Chicken Girl

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I was going to write a flashy, catchy post about my 2 weeks as a ‘Chicken-sitter’ but time is not playing nicely so I’m just going to throw this out here.

I offered (yes, that means voluntarily said I would) to watch a friends’ chickens while they volunteered out-of-state at Noah’s Ark.  They were pretty nervous given they’d never left their flock before and never in the hands of a relatively inexperienced City Girl with 2 chickens in her backyard.

They provided me the necessary instructions:  keys to the house, names for the flock, directions for feeding warnings about the bears and bobcats and we traded phone numbers for texting, etc.

So, they have 8 roosters and 19 hens.  While that might throw some people for a loop, I purchased myself some ‘muck boots’ and drove out to the country for some chicken-sitting-experience-getting.

For the record, I saw NO BEARS or BOBCATS, but I did see a Doe almost every evening I visited.  I also saw neighbors goats, geese, cattle, horses, dogs and a lot of bunnies.  I started out with 27 fowl and ended up with 27 fowl.  The same ones.  I picked my favorite hens and rooster, learned a lot about farming and psychology and discovered that there are reasons that people use words like “cooped up”, “hen-pecked”, “Puffed up like a Rooster”, etc.

I even provided a few science experience moments from my home-schooling friends, although inadvertently AND learned a bit more about chicken/rooster fertilization than they teach you in biology class in school.

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The names of the roosters are Diamond, Rice, Mr. Orphington, Biter, Seattle, Rubin (and 2 unnamed — at least in my instructions).

The hens are Gravelly, Olivetta, Debbie, Beauty, Lady, Dark Beak, Eclipse, Sparky, Pooshie, Coocoo Marona, Boeing, Jet (and 7 unnamed).

Psychology:  Chickens are territorial; both hens and roosters.  There is also a “pecking order” in chickens; I’ve noticed it with my 2 chickens — it’s even more noticeable with a larger flock of chickens.  Roosters have specific hens they are protective of and don’t want other hens or roosters near their group.  Certain hens are higher on the org. chart than others; and they let them know it too.  Some chickens roam, some stay close to home.  Some have habits and others are spontaneous.

For instance, the first evening I drove out to check on them, I let the 4 roaming roosters out (Biter, Mr. O and Seattle and Rice(?)) and let the other roosters out for 15-20 minute intervals as I cleaned the waterers, fed them or gathered eggs.  5 of the roosters are caged separately as they fight.  I usually let Rubin out first and he stayed out for about 15 minutes or until he (or another rooster) caused too much trouble with the others.  Rubin immediately tried to pick a fight with Biter by ‘flirting’ (it’s a family show, people) with Boeing.  Boeing is DEFINITELY Biter’s girl, and he does not share his girl.  With anyone.

Rubin then attempted to flirt with one of Mr. O’s women and that caused a ruckus so I put Rubin back into his pen and let out another rooster.  This rooster (Rice, I think) lives directly under Rubin and he did not want to leave the coop.  He’d leave his pen, but kept going back into the coop to pick a fight with the rooster who became my favorite over the 2 weeks.  Is it bad that I don’t know the name of my favorite rooster?  Anyway, Rice would strut around the caged rooster and crow at him, then attempt to put his head into the pen.Penned rooster would of course, crow right back and pace wildly around the pen.

I’d pick up the bully and move him out to the garden.  He’d go right back to taunting the penned roosters.  Okay, back in the pen for you!

The 3rd rooster I let out was Diamond, I think.  This guy is crazy but became my 2nd favorite because he has personality!  He kept going back to taunt my favorite rooster, then the other penned roosters, so I put him in the garden and shut the door to the coop.  This made him CRAZY!  He ran around the coop, jumping and trying to get back inside, crowing loudly.  Then he went into Biter’s coop and flew up onto the top of the roost.  He crowed and crowed and crowed.  So, I finally put him back in the pen too.  I think it was Diamond that ended up perching on my knee and eating out of my hand in the photos above.

The other 2 roosters were pretty tame when out, but occasionally they’d attempt to flirt with Boeing or Olivetta.

The next night I came over, I switched the order of the roosters getting out; by the time I’d been there 2 weeks, I discovered that the more time they had out in succession; the less likely to fight they were.  So if I went every other day and let them out for about 2 hours, there was less fighting by the 3rd evening.  But the last week I visited almost every day and they got to where they hardly picked fights at all with each other.  Cabin fever/cooped up was definitely at play here.

Picky Eaters  My 2 suburban chickens have discovered that they get treats about 5:30 every evening.  They’ve become so trained that they will LITERALLY run across the yard when I come to the deck and ‘talk’ to me.  Then they follow me back to the chicken palace to get their treat.  My chickens will eat almost any fruit but not really crazy about vegetables.  They love blueberries, grapes and watermelon; corn on the cob is cluck-worthy and my girls will eat slugs.  Yes, LPC I pick up the slugs and bring them to my girls.  They love them.  They will also eat grubs, worms, bugs and dead mealworms and crickets.

The chickens in the country liked blueberries and melons, but grapes were not something they went crazy for.  I didn’t test the slug theory because I didn’t find any.  But they definitely preferred cracked corn to mixed grain and feed.  They would eat the cracked corn out of any human’s hand and the children loved the feel of the beaks on their hands.

Personality  Each of the chickens had personality but some were standouts — we’ll call them the extroverts of the flock.  Some of the chickens just wanted to dust bathe or walk around the yard; avoiding the entire ‘flirting’ game.  Some of them stayed in groups, others wandered off on their own.  Seattle and his girls (Gravelly, Beauty and Debbie) never ventured far from their shed and I only had to put them to roost one time; they were always the first group to go inside for the evening.  Biter followed Boeing (or vice-versa).

By the way, Hollywood lies to you about chicken habits.  Roosters crow ALL DAY LONG.  NOT just at 4:30/sunrise every morning.  Constantly.  All. Day.  And when there are 9 roosters, it’s non-stop.

And hens don’t just lay eggs in the morning.  Mine for instance lay eggs a different times during the day.   Eggshells come in different colors, sizes and shapes, depending on the breed of chicken.  Different breeds of chickens are more productive layers than others. And while we’re on the subject of eggs, in case you’re interested not all fertilized eggs become baby chickens.  Fertile eggs vs. unfertilized eggs.  And although I can’t tell the difference, apparently even some of the eggs you get from the grocery store *may* have been fertilized but are not, in fact, baby chickens.

Biology lesson over.  All in all, I loved my adventures in chicken-sitting and have even offered to do it again.  Maybe next time I’ll have a photo of a bear or bobcat to share.

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