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Archive for the ‘Our Chickens’ Category

Our chickens are now full-grown young ladies, loving spring time in the back yard. Each day for them goes about the same. They come down from the roost with the rising of the sun eat their chicken feed and drink from the water trough and mill about in the dirt looking for bugs and weeds. About an hour goes by and they’ll get a visit from myself our the kids with some leftover table scraps(moldy bread, old lettuce, spoiled fruit) at which point they try their darndest to get loose from the coop. Id say it’s a 50% success rate for all their efforts. We then leave them to cruse the yard, we leave the coop open and they usually head back into the safety of its chicken wire after a couple of hours. They also prefer laying their eggs in the nesting boxes so that draws then back inside as well. If they don’t get loose we keep them in the coop for the day and spare out yard from the chickens poop and the possibility that they will eat my garden to the ground(its happened). We don’t hear much from the chickens on a daily basis except when one of them lays an egg. We get to hear all kinds of proud announcements. I can look out into the back yard towards the coop and see one of the ladies squawking and fluffing herself letting the world in general know how great she is at laying eggs.

Chickens eat pretty consistently all day long and love to roll around in the dirt and chase butterflies and crickets. They head up into the roost as the sun goes down, it’s actually pretty remarkable. If we leave them out all day we can be sure they are inside the coop as the sun goes down as long as we leave the door open. This was not taught to them they just started doing it once we put them outside. They live a very simple life.

Our little wanna be mama.

About a week ago I was heading out into the yard, the sun was shinning, I had just finished a yummy breakfast, had my cup of coffee in my hand, with kids running about and was en route to the coop. I had gardening on my agenda and I usually let the girls out when I plan on being outside for a while. I opened the door and only 4 out of 5 of the ladies scurried out….kinda weird. they’re usually elbowing each other out-of-the-way trying to be the first one through the door so I new something was amiss when Mary Clair didn’t even come down from the roosting area. I opened the side door and found her sitting in a nesting box all snuggled in. I figured she was laying an egg and left her alone (it seemed a bit early because the girls all like laying eggs midafternoon, and it was only 8:00am). I had also noticed a day earlier that she had plucke out or lost most of the feathers on her belly area. She has been sitting in the same darn box for this whole week. I called my dad and asked for his opinion about what I should do(he raised lots of chickens in our yard while I was a baby) and whether or not he thought she might be sick, he said he didn’t know and told me to kick her off the nesting box and check her out to see if she still ate and did the rest of her normal chicken stuff(pooping, laying eggs, wallowing in the dirt, eating bugs and weeds). I said ok and went out the next day ready to kick her out of the box and check out how she did next to the other 4 ladies. I got out there, opened the door and went to pick her up, she has always been very docile and friendly as far as chickens go, but as I reached in to get her she fluffed up and pecked me really hard!!! What ran through my mind was what the heck, I’m not gonna hurt you, why are you being so protective? Then it struck me that maybe she is brooding. I was told some breeds of chickens can become what is called “broody”. They think that their eggs are fertile and need to be kept warm. Mind you we have no rooster so the eggs these 5 ladies are laying will never hatch babies. This poor chicken thinks she is gonna be a mama. I have had to kick her out every day this past week trying to break her of the habit because I’ve been told and have read that chickens can become very nasty if they aren’t broken of the habit. Ugg….she so wants to be a mother and here I am 7 month pregnant telling her no, like I have room to talk.

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Mary B and Mary C on the wood pile they lay their eggs under.

Mary B and Mary C on the wood pile they lay their eggs under.

The week I took my kids up North to Mendocino County, Ca. to stay with friends and visit, my husband calls me up and says, “guess what I found sitting on the couch?”. I hadn’t a clue. He proceeded to tell me he found an egg sitting on the couch with no chicken in site. We now know that Mary B came in and laid the first egg on the couch in the living room and also got into my husbands “painting shack” and laid another egg on the couch in there. She for some odd reason prefers to lay eggs in the house on the couch. She has even opened the sliding screen door with her beak (i watched) to get in and braved the kids playing and running around her while she goes to work laying an egg. We prefer the chickens to stay outside so I worked on a relocation effort so that she can still feel the comforts of the couch and continue laying in the coop. I took an old pillow case from one of the pillows on the couch and stuffed that into a nesting boxes, she seemed to like it enough to put her eggs there. But every once in a while we still find her trying to come in the house to lay her eggs. Maybe she is trying to do me a favor so I don’t have to trek outside to get her eggs.

Daisy on the left and Pat on the right

Daisy on the left and Pat on the right

Chicken number two(Mary Claire) started laying eggs the same week while I was gone with the kids and she chose to lay eggs outside of the coop as well. Ugh. She made a little nesting area under a pile of wood near the coop. At least its not in the house. I just have to move one piece of wood and reach under to get it. Both Mary Claire and Mary Bernice are brown egg layers. The eggs seem to vary a bit in size but they are usually about medium sized, pinkish brown and sometimes they have little white spots on them.

Egg laying location under the pile of wood

Egg laying location under the pile of wood

I was given the advice to keeping the girls locked up in the coop for a couple days to get them laying in the boxes. It had been two weeks since the girls had started laying and we were getting about 10 eggs per week from the two chickens that had started laying, so I felt it was time to give the advice a try.  During the three days of lock down on the last day I went to check for any eggs and found two brown eggs and one green egg. This meant that another chicken had stared laying, hurray! Lock down was over and we had three out of five chickens laying their eggs in the nesting boxes provided them inside the coop.

