Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's been a very long time since I have posted anything here. Much has been going on in the backyard and once again there have been some changes.

Taking a few steps back...I spent much of the summer and fall wondering why my girls didn't lay eggs. For the second summer there were no eggs from the two girls who could have laid - Delores and Beatrice. To give Beatrice credit, she managed to lay about one egg a month but Delores just counted on her good looks to get her by. Flora and Gertrude were too young but I knew that from October on there could be eggs. Meanwhile, I just enjoyed their company and antics and continued to buy eggs, though I didn't have much interest in eating them.

My step-daughter, Sharon, suggested I add two more chicks so that eventually, there would be a more continuous supply of eggs as older girls stopped laying and younger girls began. It certainly made sense and I had sadly come to see this year that chickens don't live forever, or even that long. But I had other dilemmas...I was only permitted by the city to have 4 hens and I wasn't sure I was up for the task of blending in new girls. Flora and Gertrude were easily accepted but Eunice had had a tough time of it.

So Naomi and I discussed our options and in the fall we brought home two 'foster' chicks. Irene and Hazel, both Araucanas lived in the kitchen in the recycling bin and was it nice to have them with their little chirps. Hazel had a rough start at Sharon's as the 'runt' and she arrived with few feathers on her back. Irene towered over her but was gentle and the feathers grew back.

Unfortunately, Irene turned out to be Irving with the saddest adolescent crow you've ever heard and on Naomi's next trip out to see the grand-kids in NY she took 'Irene' and brought back Josephine, another Buff. It's so nice to have an endless supply of chicks in the family! Josephine was from the same group as the others so everyone knew each other...well, as far as chickens go.

Keep in mind that we were still working with 'foster' chicks and were still on the fence about keeping them but we started to give them some outside time in the tractor while the big girls hovered with curiosity. I had also gotten into the habit of letting the chicks sit in the kitchen on the edge of the recycling bin as they enjoyed roosting there and were generally well behaved....except for when they weren't and they tested their wings in the kitchen. I seemed to be the only one who found this endearing and after a few flights around the kitchen Naomi banned them to the wire covered bin and I knew we had to move them outdoors.

It was then that I contacted the Board of Health to request my permit be extended to 6 hens knowing I would abide by their decision and if necessary, two would return to NY. In hopeful anticipation of a new officially extended family I started moving the girls out to the coop at night. I still kept them separate during the day as Flora and Gertrude, now laying eggs (hallelujah!), seemed a bit feisty and I worried about them pecking the little ones.

The overnights worked out well but then the time in the run became a little chaotic for the little ones so I continued to keep them apart except for short periods. I worried especially for Hazel who seemed more vulnerable. One Saturday morning in December, when things seemed to be going well, I left them all in the run for two hours to mingle. It was a big mistake and when I returned poor Hazel had been attacked so badly that the back of her neck was completely exposed and bleeding. Oh, such guilt.... We brought her inside and cleaned and bandaged her neck. The wound was so serious I didn't think she was going to survive. She barely tolerated the dressings but with a topical antibiotic and some other antibiotic added to her water the wound healed and the feathers grew back. But now she lived in the basement...

On the warmer days I put Hazel in the tractor with Josephine and on other days I brought Josephine in for 'play dates'. I now had a good sized cage so at least there was room for them. I researched protective jackets for Hazel and fashioned one out of fleece, hoping that would discourage pecking. But the cold weather made it hard to be consistent about getting Hazel out.

Josephine was holding her own in the coop though she was more afraid of the girls than anything and she'd run away from them even when they were ignoring her. Sometimes she'd hide between my legs or jump on my back or head. She loved being held and was a real sweety. There was only occasional pecking at Josephine, nothing like what Hazel experienced.

During all of this drama I had my hearing in front of the Board of Health in late January and I found a much different board than three years ago during my initial permit application. They were open and receptive this time and seemed genuinely interested in what I wanted to do plus they commented on the increase in permit applications since last year's newspaper article. That was wonderful the hear!

I had my permit approved the next day for 6 hens!

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