Where have those chickens been?

We were taking a nap and when we woke up, two months were gone!

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At least that’s what it seems like now.  Actually, we were quite busy.

Mostly, we’ve been welcoming strangers into our midst.

Glory the Tripod Cat came to live with us.  She lost a leg in a dog attack, but is thriving here.

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Glory enjoys scampering around the house on her three legs and being brushed.  It’s quite inspiring to watch her.  From the day she got here … well, really from the day she stopped needing pain medication … she has behaved as if she never had more legs than she does now.  She uses the litter box, eats her food, stares imploringly at the residents of the house when she wants to be petted and climbs around on the furniture, just like any other 14 year old.

We also acquired Luna the Lunatic.

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Luna enjoys careening around the house, hiding under the bed and eating everything she can find.  She is a short-legged, round little cat who never, ever worries that being shaped like a pillow means she isn’t pretty enough to play with Patience.

Additionally, we welcomed some very pretty, but not very sociable, chickens.

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What’s next?  Well, we’ve got some canning classes coming up, including a pressure canning class & a water bath canning class where we will make low sugar jam.  We’ve also been using our Candles with a Mission candle and are preparing a post about this remarkable Colorado Springs company.

Stay tuned.  But please, don’t bring us anymore strangers.  We’re running out of room.

***

©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2015

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2015 Hungry Chicken Homestead Chicken Rankings

You know what happens when new chickens join your flock?

They compete… actually, they fight, but it’s less distressing to say they are competing.  Otherwise I feel like I have rival gangs living in my backyard.

Four chickens from another backyard moved in recently and the 2015 Poultry Pecking Order Competition has begun!  They aren’t quite done yet, but for those of you who like to follow this sort of sport, here are the current rankings:

1.  Middle Chicken
Team: Resident
Breed: Rhode Island Red
Age: 5 years
2014 Ranking: Head Chicken

Notes: Middle Chicken was witnessed in a five minute match with Bobbi for head chicken position.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  They both got tired after a minute and stood chest to chest, alternately resting and pecking each other’s heads.

2.  Blond Chicken
Team: Resident
Breed: Rhode Island Red
Age: 5 years
2014 Ranking: #2

Notes: Blond Chicken was Chicken #4 of the original four Homestead birds.  Her meteoric rise is due in part to persistence and in part to the untimely natural deaths of two former head chickens.

3.  Buttercup
Team: Resident
Breed: Sicilian Buttercup
Age: 3 years
2014 Ranking: #4

Notes: Buttercup once survived a raccoon attack.  She also makes the cutest sound.

4.  Little Red Hen
Team: Resident
Breed: New Hampshire Red
Age: 1 year
2014 Ranking: #3

Notes: Little Red Hen benefits significantly from being red.  Chickens are notoriously racist and this bird is allowed to hang around with Chickens #1 and #2 since they are also red.

5.  Bobbi
Team: Newcomers
Breed: Barred Rock
Age: Unknown
2014 Ranking: Head Chicken

Notes: Bobbi was once kicked out of a coop for being too bossy.  The high-ranking red hens aren’t having it and continue to chase her around the yard.

6. Stray Chicken
Team: Resident
Breed: Easter Egger
Age: 2 years
2014 Ranking: #5

Notes: Stray Chicken is sweet as pie.  We are happy to see her hold her own in the middle of the pack.

7:  Raven
Team: Newcomers
Breed: Sex Link
Age: 2 years
2014 Ranking: #2

Notes: Raven is a big chicken.  We may see her climb in the rankings as she gets more comfortable in the yard.

8. Georgia Lee
Team: Newcomers
Breed: Sex Link
Age: 2 years
2014 Ranking: #3

Notes: Georgia Lee has no interest in this competition, other than to stay close to Raven and make nervous chicken sounds when a red hen comes by.

9: Randi
Team: Newcomers
Breed: Easter Egger
Age: Unknown
2014 Ranking: #4

Notes: Like Stray Chicken, Randi is very sweet.  At this rate, she may pull enough heartstrings to be allowed to sleep in the Chicken B&B in the garage.

Everybody out! The Chicken B&B is Closed.

The Chicken B&B in my garage closed last month.  It is mourned by chickens everywhere (in the backyard).  The cats are kind of sad too.

Patience loved exploring the Chicken B&B.

Patience loved exploring the Chicken B&B.

I, on the other hand, am delighted!  Chickens have been spending the night in my garage for a long time.  You may have heard me tell the story of the day I had to tell my corporate boss that I couldn’t come in because chickens had taken refuge from the subzero temperatures in my garage.  Since then, the garage has served as a haven for hot chickens, cold chickens and chickens who wanted nothing to do with the other chickens.

