Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The girls are 10 weeks old

the girls at 8 weeks old
Here they are again. The girls.

I am a 1st time chicken owner. I have wanted backyard birds ever since I saw how much my daughter loved on the hens at the farm I worked at in TX. I also got a chance to observe their avian culture and learned that chickens were not as dumb as some think and not as creepy as I thought. They really are like little avian puppies. Each has it's own distinct "chickenality", as my daughter calls it.

I love animals.I have been wanting a dog for a while (after-all, I was born into the world with a dog in the house and grew up with them). But, my husband, on the other hand has no desire for pets. Maybe the 1st step will be the hens ;-) They may "soften" him up a bit.  Since a puppy is not anywhere in our near future... our little puffy pullets will have to do. They make a good argument for a "pet".
1. they do not live in the house
2. they are very inexpensive to purchase and maintain
3. they lay eggs
4. They eat bugs
5. if you have the right kind, and are willing, you can eat them

It has been a few weeks since they arrived.

I have learned a little about housing:
screen door
1- a "screen" door is very useful
     It keeps the girls from running out when you are trying to work in there or get in or out. It allows the light and air in and gives them a view if I can't let them out in the run. I made mine of bird net at first and was not confident in the durability so I re-screened it in 1" chicken wire. Hinged it so it opens opposite of the door and lays against the boxes for easy access to the feeder and waterer.

picture frame window
2- linoleum or vinyl flooring may be a great idea
     After the 1st real cleaning of the litter I figured it may be easier to scrape chicken poo of a smoother surface than painted wood so.... Next time I get into the hardware store i may just buy a $25 remnant roll of flooring to line my coop with.

Ladder and nesting box door
3 - being able to open and close and lock the run access door from the outside would be nice. that way I don't have to have another person to "round-up" the birds and guard the door while I close it from the inside. In case I have to lock them up during the day for some reason.

4- hanging the water fountain is a needless pain. Just put it up on bricks or a wood stand.

5- Need natural light. So, I installed an east facing window. Got a picture frame at Goodwill for $3 and Acrylic clear pane at the hardware store for $8.

6- Doors on the unused nesting boxes keep the girls from trying to jump in and I can use them for storing supplies.

7- a ladder will help them get to the roost

 I have learned about equipment:
1- the water fountain I got is more amazing than i thought it would be. Here is a link to it click here (the link is for the 5 gallon one) Mine is 3 gallons purchased at my local Dell's Feed store (AKA Tractor supply Company) for about $30.
I have only had it a few weeks. so I can only tell ya how it has done so-far. As far as my experience goes it is great for the small-flock.
It is the the 3 gallon water fountain by Farm-Tuff
I think it is amazing because
1 - it fills from the top with a screw on lid and it is a BIG opening
2- the lid has a huge handle that makes it nice for leverage and carrying
3 - the outlet has a cap you screw it on the outlet for transporting the water - no wet pants!!!!!! and it has a place to screw the cap onto the top of the fountain during use so you don't loose it and that place is also good to hold onto for leverage then screwing the lid on and off.
4 - it is easy peasy to clean daily! I just take it out and dump the messy water out of the red basin, let some water re-fil the basin, swish it around and dump again - wa-la! Clean!
5 - it holds 3 gallons not too much to be heavy but enough to allow for swish-rinsing daily and re-filling every few days.
I have only had one instance of the leaking or vacuum problems I read on reviews. It was caused be not paying attention to the waterer - was in a hurry and just set ti up without checking the vacuum or rate of flow before I left.

What I learned about taming chickens:
Handle them with gentleness and patience every day. Let them know by your actions that you will not hurt them and they can feel safe when you are handling them.
With all the pullets, I handle each one every day. I approach them gently, slowly and calmly and grab them gently with 2 hands. One in front of the breastbone and one on top to cradle the wings closed. I hold them on my lap or in my cradled arm until they calm down (which takes less and less time each time) gently speak to them and stroke the head and neck. When I release them, they must also be in a calm state. I gently lower them to the ground. When the feet are on the ground, I continue to restrain them until they are in a calm state then gently and slowly release my hold.
This has proven an effective method for my pullets. They are showing a faster and longer calm state and no longer peck or run off upon release.

Our hens:

Zebra at 10 weeks old
She is the most curious of the group and the most "brave". Loves food and treats (slug decimated spinach and lettuce from my garden, clover and dandelion) and will RUN to you if you call her with treats.  She will be the 1st to approach and check things out. That being said, she is the most "mouthy". Zebra pecks at everything even your fingers when you try to pick her up or hold her. So, to remedy this habit I handle her daily. Started out handling her only with my goatskin gloves on and let her peck and pull away. Even sometimes gently trying to grab or stoke her beak with the tips of my fingers. Now, after 1 week, she no longer pecks at me when holding her and I handle her with bare hands. She actually got to the point today where she fell asleep on my lap. Great sign.

Red at 10 weeks old
Red is alert and cautious. She tends to stay back in the house, poke her head out the door and look around before exiting. She is elusive when trying to be caught. She was the slowest to calm when being handled and when she does calm her body, her head is she still is busy looking around. After much handling, she is now the easiest to catch and stays calm in hand.

Nugget at 10 weeks
Big girl!  I wonder sometimes at how fast she is growing compared to the others and her big feet and her poofy ameraucana neck feathers. She is about in the middle of the group when it comes to her temperament. She is the most vocal, cheeping all the time. Once she is in your arms, the relaxes fast! She gets so relaxed, she falls asleep and her wings go limp. She is starting to "bock bock" when you hold yer now. Getting her "big girl" voice in.

Kinda a "chicken" and a "ditz". The most timid of the group. Screams when picked up (although that is getting less with handling). She doesn't pay attention much of the time and gets left behind alone in the house or the run. Then she looks around and notices she is alone and starts crying for the others. She is also a sun goddess. Her favorite thing is to perch on the doorway to the run and sleep in the sunshine. She also will lay down on the step to the run door in the sun  on her side with the top wing and leg stretched out. She once did this too close to the edge and fell off the step!

Ginger & Nutmeg at 10 weeks old
A nut. She is tiny. The smallest of the group. She reminds me of the little baby emperor penguin "Mumble" from the movie "Happy Feet". She is black and white. Has a white face with a black stripe from her eyes. Like Mumble, she is the slowest to grow in her flock and still has baby down while the others got their big bird feathers in. She also has "happy feet" in the way she scratches, its is almost like she is dancing. She doesn't cheep much. She is layed back. Doesn't complain when caught and stays calm. She even goes as far as to jump up on you. Today she decided my shoulder looked like a fun place to roost. She is a "monkey-see-monkey-doo" and has to be in on the action. She loves to catch bugs and with practice is getting very good at it. Today she caught her 1st fly out of mid-flight. Now if she could just teach the others.
sunbathing 9 weeks old

Here are all 5 girls trying to sunbathe in the doorway. They all seem to want to do the same thing, the same time, and in the same spot.
 Zebra is the barred rock in the upperleft corner.
Red is the red one.
Nugget is the big one under Red.
Ginger is the gold one in the right corner.
Nutmeg is the black and white cutie in the upper right corner.

And all 5 trying to take a bath together. 
 I was worried that the sandbox was too small. But even if there is only one in there, another will just decide to take her bath right on top of the other. The girls are close.

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