|Hens in the yard, near the big stump|
You may wonder, why don't we raise our own chicks? Well, our place isn't the safest, when it comes to vulnerable animals. It's kind of a long story...First of all, out of our 10 acres, well over 8 acres are thick woods. Also, John and I built our homestead in a piecemeal way, and by the time we decided to get hens, 4 years after moving here, we didn't have any space for chickens close in. So our coop and chicken run are a ways away from our house: beyond our main garden area, our 4 woodsheds and one of our orchards.
Alan and Gretchen's place is far more open and thus safer: most of their 10 acres is cleared. Also, their hen operation is right next to their house, and they have a lovely Border collie watching over their birds. Most importantly, they made us an offer we couldn't refuse!
I feel we've really lucked out with the Buff Orpingtons. They’re gentle, friendly hens, which is a nice change from the four bullies (Black Sexlinks) we had in our last bunch. Strangely enough, for all their aggression, those black hens had the worst startle reflex I’d ever seen—the slightest move from you, and they’d leap away, squawking in terror.
Happily these new girls always come to greet us (sure, we’re bringing feed, but still). They’ve been good layers from the get go too! From my experience, young hens will lay fairly well through the winter—we’ll see what happens next year.
What else is new: John and I have improved safety measures firmly in place for them!
|At the edge of the yard, where the best weeds are!|
We know how happy chickens are to forage around the largest area possible—and it’s true, for the first couple of months, we let this flock run around the orchard adjacent to our food garden. But within a few weeks, they had torn up the ground into mud.
We have another, much larger fenced area next to the orchard, which we cleared out of the woods for our previous flock to forage in. When we’re working nearby, we’ll let the new kids scratch around in there. Otherwise given the predators here in the Foothills, we restrict these girls to either their covered, caged run, or a small yard with a 6 ½ foot fence.
Hopefully, they’re not so very bored in there—the yard has a little stump they can jump on, though by now they've scratched the weeds into oblivion. In the cage, there's more fun to be had. Besides their feeder and waterer, we have a large, big-leaf maple stump they like climbing on, with plenty of perches for all five birds.
There’s also an outdoor covered roost if they want dry feet…and John created little roof over their feeder as well. They often hop up there too, and seem to be looking in the window he built into the adjoining shed. We only keep feed in the shed, so it’s a mystery what they’re looking at. Maybe it’s the visiting mice…or maybe they can smell the feed better up on the roof!
If, despite all these features, they have nothing to do, there’s something to break the monotony…The girls have the thrill of John (or the Rooster, as we call him, since he’s the only male on the place) spoiling them: visiting every day to toss them some scratch. After the young lady at the feed store told me scratch grains are like hen candy, I have to keep an eye on John so he doesn’t give them too much! (Overdoing the scratch seems to upset their tummies a little. As a result, coop cleaning turns into a far more unpleasant chore than it needs to be, if you get my drift.)
PS—Due to technical issues, I couldn't post to this blog for a few months. But the problem was finally resolved a couple of weeks ago—and I'll be posting regularly from now on!