The Chicken Page

Editor's Note: this diary will be presented in chronological order.

(The more I add to this page, the more at risk it is for blogger to put extra spaces in! I can't seem to overcome that issue, so for the very latest, head over to Vandy's View page.)

Instead of boring friends and relatives with long personal emails involving lots of chicken photos, the Editor thought she would bore the general public by posting all about The Pleasant Times' Chicks here on their own page. Here is where you will find photos and the day to day ins and outs of the great chicken adventure.

June 8 , 2011
I am going to go shopping and bring home 6 chicks, hopefully. That will keep me busy for a few hours!

Chicks at last! There were two bins at the store; I chose 3 from the Ameraucana bin, and 1 of each color from the other bin, which had three labels: Welsummer, Blue Andalusian, and Rhode Island Red. I know nothing about these breeds, except that the Ameraucanas lay green and pink eggs.

They were in the bathroom, the only draft-less place we could find, under  an office lamp, and next to the heater. But it wasn't warm enough. I had to go back into town and get a real heat lamp for them(we have some in storage but no one seemed to want to go and find them!). Now they are on top of the dryer. We are trying to keep it 90-95 F. 

Meet the chicks. They are two days old. All six of them are providing a lot of interest here at The Pleasant Times!
There are 3 Ameraucanas (they lay the green eggs), one Rhode Island Red, one Blue Andalusian, and one Welsummer that is supposed to lay a very dark brown egg.
But, oh, my, what an unfortunate choice of a box to keep them in! Truly, we got the chickens for eggs, not for bakin' !
Posted by Picasa
I managed to spill all their water in that box just after I posted, so now they are in a plastic tote box. 

The little fuzzy balls are chicks that are all hunkered down for the night. They resisted sleep most of the day, but at last they all cuddled up and succumbed to it. They were so funny, just like people, for they would start to droop, and then jerk themselves awake with a start. Then their little heads would droop again, and their beaks would hit the hay. Sometimes one would get the idea that she'd rather be in the middle, and step on all the others and wake them up!

But oh, the poor little things need a mama hen, don't you think? It is good they have each other to cuddle with; and even though they were raised in an incubator, they probably have an instinct (just as they do for food, water and scratching) to go and get under mama hen's wing.
Posted by Picasa

June 13, 2011
I am going to find out a way to raise the heat lamp on the chicks. They are a week old today.

 I gave them a bigger, deeper box today and boy do they spread their wings and make great leaps in it! I moved the box as well so the lamp is further from it. 
(Hey, what's the temperature?)

The chicks are so cute-- great for lowering blood pressure! Just watching their little heads droop as the drop off to sleep, and their beaks "hit the hay" sends oodles of tickly "cute" feelings all over!

June 14th, 2011
The chicks are still a bit skittish this morning of us adjusting things in their new home. They have fine wing feathers coming out. We have a dutch chicken, & a S. American set! I looked them all up online.

here is the new set up. The only way I can get the photos clear with that red light is to turn the photo sepia.

June 26, 2011
If it is hot enough this afternoon I'll transport the chicks out of doors to get some real sunshine:)

June 28, 2011
Hopefully the chicks will be OUT of the laundry room and into a coop soon! So far, the lumber pile has been disassembled and counted. I guess that is step one.

July 26, 2011 Trouble.

I'm seeing grey feathers about. I suspect some bullying going on. I finally caught Nellie and Ruby attacking Vandy. 

No, Nellie was not named after Nellie Olson-- but I've often thought it was appropriate. Maybe I'm too judgemental on the hen but I have long thought that she just looked mean! She was a cute chick and rather mild back then, but since she's gotten her feathers, she's wanted to be the top hen. Ruby tried to be the top hen as a chick, but a red light cured that; however I think she still has it in her. She didn't seem as bad as Nellie--I'm going to watch her today.


I've put Nellie in jail. Right next to the chicken run, so she can see the others and think about her crimes. 

Maybe it is because they are not getting enough to eat, and it makes them pick on each other. They always seem to be asking for more food. Seems like we go and give them their food/scratch several times a day now and they gobble it up. They have left some today that they seem uninterested in, though. 

 It's hard to get good photos through chicken wire.
 Goldie, our prettiest chicken.

 They love melon rinds:)

Other than that, I think it is just the pecking order playing out. I don't think it is a space problem--they have about a square yard per chicken in that hoop we made them, seems like that would be room enough. Nellie and Ruby have this thing about who can stand on top of waterer--- if Vandy gets up there they get so upset! But so far I haven't seen any on the waterer today.

