Lets Eat Out Tonight

I can hear them saying “Hey, it’s getting a little crowded in here!!” Unfortunately it’s still cold outside and these little girls need to stay inside for another few weeks. So what can we do to make things better? Let’s let them eat out for a change!

This brooder came with troughs to hang on the outside to save space. There are metal pieces you can adjust to make sure the chicks can stick their heads out but not their entire bodies. We decided to give it a try.

First, we opened up the slides to let them investigate. It took awhile for them to get brave enough to poke their beaks through. Then we added the troughs filled with food. Opening the slides once again, they quickly got to it. They devoured the food like they hadn’t been fed for a week! Little monsters act like we are starving them!

After they filled up they started getting picky about their food. Instead of just eating they started pecking through it and tossing about pieces they didn’t care for. Guess where it landed…..ON THE FLOOR!. What a mess! We are now spending a lot of time vacuuming to avoid attracting mice.

But hey…..they have more room! It won’t last for long. They are growing way too fast. We are going to have to build a bigger brooder soon.

Check out our trough test, feeding the chicks outside the brooder on their YouTube Channel:

Chickens Eat Yogurt?

Chickens eat yogurt? Why yes they do!

Trying to get Penguin healthy again I contacted the vet who suggested extra protein and calcium to help her. So I thought…..how do I get extra calcium in her diet? I heard a rumor that chickens love yogurt. I’ll give it a try. Of course it has to be plain, organic yogurt.

I started with just a spoonful and dipped Penguin’s break into it. At first she seemed irritated, but once she got a taste she went crazy and started gulping it down! I put a small dish in her cage and watched as her face got covered in yogurt! She tried everything to get it off her face. Wiping her face in her bedding and rubbing the sides of her cage was not helping. I even tried to help her but she wouldn’t let me touch her.  I finally gave up, laughed and took a little video instead.

Watch as Penguin deals withe her yogurt on the hens’ YouTube Channel:

Easter Egg Hunt

Happy Easter!

We had more requests for eggs this last week for Easter but had to disappoint everyone with the ladies still not fully up to speed on egg laying. So we decided they needed more entertainment.

Poor Stewart, the new rooster, is too much of a gentleman during snack time. He patiently waits for the ladies to get their fill before he eats. Unfortunately they never leave anything for him!

I thought we would kill two birds with stone……well not exactly how I should phrase that! BUT I wanted to give Stewart a chance to get his favorite snack, sweet peppers, while entertaining the ladies to make them happier. Happy chickens lay more eggs, right?

So I created a different kind of Easter Egg hunt. I scattered sliced sweet peppers Everywhere in the run, opened the coop door and let them make a mad dash out to find their snacks. “Go Stewart!” I cheered many times but every time he put his head down one of the ladies ran up and he’d back up as if saying “its all ours!”. Then he got……distracted. After all, he is a 1 year old testosterone driven rooster! Need I say more.

Once again, Stewart did not get any sweet peppers. Poor Stewart.

Watch the Easter Egg Hunt on the ladies’ YouTube Channel:

 

 

 

Fun with Snacks

There is nothing worse than bored hens. The saying that someone is hen pecked came from reality in the hen house! The ladies can be soooo mean to each other, pecking any open spot on their bodies, plucking feathers and in some cases jumping on top of another hen!

It is so important to keep chickens occupied with interesting things to stop the torture. Food is always a good one. With a big vegetable garden we always have interesting leftovers for them, including the weeds we pull. But today we are removing weed block fabric from our garden rows. Guess what was living under them? A ton of crickets!

Nothing can be more exciting than treats that run away from you! So we collected up a bunch of crickets and tossed them in the run. They had a ball.

Unfortunately by the time I pulled out the camera, the hype had already warn off.

Now we have to find something else to keep them busy!

 

Chickens Beat the Heat with Homemade Frozen Treat

It’s 95 degrees today and the poor girls look very hot. Beaks hanging open, meandering around trying to find a spot in the deep shade. I knew this hot summer day was coming so pre-made a little treat that would help cool them off when the time came.

I found recipes from a few other blogs and decided to try it out. With many different types of cake pans I couldn’t resist making a frozen treat in a Christmas tree cake pan. It reminded me of the freezing cold winter which sounds pretty good right now!

The pan was filled with berries and chopped apples, then water was poured in until the  pan was full. Sitting in the freezer for a couple days made it rock hard. This was perfect for crazy hot hens with fierce pointy beaks. They also needed a little entertainment.

