March 19, 2011

Well, we're starting week 3, so far I'm loving this chicken thing!
Quick backstory: Our neighbors had to suddenly move to the coast, and we offered to take their 11 hens and one roo. They're somewhat cross-bred from Ameraucana and Orpingtons. One has yellow feet and barred feathers. Their eggs are all colors (except white!), mostly olive and light green, occasionally slate, cream or light blue, and sometimes pink!
We bought an old 14' travel trailer for $175 and gutted everything except the upper cabinets, cut a hole for the chicken-door and affixed a wood frame to it, built a ramp, and installed some closet rods for them to roost on. Then we brought over the nest boxes from the neighbor's coop, and voila! The chicken-door opens into the garden, which is 75' x 75' with a 6' fence. (We added inner cross-fencing to keep them out of areas we're actually gardening in.)
On chicken Day 1 we had a lot of frost, and the chickens did a bit of slip-sliding when they got on the ramp, so we added some roof tiles for traction. Now they strut up and down that ramp like funky little pro's!
So far they are loving the free-grazing life, and from day one they went right back into their "coop-de-villa" when the sun started going down. Got one egg the very first day (light green!), and one more each day for the first week, then 2 a day, and up to 4-5 a day now, all easter-egg colors! For the most part, they don't seem to like laying in their next boxes, prefering to use the upper-level cabinets instead, and sometimes they fashion a little next out of the bale of hay I keep in the coop for ground cover.
Whenever I come outside near the garden, they start gathering around near the front gates, making excited little chicken noises. They walk around me with caution at first, getting bolder each day as I continue to bring them scratch and kitchen scraps. A couple of them will actually eat out of my hand.
We got a few inches of snow about a week after they arrived, and at first there were NOT coming out of the coop. I shoveled them a little path and cleared off their ramp, and with a little scratch as incentive, they were soon all out enjoying themselves. Today I woke up to about 1/2 inch of snow/hail on the ground, and they were already out in the garden, happily foraging for treats.
A couple of days ago I foolishly fed them some asparagus ends, resulting in a STINKY coop for a few days until I figured out what I'd done. A refreshing of their alfalfa bedding helped a lot. Sure hope their eggs aren't gonna taste like asparagus!
Nope, they didn't taste like asparagus.
We lost one chicken in early May. Her name was Oprah Wingfree, and she was my favorite--a very large black EE with red on her chest. She had been limping around, and her legs looked kind of enlarged and split. I think she had been roosting in her own poo, which I didn't notice until way too late. She died peacefully. RIP Oprah.
5/20/11: Oprah's best "friend" Gayle has gone broody. I tried moving her but she's quietly ignoring me, doing her best to channel Chandi. So I marked her 8 egggs, created a quiet corner for her in the coop , and hoping for the best.
5/22/11: Other "Friends" keep adding eggs to the nest, which I keep removing. One of the original eggs was cracked and I took that too. She's a sweet quiet girl, and I hope this works out.
5/25/11: I keep finding/removing 1-2 extra eggs every day. There's some yellowish goo on some of them, I hope it's not a problem. Gayle is getting up once every day or so to eat and stretch her legs.