July 27th, 2011 Nellie is still in jail-- I'll let her loose in the straw coop tonight I think and see if she pecks Vandy to death.

July 27th, 11ish PM  It's late at night and I'm so confused!
I've been on the internet researching chicks for a couple hours. I had a little brown chick. But now she's got white feathers coming in. And then she may not be a she after all, and she has green legs, which means that she isn't a welsummer, and I told everyone it was a her and it was a welsummer--not that I care if it is or not but you know I had to open my mouth in public and announce it-- and I think the feed store had her in the wrong bin.
so pflt.
SO-- there are several varieties of chickens that look like chipmunks as chicks.
The "easter eggers" or americaunas have GREEN feet.
The "welsummers" have yellow feet.
There is a "sussex" hen that is white that has yellow feet. Do I have one of those?
We have SOME green egg layers at least!
And you know what else??? I still have the reciept for the chicks. The feed store charged me $3.50 for a "Welsummer" and $2.75 for each Ameraucana. I was over charged!

July 28th, 2011
It's confirmed.
It's a boy.
The farmer down the road came and  looked at Nellie today and said "oh, that's an Ameraucana!" And then she said yes, it looks like we have a rooster.
I want it to be a NICE rooster.
As long as it's a nice rooster I don't mind him around.
But if he gets mean, I'll give him away to be eaten.
So we'll see what happens.

She said people mix up the chicks at the feed store by picking them up and putting them back in the wrong place. Also she said that the color of the chick being different from the other Ameraucanas could have been an indication of it being a rooster. It never occurred to me to look up the chicks online, after all I had them already and what did I care what they looked like officially when I could see them in person? I only looked at the all-grown-up breed pictures, to see what they would look like later. I finally did look the chick pics up last night and found that welsummer chicks do NOT look like Nellie did as a chick.
No big deal. The rooster is a big deal but we'll deal with it!

The new name for Nellie is Nelson. 

July 29th, 2011

So far, the Rhode Island Red has stayed what she is, and so has the Blue Andelusian. 

But the rest are all Ameraucanas. 

and hopefully, no more roosters!

There was a scary looking dog out back today. 
All friends now?

 Vandy is never camera shy.

August 1st, 2011
The dogs were not here this morning, that I saw. There have been 2 around the straw coop lately. 
I have been asking Annabelle for advice and she was kind enough to patiently provide me with tons of answers.

August 2nd, 2011

Ruffles and the Peacock, our next-door neighbors, were here this morning.

Today I saw the chicks do something I have noticed them slightly doing before-- freezing. Early on when they saw a shadow go overhead, they froze in place, until it was gone, but usually only a few seconds. Today, though, I am not sure what it was that called them to attention--maybe the loud truck that went by or else something I was unaware of-- but they stood still with their necks stretched up for a long, long time. And one hen softly trilled, as if to say, "quiet--quiet now" to the others.

Sometimes I wonder if they do things like that to unnerve me.

They did not like the celery I tried to feed them today.

Tonight we let the chicks free-range. It was neat to see them eventually go home to roost by themselves--four needed a little help but they had the general idea:) We let the dog loose under very strict watch to train her not to chase the chicks-- she was very good and sat still while they flew about.

August 4th, 2011
Coop is nearly done. 
It occurred to me this morning that we may have a Welsummer after all. I think the one I thought was an Ameraucana that has yellow legs, may be a Welsummer. Maybe I didn't pay an extra .75 for nothing! 
I'll have to wait until she grows up to tell for sure. The comb apparently will be a giveaway. 
On the other hand, it may just be one of those mongrel "Easter Eggers."
On the other other hand, maybe it doesn't matter in the least what the chicken breed is, as long as it lays eggs. 
(the one on the left may be a Welsummer?)

Afternoon-- the chickens like tomatoes.

I let the chicks free range this evening. 

Then as it got dark, they made their way pecking at the ground to their straw bale coop. Nelson looked in first, as if to say to the ladies- "now you let me go in and check it out for spiders"-but instead of going in as he did the other night, he backtracked and looked confused. They all hung around the entrance and stretched their necks to look in-- finally one came over to me, and I wondered if she was asking me to help them get to bed. So I shooed them all in and shut the door (Vandy, of course, flew on the roof and had to be put in by hand, the little escape artist). 
(She isn't very pretty, but she's spunky.)

August 22, 2011

The routine the past few weeks has been, I work from chickens up to chickens down. All evening events are on hold until the chickens go to bed. 

