October 2, 2010

Chicken News: the Good, the Scary, the Silly

My most exciting news (or is that eggciting?) is this...

My chickens have finally consented to lay in my 3R nest boxes!!! I almost can't believe it. For three months now they've laid them everywhere but. They still lay eggs elsewhere, but at least I can now have some small sense of satisfaction from the nest boxes I was so proud of.   :)

Speaking of eggs, I got a striped one ...

Or at least this is probably as close as it gets.  It's a Welsummer egg. The interesting thing about Welsummer eggs is that the speckles are completely random. Each egg is different. Like this one...

... which is curious because of the size of those spots.  Or this one ...

... with a pile of speckles at one end.  This egg is also unusual because it is lighter that most Welsummer eggs. These definitely keep egg gathering interesting.

Here's the scary news - we almost lost one of our Welsummer hens. I was out turning the compost pile when I heard a crash and Lord B, our rooster, let out a loud warning squawk. I looked up, expecting to see that a pecan branch had come crashing down near the chickens. What I saw was a hawk, extracting itself from the thicket under the pecan tree where the chickens like to hang out. Fortunately it's talons were chickenless, but I had some panicked pullets, not knowing which way to run. I ran over to see if everyone was okay. The near victim looked like she'd had a few feathers pulled from her back, but other than that was just frightened. She wouldn't let me catch her to look her over, nor would she come out when I scattered some scratch and called "chick, chick." Can't say that I blame her.  I did watch her for a little while to make sure she wasn't injured. She ate the scratch I tossed in the bushes and appears to be getting around just fine.

[UPDATE: Dan's Hawk Deterrent, posted 10/4/2010]

On a more humorous note, here's an observation. Chickens, like most animals, respond best to routine. Because of that, I tried to think ahead about the chores I needed to do and when (and sometimes where) I wanted to do them. Our morning chicken routine is this: I first go into the feed section of the animal shed, greeting everyone. I usually bring yesterday's kitchen scraps with me, and add a scoop of chicken scratch. Then I go around to the chicken yard and open the chicken's door. (Photos of chicken gate and chicken door in this post.) While they're enjoying their scraps and scratch, I go do other things. Awhile later, I come back and open the chicken gate to let them into the goat field.

No problem with that routine. It's all well and good. Until the day I decided to open the gate right after gaving them their scratch. No waiting, I figured they could just go out to free range as soon as they wanted. When I finally went to do a chicken check however, I was surprised to see them clustered in the chicken yard, waiting for me. Apparently, it never occurred to them that the gate to the field was already open! The routine is that I'm supposed to open the gate after they've finished their scratch. They never noticed it was open. They just waited for me to come.

Rain. Of my four breeds, the only one that doesn't seem to mind rain is the Delaware. The others prefer to stay in, but if the rain lets up, are willing to make a dash around the side of the shed to visit the goats. There they can scratch around in the straw and lay eggs in the hay. The goats don't mind the company as they don't like going out in the rain either. (Llamas, on the other hand, don't seem to mind the rain and Charlie comes and goes in it as he pleases.)

The last of my chicken news is that one of our hens caught a small snake. It was a baby black snake (or maybe a rat snake) about 12 to 13 inches long and oh what a fuss she made. She would carry it around proudly until it wiggled a bit, then she would drop it with a squawk and a huge backwards jump. Every time I tried to get a closer look she would run off with it, because chickens aren't inclined to share their prizes. She eventually ate half of it (lovely sight), and later must have gone back to finish it off because it disappeared after that.

And that's it for my chicken news.


Michelle said...

Now that was an entertaining post!

Anonymous said...

I needed that! LOL

The Mom said...

I love watching my chickens, they are sooo entertaining. It's funny, I think when they are just learning to lay, and don't have older hens to guide them, they lay everywhere for a few months. Then they seem to find their spot.

Razzberry Corner said...

Chickens are creatures of habit, aren't they? Silly birds! I say that all the time about my chickens!

Mama Pea said...

Who needs TV when you can drag a lawn chair out into the chicken yard, eh?

We have quite a bit of trouble with hawks this time of year up here in NE Minnesota. The chickens get so freaked out (who can blame them?) that a large songbird or private plane flying over will send them running for cover.

bspinner said...

Your post was a great way to start my morning. I love chickens!! They can be so funny!

Do you plan on adding any rabbits to your collection of farm animals?

Nina said...

We've hawks nesting nearby who do the rounds regularly. They sound surprisingly like the squeak that the clothesline makes, so whenever I hand the laundry out, they pair of them come to check out who is invading their territory! All but one took to the nesting boxes pretty quickly. The other likes to lay right beside it.

Leigh said...

Thanks Michelle! We aim to please. :)

Evelyn, so glad to help make your day!

Heather, aren't chickens a hoot. One of farmings best kept secrets. I hadn't thought about older hens as an example, but I think you're absolutely right about that. Hopefully we'll have some home hatched chicks next year. It'll be interesting to see how much they imitate their elders.

Lynn, I'm amused at myself too, because who wudda thunk?

