Our ladies made it through the winter! The winter sure is boring for chickens. They spend time in the run when the weather is warm enough and make occasional trips out into the snow-covered yard, but when there isn't anything green to eat, life as a chicken is not fulfilling. They spend lots and lots of time eating, pooping and scratching around inside the coop. Thankfully, spring is now here!
They get let out into the yard at least once, if not twice, a day to roam free and fill their bellies with bugs, grass, weeds and dirt/grit.
Camilla hasn't changed one bit. She is still the most curious, engaging and food driven of the flock. She is also the smallest, lowest on the pecking order within the flock yet bravest in running Uli off. In short, she is awesome. I suspect she might be the smartest of the flock as well, as she realizes where the scratch treats come from and makes attempts to help herself.
And, Petunia, oh Petunia. Over the winter, our flock developed a little bit of an issue. Nellie and Camilla's butts got a little poopy and it pulled out some of their tail feathers. Then, since they had naked patches on their bums, someone (not naming names) thought it was a good idea to peck at their skin and pull out any feathers that might try to grow in. Someone did that. And then someone got a set of pinless peepers.
Pinless peepers are annoying to the chicken but not harmful. There are little plastic pegs that go into their nostrils to hold them in place and blinders to make it harder to go after what is right in front of you.
She can still eat and move around fine, but the pinless peepers did seem to knock her down a notch or two in the pecking order. She is still on top, but not so dramatically so. The process of putting them on her did nothing to grow her trust in us. In her eyes, we are to be avoided if possible. Exceptions are made when we offer really appetizing treats.
It seems to be working, though, since the other 2 are slowly regrowing their feathers. You can see a peak of Camilla's naked bum in the photo below.
You know what is hard to do? Take pictures of chickens that are foraging. Especially chickens who know you are the bringer of good stuff to eat. You might get one photo like this:
But, your next photo would look like this as the chicken charges towards you:
The chickens are just over a year old now and are experiencing their 2nd summer in the backyard. However, this year, things are not the same. There is a whole new dynamic: Uli. Uli is a German Shorthaired Pointer, which is a sporting breed meant for bird hunting. We knew this when we got him, but we were hoping we could train him to accept OUR birds as family and not prey. It seems to be going pretty well. He spends a lot of time hanging out with them when they are in their run.
The chickens free roaming time does not usually overlap with Uli's outside time. When Uli naps inside, the chickens come out to play. When Uli is outside, the chickens chill out in their run. It works pretty well but takes a bit of extra juggling and attention from us to rotate them. And occasionally, there is an overlap. Like this one:
|photo credit to Paul|
It doesn't always go that way, though. Uli has brave moments where he runs at them and they flap their wings and squawk, which gets him even more excited. We are hoping that we can gradually work up to them all being out in the yard while we are nearby doing yard or garden work.
But, for now, they will take turns roaming the yard and hanging out on the back steps.