Tag Archives: small flock

The Days of Our Lives with The Combed and the Feathered

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We definitely have a pet chicken now.  She arrives at the camper early in the morning, shortly after the flock finishes their breakfast, and more or less stays all day.  She stays under the camper when it rains, roams in the surrounding woods when it’s clear, and keeps an ear open for any comings and goings from the camper, upon which she will appear out of nowhere to lurk, staring up with her downturned beak/mouth perpetual chicken grimace.  She happily eats of my hand, and if I put out a dirty pot or bowl, she’ll clean off any grains or vegetable remains (impressively well, considering she has no tongue), tapping out “chicken morse code”.  We’ve deterred any other hens from hanging around our camper by chasing them back when they occasionally follow her out.
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We’ve named her Friendly.  The alternatives were Low Chicken and Baldy, because of her receding featherline.  She’s bald to behind her ears because of being pecked on. Both options were rather unflattering so we went with some positive branding.  She may be low, but she’s smart and independent.  All the red full-size chickens are too look-alike to name, except for their feather patterns.  There’s bald Friendly and Naked, the molter.

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When her feathers return we’ll have no way of telling her apart.  All of the chickens have unique saw-tooth patterns in their combs, but I am just not dedicated enough to memorize comb variations so they can have names.  They only get dubbed according to their difference.  There’s one with more white than the others (Whitetail), and for many days there was a chicken with one feather persistently sticking out at an angle (Wears One Feather Askew).  Then three other chickens took up the fashion all at once and there was now more telling them apart.

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Personally, I love the patter of chicken feet, but when all nine of them are hopefully shadowing my every move, back and forth, back and forth, it’s easy to feel mobbed.  They curiously get in the thick of everything we’re doing, climbing in the trailer or on our tools and wood, or sampling the sawdust when we’re building.  I can’t think of any good reason why eating (fresh, local, wildcrafted) sawdust would be bad for them, but it makes no sense why they want to eat it. Yet they do, enthusiastically.

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H.W. gets upset with “them all crowded around, staring at me”, and threatens to throw his hat at them.  His hat-throwing has made such an impression that he no longer has to throw headgear, just give it a cowboy swoosh over his head, and instantly the chickens turn as one and flee.  Not the hat!!!  Hilarious, and effective.

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Oh, were you working here?

H.W. wants to put anklets on them some night.  I know there are two hens that prefer to be on their own and hang out down along the driveway where it’s shady and kind of swampy.  Often when I feed the flock an evening snack there’s only 7, including Friendly, and I always find two more lingering halfway down the driveway.  There seem to be two that are always near the rooster.

Updates:

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Naked is growing feathers again, and just in time.  It’s getting cold.  She got worse before she got better, though, losing so many feathers she was just a mostly white fluffball of under-feathers, looking miserable on rainy days.

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Naked regrowing, so fast!  Good thing, it’s just in time.  She’s been hanging around a lot lately with her shoulders around her ears, so it’s a good job her feathers are coming back. Now she is only Nearly Naked, and soon will be namelessly indistinguishable from the flock.

Chickens running

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Sometimes when I’m walking down the path, I hear a little whisk whisk behind me, and I look back to find two or three hens eagerly running along behind me.  They stop immediately when I stop and mill around, at a loss.  Uh, we were just, uhhhh, nothing.

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I start walking again and they run some more, curiously following.  Chickens running is about the funniest thing ever.  There’s the loping jog, where the side to side bobbing is very pronounced (doing doing doing), and then the running, more springy up and down but less side-to-side (boingboingboing), and then there’s the top speed, which usually means they throw their wings out for stability or to maybe be ready to take off at any moment, and so look like children running in superhero capes.  I spend a lot of time with a chicken shadow, and H.W. occasionally gets tailed.  So funny!  They’re convinced something good will fall to the ground around me if they only stick to me.

Only the low hen will come all the way to the camper by herself; others have followed HW here, but usually I tell my little followers to turn around, back it up! and then as soon as they lose sight of me on the curving path, they return to the others.  We do not want the whole flock hovering around the camper waiting for the door to open.  H.W. was already scandalized at our resident low hen today.  He set his slice of pie down on the bench to pull his shoes on, and she darted up, grabbed the pie, and ran into the woods with it.  She knew exactly what was at stake; earlier she was eating pie crust crumbs out of my hand.  I want to pet her, but we are not at that stage in our relationship yet.

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The naked chicken seems to be quite high in the order now, and her feathers are starting to poke out of her skin again, although she still looks ghastly half-naked.  H.W. makes jokes in bad taste about her looking appetizingly half-cooked.

Week 2 with the laying hens – still a novelty!

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Day 7

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A perfect performance

And they put themselves to bed perfectly too.
The naked chicken is healing.

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This a big improvement over her lobster red sunburn.