The dog doesn't like the chickens in her dog run, whether she is in it at the moment or not. The chickens have learned this the hard way, having been frightened out of their wits by a sudden dog nose in their face. 
The chickens admiring the sunset (Yes, Nelson, Vandy just has to be different.)

Aug. 22nd, 2011

Nelson crowed!

At least I think he did-- I didn't see any other roosters around. He was in the bush so I couldn't really see anything, but I did hear a crow that sounded different from the neighbor's rooster.

Maybe he'll do it again.

Aug. 23rd. 2011
Vandy likes to roost in trees and on tall garden ornaments.

August 29th, 2011
 The Jungle Birds-- are they chickens or parrots? This is their preferred spot in the hot weather.
They sure looked fat in this picture!

Today's Events: TOO COOPED UP

There must have been trouble in the little temporary coop last night. It is just made up of straw bales and plywood and has been expanded once, but maybe it was still too small since the chicks have gotten bigger. Anyway, the reason I suspect there was trouble was that when I let the chickens out this morning, they acted rather mad at each other-- as if they had some offended feelings and felt some animosity -- and they wore less than friendly expressions.

First of all, Vandy, who is usually the picked on, stayed so close to my feet I nearly stepped on her. Was she coming to me for protection? Then she stood right up to Mozartia, who is a rather big chicken, and stared her down. Not only that, but Vandy raised all the feathers on her head, making her look like some exotic bird and not a chicken, and made herself so tall that Mozartia backed down. Vandy also went and did that to Ruffles the Rooster. Then, she locked beaks with one of the chickens and they had to be separated. Usually, Vandy gets a peck if she tries to get food when the rest are eating, or whenever one of the other chickens decides that Vandy needs a good "putting in her place." This was new behaviour from Vandy!
 "Mozartia" (pronounced "Mozart-ee-uh" and named by one who likes music)

I didn't mind-- I was proud of her for standing up for herself! Instead of having a sickly, bald-spotted, cowardly chicken (do I say 'chicken' chicken? Or just wimpy?), or a traumatized one that lays in a corner afraid of the others, we have one that just decided she's had it! She's sick and tired of being pushed away from her feed, she's sick and tired of being picked on, and she's decided to make her way up the pecking order. For being the smallest chicken of the flock, she sure is plucky.
The new, improved Vandalia, or Vandy as I call her.

The other thing that made me wonder about what had occurred the night before, was that when Nelson decided to give a heroic set of "cock-a-doodle-doos!" all the girl chickens went scattering. They seemed unnerved by what had come over Nelson.

Then they did the craziest thing! I had the door of their chicken run held up by a bungee cord, and they flew up to the top of the run, which is just a chicken-wire-covered hoop, and decided to use the door as a diving board. Since the door was held up by that cord, and was rather bouncy, a few of them took turns stepping on and diving off!

Well, later on I went to clean out the coop and put in fresh straw. It was so full of feathers, I thought they must have had a fight in there in the night! Or perhaps they went mad because Nelson was crowing in there and they had no place to run and hide from the noise.

I decided it was time to build them a bigger shelter. Since they have been free ranging almost all the time lately, I scooted their chicken run up to the straw bale stack and arranged things to be sheltered and home-like inside. I hope it won't be too cold, as the night time temperatures are quite cool now.
Yup, it sure is ugly. It will just have to do until the "real" chicken coop is  finished!
They have plenty of space, and lots of roosts. They have been trying to roost in the spaces of the straw-bale stack at night!

And now some pictures capturing the interesting feather color variations of the chickens along with some jokes floating around here:
 A positive rooster says "Cock-a-doodle-do!" and a negative rooster says "Cock-a-doodle-don't!"
 And a soon-discouraged rooster says "Cock-a-doodle....."

August 31st 2011
Ruby tried to eat a small snake today.
The chickens were reluctant to go into their run tonight. They must not like sleeping there. They huddle in one corner and won't roost to sleep.
Vandy tried to sleep up in the grape arbor tonight.

Sept. 1st 2011
Since the chickens were so reluctant to go to bed last night, I waited longer to put them to bed tonight, to see if they would go on their own. I waited too long. When I went out, there were no chickens in the run. Instead, there were 5 chickens up wedged between some straw bales, and Vandy nowhere to be found.  My helper managed to get the chickens down and in the coop. We looked all over the grape arbor with the flashlight, but saw no chicken.

Finally we shone the light in the run again to see how the chickens were settling in, and there was Vandy-- asleep on a ledge between the straw bales and the back of the chicken-wire run. She had found a crevice and was sound asleep. We could not get to her very easily, so we let it go and hoped and prayed no weasel would find its way into these parts. She'll probably be okay. The other chickens seemed upset when they saw her.

