Chickens

Meet our lazy, freeloading, Arucauna hens; McGonagall and Skipper.  We used to have a third sister in the flock, Hermione, but she met an unfortunate end at the paws of a fox a few summers back.

McGonagall and Skipper eat lots, scratch up the mulch all over the yard, dig holes in the driveway to get at the dust underneath the gravel and enjoy their dust-baths there, and “fertilize” the lawn.  They are almost 5 years old and rarely give us eggs any longer, in fact the only thing we get from them, other than amusement, is their excrement, which provides us with the most fantastic additive to our compost. Our compost is pure black gold, filled with earthworms the size of small snakes…doesn’t that sound like reason enough to get chickens?  Oh, and they provide endless fun for our next-door neighbors’ children. 

March 14
One egg a day for the last three days, it’s a bonanza!
Yes, the egg is a pale blue/green. Arucuana hens lay pastel-colored eggs that include blue, green, beige, tan, pink and peach. Beautiful and delicious. There is no comparing the flavor of a fresh egg to one bought in a store!

We are sad to report that in December 2012 we lost our lovely McGonnagall to a hawk. We were very sad, but not as much as her sister and companion, Skipper, who exhibited both sadness and fear after the episode in which she barely escaped. She wouldn’t go out of the coop for more than a week (and we only opened the door when we were standing there to guard her).

But she was lonely, and at 6 years old, not laying many eggs, so we decided to get some new chicks to keep her company.

NEW CHICKEN UPDATE

Today is Friday, March 29, 2013

Our family is happy to introduce our 6 new feathered friends!
Please meet:

Emily Dickinson
George Eliot
Harper Lee
Margaret Mitchell
Edna St. Vincent Millay and
Joanne K. Rowling

I will not put them together with Skipper for at least 6 months, or she’d likely kill them…but once they’re all fully grown, I hope they will be good friends.  For now, they are in the garage under a heat lamp. They are the most adorable little creatures! They will provide pest control to our yard, manure for our compost and eggs naturally fortified with vitamin D and healthy omegas from their free ranging diet.

Ok, the six month thing didn’t work out. At about 7 weeks the chicks were  getting too big for successively large boxes in the garage, and the smell was, well…it smelled like six chickens lived in my garage. So into the coop they went. It is large enough that there was plenty of room, and Skipper, although clearly somewhat annoyed, was not territorial and left the little chickens alone. After another few weeks of letting Skipper out each day and leaving the little ones in the coop, it was warm enough outside to let them out as well.

Now every day they go out with Skipper. They mainly hide under bushes, but are becoming more bold and will follow Elias and me around when they catch sight of us. I like to ask Elias to get the mail just to see them chase him across the driveway to the front door as he returns from the mailbox.

At 11 weeks old, the chickens have grown remarkably, it’s hard to believe they are the same creatures as those little fuzzballs pictured above.

Here they are on June 11, 2013

Oh, their names have been changed. The kids didn’t like my literary names that I first selected, so I’ve given them new names based on First Ladies of the 20th century:

Grace Goodhue Coolidge

Eleanor Roosevelt

Mamie Eisenhower
Note, our Mamia has a crooked beak. She looks really goofy, and we’re not quite sure how she eats, but she’s growing well, so we guess she’s managing. It was hard to find a first lady for her, but this photo of Mamie looks a little goofy, so that’s what I decided on.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onasis

Lady Bird Johnson (there simply had to be a Lady Bird, yes?)

Nancy Davis Reagan

I think I did a good job of matching my hens to First Ladies.

Now I just have to wait a little longer for the new chicken coop to arrive, can’t wait for it to be placed in the vegetable garden.

I learn as I go along, though sometimes it takes me a while to learn. Eleanor, who looked pretty much like the other chickens until she got to be about 3 months old, started getting darker feathers than the others. At first, I thought she just was a different breed, slipped in among the Americaunas.  But then…she started looking like this:

Even so, it wasn’t until she started crowing “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” that I realized my hen was a he. I texted my husband, “Eleanor Roosevelt is a male!”  He replied, “tell me something we didn’t know” (speaking of the first lady, not the chicken).  So we changed his name to Eleanor Roostervelt–you can’t make this stuff up. Problem is, zoning regulations in Greenwich, CT don’t allow for roosters. I needed to find him a good home elsewhere. I ended up driving him back to Benedict’s Home and Garden Store in Monroe, CT, where I bought the chicks, and they promise me they sold him to someone who will not make him the guest of honor at a barbecue.

Bye-bye Eleanor!

September 20, 2013 Chicken Update

After five months of waiting for my new chicken coop, it finally arrived this week. Our friend and great carpenter Ken built this from photos of one I had ordered elsewhere, but they never delivered it, so I had to resort to begging Ken to do it instead.

First Brad and I went to Home Depot and bought patio stones to make a pad for the coop:

We pulled up part of the black fence, on the right of the photo. The rolls of fence located behind the pad are what I cut to make my chicken run.

It hasn’t rained for more than a week, so the ground is plenty hard and Ken is able to back the coop up to the garden.

To get the coop off the truck and into place only required Ken, Josiah, Elias and me. Ken used a giant crowbar to jack up the coop a bit and we positioned the PVC pipe under the coop then rolled it off the trailer and into place.

Here is Ken with his handiwork.

The fence archway to the left of the coop extends out from a door inside so the chickens can walk out and be protected from predators and still have access to the coop.

The tarp at the end of the archway allows the hens to have shade. Most days I’ll let them out through the back door of the coop into the yard, but I want them to get used to their new home so I’ll keep them in the coop and run for a few days. When I’m going to be out all day I can let them out in the run, and if I’m around I can let them out the back door into the yard.

Their food is in the bottom nesting box to provide a protected place for it, and the water is in the far left nesting box against the window, providing a place for it, as well.

It was hard to wait the five months it took to get the coop in the garden, but it was worth the wait. I just wish I’d asked Ken before dealing with the hassle of the first people I tried. I love our new coop!

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