Tag Archives: learning about chickens

Time Out

Have you ever just needed “Time Out”, so you can collect your thoughts and have a moment’s peace and quiet? Yea, me too…

Time Out!

Time Out!

When my children were small, I’d run to the bathroom, and hide for a moment. Of course they know where I’m at, because they are banging on the door with hi-pitched yells of MOM!! MOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!! MOMMY!! Oh God, I do not miss those days. My Mother said, “It’s payback time for all the ‘cut-short’ visits I had to make to the necessary room”. She’s likely right though. I did bang on the bathroom door yelling for her. I even remember, and that’s something for a tiny tot to still remember doing that. I must have been a ferocious little turd to raise.

Oh yes, Chickens! I’ve not forgotten, really. I’m getting there. So here it is.

Time Out, now means that I get to walk outside and go sit with the girls. Usually, I sit with the 15 new hens, who are now mature enough to lay eggs. They are still young enough to be curious about what I’m doing and they still like to be with people. I’m glad. My older ladies who are separated from the younger ladies aren’t really “into” body contact and they have mood swings. (laughing). They are old and grumpy. They aren’t much fun to sit with really. I talk to them and they look at me and I know they are just really saying, “Piss off”. Sigh…  Here’s a picture of the older ladies (Grumbles a Lot, Stupid Chicken, Sweetie, Boss Lady, Blackie, Top-hat, Mohawk, Soggy-bottom-girl, Crissy, Meanass, Pecky).

The Older Ladies

The Older Ladies

Now, my younger minions looooooooooove me. They come worship at my feet. I mean really… (OK, I’m having a bit of fun at your expense, but bear with me).

They usually follow me around wondering what I’m doing. I have to shoo them out-of-the-way; sometimes shoving them with the toe of my shoe. Falling face first down into a fresh pile of poop would be no fun. They do not understand this! (Yes, that’s the top of my head)

IMG_0007

I call the ladies, “My Minions” or, “My adoring fans”. They know I love them dearly. Most of them want face kisses. Some just prefer to be left alone, and I respect that (mostly). Sometimes, I still grab them up and kiss the devil out of them and put them down. Sort of like you’d do with a rebellious kid. I only have a couple like that from the New Flock.

However, I never have to force Victoria into a lap-time hug. She just falls asleep.  She’s an Ameraucana. Such a lovely little lady who lays the prettiest blue-green eggs.

Lap-Time Nap with Victoria

Lap-Time Nap with Victoria

As the girls grew up and became full-grown hens, I was afraid they would become cold and distant. So far, they have not. Actually, they seem to look forward to my visits and look up at me with such intensity that I wonder what they are trying to convey to me? Food? Likely… Chickens are quite food motivated. One of the ladies whose name is “Cleo”, short for Cleopatra, feels it her given right in the flock to groom me. Any freckle, any  bit of trash on my leg or do-dad that she deems edible she’s going to snag up. If it’s a mosquito, watch out! She’s going to snag that little bugger! I hardly know what she’s up to until I watch her. She can silent and painlessly pick off anything on my body. Amazing. Well, all except the freckles. She’s not been successful at that yet. Usually that ends poorly, and she’s learning that freckles are not meant for eating or picking off.  Photo below of Cleo!  Determined little face, huh?

Cuckoo Maran

Cuckoo Maran

Well, in closing here… It’s just my consensus that, to have a flock of chickens is therapy for Time Out. Usually about 3 in the afternoon the girls and I visit and we catch up on the day. Some just flop down on my foot and go to sleep. Others like to sit there and let me groom them. They love the little feathers in tender areas (rump) picked over. I don’t get very involved there, but I notice other hens do that to each other, so occasionally, I’ll reach around and tug on some of the fluffy feathers like I’m grabbing a bug. (Laughing again here) – They turn and see what I’m grabbing to eat. (Yea Right! Ha, ha! Not..) It is cute though.

