Our white chicken disappeared.
We closed the coop later in the evening when it was already dark and we assumed they were all inside. (They naturally go into the coop as night approaches.) I opened the coop the next morning and went about my day.
The chickens stick together most of the time but when one needs to lay an egg, she goes back to the coop by herself for a bit then rejoins the “flock” when she’s done.
All of that to say, I didn’t notice that she was gone until many hours had passed.
Our chickens are not our pets. They do not have names. We like them but we do not love them. They are not part of the family.
The white chicken was a cheeky hen who had too much personality to NOT earn a name,
So my husband and I called her Ferdinand (yes I know it’s a male name) after the mischievous duck from the movie Babe. It fit her.
In honor of Ferdinand, I offer this short poem.
Where’d You Go?
Your tail feathers cut a line through the air, stiff and sharp.
Ferdinand, where’d you go?
Rather than peck at your food or mill around with the ladies,
you snuck out through the nesting box,
anxious to begin your day.
Bright eyes, inquisitive with unspoken questions,
you cock your head,
bemused to find we won’t let you in the front door
even though you wait patiently.
You run toward me, skirts swept up, feathery petticoats charging up the hill,
your gaggle close behind
for the promise of
bread scraps, leftover oatmeal, limp lettuce.
Stark contrast of white against jaunty red comb,
You stand out amongst your more camouflaged friends
like a white-blond in a room of brunettes.
I like to think you took yourself on a road trip,
got cabin fever and went to visit some ducks across the pond.
Maybe you’ll show up at our door like no time passed,
tiny suitcase next to you and a grin on your beak.
After most of our chickens were killed by a neighbor dog over the course of six months, we considered giving up the backyard flock. After all, if they couldn’t keep their dog in their yard, wouldn’t we just be inviting trouble to introduce more meals for him?
The problem is: we love having fresh eggs. We know where they’ve come from, what the chickens have eaten and how they’ve been treated. We know they are healthy and not living in close quarters where illness can easily spread, necessitating medications to prevent said illness. And it keeps our kids connected to their food source rather than thinking eggs magically appear in cardboard containers in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
So my husband secured some new chickens, fully-grown layers that needed a new home.
Because we only had one lone hen left, it was easy to introduce new chickens to the coop. Chickens really do have a pecking order, and they establish it by man-handling each other until one is established as the Boss Lady Chicken (not a scientific term). We were getting four chickens from the same coop, so they already had come to an understanding with one another. There was some flapping and feather nipping at first, but it looks like peace has been established and the lone chicken has been sworn into the group.
The one other noteworthy item is that when you are teaching chickens where home is, it is important to keep them in the coop for a little while, somewhere between three to five days, so they can get used to their new surroundings. Then when you let them out, as we plan to and have done when the weather/season cooperates, they won’t stray too far from their food and water. If you are the one to feed them, it can be very fun to be the Pied Piper of chickens, and lead them back to the coop all in a chicken-y row because they think you’re going to give them food, very entertaining.
Check back here for more details about the marauding escapades of our neighbor dog and how this all works out with the chickens.
Introducing new chickens into a “flock” is something that presents challenges, no matter how small that flock may be (say, like, two chickens).
We read up before we accepted the replacement chickens (they are replacing two chickens which, over the span of a couple months, were injured by a neighbor dog who developed a taste for chicken). We found out that there can be problems bringing in new chicken pals and they can get picked on quite a bit. Here’s how we did it…
First we put a dog kennel inside the chicken coop run. Then we put the Silkies into the kennel so they could be close but not in danger.
Then after a day or two we let them go into the coop after it was dark and the other two chickens were already roosting for the night. In the morning we tried to open the coop earlier than normal so there would be limited amount of “play time” for the two sets of birds. We kept the Silkies in the coop so they’d learn where home was.
At the end of the day we opened the coop and our other chickens returned home. There was a bit of pecking at this point, but nothing too harmful. We repeated this cycle for a few about a week. Then we let all the chickens out and left the door open so they could come back in when they wanted.
So far so good! Everyone is still alive and we haven’t seen any pecking that’s been anything more than posturing. I’ll have to check in here in a couple months and see if things have continued to go smoothly.
I should mention that the Silkies were laying eggs at their former location but they have yet to lay any for us. We think they are stressed out and need a bit more time to adjust. Our other chickens should begin laying within a month or so, so it is possible that we’ll have four eggs a day for a while, until it gets too cold. Should be fun!
My sweetie spent much of his Father’s Day making a plan and getting the necessary materials to build a chicken coop in our backyard. Check back for a progress report very soon! And Happy Father’s Day!
(I should mention that chickens are notoriously tricky to photograph, as you can probably tell.)
It was bound to happen. Between the fox, the bald eagle, the dog and general wildlife, one of the chickens was bound to make an appetizer, if not a main course. And yesterday it happened. Somebody took a bite of my chicken.
A big bite.
Like almost her whole left wing is gone.
When viewed as a scientific experiment, it does seem to prove the survival of the fittest theory. The one that got nibbled was the smallest one, who has developed her grown up feathers the slowest and tends to be the last one to get the memo about taking cover in the hostas.
What to do now? We set her apart in her own convalescent quarters, luxurious by comparison. We bought some super glue so we can try to stop up her injury. But I haven’t had the courage to go out there and check on her yet this morning. If she made it through the night, that might mean she’ll recover. Being left alone without other chickens bugging you has got to help with that, so we’ll leave her separate for a while longer. Past that, I don’t know what else to do.
Anyone who has chicken experience, please feel free to chime in with any helpful advice. This certainly accelerates the coop construction plans! More on that project soon. I’m going to go check on Chicken and see how she fared. Wish me luck!
This has been a busy week! Amongst a lot of other things, I potted up the flowers and veggies I got at the Friends School Plant Sale and I brought home four chickens from my sons kindergarten class. Wow. I need to sit down.
As I was putting the plants into various pots, I was struck by one fact: it took me years to realize there are petunias and then there are TRAILING petunias. Not all petunias are automatically trailers, something I didn’t pay attention to and which caused me a lot of confusion. I finally learned this and yet last week I almost forgot it again! You can’t train petunias to trail gracefully down the side of your pot no matter how nicely you ask them. They won’t do it. And in spite of all this, the non-trailing petunias were actually in my cart! I almost spit on the asphalt floor of the temporary garden center when I realized it, I was so disgusted.
I’m glad we got through that together.
But because we’re friends I just couldn’t let you make the same mistake I made (for years). I wanted to save you the frustration and angst I went through.
You can thank me later.
The other thing I felt you should know, us being such close friends and all, is that even though we brought home baby chickens, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never had chicks and I’m still waiting for my requested library books to get in. In the meantime, if you, Dear Reader, have any words of advice or warning — wait! Don’t warn me. I already have them in a tupperware tub in my garage. But I’ll take advice, tips and encouragement. How’s that?
Hope you are enjoying your spring and that you are trying out something new that keeps you just a little off kilter. We can’t let ourselves get too comfy, now can we?
Here are the chicks: