Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Backyard chickens, Managing your flock, integration coop, coop design, The Mighty Gannicus

 To be  neighborly..... I agreed to be a part of  one of the neighbor kids school projects. She wanted to raise her apartment bedroom.  I agreed to take said chickens when the project was complete.   She was only going  to get 6. She got 12. I told her mom I couldn't keep that many so they found a home for 3 of them.  3 days ago I became the proud owner of 9 new chickens.  2 cochins, 4 wyandottes and 3 silkies.    They are, of course, delightful.  Being a school project they were a bit over-nurtured .  The first full day in their new home, they would not come out of the integration coop until almost 3 pm.  They were afraid of the  dirt in the pen.   One of the chickens, a beautiful and brave silkie  kept poking his head out of the door.  He was the first one to venture out.  He explored the environment and then let the others out of the coop.  The first one out was a tiny  black silkie that Jimmy has taken a liking too.  He named  it Arnold.  Arnold is irrepressible.  He/she  was the second one out and hopped all over the pen  with the white silkie  following it around to keep it out of trouble.  After a few minutes, they all came out.  By bedtime they were all having such a great time  playing in the dirt that Jimmy and I had to manually  return them to the coop.  They complained for a good five minutes after we shut them in.  The  very bright student's mom told me that at least three of the chickens  were roosters.  After watching them for three days I 'm pretty sure  we only have one rooster.  The Brave white silkie.  He herds and protects.  He is the first one out and the last one in.  He is the Mighty Gannicus!  All hail Gannicus!
I'll need to be finding a home for at least three or  four of the babies.  Or Jimmy will be wearing his tight face and muttering under his breath 'we don't NEED 21 chickens!'  He will be right  of course!  He's good with any of the new chickens finding a new home ....except Arnold.  He has taken a liking to Arnold.  He loves Arnold's  pluck!  Last night over dinner we talked extensively  about   who stays and who goes and what kind of a time line for  integration that we have.  Gannicus  stays!  He is my rooster replacement for  the Indomitable Hashtag.  I asked Jimmy  last night " What if Arnold is a rooster as well?".  He groaned and got a very pained look on his face.  Then in an unprecedented move said ' well...silkies are so small that  no one will notice two roosters.'  At that moment I gave Arnold to Jimmy.   "Congratulations!  Arnold belongs to you!" says I.  Jimmy can no longer use the argument ' They're your chickens!'
I took a photo of the integration coop.  It is an old plastic garden shed that we modified.  It is a perfect temporary summer home for  new girls. There are no roosts.  Roosting happens  when they move up to the big girl house.
For the next week  the new girls will remain penned up and separated from the old girls.  They can see each other and interact but no pecking can happen.  Next week I will make a small hole in the fence  so that the new girls can come in and out as they please  but the old girls will not be able to follow them in if they need a safe place.  Also next week the two ancient reds will be retired.  Not only are they cranky and mean but they are beginning to have health  issues.   Week three Jimmy and I will be redesigning and rebuilding the inside of the big coop.   When I first began backyard chickening I didn't know what a well designed coop interior should be like..  I now know that no part of the roost should  run over the top of the nesting boxes and  all roosts should be at the same level or they will poop on each others heads all night!  Once the  coop is redesigned and repainted on the inside,  the  integration  pen and coop will be removed.  There will be a good week of squawking and  screeching  while they all find their place in the order of things.
I read an article in the Seattle newspaper last week that said the animal shelters are filling up with chickens   that are too old to lay eggs (or began crowing).  Managing your flock is very important. You really only get 3 good years of laying out of a hen.   If you want to keep your egg production high you should bring in a couple of new hens every couple of years and retire the oldest ones.  If you absolutely can not bring yourself to retire the old ones...Well, you might want to rethink the whole thing.  Maybe the $5 dollar a dozen, free range  eggs at the co-op aren't such a bad deal after all.  If your OK with retirement.... Backyard chickens are a great choice.

The Mighty Gannicus!

Silkie Rooster....Gannicus

Integration  coop and pen

Chicken Coop
to be redesigned and repainted

Black Silkie chick,  AKA Jimmy's first chicken, the plucky Arnold