Why Did the Chicken Cross the Pasture?

I’ve mentioned several times how our pet chickens are just that, pets. We’ve spent a lot of time with them since we first got them in August of 2011, socializing them so that when we are around them they are friendly and approachable. But, we never thought they would be as friendly as they are today, not too mention, gutsy.

We decided to let our chickens be free range in our pasture back in late summer because we grew tired of having to move them around the property every couple of weeks. I’ve seen many other chickens roam completely free on other properties and David and I thought, why not try it out? Our only concern was the potential of one of our dogs getting too close but since they were in the pasture surrounded by an electric fence, we figured they’d be pretty safe.

So, we took down the smaller 40 foot electric fence surrounding their mobile chicken coop and let them run free and they were in chickie heaven. The sheep and goats were curious as to what they were and all of them came over to check out what was going on, sniffing them, trying to figure out what they were doing in their pasture. It didn’t take long until they were part of their flock following them to all corners of the several acre pasture. Sometimes I’d find them way out by the pond in the third pasture pecking the ground, completely unaware of how far they had gone.

But most of the time the chickens stay close to the barn where they now nested and laid their eggs. Gone are the days of opening the roosting boxes on the coop and discovering four perfect little eggs. Now we are lucky if we can find one because they end up laying them throughout the barn or maybe even in the pasture!  If you are a regular follower of the blog then you read this post on the time I discovered over fifty eggs in one spot. If you haven’t read it yet you can read it here.

Now our ladies are totally free range and are loving life to the fullest. The only problem is, regardless of the fact that they have about 5 plus acres of pasture to explore, they’ve grown bored and I believe they have the attitude that the grass is greener on the other side because they keep finding their way through the electric fence and in our yard. Sometime last week I saw Isis, our American Bulldog, standing at the front door looking out the window. She usually only does this when she either has to go to the bathroom or their is someone or something out there. So, I decided to take a look and this is what I found.

Chickens at the front door

Knock knock! Who’s there? Oh, just Big Red and her three silly sisters!

I couldn’t believe my eyes! All four of them were just hanging out on and around our front stoop. I called David over and we both got a pretty good laugh at this. Unfortunately, we needed to make sure that they wouldn’t keep doing this because of the dogs and cats. All it would take was one time and we’d be digging a grave for one of our beloveds.

So with a little investigating, I realized that they were slipping right under the gate leading in and out of the pasture but that didn’t mean I fixed it right away. So far the dogs and cats hadn’t payed much attention to the ladies so I thought we just might be in the clear until a few days ago that was.

I was out by the barn on the phone and had all three dogs out there with me and as I was walking back from getting something from inside the shop I noticed Coleman, our English Bulldog, chasing Goldie Hen, one of our chickens. Then Gwen, one of the other chickens started flapping her wings and running in circles and Isis took notice and started chasing her. Forgetting that I was on the phone, I screamed at Isis and Coleman and started chasing them around as they chased the chickens around. It was one big cluster you know what and I ended up getting two of the chickens back in the pasture and needed to find the other two.

Unfortunately, Isis found one of them first. I turned around and she was chasing Mary, lunging up as she was in mid-air and snipped her tail feathers. I ran and grabbed Isis by the collar, allowing Mary to run into the barn. I yelled at Isis to stay and ran into the barn after Mary. I found her hiding behind the stacks of hay and knelt down to pick her up. Poor thing was practically shaking. I’m sure she just saw her life flash before her eyes. I got her back in the barn stalls safely and realized I still couldn’t find Big Red. After walking around the inside and outside of the barn I finally went into the pasture hoping she’d be there. And low and behold, she was. Somehow in all the madness she managed to get back into the pasture on her own, unscathed.

When all the chickens were back in the pasture and I had a moment to collect myself, I put the dogs on the deck, locking them in, and headed back out to figure out how to fix the fence.  I found two old boards and sealed up the space where they climb through and they haven’t been a problem since.

I know one day all our animals will die but I’m hoping and praying they all go naturally and from old age. Nothing would be worse, in my eyes, then having to put one down because they’d been attacked by another animal. All of which is part of living in the country but one can hope, can’t they?

I’d Like You to Meet the ‘Ladies’

D and I purchased 26 baby chicks about a year ago, when we still ate meat, and had the intention of butchering some and using the others for their eggs. Well, things changed and we knew we couldn’t eat them or their off spring and we ended up selling all but four of the ladies. I struggled with selling them because I knew ultimately their were few people around here who wanted a bunch of chickens as pets and that they may go to someone who would end up butchering most of them. We didn’t know what to do but knew we couldn’t keep this many chickens. I ended up posting them on Craigslist and fortunately a really great couple purchased them and I like to believe that they are all happy, roaming freely on their farm.

