Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hunkering Down

It's now mid-October and the girls have entered their annual 3 month period when they shed their feathers and take a break from laying eggs. The coop looks like a cross between a war zone and a craft project gone awry. Feathers, feathers, and more feathers. What a cruel twist of nature that just as the temperature starts to drop the girls lose their coats. Humans would never tolerate this!

The girls are actually good natured during this molting time and carry on as usual, though with a bit more scratching. They happily trot back into the coop a few minutes earlier each night as the sun dips down. No more waiting for the girls to go to bed so I can! We've had a few skunk sightings at dusk over the past month so I'm extra careful as I trudge across the yard making sure the white playground ball is not the almost completely white skunk. We've also not seen Butchie, our resident ground hog, for two weeks now. I miss him and had been working the past few months to get him used to the sound of my voice ("Hi Butchie, Hi Buthcie"). I was making real progress...even the girls adjusted to Butchie's presence and some days they all happily grazed under the bird feeders, waiting for seeds to drop. I can't even begin to think what the neighbors think as "Hi Butchie" echos from inside and outside the house on a regular basis. Maybe Butchie thought he was being stalked...

The loss of fresh eggs is the real tragedy during the fall - ok, that might be too strong. I can't fault the girls for needing a break and I always worry that they'll follow Delores's lead and give up altogether as she did 5 years ago. She must be pacing herself for a long life instead. We had to buy store eggs a week ago so no 'real' eggs would be wasted in cooking. I've got 3 eggs left, all from Hazel, bless her heart, and they'll be gone in a few days, but each bite will be treasured! If all goes well eggs should begin appearing around Christmas. What better present could I ask for!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chicken Open House a Washout!

The coop was scrubbed from top (yes, even the roof) to bottom, the girls were given lessons in deportment, the yard was lush with green grass and purple phlox and the chicken cookies were made.  And then the rains came... From 6:00 Saturday morning through the rest of the day it poured. Between a couple of friends, the very loyal neighborhood kids from across the street and a mother and son from over the hill we still had a great day giving tours, explaining where those eggs really come from, and answering all manner of questions as we stood out in the rain. The hens, with their well documented lack of common sense, wanted to be part of everything and spent much of the day out in the rain. The tent tarp blew down so we abandoned any attempt at setting up our reference table and egg raffle (sorry, Beverly Bootstraps...). Needless to say, all visits from chicks, young and oldish, were cancelled. Too cold for the little ones anyway.

Naomi and I have learned that next year there will definitely be a rain date and I commit to better publicity and more organization. That will give us two chances to be rained out in one weekend! We'll also move the date back into May so folks will have more time to get their paperwork over to the Beverly Board of Health before their summer meeting break and while chicks are still coming in at the Danvers Agway.

It was still a very good day...Thanks, girls!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

3rd Annual Chicken Open House - June 2, 2012

It’s now May 2012 and the Beverly Chickens blog is back from its year long sabbatical! It’s been a busy year with lots of changes and not a lot of time to keep the girls’ adventures updated. They (as do I) send their apologies!

But the girls are now back – not that they ever left – and getting ready for the 3rd Annual Chicken Open House on Saturday, June 2, 11-2 at 10 Harrison Ave., Beverly. If you have any interest or curiosity about keeping chickens in Beverly, or in any urban setting, stop on by! We’ll have our 4 hens – Delores, Flora, Gertrude, and Hazel, plus some baby chicks who will be visiting. We’ll have information about the permitting process in Beverly and other chicken resource material. Come and see the girls, the chicks, the coop, and ask questions like these –
Are chickens noisy?
How do the neighbors really feel about the hens?
What’s all the poop about poop?
What do chickens eat?
Is it safe to let the chickens run around the yard?
Do they fly?
How long will they live?
Do I need a rooster to get eggs?
How do I get a permit in Beverly?
And lots more!

As always, if you can’t make the open house, private tours can be arranged.
We’ll also be raffling a dozen eggs to benefit Beverly Bootstraps and the winner can be guaranteed of getting the best tasting eggs they’ve ever have!

The girls have actually had a good year and done well in spite of all the changes to their owners. Since my job changed from a home based and local one to all out of state travel the girls have spent more time in their coop under the care of Naomi who has graciously become the week day chicken mama. Naomi has been a good sport through it all – this was never her thing – but she’s made those twice daily trips out to the coop in cold and rain and dark to change water, add food, pick up the eggs, and when able, let the girls out for some play time in the yard. They don’t get out as often as they used to but the expanded run still gives them plenty of play room, albeit without the yard bugs, scattered bird seed droppings, and freshly planted pansies they love to dig up.  I think even Butchie, our resident groundhog, misses the girls. Thank goodness chickens ‘go home to roost’ at night as they happily put themselves to bed at dusk when they’ve been let out to play at the end of the day.
Naomi gets the unsung hero award for all her work this year.

Since I’m not home during the week we have decided not to expand our flock to 6 as we are permitted for. It’s just too much when I’m not around – that first month when the chicks are in the kitchen is pretty easy compared to the work to integrate them with the rest of the crew. From past experience we know Flora and Gertrude can be bullies and they made poor Hazel’s life miserable when she first arrived. It took several months to make the transition after a bloody beating followed by a long period of recovey in the basement. It was pretty bad but as chickens do, they’ve forgotten those early years and they all get along just fine now. And it didn’t take any therapy to get them to this point!

Happy Birthday, Delores!

Delores turned 5 on May 1 and we attribute her long and healthy life to the fact that she hasn’t laid an egg in almost 4 years! She was the last to lay out of our original group and 6 months later she stopped and she’s been retired ever since. She’s healthy, eats well, doesn’t rush to get anywhere, especially into the coop when I need to get everyone in. That must be the key to her longevity – low stress, no pressure to produce that egg every day or so….it’s a good life for her.

Thankfully, the rest of the girls are good layers and only take a break in the late fall and early winter each year. Even hens need a break, but oh, how I miss my eggs during that time. No cage-free, organic type store egg is ever as good.

The girls continue their spring cleaning of removing all the grass in the yard, especially under the clothesline. Any small patch of dirt gets expanded and soon the new dirt bath is the place to be. And if it’s a sunny spot? It might as well have a sign on it saying ‘Chicken Wash’. I’ve given up reseeding as it’s a battle to keep the hens off any area I seed – even with a fence. This is a front yard wash where I don't mind the baths as much.

Just a reminder to stop by on June 2 if you find yourself in Beverly!