Friday, May 15, 2009

5 Chicken Tales

It has been a week for chicken news--some successes, some tragedies, and one happy ending.
The Exotic Chick We think the "exotic bonus chick" that came with Cadence's 100 heavy-weight broiler chicks is a Black-tailed Buff Japanese Bantam-- a very pretty chicken when full-grown, according to the catalog image, but so slow growing and tiny. And very funny-looking as a chick. He/she is living peaceably with the black runner ducks since we rescued him/her from the broiler chickens who were merciless brutes to him/her.
Missing in Action. We would like for the laying hens to roam free on the farm, but they seem to prefer being cooped up. One sunny afternoon the girls put the chickens out into the pasture to discover the banquet of bugs and plants to be found. Our red Aussie pooch, Cocoa, is obsessed with keeping the chickens together in a close group. So, when the little black silkie bantam wandered off, Cocoa was on it and Sara and Cadence didn't really worry about her. But apparently, Cocoa got distracted by a burr that she had to chew out of her fur, and the silkie wandered further afield and hasn't been seen since. I don't think she has much of a chance amid the hawks, owls, coyotes and raccoons. I looked in vain for a photo of her for this story, but truth be told, she was not the most photogenic chicken and I couldn't find any.
Chicken Tractor Yesterday, Cadence moved her 100 broilers to the Chicken tractors. The "chicken tractors" are movable pens that will each contain 50 young chickens until they are harvesting size, in about 4 weeks. They have to be spacious, sturdy and lightweight-- architectural beauty comes lower in priority. This chicken raising method came from one of the gurus of sustainable farming, Joel Salatin. The tractors will be moved each day so the chickens will have fresh grass to scratch in. The chickens are essentially "free-range," but much more protected from predators and adverse weather.
Cadence moved the chickens from the barn to the tractors in big plastic baskets in batches of 10. Her faithful companions, Cocoa and Rueben, followed her back and forth as she moved the chicks.
The chickens seem to enjoy their new digs!

The Prodigal Chicken After losing the silkie, I was hesitant to put my egg chickens outside. Since the chickens do not seem to like the ramp out the window entrance I built for them, I decided to leave the coop door open so they could choose to go in or out at will. Nobody chose to go out...except apparently one of the brown Polish hens, Carol Channing (twin to Phyllis Diller, the other Polish.) We didn't actually see her go outside, but when I went to close up the coop for the night, she was gone. We searched all over and couldn't find her. I was so sad to lose another laying hen! This story has a happy ending however. Two days later Cadence spied Carol at the edge of the woods, peering in through the pasture fence - and we ran over and swept her up. She looked glossy and healthy and seems happy to be home. I am glad she survived the scary predators of the forest.
Mysterious Death in the Coop - Tonight when I went out to water and feed the chickens I was shocked to discover Picasso, my large, lovely, feisty Aracauna rooster (more handsome in real life than this photo) lying lifeless on the floor! There was no evidence of foul play (fowl play?) and how he died is a mystery. The only thing I can conjecture is that maybe he and Matisse, the other rooster, got all riled up and he flapped himself into the wall and broke his neck...? I am very sad to lose him. All the other chickens seemed sobered by this event, too, and sat very quietly. I wish they could give me a clue about what happened.


Barry said...

Your farm looks wonderful and I do love your blog.

Thanks for showing the portable chicken structures. I've been wondering about a light weight material to use and the PVC looks perfect and easy to assemble

The word verification for this post was flock...


Anonymous said...

Hi Susan!
Oh I'm sorry you lost Picasso. You really do have a beautiful farm, and I love that photo with Cadence and her companions following her!

Marie said...

ah, chickens -- more work and worry than kids!!!! (or so I was told by my parents)

nikina said...

wow, what a wonderful place you have there. your pictures are beautiful and your work awesome :)