The four that we did end up keeping have slowly, over the course of the year, become more like pets to use. They honestly have their own funny little personalities . Anytime they see us they all come running over to the fence. Their coop is surrounded by a 40 foot electric fence which doesn’t seem to work very well because we always see one of the chickens poking it’s head through reaching for the grass that sits just on the other side. But I suppose it still gives us a little piece of mind with it up. Plus, the dogs really can’t be trusted, nor the cats or the occasional coyote that gets on the property.

These gals have a special place in our hearts. We’ve nursed one back from the dead, literally, and the other three just tug a little at our hearts as well.

Every morning they are we waiting patiently for me to come out and undo the latch and open the ramp which they come in and out of the coop from. I’m an early riser so this is usually around 6-6:30 am. If it’s any later they always raise a stick and you can hear them from inside the house voicing their frustration at you. They spend their day waking around their pen picking at the ground. On extremely hot days they go under their coop and sit in the shade until it cools off in the evening. They are, for the most part, creature of habit. When the sun goes down they automatically go back into their coop and wait for D to come out and lock them in.

When we first got the chickens, while they were still living in the guest room as little baby chicks, we had a Chicken Coop made from Gopher Boy Farms. They idea behind it was for it to be mobile so we could transport the ladies around the farm and they could fertilize the ground.

This is me cleaning it out during the winter. The hay from inside the coop is a great ingredient to put in your compost {in case you are wondering}.

Most days the girls give us an egg each; a blueish-green, a pinkish brown, a speckled brown, and a plan brown.  We decided that instead of throwing them out {since we don’t eat eggs} we would trade with our friends for other goodies like vegetables or fun house plants or we sell them for $5 a dozen.  We may as well cover their cost, right?

So without further ado, I’d love for you to meet ‘the ladies’.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

hard decisions on a farm

We have another chicken with ‘hemorrhoids,’ which isn’t really hemorrhoids but merely something that I assume to be equivalent in chickens. This time it’s with our rare and exotic chicken, Doris. At least that is what I call her.

When we ordered our chickens back in August we purchased 25 baby chicks and they threw in one special surprise one, the rare and exotic one. She’s prominently white with little black specs all over her backside and I really love her. She has personality and she’s bigger then most the others.

The other one who had something similar never made it. I did everything in my power to fix her and I thought it was even getting better.  Then I made the mistake of putting her back with the others after about two and a half weeks but since it had been that long, they didn’t accept her back in and started attacking her. When I went out to check on the chickens that afternoon, I found her curled up in a little ball under one of the tires of the chicken coop shaking and bloody. She let me  scooped without a fight and she curled up in my arms, barring her head in the nook of my armpit as I carried her back to her safe little coop in the garage. From there I was forced to decide what to do next. And it broke my heart.

Who am I to decide what is right anyway?

In the end I made the hard decision that she was suffering and keeping her around was selfish on my part. We couldn’t keep her in the garage for the rest of her life and had nowhere else to put her.

When I got home from work that night, she was gone and I was informed that the next time I had to do it. We are either in it together, teammates,  or not at all is what David said. It’s only fair. It’s part of life out here and part of the lifestyle of having farm animals. They get sick, they die. Sometimes at the hand of their owner because above all else, you’re the only one who can make the right decision for them. And sometimes it just sucks.

I’m really not so sure I am cut out for this. I mean, I am a girl who will go as far as to apply Preparation H to a chicken’s butt to save its life. I am the girl that chases after her cats as they run away determined, with bird in mouth.  I’ve been known to rescue stray dogs, and not so stray dogs, and I had to stop volunteering at a shelter because I kept bring them home with me. I am the girl who has conversations with the goats as they walk by my side in the pasture. I am the girl who loves so deeply I’d go to great lengths to save their lives.

So how am I suppose to detach myself from that part of me, my favorite part of me?

Will I ever really know what is the right decision? Will I always wonder if there was something more I could have done?

Will I ever get use to having to make that decision?

 

 

a morning stroll

I woke up this morning, looked out the window and was  greeted by the sun peeking out from behind some clouds highlighting the beautiful array of colors around the farm. I quickly put on my boots to go  let the chickens out for the day. I grabbed my camera on the way out the door…


Every season shares some sort of beauty but autumn colors are by far the most inspiring to me.

