The henhouse got a fall cleaning/ “henhouse makeover” in fall colours. The abundant maple leaves provided a big new spongy carbon layer, piled in over top of the dung and old grass that has been piling up. It’s like lasagna gardening, only lasagna composting. It makes the henhouse smell really good again too. Now when I open their hatch, I hear crunching inside as they start walking towards the door.
I love the chickens! They’re all grown up, and there are far fewer, because most of the roosters got eaten, but the little flock is so mischievous and amusing and … lively. It’s just nice to have animals roaming around being animals, murmuring to each other and sneaking around, popping around the corner of the barn, and scratching in the hay with their butts in the air like little schooners. They hover around when we’re working or raking leaves, waiting to reverse our work or dig for uncovered treats.
They can fly quite well, too, as I discovered when I was dumping leaves in the henhouse. I guess it scared the willies out of them, and they went flying out the door over my head in a panic.
They vanish completely for hours every day though. I was wondering where they were hiding, and it turns out they DO roam around in the woods. There were sightings of them back in the woods. That’s so awesome. Wild chickens! Like the wild chickens of Hawaii.
The girls are almost due to start popping out eggs, so it was time to give them boxes. I was quite happy to repurpose a decrepit pile of assorted drawers, feed boxes, and hutches, formerly used for a rabbit raising op. Chickens aren’t fussy, and what the assortment of boxes lack in beauty they make up for in saving time.
We just tacked them back together where they were falling apart and tacked them to the walls however they would fit, and presto, chicken condos!
Also a deluxe new pole near the ceiling for them to roost on, since they crowd together every night, teetering on the highest point of the branch. I think height on the branch equals status.
I started letting the chickens out into the wide world when I got back, because they have to learn sometime. I’d open the main door and just leave it open and wait. For hours they only poked their heads out, until one of the roosters got jostled and fell out, with much squawking. Over the first few days, they slowly ventured a few feet away from the coop.
That was fraught with anxiety for me. At first I only did it while I was around, all scared of all the threats they would encounter, with no street smarts at all! But they seem to be ok. I’ve seen them practically interacting with the ravens, whom they are about the same size as now, the bear has rolled through, as have the neighbor’s dogs, and there have been no losses.
At first, every morning when I opened their hatch the roosters would tumble out and stand there wide legged, blinking, and shake their necks out.
Rearranged the henhouse interior and made some big high perches for them. They all (except for the smallest one, who’s gonna get called Teensy, and remains hilariously all legs, like a plover) look like real chickens now, plush with feathers and their final colours. They’ve been roosting together like hens on the edge of the boards and more surprisingly, flopped out on the grass, so perhaps they’ll move up a level now.
I wish they liked me more; they flee enthusiastically every time I rattle the door, but then, I tell myself they’re extra twitchy because of the bear. Twice, a bear has gone in the coop (opened the door) and stolen a bag of food. No chicks killed. Twice. Twice is a bit embarrassing, and the second theft was in the middle of the afternoon. I was very surprised at that.
They’re loving their playpen. Really, they seem like a bunch of exceedingly happy chickens.
They’ve trampled the long grass flat, mostly, although they still get snagged and tripped up in it and fall over. That’s funny.
They all run outside when I open the hatch in the morning, and they crowd back in the hen door when I approach them. Except this morning, when I strolled up for a look and two of them promptly slipped through the fence like water to get away from me.
That’s a problem.
Luckily, it’s very important to chickens to be with the other chickens, so the teensy one immediately slid back in, but the other one had more trouble doing that, trying gap after gap before he found one that he could fit through. That smallest chicken is a spitfire, always in the forefront and thick of things. I’m gonna have to name them soon.
I’ve added some panels of smaller gauge wire to the lower feet of the fence, defying what seemed impossible and further increasing the utter charmlessness of the whole structure.
New procedure for the chicken coop: I’ve stopped mucking it out, and I’ve added a thick layer of fresh grass clippings. Now I’m going to just add grass and leaves and whatever and let the henhouse floor build up.
The birds seem to love it. It’s soft and much cleaner and attractive; they look bright and colourful springing around on their new emerald green floor, and they like lying down on it too. It gives them more to scratch around in. They pick out single blades of grass and eat them whole like a strand of spaghetti.
The smallest bird got out of the box today while I was there to witness it. I’m glad, because its neurotic running back and forth against the wall and frantic cheeping was a little sad. He/she was just so sure he was missing something. When he finally launched himself to the wall and over, hoo boy, what a party. Hilarious- zipping around, screeching, SO excited. So now they can all come and go from the box. Even though he’s a fraction of the size of all the others, he has no problem keeping up.
I made them a daytime play area, caging it with wire fence. It looks like I was going for a stint on Canada’s Worst Handyman, but that’s because I hate wire fencing with such a fiery passion. After those days last month fencing and battling with so many scraps of tangled fence to clean out the “wire shed”, it is officially my least favorite building material, handily surpassing black death/Acoustiseal. I did the bare minimum of draping and wrapping and patching so that it may look like a disaster, but it does the job. It’s only meant to protect them from birds of prey at this point, so that they can get a taste of being outside. I can open their hatch in the morning while I work outside, and I shut them in safe at night. I’m counting on no coyote or bear attacks in broad daylight. Hopefully by the time they tire of their porch, they will be big and tough enough to become more free ranging.
It took hours for one to make the step out, and it was because he was pushed. Cautious beasts. But they were all out by the end of the day, I think. I saw different groupings of them on the outside, and they seem to like sitting in the grass.
I also finally got fed up with not having windows, and on the way to make some I hung my door, the old front door of a store.
They’re in their awkward, ugly stage; plenty of feathers yet not quite enough. They look raggedy, a little half-plucked.
Two of them have hardly grown in two weeks, and the biggest two have tripled in size, now looking like full grown chickens, one with hilariously extravagant feathered feet. I still can’t tell which are the roosters, and there still doesn’t appear to be excessive aggression.
The black one that was the No. 3 gangster before I left is now one of the three smallest, having not changed at all in size. He(?) feels plump and vital though. They’re funny to hold, all pissed off but helpless at being held upside down. So undignified! Continue reading Raptor stage→