“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” ~ BB King
I learned so much while I was on Pecan Island staying with Juanita and Chris. I learned a lot about chickens…
Chickens will eat just about anything. Bugs, worms, corn feed, clover and other greens, table scraps – It was my observation that they especially liked the sweet potato skins. If you let the chickens out during the day to forage, they will come home to roost at night – they like being in the henhouse at night. When chickens get to know you, they are quite friendly creatures. They squawk a lot when they are laying eggs – some squawk while laying and some squawk after laying, as if to say, “Hey look what I made!”
Hens go broody. At some point a hen will want to lay eggs and sit on them. When this happens they will sometimes steal other hens eggs and sit on those too. Juanita’s old rooster, Big Red, has a bad foot and he has a difficult time performing his studly duties, so when one of her hens goes broody, she gets some fertilized eggs from a friend, so the hen can sit with them and have some satisfaction at the end.
Another way to deal with a broody hen is just to take her unfertilized eggs away from her – every day – until the brooding urge goes away. I like Juanita’s way better – it just seems nicer for the hens, and she gets some new chicks for the flock.
Chickens lay more eggs when they are happy. As we worked on the new hens house, the chickens were very aware that we were improving their home and as the days went by they were laying more and more eggs. A newly built, clean hen house – especially one with a rooster/chicken mandala painted on the front – equals happy chickens.
Chicken eggs come in all sizes, shapes and colors, depending on the breeds. Young pullets just starting to lay, will produce a small egg.
When you have small chicks, they need to be in a brooding box – with the chickens, but protected from them.
There is a true pecking order. Juanita had one mean hen who was always picking on the young pullets, especially one young red one. This young hen was put in with the ducks and seemed very happy there – no more mean hen bothering her. On a sad note, when the young chicks were big enough to come out of the brooding box, Jaunita put them in a small pen she made below the box – still in the hen house with the hens, still protected, but with more room and able to learn chicken behavior – the mean hen broke down part of the enclosure and started pecking at the small chicks. One was badly injured and we brought her inside the house and wrapped her in towel. Juanita made a poultice for her injuries and we took turns keeping our eye on her, unfortunately she died the next day.
Chickens have different personalities and they have different preferences in roosters. All the chickens in Juanita’s flock like Big Red. But one day a neighbor gave her four more roosters. They were set up in the yard in their own mini pens to see which one the chicks liked. Winston, the grey and white specked guy was the hands down winner. The girls were constantly by his cage or trying to dig under to get in it. Meanwhile Big Red hung close by crowing and strutting, reminding everyone who was boss. Sadly, at the time of this writing, Winston is no longer with us – he was eaten by a raccoon.
Which brings me to the last thing I learned – there are all sorts of critters out there who will eat chickens, including your own dogs and cats. In addition, raccoons, possums, skunks, cayotes, birds of prey and many others want to eat the chickens, so you must keep them as safe as possible.
That’s it for chickens 101.
PS – I am having some trouble uploading pictures… check back later if you want to see more pics of chicks,.