We feed about 60 chickens, and lately we get about 5 eggs a day. Why so few? Because some of the girls are of an age they lay infrequently. And because it’s winter, a time to conserve resources for staying warm and surviving. Except our spoiled girls have a taj-ma-barn with timers set to mimic daylight, a heater set to 55° (that’s warm for an Alaskan chicken), and automatic pop-doors for fresh air and exercise, all of which should keep production up.
Unless… We have some egg eaters in our midst. It’s what happens when good chickens go bad. They don’t steal cars or stay out all night with friends, they turn on the poor defenseless eggs and gobble them up before we can collect them. In a large flock it can be hard to figure out who is behind the mayhem so we are changing things up.
I started thinking to myself “Self, we need to add some new girls and get production back up”. The next thing I knew, my mom’s cousin showed up at my office to ask for help with some chickens who had wandered onto her street and seemed to be homeless. Here is the story in her own words:
We have had chickens on our street and yards for a week now. Here is what I sent out after quizzing folks all around. Farm animals are strictly forbidden in our subdivision but so are loose dogs so the hens were happy here. The mayor across the street goes up Lazy Mountain to milk cows each morning and night. He asked if the rules had been waived so he could bring his cows down here. Joe wants hogs. All good fun here.
The girls were out front this morning again, so Carl broke up Dave’s Killer Bread…the real seedy one, and they were delighted. Lots of water made them happy. Also sunflower seeds and Kris’ hemp seeds. As Carl’s new best friends, they were easy to coax in our fenced area.
We drove all around looking for chicken coups. A farm near the fair had only white chickens. Others had empty coups this time of year. Another had all seven accounted for. My cousin Cheryl’s daughter, Michelle Olsen, works at the Borough. She and her family live in the Butte in the house that looks like an airport tower, because that is what it is. They have chickens, sheep, dogs and cats. She came after work, grabbed those girls upside down and stuffed them in our pink cat carrier. I was traumatized. The girls fell asleep within seconds. They have a safe home now.
And that’s how we inherited Carla and Judy.
We have been growing some leghorn chicks that are about 3 months old now, big enough to keep themselves warm, so it’s time to graduate to the big leagues. Since we needed to stir things up anyway, seemed like the perfect time to throw them into the mix.
Because everyone was new to this pen, there weren’t any squabbles over pecking order. Everyone was intent on investigating the new space.
Our pens are divided by simple chicken wire walls. Previously this part of the barn had housed our purebred Icelandic chickens. Then it became our lambing jugs, then the puppy playpen, and lately it’s been the quarantine for the new sheep. But each of those groups have moved up and out so we can re-purpose the space again.
Chickens are creatures of habit. They establish a pecking order which guides their activities and sleeping arrangements within that order. These girls are young so most are lower in the order and as such they used to huddle in the corner just on the other side of the wire they now face. As this first night in their new digs approaches they are not sure where they should be and look longingly at the spot they occupied last night. Don’t fret, these girls will make new nests, and take space on the roost rather than the floor, once they realize this big open space really is all their own.
Al and Mia, as flock guardians, keep tabs on all the goings on of their flocks. So naturally Al was more than just a little curious that I was moving birds around. He wanted to be sure I was being careful and that “his” birds were happy. What a ham.
It’s going to be fun to watch the dynamics of the new little flock. And now I have room to segregate some of the older flock, see if I can solve the mystery of the disappearing eggs. And I can take stock for the spring orders, see who needs to move to freezer camp and who will be the nurturing camp counselors for the incoming chicks yet to be hatched.
It appears I have two broody hens in the Icelandic crowd, they will be getting some eggs to incubate later. For now I’m using them to protect the eggs from others, and I don’t mind having to wear leather gloves to harvest eggs from them each day.
Earlier today we did some work on the pasture fence under the watchful eyes of our resident supervisors. Opal (on her back) will be going to her new home tomorrow leaving Rocco on his own, with only his parents for playmates. This should make Al a happy boy as he loves to play and feels left out when they pups play with each other instead of him.
It’s bittersweet watching these beautiful pups grow up and leave the nest. I know they are going to amazing homes that we have hand picked, but we sure do miss their antics.