It must be terrible, really, to be awoken from a cozy sleep, in the middle of the chicken night as it were, in your perch up high in the fresh air, to be held with a tight grip and put back down on the ground and shooed into a place you would rather not see again. And if that did not make you cranky enough, to see the independent-minded runt of the group soundly sleeping, unheeding and uncaring of your plight, in a place higher than where you are, and where you can not get a good aim in pecking her. No wonder they were making funny noises as we left them.

September 5th, 2011
Vandy made it through that night okay, and was seen the next morning socializing with the ragamuffin rooster from next door. The chickens have been cooperative and gone to bed in the proper place the past few nights.

Readers may wonder why in the world I got chickens when I didn't have a coop. The answer is, that if I had waited until I could get the labor to cooperate (i.e. quit their jobs for a week) and build the coop, there would have never been any chickens around here. My idea was, get the chickens first and then somebody has to make a coop out of necessity.

And if that fails, my next strategy is to start to finish the coop myself-- throw the old swimming pool lining over the roof (since I can't lift shingles up there), nail boards on crookedly and generally make an awful mess. It will be so painful to watch, someone will have to stop me and do the whole job properly. That's plan B.

September 9th, 2011-- The New Day

I was up before Dawn today, which was a wee bit early for me (I am usually up after dawn, you see). I thought I would go out and feed the chickens in their run and give them a chance at their food before the "neighbors" dropped in.

(Usually, we let the chickens out of their "coop" first and then I feed them, but "Ruffles" comes to visit and stays a while, and when I turn around he partakes in the meal. I'm not inhospitable, but since he has his own home and his own food, I prefer him to come after breakfast. When the meal is over, the peacock comes to see what is left. I have nothing against the peacock, but I'm not really wanting to feed him, either. Then there is the dog-- she has her own food!-- she likes to eat the chicken feed leftovers.)

As I was saying, I was up extra early, and I took the cup off food and scratch and poured it in the run. Nelson was crowing his squeaky new crow, and I complimented him on his effort. There was something odd, though, about their behaviour. Neither my extra-early presence, the food, nor my voice seemed to get the chickens' attention. They did not turn and run towards me as usual, they did not look at me when I spoke as usual, and they did not even turn their heads towards the food and put their beaks to the ground as usual.

I stopped a moment and observed them. They were standing facing the door, Nelson was in the middle, and they stood still. The neighbor's rooster let out his distant crow, and Nelson stretched his neck above the others and answered with his own. I felt that I was looking in on a special morning ritual-- the solemn assembly chickens hold to honor the beginning of a new day. It wasn't even a cheerful-looking "greetings!" to the sun, since they were so serious, and none but Nelson made any noise.

I turned and quickly left so as not to disturb them.

Maybe there are other explanations for what I saw-- maybe they had just woke up and were still sleepy, or maybe they were in shock because they did not expect to see me so early!-- but I feel it was a special time that only chickens know the import of.

September 11. 2011
 Dog: "sniff sniff sniff, is that a mouse in here?"  Nelson: "What is that? The dog! I think I just won't make eye contact---
 -- and turn around and walk away slowly."
Vandalia was playing a game tonight, I think. She would suddenly take off running, her neck stretched out like she was trying to be a greyhound or a race car. It would annoy Nelson and he would quit whatever he was doing and chase her down to challenge her. Then the other chickens would then stretch their necks out and go racing too. At first I broke up what I thought was the fight between Vandy and Nelson, but then I saw them do it again, and the other chickens doing it, and no feathers flying or beaks pecking, I realized they must be playing. Or else Vandy does that on purpose to aggravate Nelson!

September 27th, 2011

We have had quite a time with the chickens wanting to roost in the big bush at night instead of going into their sheltered home. It started with Vandalia, and the others followed her the next night, and the next. I saw them one night, talking to the peacock. Probably they were getting encouragement, since the peacock sleeps in the tall pine tree next door.
(that's Vandy way up in the laurel bush)

Since we've had some stormy weather, we have had to shake Vandalia from the bush before the others get in there, because when they are in they are in. They are beyond reach and not even food will will bring them out again! They have spent a couple of nights out there, and have been okay, but with the windstorms we are having at night, I have to lure them into their "coop" early and lock them up before they are ready.

An interesting thing we found out today: Vandalia is a poetic name for Andalusia, since at one time it was ruled by the Vandals. This is such a coincidence! The person who named Vandalia had no idea, just liked the name (thought it was made up!), and now it seems that it is just perfect, since she is a Blue Andelusian.

