Hello all and thanks for taking the time to follow along. I intend to treat this as a sort of Journal.. so lets begin.
June 2013 my husband and I began talking about raising some hens for eggs. We had taken our sons to the Zoo, and they had chicks for sale. It started the idea rolling in our minds. My parents had raised chickens when I was really young and then again after they had retired. They had always been successful at it so we decided to give it a go. We had always heard that it was easy and, fairly inexpensive. Contacting our local feed store, we ordered 3 Pullets.. The kids and I named them right away, before they were even brought home. We had Rosy, Hannah and Fiona. All 3 Golden Comments (Red sex links).
During the time between us placing our order and their arrival, we planned out their 'coop', but wanted to keep it as low cost as possible. We have various wood items in our barn when we bought our home, so we easily found a way to put it to use. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't large, but it was large enough for a total of 4 hens. A bit cramped, and what we felt was
secure and safe inside a small barn. We spent a total of 90 dollars (hens included in that) to get started. That is pretty inexpensive.
My youngest son, the model... lol We were some proud and still are!
July 22, 2013
When the pullets came home, I fell immediately in love with them... then the waiting began. We were all so anxious for them to start laying. For 5 weeks we checked every day.. until finally at 21 weeks of age, the first one began.. then 3 days later another began... and about a week after that, all three hens were laying. We had heard that they produced nice sized brown eggs, but were so very new at rearing chickens, that we had no idea of.. anything really. I can't say it was real smart of us to not have read up heavily on chickens, but then again if I had, I don't think I would be doing so now. Not because it isn't good to become educated, but because just like anything there can be so many issues that can arise.
By October things had pretty much become routine. They would give us our eggs every morning, and would spend the day out in the yard. Their favorite pace to hang out being under our grape vines. They LOVE grapes. With the grapes being on the vines, they can peck at them easily without gobbling the whole thing down.
October 09, 2013
November 19, 2013
Mid morning after being out in the yard most of the morning we had our first tragedy. And we all felt the sting of our inexperience and almost negligence. Rosy, the lead hen, and adventuresome gal that she was, had gotten into the habit of wandering off by herself (mostly ahead of the other two hens) and going outside of the fencing. For a few weeks we had been battling bribing her back inside only to have her get back out again. On a lapse of supervision, she was taken by a hawk outside of our fencing.
In a way, looking back, I am glad that we had to endure the pain of losing a hen so very quickly after getting chickens. It sucks, but it was a lesson that we had to learn. One that can not be learned until you are forced to experience it. And what is the lesson? Chickens can not be left unattended at any time of the day. This happens so fast, that even the few moments they were left on their own (5-10) can and will be tragic. Our other hens mourned the death of their leader. They stopped laying for about a week or week and a half. Then, the pecking order had to be established. We learned so very much from this loss it better prepared us for the future, so Rosy's death was important. Rest in peace you sweet girl.
Our naive uneducated selves, decided that the hens needed a more secure location for the winter months, and most free-ranging halted to only specifically when we could be out in the yard with them. They were moved inside of our very large back porch and that is where they lived until spring. Once over the shock of the death of their feathered friend and leader, but also their abrupt movement, things went back to normal. They went back to laying.
The day after this event, I decided we needed to become in the know. That it wasn't smart to just hop feet first into something that you thought was simple, when it can be (not necessarily is) more complex than what it looks like from the outside looking in. I became a member here on November 20, 2013.
And as the light began to shorten, we moved through the winter months without further incidents. We did not replace the lost hen as it was really quite late in the season. We also didn't let this even detour us from continuing our adventures with chickens. And, within a few weeks, planned on getting 3 pullets the following spring.
April 28, 2014
Henrietta, Sara and Cassidy were added to our two hen flock. It is a wonder at how if you observe your hens, you can watch their personalities emerge. After quarantine, we introduced the three pullets to our adult hens. The three weeks that follows, when the pecking order is being established, is so very tough on everyone. I think almost more so us owners than the hens themselves, as this is a natural process for them.