♥Chicken Mom♥

 

Peep Peep

When the little fluffy bits of wiggling, scampering, peeping down arrived in baby form, my phone rang. It was the post office. The babies arrived in the mail!! Yea!

I flew down to the post office in the closest pants I could find. It was 7:00 in the morning! It was exciting! It was terrifying…

I had no clue how this whole thing would turn out. I didn’t know how they would turn out. I knew what breed, yes, but I didn’t know if they would be nice birds or mean birds.  Blah, blah, blah… (Insert worried panic-stricken face here). I was freaking out.

After raising other older biddies. I’m well aware of the potential for  different personalities. You can end up with chickens from hell, and rue the day you ever embarked on raising any, or you can get some really sweet birds. Still, I had ordered 14 and ended up with 15. I guess that extra chick was for luck. They added her to the order for the extra body heat at no charge. Biddies can get cold traveling and need each other to maintain a constant temperature.  Either way, I was in deep and now no matter what transpired I was a surrogate Mother to 15 – 24 hour old baby peeps. God Help Me.  God Help my bathroom…

Yeah… Ya see, I didn’t think this out very well. They ended up in the guest bathtub. Unceremoniously deposited on some utility towels and given food and water. Oh Gezz! They  need heat! I ran around thinking, thinking, looking, looking… Oh Thank God! A reptile light!  – Don’t laugh. I was desperate! Then I positioned an expansion rod over them and hung the light. Whew!  They were fine and happily pecking bouncing and drinking. Amazing! That was such a long flight over and I worried about them getting here dehydrated or not making it at all.  All worries for nothing. They were bright-eyed and happily being chickens.babychickens3

I had them warm and happy, and now I was happy. Then, one of the little babies fell face forward into a pile of straw, all stretched out like she’d been shot with a cannon. Just sort of splayed like a dressed bird for dinner. Did she die?  I almost panicked. One after another they all started falling over. Just like the light clicked off on their energy field and they fell in a flat faced “chicken down”! position. I didn’t like this… My heart was racing. I’d never had little babies before. Usually the birds are a few weeks old when I bought them.  When the first little hen stretched with a big long leg stretch, I realized they were just tired and fell over from exhaustion; like my kids would after a long day playing. Sometimes the kids didn’t even get to the bed, but would land on the floor and pass out. Whatever, I didn’t care as long as they were healthy and just napping. I checked.  Yes, all breathing!

I didn’t have any sort of water container for them either. What was I thinking? I don’t know. Flying dumbly? Likely. I did figure out a make-shift one to put their drinking water in though. Here’s my idea. The cup kept them from falling into it.

waterer

That’s Georgia standing in the dish. She’s an Australorp.

So, even as ill-prepared I was for biddies, they still did just fine.  I didn’t know anything about raising biddies, especially not the tiny ones.

I was in love…

The babies got checked all day long and I woke in the night to look in on them. They saw me and usually roused and were happy to hear me talk to them or to be picked up.

They stayed in the tub until they were 4 weeks old. Now that was fun… (not). If I do this again I will have a proper brooder pen with heat lamps outside (I think). It was really nice getting to know them and learn their personalities. I don’t think if they had been outside, I’d have had nearly the time to know them like I do.

They are now 7 months old and laying. Most of them have names befitting their personality. I think most of them still identify myself as Mom, because they are especially attentive and most are pretty affectionate. I have a couple turd-heads who just don’t want to be mucked with. Fine with me… I have lots of snuggles for the ones who want to be snuggled with!

Here are a few of them at 5 weeks. They have a wonderful outside biddy yard.

Below is Georgia Photo-Bombing the snapshot!

IMG_0157

Happily hopping on the little roost in the biddy yard.

IMG_0166

I need to post some of their adult photos and will do that another day!

Enjoy your chickens!!

