Sunday, December 14, 2014
It has been a long time since I have dedicated a post to our hens, but as you might have noticed, they now have bios on the sidebar! As you can read in her bio, the exciting news is that Nellie is laying eggs! She laid her first egg on October 25th and has been laying on an every other day (sometimes daily!) basis since then. It took us a bit to figure out it was her but we are 100% confident now that she is our hardworking hen of the moment.
All 3 ladies have learned that we often provide excitement in the form of treats (kitchen and garden scraps.) That means that they pay a lot of attention to us. Whenever we appear in the backyard while the chickens are out of the run, the scene looks a little like the pied piper (minus the death!). If we squat down, we get even MORE attention. It looks like this:
This sort of relationship is intentional on our part as we want our city chickens to be well socialized. To achieve this we made a point of giving them scraps out of hand and handled them regularly from the start of their lives. Even if we had not taken these efforts, I think they would still pay a lot of attention to us since we are the ones keeping them fed and healthy. The resulting comfort level and focus on us ended up being a little more intense than I had envisioned. I have had to put them back into their run from time to time in order to get my yardwork or gardening done without interference (stealing raspberries out of my container when I am picking, getting in the way of my hands whenever they are with range of their bodies, pecking at my clothes while I am weeding, etc).
This is our first winter with chickens, so we had a lot to do in order to prepare the coop for the cold weather. Thanks to Paul, we have electricity running overhead from the garage to the coop. Outside of the coop. we have an electrical box where the power attaches to cords that run inside the coop. Those cords power a string of rope lights on a timer, a flat panel heater connected to a thermostat that triggers it to turn on when the internal temperature gets to 20 degrees F and a heated water base that keeps their drinking water thawed. This set-up has worked well so far, which is a victory since we made it through a few weeks of January/February like weather already this season.
When I got back from my trip in early October, I got to see how the chickens were undeterred by the frosty mornings as well as their newly acquired raspberry picking skills. They figured out how to jump up and get the berries from higher up on the branches. I think I am destined to forever compete with our pets when it comes to those raspberries! The dogs were pretty good raspberry harvesters, too.
After the first snowfall, we decided to add a corrugated steel roof on top of the run and plastic sheeting on the exterior run walls. Our thinking is that if we can keep a lot of the snow and ice out of the run as well as provide a bit of a windbreak, the chickens will be happier and healthier throughout the winter.
I think they appreciate our efforts! And, they really appreciate whatever kitchen scraps we offer as their foraging options are suddenly non-existent.
Sometimes I feel a little guilty that our Fanny cat is inside so snuggly and warm while the chickens our outside in their cold coop.
But I guess as far as chicken lives go, ours have pretty great ones. Case in point, we leveled up in the chicken keeping world today when we brought Nellie inside to give her a bath.
Over the past few weeks I have been watching a mat of droppings stuck to her bum grow bigger and more compacted. I was hoping the situation would resolve itself but without any dust to bathe in, it didn't look like she was going to be able to do anything about it. We took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather today to bring her inside and wash her off. Paul and I teamed up, he holding her steady in the tub and me doing the loosening up and washing. She was surprisingly unbothered by the ordeal, quietly clucking a little when she first was set in the tub and then settling in to the situation. In case you are wondering, it is uncool to send your chicken outside with a soaking wet bum. How does one address that problem? With a light toweling off and a hair dryer! Yes, I dried my chicken's bum with a hair dryer. I was thoroughly amused by the ridiculousness of the task.
My reward? A steady supply of clean, delicious eggs.
Hidden in the picture below are all 3 of the ladies, busy foraging on one of the last days before the frost really changed the landscape.
I don't think I will have much more to say about the ladies in the coming few months as they hunker down for the winter, spending a lot of their time in their coop keeping warm. You can bet I will be checking for eggs regularly, though as this is the season for baking and eating hearty foods! Every time I eat an egg, I announce "This is Nellie's egg!". Paul is wondering how long I will keep that up. I am wondering when our other 2 ladies will be added to my pronouncements!
Posted by Trinity at 7:07 PM