The B&B really took off this spring.

The B&B really took off this spring.

Things started to get out of hand earlier this year when Stray Chicken joined the flock.  She wouldn’t sleep in the coop.  She insisted in sleeping in a tree.  We compromised and she set up a bedroom in a cage in the garage.  Sometimes, however, she preferred to sleep in the baskets on the very highest shelf, as you can see above.

Every night, I would pick her up and put her in the garage when the others started roosting in the coop for the night.  This is reasonably manageable with one chicken.

Next, Colleen the Broody Hen came to stay in the B&B.

Next, Colleen the Broody Hen came to stay in the B&B.

Colleen joined us and then we had two hens staying in the B&B, which was alright because Colleen never did anything other than sit on her eggs and stare.  But, of course, one thing led to another and two chicks joined her.  That made a residency rate of four chickens.

(By the way, that little chick poking out from under Colleen is our own Little Red Hen!)

Colleen eventually went back to Easter Egg Acres with her little brood, bringing us back to one manageable chicken in the garage, but then something happened …

Little Red Hen grew up and came back to the Homestead!

Little Red Hen grew up and came back to the Homestead!

Little Red is one of those chickens that makes you shake your head and wonder how you became so soft-hearted.  She was about 15 weeks old when she arrived and she decided that …

a.  She was still a chick.

b.  I was her mama.

She would run to me whenever I came outside and hide under me if I squatted down.

She would run to me whenever I came outside and hide under me if I squatted down.  Sometimes, she even sat in my lap!

This little chicken spent her first few weeks with us hiding on the patio from the other hens.

It's hard to be the new chicken.

It’s hard to be the new chicken.

She weaseled her way into sleeping in the garage by being distressed when I tried to put her in the coop.  It worked.  For weeks, I carried TWO chickens into the garage every night and out again in the morning.

In time, as with all animals, she grew up.  Here is her first egg (next to another egg for size comparison).

In time, as with all animals, she grew up. Here is her first egg (next to another egg for size comparison).

It was a bittersweet time.  She stopped hiding under me and started stealing hardware to bash on the ground.  (I don’t know why my hens do that when they reach laying age, but they all do it for a while).  One night, I picked up each hen and gently put her in the coop.  Stray Chicken looked uncertain for a moment and then marched onto the roost.  I was very proud of her.

Little Red Hen perched on a nest box.  It was a wobbly spot, but it would do.  Since then, she bravely settles into the coop each night … as long as I remember to open the egg door and she doesn’t have to use the chicken door.

All things in this world come to an end.  At least until the next chicken arrives.

In memory of Marshmallow the Strong 2012-2014

In memory of Marshmallow, Head Chicken
2012-2014

 

***

© 2014 Hungry Chicken Homestead

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Weed Eating Experiments

You know how people sometimes start to look like their dogs?

Similar phenomena take place if you live with chickens.

Similar phenomena take place if you live with chickens.  (When I say “similar”, I do not mean that I now look like a chicken).

As you probably know, weeds tend to grow where you don’t want them and then you have to figure out what to do with them.  People often pull them or put poison on them, but I’ve been watching the chickens and decided I like their strategy regarding misplaced, fast-growing plants.

They eat them.

If you've been following this blog, you know that it is indeed possible to eat many of the weeds.  I think of it as revenge.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know from the article about Earth’s Green Gifts that it is indeed possible to eat many of the weeds. You might think of it as practical, but I think of it as revenge.

I thought I might try it.  After giving this some thought, I realized the question at hand isn’t, “Can I eat these weeds?”.  It’s “Who should eat these weeds?”.

After all, I don't need to be greedy about it.

After all, I don’t need to be greedy about it.

We tried two experiments.  First, I commissioned a friend to build a Hen Playpen.  I set up the playpen in the weed-infested front yard and put some hens in it.

They like this in the evening, but in the morning they get mad because there is no privacy in which to lay an egg.

They like this in the evening, but in the morning they get mad because there is no privacy in which to lay an egg.

The hens do enjoy the weeds!  They would spend a couple hours eating every leaf.  Unfortunately, they did not eat the stems, leaving me with stems to pull.  I put the birds out there anyway.  Weeds lead to nice orange egg yolks and also to happier chickens.

