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More Stories From Our Readers

Chicken Update
The Hen Herald has heard from several readers that they will be enhancing their lives with hens.  The Hen Herald would like to think we had something to do with inspiring them to make chickens part of urban living or the small hobby farm life.  Some of their stories will follow and we hope that they continue to contribute to the Hen Herald with updates.

Henny, Penny, and Sky have been going gang busters on laying those eggs and have been voracious predators on the hunt for insects in the yard.  Because they so furiously dig for the tiny creatures, we have had to close them off from one side of the yard again, so that they do not tear up the spring bulbs.
Denise has decided this year to buy herself a rototiller for the vegetable patches.  It will be interesting to see how quickly the girls figure out the machine means food (worms, slugs, and bugs will be turned over in its wake).   They don’t care much for the lawn mower and always run to the other side of the yard when it is out and running.  Should be a different story with the new machine that finds bugs.

Our Reader’s Chickens
Reader Number 1:  One of our readers has been collecting chickens for a few years now and we heard from her in our last issue and about the many breeds she has and how some love having their bellys rubbed.

Their newest arrivals :
“Thought I’d just let you know – 7 saxony ducks in incubator with 2 pipped tonight on day 27, last of the goats due to kid, and 4 week old chickens in the brooder (BLRW, lav ameracauna, lav oripington, and blue marans).  I think I am done with baby critters unless some of the call duck eggs ever show fertility.  I’m really liking my saxony duck eggs – she only misses about 3 days a month and lays in all weather (at least rain wise) we’ll see how she does in the summer. New 8×12 coop in the barnyard with runs up – YEAH chicken math (and duck) is in high gear! Love to share my crazy poultry need with others, lol.”

Designs for a coop
Coop design by the Deutsch Family (yes, that’s Andrea’s sister in the drawing).

Reader Number 2
:  Andrea’s sister has been waiting for two seasons to get her chickens and this year the plan is coming together.  Her chickens are ordered and will arrive by mail this late spring.  She and her husband have four boys and they have been busy choosing names for their three hens (cross your fingers for them that they don’t end up with a rooster).  Several Star Wars theme names were tested for one of the hens, several suggestions were: Princess Layer, Chew-bac-bac, Luke Skysquawker, 3 Cheep EO, Hen Solo, Storm Cooper, Darth Feather, and Jabba the Cluck.  Hen Solo won out.  The other two will have the names Isabella and Freya (Norse Goddess of Love).

The mail-ordered chicks will be delivered on May 14th to the Post Office and it will be some time before they are old enough and the weather warm enough for them to live permanently outside, which will give the family plenty of time to fence off an area of the yard and build a coop and run.

Reader Number 3
:  Our third family has already received their chicks and is busy raising them, preparing their yard, and building a coop and run.

Pen with chicks
Their new arrivals.

Their story told in their own words:
“Our venture into chicken ownership is fairly new — we got the chicks from our local tractor supply on Saturday, and had to purchase 6 (the minimum they will sell).  It fit well with our goals, though…we wanted to raise 3 for meat (raising them through the spring and summer, but not having to figure out how to overwinter all 6 chickens here in the “north”) and have 3 layers that we will keep for egg production (while facing the challenge of keeping them alive when it gets cold and snowy).   Being not entirely confident that all “pullets” will actually be accurately sexed, we chose 4 that were designated as pullets (2 “red pullets” and 2 “assorted pullets”).  There were multiple breeds that the chicks could be, so what we have is a bit of a crap shoot.  We also purchased a Cornish rock (meat bird) and a Buff Orpington (unsexed, crossing our fingers it’s not a rooster.  If it is, he will have self-selected as one for the freezer!).  We are hoping that the Cornish Rock will not be too much of a bully, or we will have to separate it from the layers.  We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Currently our chicks are living in half of an oversized plastic dog crate in our dining room, with a red heat lamp in the corner of the crate.  We got a bit of a cold spell and want them a bit bigger before they are introduced to their new coop.  We gave them sugar water for the first hour (as suggested on the box we brought them home in), and dunked each of their beaks in the water to orient them to their new water source.  It took a while before they drank, and one of the red pullets (my current favorite since I have deemed her the smartest of the bunch!) was the first to show us she knew how.  Because we couldn’t just watch them all day to make sure all of them drank or starve the ones who already had, after 2 hours of only having water in the crate, we added grower food.  There was a mad chick dash to get to the food — clearly they were well aware of what food is all about!  Soon after, we saw all of them drink – soooo cute when they dip in the water and then raise their little heads and bob a bit as they swallow!

 We have been astonished by the rapid rate at which the chicks mature!  They all appeared to be fuzzy peeps when we bought them (except the Cornish rock who was noticeably bigger and already showed white feathers on his wing tips), but by the next day, all the chicks had wing feathers!  I wondered if we watched long enough, if we could actually see the growth happening…it’s really THAT fast!  The two “pullets” and one of the “red pullets” have wing feathers of a similar color to the Buff Orpington (a light tan to reddish brown).  The other “red pullet” has a black swirly-like pattern on reddish feathers – like a cross between a Barred Rock and a Buff Orpington.  Smart and pretty — I am going to like this chicken!  By day two, the Cornish rock is starting with small feathers on the shoulders and is an inch or two taller than the rest.  He’s also bulking up, no longer a lightweight fuzzy peep.  More like the weight of a medium avocado.  Once they all have their shoulder feathers, we will think about the transition to the coop.

 Our chickens are going to eventually run free in our enclosed garden (the perimeter of which is 150 ft).  Their coop is at the center of the garden and will be surrounded by grass and then by raised beds.  However, until they are bigger and until the plants get to a fighting size (i.e., not small enough to be plucked out by curious and hungry chickens), we have a smaller enclosed “yard” for them in front of the coop.  Hopefully the sunken L-shaped chicken wire which is attached to the 7 foot deer fence that surrounds the garden will keep predators away during the day, and as a precaution, we plan to close the chickens in the coop at night.  We are crossing our fingers that we have been planful enough in the design of the garden and chicken digs to have happy and safe chickens and uneaten veggies!”

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