Day 8

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We built a fence, so the chickens’ days of lounging in the garden are over.

IMGP7305The fence won’t keep much more than the chickens out at this point, but we haven’t had any deer around yet, and the chickens are threat number 1.

When we had three sides done, hens were finding their way around to the unfinished side to get in, so there was more hat-throwing.

H.W. also helpfully provided proof that the chickens can fly over the fence, when they are sufficiently motivated.

They are ranging further, nearer to camp Silkie every day.  I hope I’m there to see first contact.  What will the Silkie rooster make of the big hens when they sail out of the grass at him?  Gorgeous Amazon hens! or Mutant monsters!

The hens are all well-attached to the rooster now.  Occasionally there’s an independent or a pair palling around at a distance, but usually all the hens are in the same vicinity.

They are endlessly entertaining, popping out of the grass, sneaking, running, exploring.  They love it under our box truck and hang out under there every day, whether rainy or sunny.  I keep expecting to have to get eggs from under there, but they lay in the coop now without variance.

All 10 stowed themselves at night again. Ahhh, the time of adjustment is over, and there’s no need to worry about them any more.

Oh, you’re in so much trouble if H.W. catches you.
Oh, you’re in so much trouble if H.W. catches you.

Day 9

H.W. has a swarm of chickens near him most of the time when he’s working.  Chainsaw, splitting firewood, dragging things around – they drift along behind him as he works.  I don’t know if they’re hoping for something more than the company.  The chickens all pal around together most of the day, now.  It’s a lot harder to count 9 hens at a glance.

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Almost always, there’s seven around the rooster, and then two just a little behind, or off to the side a bit.  It’s lovely to see them all drifting around together, squabbling or worm-running or digging.  Hens look like sailboats cruising around, especially when they’re eating.  They’re rarely not funny, whatever they’re doing.

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I can recognize the low bird now.  She’s missing a lot of feathers on her head behind her comb from being pecked.  I saw another hen pluck a short feather out of her head at feeding time, and then she ran under the truck.  I see this hen sometimes drifting off on her own.  I’m surprised at the pecking; there is no shortage of space or entertainment out here.   It’s not realistic at all to quarantine one bird, but I want to help her out.

Day 10

H.W. cut down the remaining snag created by the hurricane.  It was a tough fall and I was working the come-along trying to pull it over where we wanted it to go.  Lots of yelling, roaring chainsaw; this doesn’t bother the birds. Naturally, all the chickens wanted to be in the fall zone and I had to push them off into the woods for their protection.  The tree came down where we wanted, ahhhh.  Success; relief.  H.W. shuts the saw off and we’re quiet – there’s nothing more to say, it’s all done.  But the rooster freaks out when the tree falls, going off like a siren, shouting, shrieking blue murder.  BABWOCKBABWOCKBABWOCKThe end is nigh!  Doom and destruction!  The sky is falling!  He doesn’t stop for a long time.
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Day 11

Uhoh.  H.W. put the birds away in the night, a little bit earlier than full dark.  I asked if he counted beaks in the coop and he scoffed, “No, but they’re fine”.   Three nights straight they’d all gone to bed perfectly, so I figured yes, probably they are just fine, no need to worry.  In the morning on my way to let them out of the coop I opened the truck for feed.  A lone hen popped out from somewhere! She’d spent the night out, I don’t know where.  She  started telling me all about it!  BuhBUHbaBAbabuh!BUHbuhBAbaBAbaBUH!!buhbaba!BUHba….on and on, very funny with all the variety of pitch in her voice.  She was all worked up.  When I released the others she ran back to the embrace of the flock and the rooster did a little dance at her. The rooster dance seems to be a kind of chastisement or herding behaviour, as unfortunately, this rooster doesn’t dance before mating.

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The chickens have learned that I bring food.  They see me and all run towards me down the path.  It makes me feel quite popular.  If I don’t give them anything, they mill around, some poking their heads up high and tilting them to look sharply at me.  If I walk away slowly, they lurk and then follow me furtively a few feet off.  If they’re positive I have food, like if I rattle it, they will all jog along behind me as I walk.  How do they know, even from a distance, that it’s me, even with a complete wardrobe change?  H.W. does not get this treatment; they know us apart.

What good good chickens.  They look after themselves all day, lay 7 eggs every day in the coop, and all go to bed at night.  Perfect chickens.

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A hen made it all the way along the path to our camper!  She went strolling by the front of the camper and walked into the woods.  That’s far past where all the other chickens have made it to, and ever so close to the Silkies.  I thought we’d have contact for sure, but not quite.  The Silkie roosters were on high alert, hearing her in the woods, but she didn’t quite make it over to them.  It was the low hen!  I gave her a pile of seeds and scraps, and she could enjoy without competition.  I expect to see more of her over here by herself.