I’m going to make the most of these pesky weeds, which means treating them like non-weeds.  Tamara and Drew came out to plant a garden of carefully selected weeds in a pretty arrangement.  Who knew weeds could look so nice?  They brought me spiderwort with purple flowers, violets, two kinds of clover that have two-tone flowers and even quinoa!  These plants are growing fast in soil that was minimally amended and the chickens like to stand at the fence and daydream about eating them.

See that curious chicken in the background?  They may look like animals with tiny heads, but they know what's going on with the plants.

See that curious chicken in the background? They may look like animals with tiny heads, but they know what’s going on with the plants.

I know the chickens are plotting right now how they are going to get into my new garden.  I’m trying to hold off their little chicken coup by keeping them happy with more weeds.

We've developed a morning routine for the entire family!

We’ve developed a morning routine for the entire family!

Every morning now, I go out to the vegetable garden with the cats and we divide up the weeds for breakfast.  The cats eat the grass, I eat the lambs quarters, and I toss all the other weeds over the fence for the chickens.  You’d be surprised at how pleasant it is to graze on lambs quarters while sipping locally roasted coffee.

Nobody can say homesteading isn't full of surprises.

Nobody can say homesteading isn’t full of surprises.

I haven’t grown any feathers yet, but I remember what Roxanne Chicken taught me.  All of our friends, even those with tiny chicken heads, have something to teach us.

***

© 2014 Hungry Chicken Homestead

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Welcome Chicks!

Regular readers will recall that Colleen the Broody Chicken has been trying to hatch eggs in my garage for the last several weeks.  Well, we finally have some chicks!

We bought chicks when the eggs didn't hatch.

But not in the traditional way.

Colleen did her best, but Hatch Day was Thursday and nothing happened.  We let her sit until Sunday night.

Nothing.

It’s so sad.  She worked so hard and we didn’t want her to be disappointed, so Gary and Marilan of Easter Egg Acres bought a couple chicks for her to raise.

Buckley's Homestead Supply has plenty of young chicks of different breeds.

Buckley’s Homestead Supply has plenty of young chicks of different breeds.

I’d never seen anyone touch a broody chicken before, but Colleen trusts Gary and didn’t kill him.  We turned the lights off and he pulled the eggs out from underneath her.  Then he gently slipped the chicks under her.

What happened?  The chicks disappeared!

What do baby chicks do?

They hide under mama to keep warm and safe.

We left them alone to get acquainted and took the unhatched eggs outside.  It was time to open up the dead eggs and find out what happened.  Gary warned me that it can be a little scary if the chicks were well along, but luckily nothing scary happened this time.

Chick development at about day 5

This was the most developed chick we found. You can see an eye (the big spot) and the chick forming around it.

That egg stopped developing sometime between day 5 and 7.  The others didn’t even get that far.  We’re not sure why.  Maybe Colleen had more eggs than she could keep warm.  Maybe living in my garage scared all the warmth out of her.  Sadly, nothing can be done once the chick stops growing.

Nothing except buying chicks, that is.

Colleen seems very proud to have chicks.  She whirrs and coos to them and eyes me with some hostility if I get too close.  The babies are still hidden underneath her.  We figure they are also very proud since they were able to find a mama hen just a few days after being hatched in an incubator.

Nice work, baby chicks!  We look forward to seeing your little heads pop out from mama’s feathers soon!

 

***

© 2013 Hungry Chicken Homestead

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Colleen the Broody Chicken

Well, I’m just so excited that I don’t know even know how to start this article!

A broody chicken is in the house!

A broody chicken is in the house!

For those of you who are unfamiliar, “brooding” is what chickens do when they want to hatch eggs.  They get in a nest with enough eggs to make it worthwhile and spread their bodies out over the eggs to keep them warm.

“She looks like a tank,” quipped Gary from Easter Egg Acres once.

Colleen is Gary and Marilan’s chicken.  She was trying to be broody in a nest in the coop, but this won’t work.  Broody chickens get up once a day to eat and the other hens would try to lay more eggs in that nest.  She had to be separated from the other hens.

You can see how she already has more eggs than she can cover.

You can see how she already has more eggs than she can cover.

Marilan and Gary brought her to my garage coop because it’s too cold in February for her to use the usual broody hutch on the farm.  If the temperature dropped too low and she was all by herself, she might freeze to death.  So into the pet carrier she went and they made the trip into town.

Marilan brought the eggs in a carton.  At first I thought they were food, but then I realized they had a different fate awaiting them.

Marilan brought the eggs in a carton. At first I thought they were food, but then I realized they had a different fate awaiting them.

It’s important to do something if your chicken is broody.  She has to either hatch some eggs or you have to find a way to snap her out of it.  Sometimes moving snaps her out of it and at first we thought she might have forgotten about the eggs.

