Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Pecking Order: Adventures with Backyard Chickens

When we decided to get some backyard chickens to become more self-sufficient, we REALLY went for it and bought 23 of them!  I wasn't really sure what to expect - I had this vision in my head of a stinky poop shack, or "Fowl" odor, if you will!  But, they don't stink like I originally thought and I really enjoy being the proud mother hen!  I have learned the origin behind the sayings "flying the coop" and "pecking order" - I hadn't really given the sayings much thought in the past, but now I know from experience where they came from!
As soon as the baby chicks started sprouting longer wing feathers, they started scheming to escape.  We had them in a huge refrigerator box my husband had gotten from work, and as they grew, I had him bring another one home and I connected them together.  But, I soon realized my efforts were a waste becuase only a week after that, they "flew the coop"!  So, that's when we built our outdoor coop that is completely fenced around the edges and it is 6ft. tall.  Well, now that they are 5 months old, their wings are longer, and they can STILL fly the coop!  So, we'll have to put a top on it one of these days (also to keep the predators out), but for now, they really enjoy strutting around our yard - free range chickens = happy chickens!
Our original purchase (we bought them online instead of the local feed store because they came with a sexing guarantee) included 23 total, but only 20 came in the first hatching, and they sent the other 3 about 5 weeks later.  I've never experienced chickens of different ages before and I didn't realize that the older chickens and the younger chicks just would not get along - the older ones would peck at the younger ones, and they are ruthless!  I did a search online and found that if you don't step in, that they will keep pecking the little ones to death!  Crazy!  So, we have kept them completely separate until a couple weeks ago, I tried again to integrate the herds to no avail - they still ganged up on the younger ones with a vengence!  Pecking Order - I get it now!  So, I built a special cage for the younger birds within the older birds coop so that maybe they'll get used to their presence, and when the younglings are of similar size to the elders, I'll try cutting them loose again.  Sigh.

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