If you have been keeping up with What the Flock, you probably noticed our ladies have gotten more and more nervous and scared. That’s because some of our chickens are mean girls! They peck on each other and sometimes pull feathers out! These poor four chickens with a lot of feathers missing are getting a break! You can see a couple of them are wearing what we call saddles. It’s just a little canvas cape that can stop other chickens from pecking, pulling feathers and scratching them.
We built them their own chicken tractor! The tractor is sitting in the back yard. They get to spend time away from the chaos and get fresh grass and bugs! It’s kinda like them having a Spa visit! Once they are done chewing up all the grass and bugs in this space we move the tractor to another spot. They leave behind their poop and their poop fertilizes the grass!
It’s a win win for everyone!
See the girls in their chicken tractor on their YouTube Channel:
Today is officially coop cleaning day. Like my threads? Next step, hazmat suit!
How it works is we kick the girls outside to their run and close their chicken door. While they peck on the door saying “Let me in!” I laugh and remind them that if they would clean up after themselves they wouldn’t have to go through this every 3 months!
We have to pull out all the pine shavings and tractor them out to the compost pile. Then we sweep the walls and floor. Then, I pull out a shop vacuum and vacuum all the surfaces including the windows, vents and roof peak.
The girls leave a lot of dust floating all the time! It collects so fast it’s crazy! Everything gets covered in dust within a day.
Now it’s time to take water, a couple drops of toxic free light dish soap and vinegar mix and wipe everything down. Feeders, waterers, roosts and nesting boxes get a good scrubbing. I RARELY use chlorine because it’s not good for the ladies respiratory systems. I only use it if I’m cleaning an area where there was a sick chicken. And then I rinse the heck out of it!
Now we replace the food and water with fresh stuff in clean equipment. Then toss in fresh pine shavings. I like to put the shavings in a big pile. Then the girls like to come in and dig around in it, spreading it around on their own!
See how the girls react to their clean coop on their YouTube Channel!
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!
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!
Unfortunately not everything can be fun and games with our chickens. It was a sad day when we came home and found that a fox had gotten into the ladies corral. He killed 4, injured 2 and gave another a heart attack! He only took one of the hens with him when he left. For those of you who remember Sweetie, she was the one with a broken toe who was injured the first year we got the ladies. She obviously couldn’t run very fast so was the fatality that left with the fox.
This solidified the fact that although the barn is large, a perfect temperature, and the fence is high enough to keeps a lot out, the Tajacoop and run’s full coverage of 1/2 inch wire cloth is the only thing keeping our girls alive in this wild, wild west!
Next plan……..adding an electric fence. Nothing like a good zap to negatively reinforce that we don’t want you varmint in here! The yellow pieces in the picture are holding 4 hot wires. Oh….we tested them. They won’t kill you but it’s sure to give a nosy fox a good reason to find easier prey!
I just happened to be looking out the window last week when I saw the fox trying to rush the gate and went ballistic on him from the window! It was enough to make him turn tail and run so fast we couldn’t find him once we got outside. He wasn’t quite giving up yet.
My last ditch effort was to make this scarecrow. It was just some bright colored clothes I put on a hanger and hung from the tree, but it makes me and the hubby do a double take thinking someone is there. If it fooled us it has to work on the fox…right? I’ve been changing the clothes every now and them to make it seem more real.
After putting in the electric fence and the scarecrow together we have not seen the fox again, thank goodness! The old ladies are safe for now. Cross your fingers for them! They love their new home so much!
I couldn’t resist. The old ladies were free ranging and I was going into the coop to feed the littles. The old ladies were trying to fight their way inside so I got curious as to how they would react to the little girls. So……I let one of them in!
Interestingly enough the buffs were more interested in the food bucket than the littles! Stewart the Rooster was the funniest. All I could see in his eyes was ….”additions to my harem!” The Easter Egger was the most curious. She spent the most time checking them out. Unfortunately something I noticed about Easter Eggers is they tend to look and act a little more wild than the other chicken breeds.
I was soaking one of the Egger’s feet one night next to the brooder when the chicks were only a week old. The older Egger got a wild look in her eyes, darted glances all about the cage and had her mouth hanging open! Yikes! She scared me a little! Yet the Eggers are still my favorite. No, they do not have fluffy feathered butts like the others, and when you need to catch them they run much faster. They can be a pain!
But now we have a coop full of young, overactive Rhode Island Reds. They are taking a very long time establishing the pecking order. Bumping chests, flying at each other in the air and pecking like mad! Makes me wonder if we have roosters in this batch again! If not is this a sneak peak of a future angry flock?! Double yikes!
Well, I guess we will see! Wish me luck!
Watch the older chickens checking out the Littles on the their YouTube channel:
Today is the big day! The chicks are finally moving into the coop! First I had to tear out EVERYTHING and clean every surface. It’s a long job to do it right.
It started with shoveling out all the used pined shavings and dumping them into the tractor bucket, driving them and dumping them into the compost pile. Since we were using the deep litter method over the winter this meant 5 trips! A lot of compost!
The feeders, waterers, roosts and nesting boxes were all moved out. Then I swept everything out. We installed linoleum on the floor so it was very easy to sweep and clean. To make sure everything was clear of any debris from the older chickens I pull out the shop vac next and vacuum every surface in the coop. I find it’s cleaner in the end this way because adding water to a dusty surface just makes the dirt stick. If you vacuum first then wash, its super clean!
I wash everything with dish soap and a little oil soap to smother insects. Then I spray with a very diluted bleach water to disinfect. After it’s dry I spread diatomaceous earth in the cracks of the wood in walls, floors and especially around the windows. This prevents pests from getting in.
Spread some pine shavings down and we are ready to move the chicks in! Because it’s so stressful for them we tried to put them in boxes to move them but it seemed to stress them out even more. So we ended up grabbing 2 at a time and walking them outside and into the new digs! They love it! Space!!
With the new chicks coming of egg laying age its time to move the older ladies to a retirement home. We are creating a coop set up in the barn.
We brought back their old nesting boxes they loved so much. They didn’t use the high tech metal one we just bought. They were laying their eggs on the floor in the corner. They are happy to have their boxes back. Plus we put together all new clean roosts.
My talented handy man created a wooden template for a chicken door. We can still close the barn doors to shut them in.
The biggest difference is the large free range space they have and are definitely loving it. There is no way to cover this large of an area.They are very hawk savvy so we aren’t worried about that, however I saw a fox the other day so we put up 4 electric fence wires on the outside.
They are really loving retirement. Lots of new vegetation to eat at their leisure and plenty of space to keep from getting on each others nerves. They’ve never had it better.
Watch as the ladies check out their new digs on their YouTube Channel: