Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tragedy (almost) strikes the backyard chickens

tragicAs I’ve mentioned here a time or two, we got four hens last weekend and have been happily raising them since.

However, we almost lost the girls this evening. Fortunately, they are fine and we learned a valuable lesson about hens (i.e., don’t let them wander around unattended).
My wife let the chickens out of their coop this morning to forage around the backyard. We’ve been doing that regularly since shortly after we got them – our dogs and cats leave them alone, so what’s the harm?

We were in the house mopping the floors when we hard a commotion (more accurately, a bunch of squawking). We went out back to find Heihei passed out in the yard with feathers all around her. The other hens were nowhere in sight.

My wife checked on Heihei while I looked around for the rest of the hens. Heihei was just knocked out and it seems that chickens will do that when scared. Heihei was in shock, so we stuck her back in her coop and searched for the other birds.

We called our farmer friend who gave us the hens and he said that one of two things probably happened – either a hawk scattered them or an eagle picked one up and the other ones hid (there is an eagle preserve less than a mile from our house). He said the hawk scenario is more likely and that the chickens were probably just hiding – give them a couple of hours and they might return to the coop.

After a couple of hours, we found Paul hiding in some low-lying bushes in our fence line. Chickadee hiding was a few bushes down and we retrieved her, too. We figured perhaps Li’l Peep was a goner, but she showed up a few minutes after we put the two formerly hiding hens in their coop and she wanted to join them.

So, the hens are all safe and it appears that we need to keep a better eye on them. We are concerned about Heihei as she hasn’t moved much since we put her in her coop, although she has taken a few drinks of water and will cluck from time to time. We’re told that the hens probably won’t lay eggs for a few days, but they should come around just fine after the shock wears off.

We don’t exactly live in the country, but we’ve seen hawks and owls in our neighborhood. Hens are pretty vulnerable to predators, seemingly, so we got lucky this time. We’ll keep a close eye on the critters in the future.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Brenda and the chicken

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

The backyard chicken experiment gets underway

We were supposed to get our chickens last weekend, but it didn’t work out. Why? The coop we bought was missing some pieces, so we had to take it back and get another one. On Friday, then, we completed our coop and picked up our hens on Saturday.

So, this is officially Day 2 of the backyard chicken experiment, and our four hens – Heihei (named for a stupid chicken in Moana),  Li’l Peep, Chickadee and Paul (my daughter named her – not sure why) – are settling in nicely. Instead of raising chicks, we got four cinnamon queen hens from a friend of ours who said we could have them for free.

Why did we choose the cinnamon queen? The fellow who gave us our hens and knows about such things said they tolerate this hot Arkansas weather very well, are friendly and lay a bunch of eggs. So far, we have gotten only one broken egg our of our hens, but we were told not to expect anything for two or three days as the chickens adjust to the move.

The fascinating thing here is that we got these critters for eggs, but we are having a lot of fun with them. My wife and I have discovered our dogs don’t really bother the hens (see the photo above of Bella the Dog following Heihei as evidence), so we let them roam and forage as often as we can. We spent 1.5 hours this evening, in fact, just watching them forage and it was very peaceful. When the chickens were done foraging, they simply went back into the coop and headed for either a perch or nesting boxes. Convenient, no?

We’ll see about egg production soon enough, but we are making sure they are fed at least once a day (we’ll up that to twice a day when winter hits and foraging is no longer effective) with a feed that has ground oyster shells in it as we have been told that eggs with hard shells will result.

Meanwhile, those critters are just fun to watch. I’ve never owned chickens or spent much time with them, but having them around has been great so far.

Now, here's an extra special bonus -- if you want some dandy tips on how to keep your chickens safe and their environment in good shape, click here to visit the friendly folks at Treats for Chickens. You'll be glad you did.