Last year we bought a property with a few acres. This year we were just talking about getting some chickens ... then ... lo and behold, my brother said that he had someone that worked for him who was moving and couldn't take their chickens with them. In a few mere days we had 12 assorted bantams and a baby turken. It's a whole new backyard focus! All of the chickens are about four months old. Four of the girls are golden colored and so they are the Golden Girls, and they stick together. There is one reddish girl who is losing her feathers, so we call her Raggedy Ann and though small, she eats like a horse. There is one rooster, of the same variety as Raggety Ann and we call him King Julian (he is more like that crazy lemur in the kids cartoon Madagascar). He is a lazy rooster and loves to crow as he lies down in the hay on the bottom of the coop. There are two very pretty little multi-spotted browns and they are busy and they love to get right up next to you and talk a lot. There is one fluffy white hen with black spots, who is busy, and she is shy. There is one we call "Little Blue' because she has pale blue feathers mixed in her sleeker plumage. There are two silkies who seem aloof and look more like Llamas - they are high on the pecking order and yet don't really bother the others. They also stick together very closely. And then there is the baby turken ... it was a few weeks younger than the other birds and so it was at the bottom of the pecking order and we had to remove it to it's own cage because except for the silkies, the other birds were terrorizing it. Once the turken was removed, the other birds all quieted down. The turken is happy now that it has it's own cage. It is quite pampered, it's cute and talks to us in little peeps all the time.
Besides the usual chicken feed, the girls of course love multi-grain bread crusts and when available they love treats of small cubes of watermelon, tomatoes, peaches, cantaloupe, and cooked canned corn!
Backtrack a little: The first day the coop went up we were very excited! The kids helped out and it was a big production. The chickens were brought in and let loose in the new coop and they immediately set up housekeeping. By the end of the day we were all sitting on the deck where we could easily watch the coop, admiring the new birdie condo. Then ... suddenly ... a rabbit came bolting past the coop at a hundred miles an hour with the local bobcat right on it's heels. The bobcat slammed on it's brakes right next to the coop and looked at the chickens. This was much to the delight of the rabbit who quickly disappeared into the woods. The bobcat looked at the coop and then looked at us and stood there panting. It had lost it's bunny dinner and couldn't get to the new 'kids on the block' chickens. It looked mad and then just strolled off into the woods. Bobkitty has not bothered the chickens as we have a couple of dogs that discourage intruders. But, the bobcat was there long before we were, so we let it be. We had heard that it did get some of the neighbors free range chickens - but they didn't have good security for their birds either. We are hoping our galvanized steel cage coop with the large running area and small mesh will do the trick. We have the usual suspects here in Florida that would love a free chicken dinner ... that includes bobcat, panther, raccoons, possum, cayote, fox, large river otters, rattlesnakes (and other snakes), eagles, hawks, and owls. When choosing a spot to place the coop, we placed it fairly close to the house, and thus far, all the other critters don't seem comfortable enough to invade ... well, at least not right now!
We keep the coop very clean and try not to have more food in there than the birds can eat at their feeding times due to the biggest problem in Florida and that is the imported fire ant. They are relentless little monsters. We can't use fire ant bait because the chickens might eat that up. I can soap the grassy areas outside the coop and make the surrounding grounds as distasteful as possible. The latest tactic is that I am trying to figure out if eucalyptus bark can be put on the floor of the coop to discourage the fire ants and yet not hurt the chickens. I have been reading up on it and can't find any answers yet. But, it is a daily issue. It seems like as soon as we get rid of one invasion of ants, another pops up. I am looking for any advice on how to get rid of them. Fire ants do not like eucalyptus and if I can't put the bark inside the coop, perhaps I can use it around the exterior, out of chicken grazing reach.
Other than that, it's been fun and so far we love having our chickens ... they have made our lives and yard more interesting! One of these days they will start to lay the eggs and we are looking forward to that! We were interested in having laying hens and were not so much interested in raising them for meat.
We have discovered that your day is not complete until a chicken has talked to you.