Sept. 30th, 2011

Some Photos:

 A couple of "the girls"
 The other rooster. I think I'll call him Percy today. Tired of being chased away from his new friends by a crazy lady with a broom, he is now finding ways to sneak around and hide so that I think he isn't here. 
 Mozartia examines a leaf.
 There's Percy, again! Shoo!
 This is the one I thought was an Ameraucana, but now I think she is a Welsummer. She has an interesting band of green color on one of her legs.
 Goldie is so classy looking. 
 Ruffled feathers. 
 Nelson is a colorful rooster!

 There's Percy again. Why don't you just go home? Someone here feels sorry for him, since he is a "widower" and now he has finally found companionship. I don't give into that sentimental stuff-- I'm not adding another chicken to the group! Six is enough to take care of for now. 

 "Knock Knock!"
 Who's there?
 "We know where you live! Bring out the food!" 
"Phil" decides it is time to head home. Hmm, wonder what he's been up to?

Well, the first coop is almost done, but it turns out that the builder was building it just as a decoy coop. It is hoped that all coyotes, skunks, minks, dogs, and owls (do owls eat chickens?) will head for the big coop in hopes of finding it full of chickens. If they manage to get inside, however, they will be disappointed as they find it is just an outbuilding for storage.
Yes, I agree, it is funny how that whole project turned out.

Somehow things worked in my favor, though, to go back to my original desire, and that was to have a chicken tractor. The chickens can live in it, lay eggs in it, and prepare the garden plot all winter for me with compost and fertilizer. So, my builder is now building me a chicken coop attached to a pen, which will have wheels on it and be moved around every week. This is what it looks like so far. Now, if it can be finished before it snows, I think I'll be really happy.

October 8th, 2011
5 o'clock Curfew

I have discovered that in order to beat the roosting in the tall bushes problem, I need to put the chickens in their "coop" a lot earlier than their usual bedtime of 6 PM. So, around 5 o'clock, I lure them in with feed, and shut the door and lock it.

Most of them are so busy eating, they do not seem to notice what I am up to. Vandy, of course, suspects that it is a trick, and will turn from the food and look at the door to see if there is a way out-- perhaps while I still have my hand in there to check the water-- and she tries to make a quick decision to squeeze through and run for it. I have to get that door closed before she makes up her mind.

If I am at all late, say 5:40 instead of 5:00, I can get the other chickens in, but Vandy is sitting v-e-e-r-r-y quietly up in the high branches of the big bush, being so still and silent it is hard to find her. It is an ordeal to get her down-- a two person project.

It is kind of sad, because sometimes around 5 the sun comes out brightly and it makes a lovely extra bit of an afternoon, especially if the majority of the day has been overcast. I know the chickens would love to peck around for more bugs. Well, this is "tough love." There were several nights when it poured rain, and it was a good thing they were in a better shelter than a bush.

New Construction Inspectors:
The chickens check out the new coop that is underway.

 They weren't actually invited to see it quite yet, but you cannot tell free-range chickens where to go and what (or what not) to do very easily. They have a mind of their own.
 They made a fine mess for the builder to fuss about later.
Chickens just don't belong on a construction site!

October 13, 2011
  I am looking forward to the chicken coop being done, and the pen that is attached to it. It means---
 Clean shoes. Reclaiming the back yard. And the front yard. Clean sidewalks, porches and patios.
 Free ranging is fun for chickens, I am sure. It seems more natural, that is true. And the ant invasions in the kitchen have curiously gone down since the chickens have been eating them all outside.
But now I want the yard back. 

October 23rd, 2011


The chicken tractor is nearly done. I know it is strange to say that I can't wait to lock the chickens up. I love to see them running around singing "Born Free" with the wind as an orchestra, but there are too many things that are causing me to anticipate relief once they are properly penned in.

One is this guy-- I think I'll call him Tony today:
He is the darling of one of the ladies in the neighborhood-- whom he takes a long walk to visit every morning, and serenades her under her window. She feels sorry for him because he's a widower, and he's lonely, and besides that she has no other alarm clock. Well, I have no sympathy for him. He chases off my rooster and eats the treats. He can go and visit his sympathizers, but stay away from my chickens!

The other reason is Phil the peacock. As much elegance as he lends us when he wanders over, he's starting to peck my chickens to get their treats, too. No matter how long I stand there and shoo him away, he never exactly leaves. He has taken to occupying the doorstep, too, and staring in the window. His elegance and good breeding, I'm afraid, are fading in my estimation, though his colors are still undeniably brilliant.

