Tag Archives: hen

The Girls discover Chicken Scratching Heaven.

The Girls discover Chicken Scratching Heaven. I.

while free ranging around the yard one of The Girls discovered how to get into our fenced-in blueberry patch which features 4 inch deep pine needle mulch.

apparently this is the equivalent of Heaven on Earth and all the other Girls soon saw her followed her lead after seeing her ecstatic scratching around the mulch.

it was all good until they realized they couldn’t remember how they got in.

The Girls discover Chicken Scratching Heaven. II.

i can read their collective little chicken minds.

“dude, get that thing out of my face and let me out of here.”

The Girls enjoy a Tropical Winter Day in Wisconsin.

after a few weeks of enduring sub-zero temps The Girls definitely enjoyed getting out of the The Coop today with mid-day temps reaching 55°F! of course, they’ve had the opportunity to stroll around in winter when weather permits but the spring in their step made in quite obvious that they really, really, really are looking forward to warm weather and greener pastures.


reaping the benefits of an insulated nesting box.

the sub-zero temperatures over the past week have provided a good test about whether or not it was worth the effort to insulate the nesting box in an attempt to prevent frozen eggs.

The Conventional Wisdom folks said the insulation wouldn’t make a difference and unless we were able to collect the eggs throughout the day ( not a possibility ), we’d probably end up with a 25% of the eggs frozen by the time we got to them.

we haven’t had a single frozen egg so far this winter.

preparing breakfast for The Girls.

while it’s true that chickens are not particularly picky about what they eat, we have discovered that they do certainly have preferences and The Girls are quite fond of salad greens and yogurt ( all organic of course ).

the salad greens are great because the’re nutritious and they help maintain the deep orange color of their yolks.

there is some debate about feeding yogurt to chickens since they are lactose intolerant, but others say yogurt with live cultures is just fine since the probiotics break down the lactose and the benefits of probiotic cultures on the chickens gastrointestinal tract outweighs the risk of lactose intolerance ( diarrhea ).

i’ve never noticed any runny poop or other effects after giving them yogurt, but i really have no idea if the probiotics in the yogurt is actually helping them. all i know is they lurve the yogurt!

and when i say they loooooooooove it, i mean They Love It. as in, even after i bring them their regular chicken feed, they keep looking at me likem, “hey, seriously, are you bringing us the good stuff?” and when i do bring it out they don’t even wait for me to put it down before they start diving it ( there is a full fresh tray of chicken feed behind them in this photo ).

although i don’t know for sure if the probiotics are helping them, i do know The Girl who was feeling under the weather recovered relatively quickly and didn’t die ( which is what many people who have chickens privately told me was probably going to happen ).

day 2387: one of The Girls is feeling under the weather.

well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. it appears that one of The Girls, a barred rock isn’t feeling well. when she took food out the coop at sunset, kris noticed she was standing with her beak in the corner of the coop, uninterested in feast which is quite unusual.

upon closer inspection we noticed her eyes were nearly closed and she was shaking and shivering. she’s not sneezing and her breathing sounds normal – not raspy – and she doesn’t have any mucous around her eyes or diarrhea so i don’t think she has a virus. or at least she’s not showing the typical signs of a virus.

even though it’s wasn’t as cold today as it has been in past weeks we thought perhaps she just got cold, so we brought her in the house to get warmed up.

of course, odin is Very Concerned about her health and sat with her petting her and telling her to rest and Get Better Soon.

she looked rather pathetic when she first came inside but eventually she opened her eyes and looked less, well, floppy than she does in this photo.

i can’t find much information on shivering hens that lack any other symptoms. most of the advice seems to be to along the lines of what we’re already doing – bring them inside, warm them up and try to get them to drink and eat. we made her some hot porridge with cracked corn which The Girls usually devour but even hours later she’s disinterested in it and actively refusing water even if we try to give it to her with an eye dropper.

i’m not sure what else to do. any advice is mightily appreciated.

update: 24 hours later and she’s still alive ( several people have told me privately that by the time they get to the shivering, shaking, no eating stage, more often than not they’ll be dead soon )!

she started slowly taking food and water this morning and she’s much more alert and less lethargic. she was so interested in not staying in her box and wandering around the house that we had to send her to the front porch. which was fortuitous move since she’s now expelling liquid diarrhea that’s really, really nasty smelling and not really brown – more like a clear-to-yellow viscous liquid.

all other signs except for the diarrhea are positive. maybe she’s just working through a stomach flu?

day 2304: eggciting news! one of The Girls laid an egg!

we been patiently waiting and waiting and waiting for our first egg from The Girls over the past couple of weeks. we knew the day was coming soon since it’s been about 24 weeks since we brought The Girls home which is about the age they should start laying. in anticipation of getting eggs, we’ve even prepared the nesting boxes with golf balls to give them and idea of where they’re supposed to lay.

each morning odin has been running out to check the boxes, only to come back empty handed.

but tonight, while odin was getting ready for bed, when i went out shut them in to the coop, imagine my eggcitement when i spied a single, tiny little egg in the coop!

odin literally leapt for joy when i came in house and handed him the egg ( and almost dropped it! ).

now we’re all wondering which hen laid the egg. amusingly, whomever it was, moved all the straw and the golf balls out of the nesting boxes and built herself a nice nest in the middle of the coop 🙂

a hen will start laying “pullet eggs”, which are dimunitive versions of what you’ll find cartoned on the shelves of your favorite grocery store or food coop. on the left of this photo you can see the pullet egg compared to a “regular brown” medium egg. after 6 weeks or so the hens will start laying full-sized eggs.

“foodies” claim pullet eggs are super tasty and can be used to make, for instance, a extra-creamy and delicious “yolk flan”.

i love me some flan, so i suspect we’ll try to whip up ba batch in the upcoming weeks!

The Girls now have dedicated electrical and wifi.

when i asked whether i should light the chicken coop to maintain egg production in the winter, i received quite a range of answers. some folks said they didn’t get any eggs in the winter without supplemental lighting, others said their birds kept laying at about 30% of their summer production and still others said their birds kept laying at 70% of summer production without light. i should add that several folks responded that i shouldn’t light the coop in the winter since there is no reason to “burn out” backyard birds since we’re obviously doing this for love and not money.

i certainly have no interest in burning out the birds and even though i’m guessing that we’ll still get enough production in the winter to yield a few dozen eggs a week without supplemental lighting, i decided to run dedicated electrical to the coop for a variety of reasons. regarding supplemental lighting, i think we’ll turn on a light in the morning for a few hours, not so much to drive production as to try and get them all to lay before we leave for work in the morning so we can collect eggs before they freeze ( supposedly most of The Girls will lay within a few hours of “daybreak” ). and even if we weren’t turning a light on, we’ll still want electric service to power a warmer to keep their water from freezing and for running a heat lamp on the coldest days of winter. and, of course, it will always be nice to be able to turn on a light when i’m shoveling out a path to the coop in the dark after the inevitable snowstorms that will come this winter.

in keeping with their new interest in me and my activities since The Dude Who Looked Like A Lady left, The Girls were more than happy to inspect my work and cluck approvingly from the compost bin while i dug the trench for the electrical line.

now that they have electrical service and a strong wifi signal from the house, i wonder if i should put a laptop in the coop so they can send me a tweet when they lay an egg.