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Monday, July 5, 2010

Newfound Chicken Knowledge

Becoming chicken people has been quite the adventure, and both of us have learned loads about backyard chicken-keeping. Because we were quite naive, much of our new knowledge probably is common sense to some folks, but to us two former city dwellers, nothing about chickens was common sense before having our own feathery peeps.

A few  morsels of new found knowledge include:
  • Chickens have sex. I honestly did not know that. I thought that somehow, some way, the roosters inserted something into the hatched egg that made a chick. Now that I know, I'm dreading the day that Zappa and Marley's hormones kick in. I'm worried about my little hen ladies. I'm finding the idea of our cute little peepers doin' the deed very disturbing. I hope I'm not home to witness the first few rounds. 
  • Chickens like cheese. With Carmen, the cat, being so obsessed with cheese that she can distinguish the word from "treat", and with the chickens' love for cheese, I wonder if any of our  CSA cheese share will be left for the humans. 
  • Chickens can start having eggs at a very young age. I've read that egg-laying can begin as early as 16 weeks old, though most start laying a bit later than that.
  • Chickens can fly quite well, at least our Bantams can. Zappa has flown halfway across our yard.
  • Chickens need to slowly be introduced to new flock members. Currently, we're teaching Zappa, our first rooster, that Andy is actually the alpha male in this yard. Zappa bullies and picks on all the newer chicks, hens and roosters alike.
  • If chickens eat onions or garlic, it will spoil their eggs.
  • Most chickens roost when they sleep.
  • Hawks really don't care if people are around. They see chickens, and they think lunch. A week ago, we had two land in our yard - we were not even 20 yards away.
  • Chickens, when played with regularly, are very affectionate. Today Zappa sat on my lap, soaking up compliments and chicken massage, for over thirty minutes.
Chickens make great pets! And hens lay eggs!! Everyone should have a backyard chicken!!

Here are some of our chicken moments:

Zappa and Ani coming out of the coop for the first time.
Ani is well...a chicken! She's scared of everything.

Ani and Zappa = natural pesticide.
Now, they are too big to let alone and free in the garden;
they also want to eat our plants. 
Marley (previously know as Fiona)
She is a he. Figuring that out was quite the drama!

Loud and boisterous Janis.
She's pretty sweet too.
Ella ~ she is, as Dave Matthews would say, a lovely lady.

Among our lessons this summer... it's hard to sex a chick, and therefore, we ended up with two roosters. We thought we'd keep them both, but later learned that the ratio for roosters:hens should be 1:5. We tried finding a sanctuary for little Marley, but in the end decided to build a smaller coop and run for Marley and his ladies. We also are expecting three (previously sexed) Easter Egger day-old chicks this week! Easter Eggers are cold-hardy hens with sweet dispositions. Plus, they are exceptional layers that lay colored eggs. Perfect for our nieces and friends' children at Easter time.

We are anxiously awaiting our new babies.

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