I never purposely have tried to feed these visitors, but having a compost heap next to the garden (and having an un-fenced garden) seems to satisfy them, for they stay all day long. Part of the reason is, that there is a Great Big Rooster at home, who will not let them have any hen-friends. Tony and Phil are persecuted at home, very sad and lonely, and see a better social life over here with my chickens.

Worse, my chickens are starting to want to return the compliment, and go a-visiting next door. Next door is where the Great Big Rooster  lives.

There is also a new development that is making me nervous. The Great Big Rooster  has started to wonder where his favorite fowl to pick on are going every day. This past week, the Great Big Rooster  has stepped a few more feet out of his yard. This morning, the Great Big Rooster  made it almost halfway out to my temporary chicken coop before he was shooed away. I'm afraid, if that Great Big Rooster  starts coming over, he will either "adopt" some of my hens, or beat them up.

And what will happen when my rooster gets fed up and discovers that he is a rooster, too? Will there be a big fight? Will he peck back at Tony? Or Phil? I have a feeling they will not take kindly to that-- especially since they obviously see themselves as the senior top-of-the-rung fowl in the group.

And what if Nelson tries to take on the Great Big Rooster?

The sooner I can get my chickens safely in their tractor, the better.
A nice coat of supposedly "barn red" paint is on the coop part of the chicken tractor, and the yard part is almost all covered with professional-grade chicken wire now. 

October 30th, 2011


Nov. 2, 2011 -ALL COOPED UP

So far, so good with the coop. The chickens of course are not exactly happy about being penned in, they pace the edges and try to find a way out. It is pitiful to see, but they will just have to get used to it. It is either chickens free range or humans free range around here, and we have more places we need to go, with clean shoes if you please.
 Here is the inside of the coop. The flooring is linoleum screwed in at the edges. Hopefully it will help with clean-up.

 We laid down a bed of pine shavings. I never knew that chickens ate pine shavings before. I surely don't want them to eat up all the bedding, but they seemed to like it a lot. Yuck.

 Here is the waterer box. I am so pleased with this-- now they can't get on top of it, knock it over, or dirty the water.

 Looking at the chickens through one of the wire "windows." This was their first time in it and they are looking around.
 I think Goldy and the other hen are talking about it.
 In the side is a hole in the board, sort of "keyhole" so I can see what is going on in there!
 Here's Vandy trying out the ramp. A few hens tried the "fall down the hole" method before they figured out the proper way. Vandy of course seems to know these things already.

 Ah, Nelson. What shall be your fate? I'm seeing Christmas Dinner when I look at you, but maybe Craigslist will be the next step. You can't lay eggs, and I don't have room for more chicks.
 In the chicken yard.

 It is satisfying to be able to feed the chickens without the other animals barging in. It looks sad, though, because it must be sort of a social thing with fowl to eat their meals together.
Now I can admire Phil without being annoyed at him-- if he could just refrain from leaving us his "calling card" on the back step every day. He is growing his new tail feathers, can you see?

Vandalia is the one I feel the most sorry for. She was so upset that she couldn't get out. As one described her, "She was born with a heart of freedom." Doesn't that make you cry? The others are up to their old tricks-- only there is not that many places Vandy can go to get away from them now. At least they all sleep nicely together at night (or maybe they only do that when I look in on them). Here is a 1-minute video of them, you can see how the others chase Vandy away from the feed. She ends up in the corner crying.

I felt sorry for Vandy, and after I took this film, she and I went to the other corner where I sneaked her a cracker. One of the hens suspected something was up, and kept leaving the feed and coming over to see what it was Vandy was eating. She would give Vandy a bite on the comb, or wattle, or put her beak menancingly close to Vandy's eye, just to keep her in line. Then when she left, I'd sneak another crumb to Vandy and that hen would start all over again.

It is raining right now; I can feel very happy because I do not have to worry about the tarps flying off of the other pen in the wind, or if everything is warm enough for the chickens. They are in their cozy coop now, so let it rain away!

November 8th, 2011

Last week we had a few nights of really cold weather, in the lower 30's. I had a simple shop light in the coop, which the chickens did not seem to mind. As far as I know, they slept in spite of it. There was some discussion, however, amongst the family regarding the pros and cons of having a light on chickens at night. Maybe it was not a good thing for their systems, maybe they were warm enough with their feathers, maybe they could keep each other warm, etc. So, one night we turned if off and let them experience the natural dark, and the natural cold.

Next day, when I threw the scratch out in their yard, Vandy went and put her head in the corner. I thought maybe the others told her she was a bad chicken and had to stand there for punishment! Then I thought maybe the wind was bothering her, so I put a board up to block the wind. Perhaps she would move back into the sunshine, but no, she just stood there.

