The Great Chicken Transfer

A couple of weeks ago, the chicks I raised were ready for life with the big chickens. There’s some timing involved with a new coop, transferring a flock and getting everyone settled.

The hand-raised chicks couldn’t move from their home in the garage to our small coop because it was already at capacity with 3 adult hens and three teenagers. We were waiting for our new, bigger coop to arrive so that two teenagers and two of the garage chicks could go with the little coop to said sister, Mary.

The new chicken palace framed by mountains in the distance and my straw bale garden. You'll hear more about that soon!

The new chicken palace framed by mountains in the distance and my straw bale garden. You’ll hear more about that soon!

While we waited those last few days for coop delivery, the garage became noisy; the gang of four was ready for new quarters. At my sister’s place, farther out in the country, they set up a pen that would attach to the small coop. The youngsters would spend days in the pen to allow them to settle in and get bigger while Mary’s cats adjusted to living with birds. The bigger the bird, the less interested the cats are.

Finally the day arrived. Our coop, complete with wheels and a pen, came rolling up the road on a flatbed truck. It was a sight to see and it is a palace! We positioned it in the yard, set up the pen and hid the old coop in the garage to avoid any confusion.

Ruby, our golden comet hen, circling the new coop.

Ruby, our golden comet hen, circling the new coop.

Using dried mealworms and lots of raisins, we lured all eleven chickens into the new coop. They inspected it thoroughly, clucking and cooing as they went in and out of the doors and  each of the six nest boxes. I put an egg in one of the boxes to let them know where to lay theirs. Chickens are very open to suggestion. The transition was smooth and just before dark, everybody lined up and walked up the ramp to their new home. I am always amazed that chickens put themselves to bed every night without being told.

photo-1The next morning they tumbled out of the coop door ready for breakfast. The three one-year olds visited the nest box with the decoy egg and one after the other, laid perfect eggs of their own. Mary’s husband, John, arrived with his trailer and we loaded the old coop and gear. That night, we plucked four young chickens from their perches while they slept and magically transported them to the old coop at its new location. They never knew what hit them.

So everybody is happy! To read more about how her flock is settling in, check out Mary’s blog at www.mentalfarmer.com.

 

 

The Good and the Bad…

Paul napping with the chicks.

Paul napping with the chicks.

One of the tough things about keeping free range chickens is that you lose one now and then.  It’s heartbreaking, but part of keeping a flock. For that matter, predators get to chickens in pens too.  Last week, a dog made away with our gorgeous rooster, Big Bird.  He was a handsome guy with an excellent disposition who took great care of his girls.  In fact, we think he lost his life trying to protect Mattie, our barred rock hen.  She lost a clump of tail feathers but is otherwise unharmed.  My husband Paul who once told me he might not really be a chicken person (I think the picture above dispels that myth), misses Big Bird’s crowing and wants another roo. I miss Big too. He was our first rooster so we will remember him fondly.

Click on this link to see Big Bird in action:  BigBirdCrows

We’ll need to find a new man for our hens soon.  We don’t want to hatch eggs, but the girls miss their protector. They mooned around the coop for a day or two but are out foraging again now. The pickings will be good this spring since about ten percent of the female chicks that chicken lovers are buying now will turn out to be roosters.

Now some good news.  Even if you’re not a chicken person, you may have noticed signs at hardware and feed stores recently saying CHICKS ARE HERE!  And so they are.  I was at Southern States Farm Co-op fetching supplies soon after we lost Big and there were 10 huge blue tubs, each containing hundreds of day old chicks.  I tried to resist, picked up one, put it back. Did it again.

Then I may have blacked out because the next thing I knew I was cruising home with chicks, a brooder lamp and a sack of starter feed in the back of the Subaru. I won’t believe you if you tell me you can resist these little puff-balls!iPhoto Library

They don’t live in the bowl.  I just wanted to contain them for the photo session since they can escape in a matter of seconds.  I think this lovely bowl, crafted by our friends at Mangum Pottery in Weaverville, shows the chicks off beautifully. They live in the laundry room in a plastic tub. There’s a brooder light to keep them warm since they don’t have mother hen to do the job. Paul built a wood framed screen that fits over the tub to keep our frustrated cat out of the picture.  Her name is Ceci (it’s Italian for chick pea).  She is a love, but instinct takes over when she sees little birds right in her own home. We’ll move them to the garage soon and once again, Ceci will rule the roost.

The princess on her throne.

The princess on her throne.