The chickens are  usually scared of anything new in their space and this was no different. They were so reluctant to walk up to it I had to encourage them by sprinkling their favorite scratch on it.

They carefully snuck up on the tree and delicately pecked off the scratch. Once they realized it wasn’t going to bite them it was a hit! The goal became to get through the ice to get themselves a berry. When one of the hens got to one they picked it up and immediately ran across the other side of the run with the others in chase! Rather than peck for their own berry, they’d rather steal the one everyone is after!

Silly girls. But at least their cool treat cooled them off!

Watch the girls as they try out their treat on their YouTube Channel:

Cabbage Tetherball

We have a new way to keep the girls from getting bored! Lots of buzz on the web, and you know what? It’s a healthy snack to boot! It’s a new sport! Cabbage Tetherball! Drill a hole in a cabbage, string through the center and tie it up. It’s that easy.

This is new to to the girls so it’s taking a little for them to figure it out. The buffs were the first ones to pick it up. They are now monopolizing it. What a cheap, easy way to get them focused on other things besides pecking.

You can watch them try it out for the first time on What the Flock Chickens YouTube Channel:

Chickens in an Arctic Freeze

There are days I hate the weather man. He is so excited talking about the record breaking low temperatures coming our way with no regard for people like me who can’t bring their animals inside the house for protection!  Well….we already have heating panels, but how warm will they keep the coop when it’s a snowy negative 7 degrees outside?! My motherly instincts kicked in and I started to worry so much I couldn’t concentrate on anything but my girls.

I did a lot of online research on frostbite and most agreed it’s the humidity that increases the chances of frostbite, not the cold temperature. We got outdoor remote sensor thermometers with humidistat capability so now I could see what the temperature and humidity is both outside and inside the coop.

Something else I read is giving chickens high calorie, fatty foods will increase the body temperature and help them stay warmer. Those spoiled girls were in heaven! I think their favorite was when I made them warm oatmeal and threw in some chopped up apples we had frozen from our trees.

The freeze ran over 2 days and I hardly slept for 2 days. It seemed like every hour I was checking the temperature. When the temperature outside started dropping way below the temperature inside the of the coop, the humidity inside the coop soared to 94%! Yikes! This is why you don’t want to overheat the coop. The bigger the difference between the inside and the outside, the higher the humidity. I suffered all night wondering what I was going to find in the morning. Surprisingly, they were up, moving around ready for breakfast, not shivering in a corner.

I would not let the girls out of coop until those 2 days were over. They were so frustrated they started to peck at each other requiring me to pull out the chicken saddles again! They were soooooo ready to be out of there!

Finally, once the temperature was 9 degrees outside on the third morning, we got out before the sun came up and snow shoveled a path to the coop, then shoveled out a large area in the run. We covered the frozen ground with straw the so the girls could walk around without freezing their toes. As the sun started to come up I scattered chicken scratch, opened the chicken door and watched the happy girls escape their coop for the first time in 2 days! It was Glorious!

I learned a lot about what to do and not do for chickens in freezing weather and won’t need to stress out anymore!

See  how happy the girls are when they finally get outside on their YouTube channel:

 

The Garden Feast

garden-free-ranging

I was pulling out the last of the carrots in the garden and decided to let the girls in to free range and snack on all the left overs. Tiny carrots, beet greens, small malformed cucumbers and zucchini and of course, lots of weeds that I just never got the energy to pull. They had a ball!

Of course, like most days, some of the girls had to make the day a challenge. One buff girl sat right by me waiting for me to dig. Before I could pull a carrot out she’d dive in the hole and attack worms, bugs or any other interesting thing she could find. When I tried to stop her before she got to the carrot, she’d grab me by my gardening gloves!

One of the Australorps decided she’d rather be outside the garden gate and took flight! Unfortunately she got stuck in the plum tree she landed in and started squawking so loud, even the neighbors chickens stopped and stared up in the tree! This was the first time I ever saw every hen quiet, stopped and staring all in the same direction! It made me laugh. The silence finally broke when my hubby said….”so….are you going to rescue your chicken or what?”

So the chicken was saved out of the tree, everyone got a great meal and EVERY chicken, except for one, laid an egg the following morning.

It just goes to show you, happy free ranging chickens lay lots of yummy eggs!

