This picture is actually mouse tracks leading to the chicken run door! The first snow our girls experienced started with a scroungy little critter trying to find shelter in last nights storm! It managed to squeeze it’s way through the corner of the run doorway, up the chicken ladder and somehow through the corner of the chicken door into the coop!
Call us surprised when we went into the coop to refill food and water to find a mouse darting around with the chickens chasing it! It was still pretty dark so the chickens were sleepy but trying to catch the little monster! After about 5 minutes of a game of chase I opened the chicken door and let the scared to death vermin out!
Needless to say we are now making sure that at least the coop door is super tightly closed at night.
As the sun came up the girls finally got to experience their very first snow outside. I don’t think they were very impressed. They wouldn’t even touch it! Avoiding anything white! It didn’t take long for them to starting back into the Tajma coop where it’s always toasty and comfortable.
So we were harvesting vegetables out of the garden when our neighbor called and said they had boy scouts on their property looking for arrow heads to earn a badge. She asked if they could come by to see the chickens so they could collect an agriculture badge. Of course we said “SURE! Come on over!”
So much excitement! Everyone wanted to touch a chicken so hubby held one while everyone took a turn petting. We explained how chickens lay eggs and that they don’t need a rooster to do it. We told them that chickens can lay lots of different colors of eggs and no, we don’t paint those colors on! We told them they lay an egg every 24 to 36 hours.
We showed them the inside of the coop and the new high tech nesting boxes and they were impressed at how happy the girls were just hanging out inside. They laughed when I explained that the Tajma Coop was meant to be roomy and cozy! And then I had to explain that all the feathers on the ground were from the girls molting like they do in the fall to get their new winter feathers. Each kid asked for a feather to add to their collection or to attach to their badge.
After the kids started to walk away the adults grilled us on how we treat the girls. “Do you let your chickens free range?” “Are you sure you have enough space for those chickens?” “How do you sell the eggs?”
We answered all the questions honestly and of course our girls get all the things they are supposed to get, plus a little more petting than most!
We were surprised a couplet days later to get this card from them. All the kids signed the card and on the inside they wrote…..Thank you for letting our cub scouts come over and visit your chickens. We all had a blast. We were so grateful for all the time you spent with them. Letting them pet one was the highlight of their visit.
The girls were happy for the visit too. The kids all pulled a few weeds and fed them through their fence! A Win Win for all!
Its going to be 100 degrees today and luckily I’m home to help the chickens make it through the day. They have already made it through the last two days of 96 degrees. They are very tough birds! But then again I picked Rhode Island Reds because they are known to tolerate both extreme hot and cold. And today they made it to 100 degrees and still managed to chase bugs without skipping a beat! Impressive!
Last year, with the old flock, I made frozen treats with berries. RIP old flock that had a run in with a fox. I admit, we snacked those ladies too much. They grew so fast we had problems with heart attacks in the heat. So this flock will not sucker me into given them a lot of cracked corn. Too much candy! Anyway, these girls are going to get only the best! Fresh organic veggies straight from the garden! Today’s menu consists of chopped zucchini and lettuce covered with water and frozen into a cake pan!
Of course the girls were fascinated by the treat but too scared to eat it! I was so frustrated and concerned with them cooling off! You can hear it in my voice in the video!
But after I left them alone, they finally realized how good it was, because the tin I placed it in was completely beat up! It must have been a hit!
It was a couple days after we got our first small egg from the new girls. As I was gardening outside I heard one of the girls making her first attempt at the egg song. A not so good attempt, but it still stopped me in the tracks wondering if we got another first egg!
It’s hard to sneak up on these girls. Being so new to the world they are always on edge. When I heard the squawking I tried to sneak up to the window to see what was going on but of course they heard me.and stopped singing.
Curious if we got any new eggs I went inside the coop and took a look around. There was one hen on the edge of the nesting boxes and a bunch of the others staring at her. Must be the singer!
I opened up the nesting box tray and the only eggs inside were the fake training eggs they knock out . Oh well…..
Here it is a few days later and we have 4 more eggs! But they are so small all 4 fit in my one hand! At least now we have enough to cook! I cracked the first one open and out pops 2 yolks! We got a double yolker here! It’s not unusual for this to happen. I’m just crossing my fingers the eggs get bigger quick so we can start selling eggs again!
Funny story…… I was in the middle of writing this post about training the girls how to use the nesting boxes and how frustrated we are that it’s taking them longer than the old ladies to start laying. All of a sudden I receive this picture from the hubby who is taking care of the girls today! YAY! Our Rhode Island Red girls first egg!
Now I’m going to back track and tell you how we trained them!
We put the latest metal nesting boxes in the coop a few weeks ago so they could get used to it. Then 10 days ago we put the fake eggs in the area we want them to lay. The fake eggs are so life-like, including the weight, that we had to mark an X on the tip of the fake eggs to be sure we didn’t pull and sell them! Both of us had done it.
I let the girls watch me put the egg in the nesting area and backed up. They were very curious! Funny to watch.
Anyway, it looks like it worked because we have our first egg! I’m dying too see how big they get and how many we get in a day. Rhode Island Reds are notorious for laying many very large eggs. Let’s see if they can live up to their reputation!
Finally! After weeks of trying to get the new girls to spend more time outside in their run we finally have success!