The Chicken Mom

The Alpha Hen

They say, that Experience is your best teacher. I was never sure who “They” were but, they sure must have been really smart individuals, being as THEY knew so much.  I wonder if they knew you have to be a chicken to have chickens? I did not!

When we first got our birds a few years ago, I was so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and didn’t know anything. Little by little I learned, but it did take time and thankfully we didn’t lose any birds in that process. Well, not many…

This brings me to odd chicken behavior, and learning about the Alpha Hens. The term “Old Hen” usually isn’t used in a complimentary way, and used to describe some mean acting, old woman, who seems to have it in for others in her area. That’s the Alpha Hen mentality.

Alpha hens keep the flock in order, more or less. Their Dominate behavior assures them the boss role in the in the flock; Which, isn’t always a bad thing. We all need a leader. Some chickens, while none are really stupid, (except Chris, my stupid Orpington) do behave in such a way that you know they aren’t firing on all cylinders.  Sort of like they got baked in the heat lamp…  (fried Yep, that’s Chris).

I’m a hands on person with all of my animals. If they are low, then I go down to their level when I am interacting with them. Of course, they are touched and cuddled and schmooze’d over as much as I can muster. Eventually, I win over most of the hens. Well, all except the Alphas. They glare at you with their eye-balls in total disdain, dance around fluff-dancing and looking generally pouty and almost menacing (If it weren’t so darned funny looking). You know that look of hate… (I’m not sure it’s much different with People).

This ambivalent behavior had to stop. How I go about this is a tad lengthy but bear with me. It’s sort of funny, if you work with the visuals I’m going to send you.

Maw- Velociraptor – Shrugs

Those are the three birds which seem to keep control and organize the flock. None of those chickens are the “touchy Feely” types. If you bug them they peck you; bow up at you, or down right chase you. Well, not me, but others… With kids around, this behavior wasn’t acceptable.

I learned early on that chickens have what I call a “tick”. This tick reaction is to hunker down when they are suddenly approached by a Dom-Hen or Rooster who is getting ready to mount them for a ride. Hens do that as much as a rooster, but it’s not for procreation, as is the rooster. When a hen does it, it is stating who is boss. It’s also a big show for all to see, clarifying the hen-dominance game.  Sort of like a dog humps another dog of the same gender. It’s their way of saying, ‘I’m Bigger Meaner, and I’m Boss’!

Along with the hunker-tick I learned, I also learned other body postures which defined the visual threat to other chickens. The shoulders bowed up around the neck, coupled with a deep stare at the perpetrator, which was surly followed by an all out fight. I learned how to do that one too.

After I learned a few more ways chickens use dominance stances and behaviors, I figured it was time to assume the ALPHA HEN role.

Maw didn’t see me come up behind her as she was getting ready to peck the mess out of another submissive hen. I stomped the ground behind her and she hunkered down suddenly. I took that time to push (firmly but not hard) on her back and do the Hen Mount. When I was sure she was in submission, I let her up. This messed with her head so badly she didn’t mess with anyone else that day. She saw me coming and moved right over, instead of giving me the EYE.

I have an area called The Outback. It is the place where hens go who are ill-behaved or just not acting right.

Maw started to chase and peck at one of my  Ameraucana hens, and this mess kept up all day. Finally, I’d had enough of her mean-spirited Dom-Hen behavior, and went to the chicken yard (I can see the whole chicken yard from my living room).

When I got there I went right to Maw who instantly knew her ass was grass. She ran. I ran. she lost. Grabbing her hump of a tail nub to stop her,  I put her in The Outback.

The Outback is punishment enough really. Those chickens get fed last. They don’t get the best of the goodies, get to interact with me, or other hens, and they don’t have as nice of a coop. To make it all much worse, when the other girls get to go play in the yard, and chase bugs, they are stuck in, Chicken Prison.

You’d think this is the end of the Dom-Hen activity huh?  Nope… I wish!  With Maw locked up and out-of-the-way, Velociraptor and Shrugs took over the chicken yard.