You can watch the hens free ranging in the garden on their YouTube Channel:

And fighting for carrots:

 

Finally Free Ranging

free-ranging

The girls have been squawking and pecking at each other so much they sometimes take out their frustration by pecking at us! We decided they need more entertainment in their life to make them happier. After all, happy chickens make better eggs!

I wasn’t sure about letting my girls out of their nice, protected run, but watching how excited they were when they got to bolt out the door was just too much fun! Fat,happy and waddling just looks natural on them!

I couldn’t help myself. I had to follow every move they made to make sure they weren’t getting too far away, weren’t eating anything suspicious and weren’t putting themselves in danger. I eventually gave that up. You can’t keep an eye on 28 different chickens at the same time. I decided to spend my supervising time watching the sky for hawks and standing like a road block to the most dangerous areas I didn’t want them to get into.

I still managed to panic a couple times. The girls found a mushroom and before I could get to them 7 of them tore it apart and swallowed it down! I prayed that night “Dear God, please don’t let me wake up to 7 dead chickens”!  I carefully opened the coop door in the morning and they were alive and well! PHEW!

Another scare we had was the first time we didn’t supervise their free ranging and went inside to eat lunch with my sister. My sister was staring outside the window and ?asked…”what kind of bird is that?” Well…….THAT was a hawk! We all quickly ran outside and luckily it looked like the chickens were smart enough to hide under the bushes!

They are obsessed with plastic plant markers! they pull them out of the ground, run around with them, peck them into small pieces and eat them! I had to walk all over the yard and pull up every plant label. And I still sometimes find a new one pulled up from god knows where!

I also found plants, like periwinkle, they probably shouldn’t be eating that I’m going to have to cut out of the garden. I’ll be praying again tonight on that one! They really know how to tear up gardens. The lovely herb garden around their run that was in full bloom has been chewed down to the nub and the space between the plants have turned into dust bathing sights! Ugh. I decided to cover the plants with pots since their beginning to die back for the fall anyway. I’ll fix it in the winter and put a small deterrent fence around it so they can enjoying eating some, but not all of the plants next year.

All in all, the chickens are happier, they are more entertaining to watch free ranging, and the egg quality has definitely gone up!

You can watch the girls’ excitement being let out to free range on their YouTube Channel:

 

 

I Lost My Marbles!

Marbles

When we moved the chicks to the coop we bought big chicken sized feeders and waterers. Yay! No more jumping on the small waterer and knocking it over! I bought a big 5 gallon galvanized steel waterer that was a little awkward at first to fill and lock the lid in place.

The chicks were terrified! What was this enormous, shiny, noisy thing?! They completely avoided it. Only the bravest of the chicks reluctantly investigated. It took a day before they were willing to walk up to it, and when they did, they looked in the tray and didn’t seem to see the water in it.

The small chick waterers had bright colored marbles in the trays. I had read that baby chicks can drown in waterers and that putting marbles in them will prevent them from falling in and drowning. Even when the chicks got bigger, every time I removed the marbles from their water dish they seemed confused because they couldn’t see the water. It was so extreme that when I put a marble back in the tray, the girls would all pack in to drink off that marble.

I think that because the chicks didn’t see marbles in the new waterer they didn’t associate it with drinking. Ugh! I felt like a grade school teacher on the second day putting about a dozen marbles in the tray. “Here girls! Here it is! Come drink some water!” Sure enough, it worked. Some were still hesitant and watched from across the coop.

The next day it was hot out. When I got into the coop that evening, the chicks had finally all figured out where to get their water. So much so that they emptied it! It was bone dry! Nothing in the tray! I’m thinking to myself, “Yay! They are all finally drinking!” And then I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty empty. I usually see some pine shavings, or something……uh….like…MARBLES!” Oh no! Where did the marbles go? Right as I was panicking, some squawking started up behind me. I turned around to find one of the chicks running away from the other 33 with a marble in her beak! She dropped it on the ground and a riot ensued! I broke up the fight and took the marble away. A second, and then a third marble surfaced the same way. Everyone wanted a coveted marble!

Unfortunately, I only found 4 of the marbles so far but the coop is so big they could be anywhere. Worried, I emailed my favorite chicken blogger who told me this was a new one for her but she wouldn’t be concerned as the marbles are probably too big for them to swallow. Thanks Lisa!

I’m cleaning out the coop this weekend so I’ll see if I can find the rest.