Our young hens were being bullied so much that they all hid in a single nesting box until the others took to the roost. It was the only time they felt safe to be out. I ended up adding a dish of food and water near the nesting box so that they could at least eat and drink. But this 3 weeks is indeed painful to watch. Instinct tells you to inter-vein, but, in all honestly, I think it draws out the process if you do.
3 weeks to the day this went on. On day 3 week 1 day, it was as if someone waved a magic wand. All was well and as if nothing had ever been amis. And I watch them still some times, and the older hens are even protective of their younger friends. The head hen leads the way in the yard, followed by the three youngest, and lagging back, the other four are followed by the second in command.
The older hens showing the young ones the 'best' places in the yard once fall rolls around... (under the grape vines for yummy treats!)
Another thing I have noticed, is that the older hens have now taught the younger hens to run and hide under our deck when any sizable shadow looms overhead. The deck has become their safe place while hanging out in the yard.
A fine May day in the sun. Feeding minced up apple. Not really their favorite, but it is a treat, so they will take it!
In early May, when the weather started turning nice, I snapped these shots of our two older girls inside the porch. Because they were housed inside the porch, they got it in their feather brains that it was theirs. They then introduced the younger ones to the spot.. and they soon were all sunbathing there often. This can be quite messy, so we needed to change things. Our solution to the issue was an old baby gate. lol I knew that thing would become handy once again!
It amuses me at how anytime one of us is out in the yard, the hens -have- to be there. They have to know what is going and they have to be involved. We were having issues with Racoons eating our bird seed, so we installed some aluminum flashing around our bird feeder poles: This was them wondering what was going on.
I shot this little video of the hens taking their dirt bath. This seemed to be a favorite place until just recently.
This, seems to be their new 'prime' bathing place. I knew when I planted my tomatoes here, that they may dig them up.. So.. alright I concede. lol
Way back when we brought our first 3 hens home, our cat and the hens had ... an understanding, so to speak. The cat would leave the hens alone if the hens wouldn't beat up the cat. lol It was quite a hilarious sight one day to hear all heckle and jeckle break loose on my back porch. The poor cat had a hen hanging off of his ear, one latched onto his tail and another screeching in his face as if she was screaming bloody murder. From that day on... this has been the understanding. If only there had been some pics!
Shot this video recently. As can be seen, the cat and the hens don't bother each other any-longer. lol (What cracks me up is that the older hens have taught the younger hens about this!)
July 2014 The barn.. and maybe some changes...
From the moment we got our chickens, I had wanted to expand the barn area so that they were not in such a cramped area. Well, Yesterday we finally did so.
The 'coop' now consists of the entire half of the barn. The small fenced in area inside of the barn will now be used as the quarantine area for new hens. (Or sick birds.) Next spring we plan to get additional birds, probably 3. I want to venture out and try some other breeds and I think this area will allow me to do so. Up to about 24 birds if I want to push it, but I am doubting that I will go past 12. I know that people say that you get more and more and more, but.. I don't think I could handle more that 12. LOL
The hens seem much happier in their new space.
An updated pic of the chickens 'coop': Taken 26/12/2014 Barn measurements 9 foot by 18 foot. Inner smaller coup removed.
Hope you enjoyed reading about my hens... and.. perhaps in a few months I may add to it as things move along. =)
Dec 12, 2014
Ah yes, so it is a few months later. lol And as the snow starts to fly... and my hens batten down for the winter on their new perch area, I can catch up on a few things here.
With the new barn arrangement, it took the hens a couple weeks to get used to the new perch... and we ended up taking out the old small coop as they kept wanting to roost in their old location. As soon as we removed the old, they moved right into using the new walk-way and perch. I find that the old ditties, as we call the older two hens, seem to make their way to bed first before the youngins.
