The First Week Or So With the Hens

25 March 2017

Michelle, one our Chanteclers

Well. What a week it has been! I should preface this post by saying that the day after we brought the hens home Iris came down with the dreaded barfing flu and then, of course, I got it a few days later. Bah! So it has definitely has not been an average week over here - let me tell you. Anyway, I thought I'd just share what it's been like having the hens from the perspective of complete amateurs.

Overall, I'd say once you have the coop and hens set up, the upkeep of chickens is fairly simple. Although, to be completely fair, Dave did most of the "chicken chores" this week as I was sick so I could be exaggerating.

Dave: Routine maintenance (feeding, cleaning out poop, giving treats, checking for eggs, disinfecting, etc.) is all good.  Enjoyable, even.  Buuut, we're still in the process of identifying areas of improvement for our current set-up.  So, I wouldn't say we've quite settled into a state of easy-maintenance for our chickens yet.  There are still a couple of big projects that we're intending to tackle over the coming weekends (i.e., the chicken "yard" - see below for more).

Cleaning out the coop. Frida jumped out onto the ledge while Dave was doing this, but we just gave her a little shove back inside

What daily chicken chores look like (for us): In the morning we let the ramp down and let the ladies out of the coop. Make sure the water isn't frozen and if it is, take it inside and melt it with some hot water and re-fill it. Check their food. Put another waterer down in the run. Maybe leave a treat out in the run. Scoop some poop out. Mid-morning we go out with the kids and check to see if there are any eggs. We find our ladies like to lay in the early afternoon so there's usually not any yet. Afternoon, check for eggs again. Just before the sun goes down we "tuck the ladies in," aka lift the ramp up and secure them in the upstairs part of the coop.

What We Didn't Expect: There are a few things. The first would be that some of the chickens wouldn't want to go in the coop and some would never want to leave the coop. Right now Michelle hardly ever goes into the coop and has only laid us about one or 2 eggs. She'll happily stay in the run all day pecking around for stuff to eat. Nellie on the other hand has only ventured out of the coop once (!) and prefers to cozy up to the feeder upstairs all day long.

When they peck food out of your hand it doesn't hurt at all! Nellie gave Iris a little peck when she tried to pet her while she was laying an egg and Iris wasn't even phased by it.

The coop roof leaks a bit when it rains. Dave had to make a bit of an eavestrough to fix this.

Chickens poop A LOT.

What We love Most So Far: This may be weird but the first thing that comes to mind is how much we're outside everyday! It's great! I love how Iris will ask to go outside just to check out the hens, or to see if there are any eggs. It's amazing to see this whole thing through her eyes. When we find an egg she'll hold it very gently and whisper, "Thank you Nellie."  Gah, it's the cutest! Also, the eggs are great, obviously. When we ate our first one I exclaimed how it looked like a Jamie Oliver egg! You know, he always seems to have eggs that have an almost orange yolk. Our eggs are like that!

The elusive Nellie and Rosa, the Bantam Orpintons

What We Like the Least So Far: I would have to say the thing I like the least right now is letting them figure out their "pecking order." I guess in any group of hens there will be a hierarchy that determines who is the head hen and then the others fall into line as well. Our chanteclers (the bigger white hens) are definitely at the top of the pecking order with Frida being the queen bee. We can tell because she's always the first to come out in the morning and when we bring treats out she eats first and the other hens wait behind her until she's done. If they try to take some, she'll give them a swift peck on the head.  Oh dear. Someone has to be at the bottom and it's definitely Nellie. Poor shy girl! We've heard it can take a few weeks for a new flock to figure out where they each stand so we're hoping eventually Nellie and Rosa will venture out of the coop more once they feel secure in their place.

Things We're Thinking About Next: How to get Rosa and especially Nellie out of the coop more. We're adding a chicken "yard" next to the run which will pretty much just be a gated and fenced off area where we can "free range" them a bit and give them more space to explore. Real free-ranging (where you let them wander the whole backyard) is off limits according to our municipal by-laws, so this is the next best thing we can do.

Other: Going on vacation. We're lucky to have some really great friends on our street who have offered to look after the hens when we go on a day trip or a vacation. But I think it's a lot to ask to have someone come by twice a day to look after them so it's definitely worth thinking about. It's not like you can just drop them off at the chicken kennel.

It's been a process but we're really enjoying having the ladies here!

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