Monday, June 23, 2008

Chicken Update 2008

I practice a system of integrated pest control instead of using chemicals. After the garden is harvested each fall, the chickens are allowed the run of the entire yard. They have a wonderful time scratching in the dirt looking for bugs and weed seeds. But during the growing season they can be too destructive to little plants just getting started so wings are clipped (on just one side only, we stretch the wing out and clip the end 1 - 3" of the big feathers - the idea isn't to prevent them from being able to lift off, but just to make them unbalanced enough that they don't want to try) and they're confined to their chicken yard for the summer.

The new girls, the six baby chicks we bought the end of April - two Barred Rocks and four Rhode Island Reds, got moved from the dog crate inside out to the dog run once the weather warmed up and they had most of their feathers. They've grown into lovely and happy pullets there, but I'm hoping for a family of keets (baby guineas) any day now, and they're gonna need that space. So the girls, plus a meek little wayward Buff Cochin bantam rooster that's been sharing the dog run, now have to move in with the rest of the flock.

So this evening, after we closed up the coop for the night, we went out and moved the girls. The nest boxes open from the back to allow for easy egg collection without going into the coop, so we just put everybody into a couple of the boxes for the night. In the morning, that will give them a bit of protection until they're ready to venture out. Then comes the tough part. Chicken communities have a definite pecking order, and the new girls will have to learn their place is at the bottom. At least they won't have a rooster jumping on them. We took in a neighbor's dog for a couple of weeks after he couldn't keep him anymore (and have now found him another home), but while he was here and the chickens were still on the loose, he pounced on our rooster (just playing, not to kill, but he's too big to play that rough - we found the rooster dead inside the coop later on, so he must have been internally injured). The hens seem happier without a rooster around anyway, and Grey Guinea is a lot calmer not having a rival male around so I guess everything worked out for the best. It's certainly a lot quieter in the mornings.

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