Mary Claire

Mary Claire

The advice about the girls was, that if I left them in the coop for 3-5 days they would start laying their eggs in the nesting boxes provided and then at the end of lock down when you let them out they would still come back and lay their eggs in the boxes as long as they could get in the coop. Well that worked for about a week and then they all thought Mary Claire’s egg laying location under the pile of wood was better. Now I am stuck moving the piece of wood and retrieving my eggs out from under the wood pile. I guess its better then trying to find where the eggs are all over the yard. As my neighbor put it “Its better then an Easter egg hunt everyday”.

Mary B

Mary B

Within another week or so the final two hens were also laying eggs. In total we have five hens laying eggs, 3 of them are brown egg layers and 2 are green egg layers. The 2 golden colored chickens(buff Orpingtons) lay brown eggs and the white chicken(not sure of the breed) lays brown as well but hers are lighter in color then the other two. The darker brown pretty chickens(Araucanas) are the green egg layers and they are a little less consistent. Between all 5 of the Girls we get about 3-4 eggs each day. I’m told they get more consistent with time.

with Clarence

Jess with Clarence our dog.

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So ya want to get some chickens……

I would start by asking yourself a couple questions.

  1. how many do you want/ how many are you aloud to have in your city/how much space do you have for them?
  2. for what purpose are you getting them? (example: eggs, meat, pets)

When you have those questions answered you can then move forward with some research on how to pick your breed of chicken, how to build or buy a coop and what goes into actually having them around.

The Coop:

You should consider a couple of things when buying or building your coop. First how much room do you need for the number of chickens you have and second you need to give them protection from the weather and animals. If your building your own coop there are tons of great ideas on the site back yard chicken. There were a couple things I learned while making up plans to building our coop. One of those things was not every chicken needs her own nesting box but each chicken does need her own space to roost. A nesting box is where they lay eggs and a roost is a pole where they can sleep off of the ground. The other thing to think about is how are you planning on cleaning this coop and are the chickens going to be aloud out of this space and if so how will they get out and how will you get there eggs. Its always good to look at other peoples ideas when building your own coop.

For example I will explain our coop.

from the bottom up: We put chicken wire  (18guage) all around the bottom half of our a-frame coop and wrapped it under the floor of the coop about 10inches so that if something tried to dig in, it would run into chicken wire. Next we put a door on one of the shorter sides so that the chickens could come in and out because we let them roam the yard for weeds and bugs. Above the chicken door we placed another door for our egg retrieval and then on one long side we made the whole upper level open up for cleaning purposes. We made a loft for the girls to sleep in at night for a couple reasons. It has a roost(a long pole) to sleep on, they get protection from the rain/wind and they can be even more protected if we are having problems with animals because the ramp we built also doubles as a draw bridge.  Originally we were gonna build a chicken tractor but the coop ended up being pretty heavy so we nixed the wheel idea and opted to leave it in one place.

If I’ve left something out, and I’m sure I have, a great resource is Raising chickens. They have great reason why you should raise them and great ideas on how to make everything you need and save money doing it.

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This morning I woke up, made coffee, fed my kids, kissed my husband, and headed out into the back yard. The girls as we like to call them were sitting in their coop quietly chatting with each other waiting for me to come feed them. We brought our 4 Buff Orpington chickens home from the Hawthorne Country Store in February and within about a month we lost 2 of them to our neighbors dog. They were very sweet and obviously not afraid of dogs…oops. About a week later we went to get another couple chickens but the store we first went to didn’t have any so we headed over to Country Feed in Vista Ca. and ended up getting 3 Araucanas from them. In total we have 5 chickens in our back yard that as of yet have not layed any eggs. the original fourthe original four chickens

The History:

After about 6 months of off and on research we had decided to get some back yard chickens for their egg laying abilities. My goal was to have no more then five chickens and I wanted nothing to do with roosters or the extra noise they tend to make. We chose five because we wanted enough eggs for our own use and then some extra for friends and family.There are lots of books out there that teach the basic’s about Back Yard Chickens. I learned everything from chicken lingo to how much room each chicken needs to live comfortably.

Our girls are great bug eaters , weed pickers, and fertilizer’s . They are really easy to take care of and seem to be great with my kids. If you can catch them they also will sit on your lap and enjoy being pet. The two that survived the neighbors dog seem to be extra sweet and I’m not sure if its that they are thankful I saved them just in time or if its that they are a different breed then the other three. Either way they are good girls.

the survivors Mary Clair and Mary B with Clarence our dog

the survivors Mary Clair and Mary B with Clarence our dog

This is the living space my brother and husband made for the girls (I helped a Little too).  Its an A frame coop with chicken wire around the bottom half and a door to let them out into the yard and the top half is wood and roofing to protect them from the weather. It also has a roost for them to sleep and boxes for their egg laying (which we are still waiting for). My Husband did the best paint job ever and also attached the license plates to the upper edge. The Coop is almost complete. We have a few rainy day leaks but here in southern California we don’t get much of that so its not a big worry.

Henry the the chicken coop

I’ll update you once we get some eggs and tell you how everything is going. Feel free to ask any questions you like.

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