I think the animals even appreciate it as well…

 

And life is good…

 

 

 

 

 




the chicks are here!

David and I woke this morning at 6:45am to the sound of the telephone ringing. On the other end was the mail carrier informing us that our 26 two-day old chicks had just arrived. After hanging up the phone, we paused momentarily and then the excitement erupted. “The BABY CHICKS are here!!! We sprung out of bed, scurrying to get to the post office before 8am, and because we were a tad bit excited.

Upon arriving, we rang the bell and after a few moments, a man carrying a cardboard box filled with 26 baby chickens opened the backdoor. The sweet chirps echoed from within.

“You must be here to pick up these guys.”

After scanning the box he handed them over to me, their new momma chicken.

As we walked to the car, I quietly started naming them and whispered sweet little nothings that only a proud new mother would say. I know there will be a day when these little guys will be hauled off to the butcher but for now, I will bask in the glory of motherhood.

When we got home we followed the instructions from what all the books and vast information on the internet have said to do thus far. One by one we picked up each chick and dipped its little beak in water waiting for it to drink for the first time. After, we showed each chick where it’s food was and watched as they instinctively ate the grainy, hard chick food.

When all chicks were watered and fed, we sat back and watched as their little personalities came to life. Already a few are showing some interesting dominating characteristics and others just quietly laid down and fell right to sleep.

I think it is safe to say the next six weeks are going to be nothing short of eventful. When the chicks have all there feathers and the fear of them getting too cold has passed, we will take them outside to live happily in their brand new chicken coop that is being built by GopherBoy Farms.  Until then, they will live warm and cozy in our guest bedroom under the protective eye of momma chick Amanda.

chickens in t minus three weeks

I can hardly wait to wake up in the early hours of the morning, crawl out of bed and head downstairs, slipping on my muck boots to head out and collect our bounty of colorful and freshly laid eggs.

We found Gopherboy Farms via the internet and after much discussion have decided to have them build us our mobile barn house coop (pictures to come). We are so excited about this for many reasons. David’s excited about the sustainability aspect of raising and butchering our own chickens and me, well I think it’s safe to say I’m excited for raising BABY CHICKS! And, collecting the eggs.

We will begin by getting four layers from Gopherboy Farms and about 25 chicks that will need to live in a brooder for several weeks until they are of age to be released into the mobile coop with the layers.

This will be a great learning experience and I’m sure will make for some interesting stories to tell.

The way both David and I see it is like this…either we will both become vegetarian or we will gain a whole new respect for animals and what they give. For me, probably both.

What came first? The Chicken or the Chicken Coop?

I’m building a chicken coop. And when I say “I”, I probably really mean David and his cousin. However, I was given the responsibility of designing the chicken coop and doing all the research necessary to raise baby chicks and nurture them into grown chickens.

I asked David how many chickens he wanted thinking he was going to say around ten. To my surprise he only wants three. Hmm, that’s not exactly what I had in mind. I want ten. At the least. I think ten is completely suitable AND necessary. I’m not trying to be greedy here. I’m actually thinking sustainability. David thinks three chickens will give us way more eggs than we will ever be able to eat but if you think about it, one chicken lays about one egg a day (if we are lucky). That’s three eggs a day. I eat two.  David eats two. With only three chickens we will be fighting over who gets two eggs and who gets one. I eat as if I was a 250 pound man. Therefore, I’m thinking we need roughly 10 chickens. Okay, maybe we only need four chickens. But, with all the baking I plan on doing, we will need plenty of eggs.

A coworker of mine who just got chickens mentioned the other day that her chickens were stressed out because of her dog and weren’t laying any eggs. I want my chickens to live the good life. One that is free of the fear of dogs and cats. As much as I’d like to believe David’s two dogs and my two cats are perfect little angels, the dead mouse I found in the basement yesterday morning is a pretty good example that they are not.

Therefore, I believe if we provide them with a home that feels safe and comfortable, they in return will provide for us. So I have drafted up some plans. Preliminary drawings if you will. Now friends, I never claimed to be an artist. Be kind.

So there you have it. Since we are waiting to get our chicks next Spring, I have some time to revamp my drawings. This shall be an interesting experience to say the least. A fun one though. Very fun.

If you have experience with this sort of thing please feel free to email me or leave a comment with any suggestion, idea, etc.