The girls are now egg laying age but we haven’t seen any eggs! Sunlight has a lot to do with their egg laying cycle and it seems like they haven’t been getting enough sunshine to kick the egg laying into gear yet. They are Rhode Island Reds! They are known to be the best brown egg layers in the nation! Why aren’t we seeing any eggs yet?!
I had been bribing them with meal worms to get them outside but they don’t necessarily stay outside so I spend a little time with them to keep them entertained. Well…..I’m the one being entertained! They stick to me like glue when I’m out in the run with them. I can’t even move! They have me circled all the time! They are sooooo funny!
Well….at least they are making progress. Get some sun girls! We need eggs please!
Today we introduced the girls to their nesting box for the first time. They will be 16 weeks old on June 13 which is usually the age when they start to lay eggs! We are so excited for them!
So how did they react to the nesting box? They reacted just like they do with everything else. They were scared at first, and then they pecked it. They pecked it and then they pecked it again. They loved that it was made of steel. It’s makes a beautiful sound when pecked! I have decided that just like babies or puppies who need to put every new thing in their mouth to see what it is and whether they like it, chickens have to peck everything to test it out…. including my ankles! You’ll hear me get pecked in the video.
Tomorrow I’ll introduce them to the fake eggs. The fake eggs are a training tool to show them where their eggs go. You just sit it in the nesting box. It really works! These eggs are actually made at the same weight as real eggs so they are very life-like. We have even accidentally collected a fake egg from the nesting boxes every now and then thinking it was real. Luckily we thought to put a little X on the tip of the fake eggs to tell the difference. The girls are not as dumb as you think. After awhile the chickens start to realize which eggs are fake and kick them out of the nest. That’s when you know they don’t need them anymore.
Check out the girls investigating their new toy, then nesting box.
As summer is coming closer and the temperatures are getting into the 80s we need to start thinking about better ways to keep the new young girls cool when the temperatures get into the 90s.
Since we pulled out the old nesting boxes the back door entry to gather eggs is no longer useful. The man of the house once again used his engineering mind and with a few modifications created a big vent facing into the run to give the girls another source of fresh air.
The girls seemed to really like it! They were climbing in and out of the open space while hubby was trying to get the wire cloth over it. Took longer than he would have liked but it was finally finished. Curious girls really like the results!
More important is this vent will eliminate the need to use a fan in the coop. We weren’t big on the idea of the fan blowing all the dust around to begin with. Take a look at the girls reaction with their new coop feature:
This batch of new chicks are amazing. I always heard that Rhode Island Red chickens were different in personality but they are SO much different than the other breeds we had. They are more brave, inquisitive, and very assertive. They are so pushy I can’t even tell you how difficult it is to go into the coop, feed and water them, and just get back out. They are completely under foot, pulling on you and pecking at every spot that looks interesting on your clothes. They want to play all the time!
Here are some of the recent firsts for the littles that made us laugh.
First coop clean out:
I wasn’t aware at first but did you know that young chicks go through 8 moltings before they get their final adult feathers? Well this batch of chicks has been shedding and growing new feathers it seems like forever! They are eating twice as much food as the older ladies and that means twice as much poop! Since they have been refusing to go outside in the run it’s all stacking up inside and stinking! So I finally changed out the bedding and dumped a brand new bale of pine shavings in the middle of the floor. They didn’t even give me a chance to grab my camera! They were all over it, tearing it down! Remember dust bathing girl? Trying to dust bath without any dirt? When the chips came out she plopped herself down and started to bathe with the chips! That was funny enough but then the other littles started to pull the pine shavings off of her! Then another little joined in with her! You have to see the video:
Trying to Get the Littles Outside:
You didn’t see them all but I took 5 videos trying to get the littles to go outside, but they wouldn’t even venture off the chicken ladder! For brave girls they certainly took a long time finally getting outside! They were 10 weeks old when I finally shoved them out! And of course they enjoyed themselves. Funny enough they haven’t gone out since. Check them out:
When we moved the littles into the coop they insisted on laying on top of each other in a pile in the corner of the floor at night. They should be roosting! Stupidly they picked the corner underneath the hanging feeder full of food which is right in front of the drafty chicken door. They couldn’t stand up without hitting the feeder and knocking food on the floor. We left a new poop deck shelf on the wall and put their training perch on top but they had no interest. At 12 weeks old we finally started to see poop under the perch on top of the poop deck! (It’s sad to see how excited we get about poop). So now we know it’s time to put up the roost! What an exciting day! The littles are turning into big girls at 3 months of age and they have huge feet! Although we had to pick the girls up and put them on the roost to get them started they seem to be getting the hang of it! Check it out. Oh…..and they are having a good time pulling, tugging and pecking like always!
It is with heavy heart I tell you that we had another visit from the fox. In order to save the life of the remaining ladies, my family helped us play our last game of Chicken Ninja sneaking the survivors into the neighbors coop in the dark. They will finish living out their days there and we will still be able to visit them.
Since there is already a rooster in the coop Stewart was not invited. He’s too big for the littles so we couldn’t put him in with them. His crow turned so sad that after a couple days I took him to the Rooster Rescue and the owner fell in love. So hopefully that means he will get extra special treatment.
Terrible lesson learned. Next time we bring in new chicks they will be raised in the barn and not let out until they are full size while the veterans still stay in the coop and predator proof run. We are now considering a chicken tractor for either the veterans or the littles in life transition. A chicken tractor is a fully covered run with a small coop that you drag anywhere you want. Picture it! The ladies get a new area to investigate every couple days! On 10 acres there will always be new greens and bugs to peck on!