Newbie Qs - New chooks=destroyed yard+sad chooks *LONG POST+Pics sorry

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Countedsorrow, Nov 16, 2009.

  1. Countedsorrow

    Countedsorrow Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 11, 2009
    NSW, Australia
    Hi all,

    We are totally new to chickens and would like to ask a few (zillion) questions
    about behaviour, how we are keeping them, etc.

    I hope the story isn't too long, and I don't make any of you faint clear away in horror
    at our ignorance, but if you spot something terribly wrong or unusual please let me know (nicely [​IMG]) !

    Ok, I live on the East Coast of Australia, so temperatures range from 16C-18C in winter and
    can be around 35C-41C in summer (like today, ick).
    Our backyard is 12m x 5m (30ft x 15ft), (was) grass and has a small retainer wall
    that had grass in it but was meant for vegies.

    In April (autumn) I brought home two (Isa Brown) (Gabby + Phoenix) about 6mnths old
    chooks that started laying the day after we got them, decided to buid the following coop for them to sleep in,
    but since it was small we would leave it open during the day and they would have from sunrise
    6am-ish to sunset 7:30pm-ish to free-range
    and enjoy the yard.

    We feed them organic layer mash, any kitchen scraps, always have shell grit for them,
    and always have water
    for them.

    They seemed happy, they did dig up one small patch of yard to dirt bathe in, but as
    the patch didn't expand, we were happy for them to have it.

    So at the beginning of May our lovely neighbour knocks on the door and asks if we would like any of his chooks
    as he was just going to release them into the scrub (aussie bush) for the foxes.
    Seeing as the coop instructions said it could house up to 6 chooks if they were only sleeping in it,
    we decided to save two of his chickens (another Isa Brown [Dot] and an Australorp [Lucy].)

    After a bit of pecking and leaving Lucy (the Australorp) out in the cold for a week or two
    the chooks established their pecking order: Gabby (queen bee), Phoenix (princess), Dot (handmaiden), Lucy (toilet scrubber).

    THEN in June we had about 4 weekends of very unseasonal rain and the backyard paradise turned very boggy,
    which the chickend seemed to enjoy.The next dry weekend, hubby and I went out for the day, and when we came home we found...nothing...
    no grass, no weeds, no nothing.
    Barren, bare earth.
    They even ripped out my solar lights and pulled them apart.

    Since then, not even the weeds have decided our yard would be good enough for them,
    we didn't know wether grass would grow back, but decided since our chooks were digging for China
    it might not be the best idea to plant anything just yet.
    The still had shade from the house and the one surviving palm tree.

    SEPTEMBER...

    Chooks very sad, fighting a lot, scraping and very loud,
    if they see Lucy anywhere near the food or water they screech bolt across the yard
    and peck her til she runs away. There is always plenty of food and water,
    I even started locking the others out of the coop for 15mins so Lucy could have
    a drink and eat in peace...now, she hides in the nesting boxes all day.

    QUESTIONS...

    Is it possible to have chooks and grass? Gabby and Phoenix didn't really dig
    until Dot and Lucy came along.

    Are they picking on Lucy because there is not much grazing anymore they have become more competitive?

    If we lay more turf and let it get established, will it just be destroyed in a day again?
    Is that normal? I have asked 20+ people who have had chooks that still have their grass + chooks...

    To entertain them we hide food, and have even made cold lettuce and corn cob piniatas for them to play with...

    Please help, we hate seeing Lucy so sad, and the chooks look so lonely in their dirt bowl.
    They have literally dug so deep that they have dug under the concrete path to the clothes line...

    Also, Is their diet and housing ok? They do free-range 12-14 hours a day...

    Thanks so much for your help!!! [​IMG] xx

    The Coop (Please note, this was just after it was built - there is now aviary wire on the bottom and it sits on the grass, not cement)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Chooks + Grass
    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG]


    After the first rain - grass looks patchy from digging
    [​IMG]


    From this - to this...Duckling looks at the Devastation...
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2009
  2. NellaBean

    NellaBean Graceland Farms

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    Mar 4, 2009
    Broodyland, TN
    My Coop
    The only way to get it back would be to keep the chickens off of it. I would create them a smaller "pen" area that would just stay dirt (or sand). It would be like a sacrifice area, and then once the rest of the grass is reestablished, you could let them out for short periods of time. I dont think you will be able to get the grass back at all unless you get the chickens off of it. You would then have to find the perfect balance of time on the yard and off the yard, without demolishing the grass.