Velociaptor is a Black Sex-Links hen, with a perpetually  mean glare and long nails. Shrugs, is a Barred Rock Hen who looks like she’s a thug on a street corner with her neck all shrunken between two hunched shoulders, just aching for a fight. Which is why I call her “Shrugs”. Maw may have had some redeemable quality, but these two are both bitches (Sorry, but it’s true).

In two days they were both in the Outback with Maw.

After their removal the flock seemed to adjust and stop being so nervous and worried acting. No more fights broke out.

Every time I went to feed the Outback girls, I’d pause just long enough to remind them, I’m Lord and Master. They were not allowed to crowd me when I was feeding, and I took a rake to keep them back while I fed. Just seeing the rake reminded them, I’d use it. Then I stood there, not letting them come any closer. When they backed down, I took my rake and left.  Every so often I’d snatch a hen up and just stick her under my armpit. Carry her around while the others stared in disbelief and backed away. I’d kill time just keeping her there, being submissive. It worked wonders! After a week or so of that crap, they figured it was better to hunker down and take a mount than to be stuck under an armpit. Most of them hunkered down when I’d walk too close. The Outback is a pretty nice size enclosure. They could run, but they are too stubborn. They eventually learn to keep away from my feet and keep clear when I feed. They know I won’t hurt them but the degrading mount & carry is just more than they can deal with so they submit to my Alpha Hen Status. I am QUEEN!

So, with my Alpha Hen Queen Status established, I let them out. This took about a month.

They are so much more at peace with the others. They still hunker down when they sense I am suddenly too near to them, but when they do that now, I just bend down and pick them up gently and pet them and talk to them. Then I put them down and walk away.

This method will help the dominant chickens to see themselves as equals to the other hen, and me as their Boss (LOL QUEEN!).

My Subjects!  I am QUEEN!chicken-subjects

The Eradicator

The Wonder of Chickens

This afternoon the girls were roaming the yard quietly doing their thing. I was sitting by the Koi pond talking to a dear friend, catching up on life.

I noticed one bird in particular running like a Mad-Hatter across the yard with about 4 other hens in pursuit. They do this frequently, so I took little notice of the event; I mean other than chuckling, because it was funny (They run like tourists, barefooted on HOT beach sand).

Then they were fighting over some tidbit of desire.  Likely some poor little lizard or bug. I had no clue they ate other creatures, but seemingly they not only eat them but they hunt for them too.

Like the day ‘Grumbles A Lot’ caught something in the grass and the Keep-Away game ensued, with 20 hens trying to grab what ‘Grumbles A Lot’ caught. Watching out of the house window, I was so curious what she had that I even ran outside. I could see something dangling out of her mouth, and it looks like a piece of fat cord which I used to tie something down. OH CRAP! If she swallows that, she’s going to die!  So I ran after ‘Grumbles A Lot’ too. Soon we have a huge commotion going on in the yard, and then my Husband runs out to see what’s wrong…  I explain that she’s found cording and if she downs that, she’s a goner so I’m trying to get her. (Now imagine doing that much talking, while dodging and bobbing and weaving in and our of obstacles, all the while chasing a hen).

I finally corner ‘Grumbles A Lot’ and what she caught was a Pygmy Rattlesnake! OMG!  She breaks free of the corner and goes to running again, and soon she’s gobbled up the whole snake. Even the tail disappears into her crop. She’s either a dead hen now, or she’s just happily full.  I watch her for over an hour. Nothing Ill happening….  Two Hours… nothing new.  She looks happy and pecking away like normal.

Somewhat perplexed and pleased, I come to the revelation, Really?  They eat snakes?  HOLY TOLEDO!

The conversation with my friend ends and I walk back to the house from the Koi Pond.  Laying limp pecked to death and goodly scratched, was a dead rat!

Evidently, they hunt Rats Too!

I love my chickens….