I’m sure after a few months they will look very different. I feed them crumble because they can’t eat pellets with their beakless beaks. I have some calcium and a tiny bit of grit I throw out there. Scraps are great for the chickens and one homesteading book and a few blogs have suggested having a compost in the chicken run. Chickens can eat almost anything but there is a list of NO NO’s. Here is a great chicken farming blog with what to feed and not feed the birds along with all the other chicken questions a nervous nelly like myself may have:
Some more fun chicken farming sites:
My hens are in the coop right now making a fuss. They all go in together and make plenty of commotion and then they all come out together. No egg. You would think, with all the noise, someone was giving birth in that coop.
We have some hot days ahead. Leghorns do well in the heat (those are my hens) and some tips are to have shade available, plenty of water, big pieces of watermelon not cut up just cut in half so they can really have fun with it, and frozen blocks of veggies or ice cubes.
Mother hen, signing off.