Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring Catch-up

It looks like the Hen Saver coat for Hazel will get put away after all. Despite custom fitting a neck piece the coat never fit well and Hazel spent more time wiggling out of it then then using it for her own protection. Much of February and March was spent integrating Hazel with the rest of the hens but it seems to have worked despite a few setbacks. Will she ever be fully accepted? I doubt it but I am looking more for long term safety than anything. These hens can be tough on each other and the term 'pecking order' sure is based in fact.

Both Flora and especially Gertrude go after Hazel on a regular basis and Hazel is always the last one to eat, the last one to leave the safety of the coop, and the one is always on the outskirts of the group. It's 4 + 1 and not 5. I try to let them out in the yard as much as possible and that extra space gives Hazel room to do her own thing and not be bothered too much. She still can't join in the group dirt bath but she sits right on the roost with everyone else as long as Gertrude is busy laying an egg.

Up until last week I thought the truce was going to last but then there was an episode in the run with feathers flying and Hazel trying to escape. The next day I noticed some bare spots on her neck so I tried Vick's Vapor Rub as my friend Martha had recommended for a similar problem. It seems to have worked and we're back to the truce. I probably need to apply another dose.

The family problems prompted me to take care of some coop issues this spring that I couldn't ignore any longer. I've had a flooding problem in the back end of the run and half of it can be underwater during a heavy rain. So in late February, with the ground still frozen, I put in a French drain on two sides. I got it in just in time for the first big rain in March and there was only minimal flooding and it didn't last long.

So I began phase II...the coop expansion. Since I want to get back to 6 hens it was time to expand the coop beyond its 4x8' footprint. I had only one direction to expand in, towards the back, so I put together a plan for an 8x8' addition. Nothing is ever easy...that meant another retaining wall and another drain! All that took place during the second March rains and I have never seen so much water in my back yard. The girls did well though my new drain couldn't keep up with the water. I now have plans for a rain garden downstream from the coop where the water naturally flows. I might as well trap and use what I can as the water comes down the hill and around the coop.

This week I finished the addition and opened up the wall between the two sections. The girls haven't quite figured out this is their new indoor playground, despite the new roost and snacks I put over there but they'll get it. I am so relieved to have more space for them for those days when I'm not home to let them roam. And now Hazel can get some space if Gertrude is being a bully. The nice thing is that from the house you can't see the addition and I think it blends in well so the neighbors shouldn't mind.

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