Mama Pea, when I let the chickens out this morning, I squatted down & told Lord B to keep an eye out for hawks. It's funny because he looked me right back in the eye like he knew I was talking to him. Yesterday he was extra alert and watchful. I'm just hoping that our hawks are going to migrate southwards.

Barb, we discuss rabbits from time to time, especially because every critter here has to make a contribution. Rabbits can contribute manure (of which we have no shortage), meat, and fiber. Fiber rabbits are probably out because I have a lifetime supply of angora from the bunnies I used have. Plus angora rabbits are very high maintenance. We haven't decided about rabbits for meat. So we have no plans yet, but we're not ruling them out either.

Nina, that's interesting. We've been researching hawk deterrents. Maybe a recording would make them think our place is already some other bird's territory(?)

Good for your chooks for using your nest boxes! Maybe mine are too weird looking and they didn't know what they were for, LOL

Theresa said...

LOL, yes, they do love their routines. Mine have hoof watches and if I'm late you wouldn't believe the racket
when I finally do appear out the front door. Everyone is calling my name and not in a good way. As to not figuring out the gate is open, what can I say, they're chickens!
That is scary about the hawk. There are days when I would gladly let one take Pogo, maybe I should put a few feathers on his back and a bulls eye?
I was gifted a white footed mouse this morning from Juno. Guess she thought I looked like I needed some protein for breakfast. I declined and had my usual yogurt instead letting her keep the feast for herself.

Renee Nefe said...

congratulations on the hens finally approving of your nesting boxes. I hope they eventually learn to love the boxes to save you having to egg hunt.

Pretty scary about the hawk...is there any way to deter them? we have them around here and I always worry about some of the smaller pets folks have. I don't leave my rabbits out unattended (but they don't like all the wind and barking dogs...so they don't go out much).

Lee said...

Eggs are so pretty, aren't they? I love the speckly ones too.

Our chookie news - we've two chookies on eggs that are (hopefully) about to hatch!

I'll post cute chickie photos if/when they hatch - should be soon.

I could feel one of the eggs actually trembling in my hand yesterday when I picked it up! So exciting!

Blue bird said...

A most wonderful post to find in blogland!
Thank you for your kind efforts to share the wondeful events from the farm.
I have a little wildbird sanctuary and I also know what a hawk is! But truly he/she hawk is most interested in bigger catch than songbirds. Once was a pigeon visiting my feeder and a hawk got it with amazing speed! Feathers were flying all over. So is created by nature.Hawks are predators. ( Do we eat "meat" also?)

Leigh said...

Theresa, I hadn't thought about horses. How funny. The goats are like that. They start putting up quite a fuss, "calling" me as it were, when they thing it's time for grain.

Good job with the mouse. How nice of Juno to offer it to you first. :)

Renee, I hope you're right! We have been researching hawk deterrents. They range from scarecrows, to hanging shiny objects, to dogs, to fake owls. We haven't tried any of them yet, but I think we'll need to do something even though I haven't seen them (there are ) in a couple of days.

Leanne, that is so exciting! I can't wait to have hatching chicks. I'll be looking forward to your post about them and pictures!

Julia, we'd hoped our hawks would be satisfied with the numerous squirrels. And as much as I appreciate their beauty and right to exist, one certainly wishes they wouldn't exist on one's chickens! :)

Lee said...

What a great post about your chickens! I think perhaps your birds are smarter than ours. We have Garter snakes everywhere, and I've never seen them catch one. Just as well. I like my snakes eating grubs like they are supposed to.

One of our neighbors told us that their daughter's Angora rabbits were the only profitable animal on their property, including the Angus cattle.

Anonymous said...

Wow...what action! I hope you don't come across an egg that has a snake head in it..he he! Like our cat playing with his finds..he won't share either...lol!

So So glad your chickens are okay. I love hawks and I know they have to eat too, but not your chickens.

Those eggs are so beautiful...Yumm!

Enjoy and Hugs!

Leigh said...

Lee, I never knew that chickens would be interested in snakes! I've not seen any garter snakes here, and most of the rat snakes cleared out after our cats cleaned out most of the mice.

Angora rabbit fiber is very marketable but angora bunnies require a lot of care and it's a job to harvest their fiber. I did love them though. They make great pets.

Pam, yup, cats are like that too. We really like hawks too, but not at the expense of our chickens. Tomorrow I'll post about our hawk deterrent. Hopefully it will help.

Sharon said...

And to think that three years ago was it (?) you were living in an apartment! Our llamas don't mind the rain or snow, and in fact, will kush outside in either.

Leigh said...

Sharon, every time things seem overwhelming I remind myself of that very fact. I think, "well, we could still be living in the apartment." That puts it all in perspective and re-awakens the thankfulness I feel to be here.

I'm glad to know that about your llamas. Since my Charlie is the only one I've known, I'm not always sure what's typical for llamas and what's individual personality.

His first few days here we had a deluge. He didn't know to hang out in the goat shed, so he just hunkered down and road the storm out. We felt so bad for him but he was no worse for the wear. Plus it washed out his fleece!