Tag Archives: outdoors

Dyslexic Roosters

When I walk out the door in the morning, I am assaulted with the neighborhood roosters and their loud greetings of the new day. Our neighborhood is more or less rural-suburbia, with folks having one or two acre lots. On those lots they can have chickens or horses or cows, and god knows what else…  I guess most of my neighbors have chickens and choose to keep roosters. I on the other hand, I choose to not have roosters. They are beautiful, I admire them, and that’s where the attraction stops; and after concerned painstaking effort on my part to choose chicks which were hopefully female, I ended up with FIVE beautiful Roosters and Nine hens. I was awaken one morning with a horrific squalling, squealing, and hooting weirdness coming from the direction of the chicken yard. Stumbling to the door I peered outside in that general area and proudly attempting to crow was one of the new pullets. You could hear him trying to form a crow but the noise was a pitiful example of crowing. Continue this progressive morning scenario for two weeks: The family who lives the next road over must have several roosters, and I watch the little gray one I have listen closely as they one after the other, crow with a vengeance. Then he begins to attempt a mimic of their crowing. Except his crow was totally backwards… I was hoping and praying this was just an overly testosterone laden female crowing (they occasionally will attempt to mimic). The days following however, proved me wrong. Dayam!  The little Gray Roo pullet who is attempting to crow is a Blue Ameraucana (Not really blue). Here’s a photo of a Blue Pullet.

backyardchickens
http://www.backyardchickens.com / Without their help, I’d never have gotten through my first set of babies. Wonderful site! I highly recommend it.

Most chickens when they crow make a Urt Urt Urt Urrrrrr sound. This little dude hit notes nothing like that. I busted out laughing… Ouuuuu-Urrrrr-Urt-Urt-Urttttt!  Ouuuuu- Urrrrr-Urt-Urt-Urt!  I could see him with a face which said, “No that’s not quite right”!  He kept practicing and practicing, his face contorted with the effort. He even bent his neck sideways trying to squeeze the vocalizations just right.  This kept up for about two weeks. Then suddenly another one popped out with a tentative crow. Oh God…. More Roosters! That week and the week that followed I counted a total of FIVE Roosters! They were promptly packed up and driven back to the breeder who guaranteed that they would be hens. If I ended up with any Roos’ he’d take them back. He was good to his word, but he was really surprised that his method of sexing them had failed so badly. I told him that the Blue Ameraucana crowed backwards.  He figured they just had baby crows and had not quite got the crowing down yet. Then as I stood there talking to him, the Blue let out a healthy, Ouuuuu-Urrrrr-Urt-Urt-Urt! The man turned quickly at watched him let out another Dyslexic Crow and he laughed saying, “Well I’ll be Dang” The little guy does crow backwards!”. Skip (the chicken guy), ended up showing him with the 4H kids.  I wonder how a Dyslexic Rooster fared out with the 4H judging? The Chicken Mama

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

Tropical Storm Debbie

It’s odd that we have had two back to back storms here….  I have officially quit praying for rain for Florida; now onto Colorado, but that’s another story.

I took some of the funniest video of my silly girls playing in the water as it gathered in the lower half of the chicken enclosure, which is linked at the bottom of this page.

The coop is 50 ft long and 20 ft wide. It was just hilarious watching them explore the storm water alone. I went out to see what in the world could be so interesting in the pen, I saw a foot of standing water on the low half of the pen! Oh my…. Now when it quits raining enough for my camera…

We had to have had some significant rain to fill that low water table up again. Trust me, we did have significant rain. It rained for 5 solid says with only a small break on June 25th for my granddaughters birthday party. The heavens opened back up and blesses us with more; after everyone went home. Then it rained for 2 more days.

My prayer was that we would get enough rain to bring the natural water table back up. I could feel my trees aching for water. I know that sounds silly, but I could feel it. They needed some real rain, and not the afternoon’s occasional drizzle. Some real Honest Too Goodness RAIN! – OK God! So it didn’t have to do all that catching up in one week. Remind me to end prayers with a small footnote for now on, eh?

Anyhow, when I went into the chicken yard to check out the damage from 20 hours of torrential rain (only one day’s worth), I saw they were goofing off in the water below the halfway mark in the area. Some of them were chest deep in the water. I have no idea if other people’s chickens do this! Maybe mine are just a weird, warped extension of myself… I love water. They love water ( it appears).

Finally the rain stopped. Camera in hand I can see the water has receded some. When I walked down into that area to check it out the girls were right behind me. I mean 28 intense little faces all following me there. I felt like the Pied Piper of Chickens! Then most of them ventured into the water even more. It was like “OK, Mom is here, it’s alright to play now”.

I wish I’d been able to get photos earlier but the rain would not stop and I didn’t want to drown my camera. The rain-soaked in the ground quickly.

Goodness! Have I mentioned how horrible dirt with wet chicken poop and chicken feed smells? Ick…. Good thing I have had years of practice smelling disgusting things (diapers for one).

Here’s the video. Enjoy! 🙂    (Its a Youtube video)  http://youtu.be/tt1Cxat3iOM