Later on in the day, she refused food handed to her, and tried to tuck her head under her wing.

That was not a good sign.

Of all the chickens, Vandy is the only one NOT cold-hardy. It isn't like her to just stand still and look miserable. She can be upset, but not miserable.

A hasty trip into the next town's big-box pet shop was in order. Now the coop has a reptile warming device: a ceramic bulb that emits heat, not light. I am happy to report that ever since, Vandy has been her perky old self.

Maybe too perky. I'm not saying she started it, but when I heard chickens under the window one morning, I could tell something was up. Sure enough, the coop was empty, and the chickens had broken out through a gap in the wire. There was one section where the builder ran out of staples, but it seemed like the wire was secure enough. Some chicken found the way out, or else they all leaned on it in a group and got out. However it happened, they did their free-ranging in clockwise fashion (they seemed to often free-range clockwise around the house; I wonder if Australian hens free-range counter-clockwise?) and went and stood behind a tree to get away from the wind.

A few well-placed bungie cords later, the pen was fixed and the chickens back into their new home.

Friday November 25th, 2011

The little banty rooster is no more.
He was seen this morning, as usual, in our yard.
 Later on in the afternoon, the peacock started to honk like a goose. I thought it was a goose, so I went to the window to see, but it was just the peacock. Funny thing, though, he had all his neck feathers raised, and it made his neck look twice as thick. Also he was walking slowly towards the big bush out back. I looked to see if maybe there was a dog he was trying to scare away, but saw nothing, so shrugged and went back to what I was doing.
About 45 minutes ago, I went out walking, and saw a lot of white things over on the other side of the bush. It was feathers.
The little rooster had a gash in his neck, and feathers off, but was not eaten or torn apart.
A hawk flew out from our yard and over to the top of a tree just when we were headed over to investigate, so it seems it was a hawk that did it.
The peacock was probably trying to call us out or warn us, or scare it away. Or maybe he was mourning.
The poor peacock-- he lost his only little friend. He made his way home soon after we saw what had happened. He must have been out there for an hour or more, honking and honking and honking....

I know I many times wished the little rooster home; but I certainly did not wish him dead! I was concerned that he would adopt us, or that after the chicken pen was done, he would starve, because the food was confined to the pen. But he didn't want to go home. He wanted friends is what he wanted. He must have gone home at night, at least, and eaten. I guess he sort of adopted us, too, for the daylight hours.

Little Henry (for Henry was his name, though I disguised it on this blog, but he won't be reading it now) is in poultry heaven, where went his wife Henrietta; at least there is some comfort in that. But the peacock has no friends now, his wife and child having been killed and now his little buddy Henry.

We offered our neighbor Nelson the rooster as a replacement; I don't think they want him.  (If anyone wants a rooster, please email me. I intend to list him on craigslist but keep chickening out of the task.)

I went out to feed my chickens, so glad that they are safe in their pen and coop, though they must have witnessed the horror. I opened up the doors to the coop to fill the feeder, and was shocked to find two eggs! The very first ones. I had given up on those hens for the winter.

They are little, and brown, I think they may be Ruby the Rhode Island Red's.

December 8th, 2011  NELSON RE-LOCATED.

Well, I did it.
I listed Nelson on Craigslist.
It made the little people here sad. I felt that I was going to be the "Judas" of the family for a while.
Nelson just didn't have a job here. The hens are protected by wire, so it isn't like he needs to guard them. I don't have the room to raise chicks, so he can't be a father here; he was basically an alarm clock and I'm afraid that must be a boring life for a rooster. After the Henry incident, I didn't want him free-ranging. I had a suspicion that he was aggravating the hens, too, and making them stressed.
I was surprised to get a phone call maybe 1/2 hour or so after I listed Nelson-- someone came out this evening and got him. A nice young fellow, who said he had just picked up some hens recently, and wondered how Nelson would get along with them. It was nice knowing that Nelson will go to another farm of sorts, and not be in a stew-pot immediately.
I hope it consoled the broken-hearted to know that, and so far tears have been dried.
It was quick and painless for me, too.
The hens will perhaps be confused for a while, but maybe they'll just remember it as a dim dream they had one night, when they saw a flashlight beam and a hand reached in the coop...
I wonder which hen will rule the roost now?

