Sunday, June 28, 2009

One Big Happy Family

I must have fretted for two weeks about how to integrate Flora and Gertrude into the coop with the other girls. The recycling bin seemed to shrink as the new girls grew and grew and though they never complained I felt guilty as the days went on. The little girls enjoyed days in the yard in my makeshift portable pen where they were totally ignored by everyone else. But at night they returned to the safety of the kitchen while I figured out how to move them permanently to the coop. I had bad memories of Eunice joining the family and how terrorized she was by the others for that first month. There's real truth to that pecking order thing...
I finally came up with a way to divide the coop run with one of the fences I had made for the driveway when escape to that area had been such an allure. I gave the new girls a small area in the back of the coop and settled them in to meet their sisters. I nervously waited for the squawks and pecking, even through the fence, but they never happened. It took all of one day with a fence and one night altogether in the coop for everyone to come together. That was fighting, no pecking, nothing... I was astounded and relieved. Had I known it would be so easy I wouldn't have waited so long to move the girls out. As it was, it was almost 7 weeks before they left the kitchen. What can I say...I'm a cautious parent.
After two weeks everyone seems to be getting along just fine though I don't think they've formed a community yet. It's still big girls roam the yard and little girls stay closer to the coop and that is fine with me for now though I hope at some point they all roam together (so I know where everyone is!). Flora and Gertrude still have their lovely chirping voices that seem to go non-stop and now I've noticed the big girls almost purring (in imitation?). Anyway, the new girls have discovered dirt baths and bugs, sleeping on the roost, and the joys of low flight to get across the yard in a hurry. It's fun to watch them all.
On a side note, the girls had a lovely visit to the Second Congregational Church in Beverly last weekend for their Strawberry Social. They were invited to highlight the work the Sunday School has done with the Heifer Fund. The kids (and the adults) were charmed by the hens and the chicks and I did some shameless plugging for raising chickens in Beverly. There was some definite interest from a few adults and practically every child! As always, the girls love visitors so contact me at to arrange a tour.
I'm going to figure out how to attach files to this blog so I can post the documents I mailed to folks during the May Open House including Beverly specific forms and general FAQ's and health information. More to follow...

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Chicks!

Like any good parent I am using the time spent caring for my newest chicks as the excuse for not writing!
It was a very difficult choice as to which two of the six new chicks we were going to keep. I wanted them all to stay but we are not setup for such a large operation. Naomi had already picked the Rhode Island Red and after picking up each chick to see if there was that special bond (there wasn't - they're just chickens!) I chose one of the Bard Rocks who had the most lovely chirping sound. We presented the other four to our daughter and son-in-law in Middleton to add to their small flock. Their kids were very excited. The plastic bin seemed so empty without the entire gang though...
I want to thank everyone who suggested chicken names during the Open House. There were some wonderful names and we had a very hard time deciding. In keeping with our wish to use old fashioned names we settled on 'Flora' for the Bard Rock and 'Gertie' (short for Gertrude) for the RI Red. The names seem to fit.
It's been a fun few weeks with the chicks. They have grown so much that they are now in that awkward stage of all feathers that don't quite fit or something. Their feet are too large and they have the beginning signs of a comb, just like teenage boys with their peach fuzz. Somehow their voices haven't changed and they have the most genle pleasant chirp that is almost non-stop. I had forgotten how comforting that sound is and how much I will miss it when the chicks finally move out of the kitchen to the coop.
What I won't miss is the dust! It's pretty much just in the kitchen and there's no way to get around it. Last time we had chicks I put them right into the basement for that reason but that lasted all of two hours as I was worried it was too cold, too dark, too lonely, etc.. It was really me that had the issues, they were probably fine. The cats have shown no interest in the chicks and the chicken wire over the recycling bin is more to keep the girls in than the cats out. They are still enjoying the heat lamp as they're just little girls and still need to be warm. I think it will be a couple more weeks before we start thinking about the coop.
The chicks have had several trips to the backyard in their wire playpen on the warmer days. They figured out how to eat grass and bugs but they haven't started the scratching chcken dance yet. The chicks crouch at every noise or when a bird gets too close. They aren't fond of the sun and seem to prefer the shade. I don't have a cage so I made a corral of chicken wire and covered it with a piece of wire cloth to discourage jumping and keep any big birds out, like a hawk. We've had very few hawk sightings this spring but that's only because of good luck. I have a view of the chicks from my desk so they can't get into too much trouble.
I am a little concerned about the chick and hen integration. I still remember how hard it was when Eunice came as a pullet. I need to do some more research on the best approach so the chicks can be safe. I'll take suggestions from anyone who's done this before.
Lastly, one bit of unfinished business from the Open House. I emailed information packets to everyone who signed up but two e-mail addresses I had were bad and the mail came back. It's probably because I couldn't read the names correctly but if you signed up and didn't get anything, or you would like a packet, please contact me at and I will be happy to send the information out. I've already heard from one person who got her chicks after the Open House so the movement is really on - A Chicken in Every Yard! I can see it on bumper stickers now!