Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Managing my flock.

Chickens are so easy!

Well, yes and no. Chickens can be farm animals, ignored for the most part and do just fine with proper maintenance. My girls are treated as pets. There are just four of them, they all have names and very clear personalities. Friends of mine are often shocked to learn how unique each chicken is: i can tell their eggs apart, their voices, and they definitely each behave differently.They are all about 7 months old and have been laying about a month and a half or so.

BB is a Chantecler, a very rare breed from Canada. Since the beginning she's been furtive and darty (hence the name BB - faster than a speeding BeeBee, plus she's copper colored) She's also the most aggressive and the most intensely obsessed with treats. She will literally come running across the back yard if she so much as THINKS you're holding a peanut. Despite being our smallest hen, BB was the first to lay and lays almost daily. What a trooper!

Soot is a Black Australorp, a breed fro Australia known for excellent egg laying. She isn't quite as adept at laying as little BB, but her eggs are big, richly dark brown with dark dark yolks. She is my favorite, yes, i said it. Since she was small you could just pick her up, one handed, and she'd dociley dangle there until you'd set her down. She frequently hops up on our bench or lap (much to the chagrin of the husband's dropped toast) and is just the sweetest thing. She makes darling coo sounds and will allow me to hug her for minutes on end.

Belina is a Buff Orpington and FULL of personality. She was the last to lay, but she's doing alright for herself so far. Her eggs are dark brown but covered in a strange chalky coating, i don't know what's up with that. She is hugely fluffy, thinks she's head of the roost (though i'm thinking BB is actually the lead hen, hard to say), has been treated like 'mama' since they were small and she was slightly bigger (the other girls would try and crawl under her tummy. really guys, she's not THAT much bigger). She always has something to say and a screaming, bawking sort of way. I'm still waiting to hear some proper clucks or buk buks, Belina growls.

And finally, Sweet Olive is a Silver Laced Wyandotte. She is a month older than the rest as she was a replacement pullet when our first Wyandotte turned out to be a rooster. She's a real champ - laying almost daily along with BB. Her eggs are large and creamy light brown. She is a very sweet bird, but still a bit scared of us since she wasn't raised since an egg sized chick. All the other girls still pick on her, but she has become part of the flock more or less.

So, back to flock management. In brief:

  • I recently built them a little tractor for the front, and they love it! is helping to supplement their diet and get them some fresh air
  • They have developed fowl pox. This is scary, but shouldn't be fatal. Like chicken pox in humans they'll get warty sores that will break open and fall off. They can get infected, so i've added vitamins to their water (antibiotics if they start looking ill, but not until then) and treat each sore with tea tree oil to suck out the puss. So far they're behaving happily and just fine, i just heard Belina squawking in the back, so she should be fine, haha.
  • I also noticed little yellow bugs crawling on the big yellow bird the other day: lice. So i purchased some insecticidal dust, held each hen upside down by their legs and dusted them well. The lice seem to be gone.
  • I also cleaned the coop out completely with borax and bleach water and then white washed with the insecticidal dust and diatomaceous earth (DE).
  • As management from now on: i will be sure to clean out the nest materials (hay) more often, and dust the coop with DE weekly. The next time they dust bath in about a week i will redust them with the nasty dust, and from then on add DE to their dust bath spot often.
So that's that. They are easy to take care of, but you do have to listen to them and be sure they're limited needs are well met.

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