    As far as pecking order issues, I can't help you there. I have certain chickens that hate each other....had some serious knock down drag out fights between two hens the other day because they ended up on the roost next to each other. I have a bigger coop with multiple roosts and plenty of other chickens to sit next to, so they worked it out eventually. I can't imagine those two girls of mine would ever get along in a smaller area.
     
  3. Countedsorrow

    Countedsorrow Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 11, 2009
    NSW, Australia
    Thanks for that - that was what I was afraid to hear! [​IMG]
    Ah well, I guess Chook TV is worth it...

    The fighting however was only the first week or so until they established
    who was queen bee and who wasn't and then they didn't fight at all
    until the grass dissappeared... then it was on again...
    I thought maybe since the bugs. frogs etc are gone they might be feeling competitive again...
     
  4. NellaBean

    NellaBean Graceland Farms

    7,261
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    Mar 4, 2009
    Broodyland, TN
    My Coop
    Well my girls used to get along just fine too....these girls were raised in the same batch as day olds. Maybe one stole the other's boyfriend?


    My chickens do get along better when there is stuff to do. Who can fight and chase when there are bugs to chase, grass to scratch and things to peck at? If they have nothing to do, then they probably *will* fight more. Otherwise they are distracted by all the fun stuff....of course, there will always be someone at the bottom of the totem pole who gets picked on. But the more "stuff" they have to do, the less severe it seems to be.
     
  5. Countedsorrow

    Countedsorrow Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 11, 2009
    NSW, Australia
    Hehe [​IMG]

    Do you have any other suggestions to keep them busy while the yard is being redone?
    Besides the food pinatas and hiding food?
     
  6. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Wow...sorry to hear about your chook problems and your grass problems [​IMG] I feel sorry for the poor girl getting beat up too! I do agree that it's lack of "resources" and distractions that has probably caused them to pick on her more. I agree with Nella that you're going to have to limit the chickens area until you're able to establish grass once more [​IMG]

    One suggestion you might consider (saw it on another thread) is building a wooden frame covered in wire, and planting grass seed under it. The grass will grow up through the wire, giving the chickens some fresh greens, but they will only be able to eat it down to the wire, not down to the ground. You could do something like that in "their" area. Over here, pumpkins and squash are really cheap, and they keep my ckickens entertained for long periods of time. Also, perhaps if you add a few roosts around, that might help. Good luck!
     
  7. The Zoo

    The Zoo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 13, 2009
    Hayward, CA
    I have found that my girls love to scartch through bark. I suggest building them a pen and throwing in some bark chips or mulch. Gives them something different and intriguing to move around.
     
  8. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 18, 2008
    Olympia WA
    Yep, what the others said about being bored and getting into trouble. I think it would be really hard to ever get grass to grow there, so I vote with ZOO--put in some mulch for them to scratch around in. You can get wood chips here for free and they have worked really well for me. Bark would probably also work if there is no problem with it (eucalyptus bark?). I throw birdseed and grain mixture (higher protein than scratch) out and kick it around in the mulch--it keeps them busy all day hunting. This time of year (fall here) I throw in leaves for them to dig around in. Give them piles of weeds or leftover produce to pick at. Some logs or other roosting areas would also make them happy. You might want to think about making their coop larger, could you cover the whole thing with plywood so they have more area? Good luck, I think you can get them back to a happy place. I think they also get grumpy when it is hot.
     
  9. Tala

    Tala Flock Mistress

    You can get something called a Flock Block, or basically just suet blocks with all kinds of birdseed or even peanuts. They are said to help with bored chickens.
    Scratch and/or BOSS to scratch around and search for would be good.
    Also offer two feeders maybe? To help with the feeder "guarding" problem.
    Can you buy some crickets from the pet store (where they have reptile food) the're pretty cheap and when released they provide a LOT of chasing entertainment.
    I have a bug zapper light, some people say their chickens love scratching for the "fried" bugs that fall under it - mine pick the screen clean for me when it needs cleaning out.
     
  10. BigSkyChickens

    BigSkyChickens Free Bird

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    Apr 3, 2009
    Pleasant Hill, CA
    I agree with Tala's suggestion to provide an extra feeder. I had to do that after my shy chicken started getting shut out of the feeder by the bossy, head-girl.

    Good luck re-establishing your green yard.....I'm afraid creating a "chicken exclusion zone" is the only way you will get anything to grow. [​IMG]
     

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