And Then There Were Five

chickens_blkforest-co_lah_9289Last week we had nine hens. Six were young, prolific layers less than a year old. Three were old biddies past their prime. I’d been meaning to cull the three unproductive hens for a long time, but just couldn’t bring myself to actually follow through. Then I went to the feed store yet again, and realized that we were supporting three hens that were eating one third of my feed bill. That sealed their fate. So earlier this week I humanely dispatched three hens in their sleep and fed the local wildlife. I guess the local wildlife enjoyed the feast, because…

We got home late last night, and I headed out after dark to collect my half-dozen eggs. But instead of six, I found only five eggs—and five chickens. Alarmed, I searched the coop, but I couldn’t really see much in the moonlight. The five hens were perched on their roost, asleep, so I secured the coop and headed for bed.

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What to Give Your Chickens

chicken_blkforestco_20100411_lah_2118You have gifts for your parents and gifts for your kids. You have a gift for Aunt Claire and a gift for Uncle Bob. You even have a gift for your dog. But what about your chickens?

If you culled your flock last month, perhaps your remaining hens are glad just to have another year of dust baths and fresh air. But don’t stop there… hens are actually very easy to “shop” for.

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Henpecked!

hen_lah_9305Chickens can be pretty darn mean. The terms “pecking order” and “henpecked” have a firm basis in how a chicken society operates. Like many other animals—wolves and elephants come immediately to mind—there is an alpha chicken (left) who literally rules the roost. Every other bird knows its place too, which (most of the time) results in peaceful coexistence.

chicken_blkforest_20090731_lah_054Since my flock lacks a rooster, we have a queen hen. The other hens kowtow to her. She is always first to grab the scraps I toss into their coop, and the first to sample the fresh water when I clean their basin. And then there is the poor biddy in last place (right). She’s lacking feathers in a number of spots, not because she’s molting, but because the other hens pull them out.

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Coops (continued)

hen_blkforest_20090729_lah_7828Last week I wrote about the design and layout of chicken coops. Today we’ll talk about the inside.

Lighting

If your coop is large, you’ll need some light inside so that you and the hens can see. Also, chickens lay eggs when days are long, then stop and molt when fall arrives. If you want them to continue producing eggs into the darker months, you’ll need an artificial light source (and electricity).

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Coops

chicken-coop_lah_9119The biggest investment in keeping chickens is their housing. Chickens are remarkably hardy birds, but they need some sort of shelter to make it though a Colorado winter. They also need protection from raccoons, possums, foxes, owls, coyotes, hawks, weasels, and neighborhood dogs.

Of course, the chickens don’t care what their coop looks like, just as long as it keeps them sheltered and safe. From our human perspective, appearance matters. So does convenience.

What should you consider when designing a coop (or choosing a plan)? Today and next week I’ll share what I’ve learned about housing chickens.

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