Hen House Saga

I am crazy about chickens and proud of it! It’s been quite a while since I wrote about our pullets, yet they are a big part of daily life at Coppertop. WARNING:  If you’re reading this and you’re not a fan of hens, you should probably stop now, because I’m about to write like a crazy cat chicken lady.

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Our dozen beautiful hens continue to grow and cluck and explore and lay delicious eggs. Their personalities have grown as well. Egg collection, unlocking their pen for free range afternoons, and re-locking their pen at night are a few of my daily chicken chores. I also provide them with leftovers from the veggie garden and the fridge, and I make sure their feed and water are stocked. They are wild about Scratch & Peck feed, produced by a terrific company out of Bellingham, WA. While our Portuguese chickens wasted pounds of their feed getting to their favorite bits, our Coppertop hens eat every morsel and grain of Scratch & Peck. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Here’s the speed at which they move when I open their pen every afternoon.

IMG_2486Our daylight hours have radically decreased up here in the Pacific Northwest, and in an effort to keep egg production steady we decided to add a supplemental light in the Chicken Mansion, providing the girls with 14 hours of light daily.  This is a bit of a compromise since we don’t want to stress the girls out with too much light.  We’ll stop giving them this extra light if they enter molting, since they require extra energy and rest to remain healthy through a molt. With the supplemental light, we’ve seen no dip in egg production so far.

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As the hens came of laying age, I began naming most of them. I can tell most similar colored hens apart because of their body size and variation in their combs. This week I snapped photos of the gals as they entered their house in the evening. When they’ve had their daily fill of roaming the gardens, they always return to the coop on their own, climb the ladder to the light-filled upper level, then they spend a good amount of time jockeying for position on the roosts, preening, and settling in for the evening.

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With the extra light, it seemed the perfect time to take their portraits.

Our two Barred Rocks, Martha (Washington) & Abigail (Adams), our first and second ladies to lay eggs:

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Scarlet and Henny Penny (my comb is falling! my comb is falling!), both Rhode Island Reds:

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Olive, Queenie, CindyLou Hooo, and Ashley were all purchased as Ameraucanas. However Olive, with her crooked little beak, lays a distinctive green egg, so she’s an “olive egger” or “easter egger” chicken; true Ameraucanas only lay blue according to breed standards.

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Lastly, our four Buff Orpingtons — Hope, Trudy, and two I haven’t named yet because they’re the hardest to tell apart. Here’s sweet Hope:

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So, not all is copacetic in the hen house right now. Broodiness has become an issue with two of our Buffs, Trudy & Hope, and we’ve had to learn how to deal with it. About a month ago we noticed one hen, Hope, was hanging out in the nesting boxes, and when we lifted her and urged her to explore, she insisted on quickly returning, even though she wasn’t always on eggs, and was never on fertilized eggs. Broodiness is generally caused by a hormonal shift and is more prevalent in certain breeds. It can be detrimental to the health of the hen when there are no fertilized eggs to hatch because she simply won’t give up, and will forego food and water to sit on eggs. Her own laying ceases because she thinks she’s got chicks on the way. She plucks out her belly feathers to make better contact with the eggs and to “feather her nest.” One broody hen may also incite a full-out broody riot, with other hens joining in.

I named this persistent broody hen Hope because she seemed to be hoping to become a mom. Maybe one day in the far future we’ll get some fertilized eggs for her to hatch. I felt sad for Hope who is a calm and quiet sweetie. For her good, Hubby constructed a homemade “broody buster” which is a cage with a wire floor. We read from other chicken folks that a broody hen’s belly needs cooling to bring her out of the broody stage, and a cage without a base allows air to flow underneath her.  Some chicken farmers dip their chickens in cool water, but we decided that was too harsh. Forty-eight hours alone with food and water in the broody buster in our garage worked well for Hope a few weeks ago, who chilled out and  returned to the flock, her desire to hang out on the eggs a thing of the past.

About a week ago our biggest Buff became broody. She constantly growled and hissed at me and ruffled her feathers when I tried to collect eggs. She was one unhappy hen! I decided to name her BroodyTrudy. We hoped she’d snap out of it and gave her a few days, but sure enough, soon she wouldn’t even leave the nesting box to free range, so off she went to the broody buster, this time in the garden shed.  Here’s poor Trudy:

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That is not  a hot dog! Two of her favorite treats are carrots and rolls, so that’s what she gets while she’s in solitary.  We’re hoping she’s back to the coop with all her girlfriends later this evening. We’ll test her by putting her out when they all free range and watching how she responds.

Update on 10/31:  Broody Trudy snapped out of her broodiness and successfully rejoined the flock. All hens are again laying 8-10 eggs daily, but yesterday was a banner day with a whole dozen!

 

2 thoughts on “Hen House Saga

  1. Your chickens are amazingly healthy looking, and it’s wonderful to see them having free reign of your garden – you’ll never need to fertilize or use pesticides with the chooks on patrol 🙂

    Like

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