December 9th, 2011 FIVE A.M. WOES

I awoke at 5 A.M. with worries about Nelson. What if he turned really mean and attacked his new owners? I said in the ad that he had not been mean to us humans, just to the hens. He'd never attacked any of us. What if he proves me wrong?
What if he crowed all the way home and never quit crowing all night? Here, he only crowed in the morning, some times in the afternoon, but he wasn't constantly at it as other roosters I have heard. What if he starts to do it more often and annoy the new owners?
What if he turns REALLY cranky because of the change in his diet?
What if, what if, what if-- what if they call me up and say "take your crummy rooster back!" What then?


I went out to see the hens a few minutes ago. It struck me earlier that my flock is now "5 hens" instead of "6 chickens" and somehow that made me sad. Then it struck me that I, the mother hen, have adopted out one of my chickens. Strange feeling.

Another strange feeling was the sudden realization of lack of color in the coop. I had not thought about what things would look like with Nelson gone. Now, there are just reddish-brown hens, with the grey one in the background like a shadow. Nelson was usually up front and very striking with his various colors. It seems something will missing. I know: none of the hens have a green tail.

There was another egg in the coop; we are getting one brown egg every other day. I opened the doors to get it, and the inside of the coop was a mess!  I wonder if there was a fight in there this morning.

Several of us here have had lots of "egg dreams" wherein were featured eggs of various colors, and in my case various shapes, but usually an abundance.

The way Vandy was desperately snatching and running with the snack I was giving the hens shows me that she won't be at the top of the new pecking order any time soon. The others are probably not letting her eat again. Sometimes she seems to be asking, "Why have you put me in here with the chickens? I'm not a chicken! I am too smart to be in here-- let me out!" She would probably love to live in the house with us.

February 13th, 2012

It has been a while since I have posted here. We are now happily gathering eggs-- sometimes 5 to 8 a day!
 Vandy was the last to lay. She lays white eggs. They all use the very same spot in the nest for some reason, even though we provided pleny of nesting spaces. I wonder how they decide who sits on the nest first?

The winter weather has been sometimes miserable for chickens. You've heard the phrase, "madder than a wet hen," but I think a more apt expression for our poor dears would be "sadder than a wet hen."
Here are the hens during a snow fall. At least there is a spot where they can stay dry. I finally put a cover on the chicken yard part to keep the rain off. The mud and muck are just terrible-- and I'm afraid that the coop is rather stuck for the wet season, unless we get a tractor to move it to fresh ground. Bigger wheels are in order as a spring project!

Just about the time I am tempted to let the hens free-range again, I have dreams about their demise. One night I dreamt that Ruby was eaten up by an eagle. Another night there were three hawks just waiting to pounce on the hens and devour them. I don't want them to end up like poor Henry, but I feel so sorry for them not being able to roam freely about. They have an extension to their winter quarters, which doubles their yard area, but it isn't the same as freedom, as Vandy will tell you.

I have had problems with the hens not eating their food-- and it isn't the kind to waste either, being organic, non-gmo, and local. For some reason that is the more expensive kind. One day I decided they could just eat the veggie scraps we give them, and I would forget the daily ration of feed, and see if it would force them to eat all that leftover grain I gave them the day before. I guess it worked-- the next morning all the leftovers were gone and they were clamoring for their food!

They are also rather strange chickens, compared to the ones we had growing up. Those hens went mad over kitchen scraps, and hardly a thing would be left by the time they were done eating. Not so with my hens; they are choosy about the things they eat out of the kitchen scraps. They take their time looking over an apple core, instead of diving in to devour it. They prefer lettuce and carrots and won't eat the celery. Oatmeal is so-so, though they do like the raisins. They go mad over white rice, which sticks to their beaks!

They also like leftover scones. For a winter treat, I baked them some of their own. It was partly an effort to get them to eat a new brand of scratch, which they don't like (It was all the store had in stock at the time). I mixed in peanut butter, ground scratch, some sesame and sunflower seeds, and molasses with the scone recipe. They did like them a lot, and I suppose they really would rather have that than "raw" chicken feed. Spoiled hens!

February 19th, 2012
The sun shone today, and with a group effort we moved the henhouse on wheels to its new location-- to some nearby grass. None of the wheels stuck in the mud thanks to a lumber "road" which made it very easy to move and turn. It was nice to see the girls going about their scratching and pecking like hens ought to do. They were getting to be wanders in the mud, poor things. I hope to start my plan to convert the space up-rooted and composted by the hens into prime garden soil as we move the coop around.

March 27th, 2012

I think I may close this journal here, as this page is rather long (and it seems that there are more long spaces put in automatically every time I write on the page?). I am handing the chicken's story over to Vandy to write on her own page, so be sure to check that one often!
-The Editor