The past few months have gone by relatively without event, and in the world of owing animals, that is a good thing. In August we had a strange phenomenon happen where our dog, a beagle, had decided that the hens are her friends. I still, even 4 months later, am not sure what transpired that she isn't interested in the hens, but.. they seem to get on well as if they have always been a constant around each other. I can't say that I totally will ever trust her around the hens, but.. as of now, things seem changed. I also can't say that she ever went after them, just more was curious about their smell.
At the end of August, we did have an issue. One of my best hens - or should I say problem child - Hannah, had a prolapsed vent. Luckily I was on top of things and took action quickly, thank the heavens for BYC and all the amazing info you can find here, so I was able to administer help right away. A nice bath and a good half hour of me basically holding her bottom in after gently searching to be sure there were no pieces inside, and she was good as new. I worried over the next few days about her laying, of course, but.. she is just one of those hens that has to please and she was back to laying the next day as if nothing had happened.
September, our cat caught a weasel. Something I had never seen where we live, but knew that we had in the area. I am more and more impressed with this cat than I ever thought I would have been.....
and October saw nothing more than the daylight shorten greatly here in Nova Scotia. We do give a bit of light at night in our barn and I will tell you a reason why here in a bit!
November saw the return of a hawk that I believe was the one that took our Rosy the previous year. I tell you, Chicken TV rarely has dull moments. As we have new hens this year in with our older hens, it really is an interesting thing watching hens communicate. The day of the hawk, it was a fairly decent day.. bit overcast and wet, but not a full rainy day. A great day for the hens to be out and about. However, when you notice a silence, and then... see a lack of hens, your heart races a bit. At this time, the bus for my children was to arive.. so I look down my driveway and my neighbor is there waiting to gather her kids from the bus. She says to me... 'Look at that! A hawk sitting in that tree there.' My heart sunk. I immediately started calling the hens, which, they have always flocked to my call. I make a weird imitation Bok Bok call.. my husband says I finally have the call down for being a hen.. meaning I am mother hen or something..
But anyhow, not a soul answered back nor did they come running like normal. So I started looking around. I found 2 down in our basement cubby (outside entrance to our basement is dug out with the door at the inner part of the entrance.. reminds me of an old root cellar with a door at the back.) So 2 down... 3 to go... I look under our deck.. 1 hen there. And I have made eye contact with all three of these hens and am talking to them... They are not budging. The look in their eyes is.. Yeah... no way chicken lady. Go about your business. It takes a few more moments, but I find the other two hiding behind our outdoor (heating) oil tank. For the next 20-30 minutes there is no budging these guys. So I stay out there with them until the crows pester the hawk enough to fly off into a distant tree. Still, they remained until a good 20 minutes after the hawk had flown from that tree and was no longer in the vicinity.
But that was the extent of the entertainment of November. A good day, if you ask me. It still amazes me that they communicated enough with each other to keep safe. Because the old hens had experience, but the new would not have that.
So far this month, December, has been relatively light on events. We use the small door in the barn door for the hens these days as the weather at times is just horrible, but the small hen door offers a good deal of protection from the elements. Most days, if there is no wind or snow, the barn door is open, though the Barn is really dark inside. I have installed 3 battery operated push-button lights inside the hens side of the barn for evenings, as it starts getting dark here around 4:30 pm. The lights all get turned off by 9 pm. Total light hours from about 7 am (natural light) and 4 hours of barn lights.. so gives about 13-14 total. Our egg production has slowed a bit, but we still get 3-4 regularly a day. I am happy with that.
A funny thing happened yesterday morning though. I went in at 7 am, though didn't turn on lights. When it is overcast, it is still quite dark inside... so dark that I can hear the hens, but not see them on their perch at the back of the barn. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I had one fly from the perch right at me as I walked inside. Screeched I did and jumped about 2 feet off the ground. By now, I know that two are off the perch, and 3 remain. You would think that I would have thought... another could do the same? Nope. About 2 minutes later another did exactly the same thing. It was a good thing no one saw this, as I am certain that it was a sight to see! lol