Here she is, eyeing us suspiciously.

Here she is, eyeing us suspiciously.

 

And here she is again, weighing the importance of the eggs against the importance of watching the suspicious monkeys (us).

And here she is again, weighing the importance of the eggs against the importance of watching the suspicious looking monkeys (us).

Ultimately, after I closed the garage door and we left her alone for several hours, she decided it would be alright to get on the eggs.  Chickens go into a sort of catatonic state when they are setting, no doubt from the boredom of sitting still all day.

"Leave me alone," she says.  "I have important work to do here."

“Leave me alone,” she says. “I have important work to do here.”

It takes 21 days to hatch eggs.  Today is day one.  Stay tuned and count along with me.  It’s not a sure thing, chickens often set and nothing hatches, but we’re all rooting for chicks.

Go, little eggs!  You can do it!

Go, little eggs! You can do it!

 

***

© 2013 Hungry Chicken Homestead

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Stray Chicken

Doesn’t everyone find stray chickens on city streets all the time?

I'm not sure where she was going, but it seemed odd for a lone  chicken to be pecking her way down the sidewalk.

I’m not sure where she was going, but it seemed odd for a lone chicken to be pecking her way down the sidewalk.

I did what I always do in situations like this.  I knocked on the nearest door.

“Is that your chicken?”, I asked the bewildered man who answered.

“No,” he said.  “She’s been hanging around here a couple days, but I don’t know where she belongs.”

“I guess I’ll just take her home,” I said.  The poor fellow nodded like a man in a bizarre dream and shut the door.

Now those of you who have been following my Chicken Stories from the beginning know how difficult it is to catch a chicken who doesn’t want to be caught.  We managed it, though, and the feathery stranger relaxed in my arms.

“Today’s Workout: Uphill climb for time while carrying unwilling chicken!”, I burst out.  (That’s a CrossFit joke, in case it’s not clear.)

She turns out to be a blonde Easter Egger pullet, and a wild one at that!  Just like a teenager ...

She turns out to be a blonde Easter Egger pullet, and a wild one at that! Just like a teenager.

She spent some time in a cage in the garage and then I put her outside during the day.  She was in a fenced in yard, but when I looked for her at night, I couldn’t find her!  I searched until I couldn’t see anymore, but to no avail.  Maybe she had hopped the fence and continued on her journey to … to wherever she was going when I found her.

The next morning, I noticed some chicken droppings on the coop roof.

The next morning, I noticed some chicken droppings on the coop roof.

She had done what generations of her ancestors had done and spent the night in a tree.

Tree Chicken

It was cold and she was noticeably puffed up.

I managed to catch her again and put her back in the garage to wait out the cold snap.  A chicken shouldn’t be alone in weather like this.

I guess it’s true what they said in the 1948 film The Naked City…  “There are eight million stories in the naked city.”  And some of them are about stray chickens.

***

© 2013 Hungry Chicken Homestead

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In Memory of Roxanne Chicken

“It’s a kind of a hard world, after all, ain’t it?” – Mark Twain, Buck Fanshaw’s Funeral

Roxanne Chicken is dead.  And I don’t know why.

Roxanne Heather

Photo Credit: Heather Sams

Regular readers know Roxanne has been confined to a cage in my office for several weeks due to a severe case of bumblefoot.  She had been to Pikes Peak Veterinary Clinic for surgery and was healing well.  In fact, today was the day she was supposed to break out of her cage and rejoin the flock outside.  Her foot was all healed and her molted feathers grown back in.

Here is is lounging on the deck in the summer.

Here she is lounging on the deck in the summer.

We had fun in those weeks while she was healing.  Every morning I would come into her room and say, “Good morning, Chicken!”, and she would greet me with loud clucking.  I would open the blinds and let her out of the cage so she could peck around the room while I cleaned out her living space.

She liked to start fights with her reflection until she  realized that other chicken was behind a wall.

She liked to start fights with her reflection until she realized that other chicken was behind a wall.

During the day I would come in every few hours to give her vegetables and straighten up her cage a bit.  She liked to greet me with clucking and enthusiastic eating.

At night I would let her out of the cage again.

At night I would let her out of the cage again.

She was especially funny at night.  She would fly up onto the door of the cage and then fly across the room to my desk, where she liked to roost on a box until I put her back in the cage to roost on her yardstick for the night.

Friday night, I let her stay on the box for a while.  In fact, almost forgot to put her in her cage.

I’m glad I let her have that extra time.  I’m glad I took her outside for a few minutes yesterday too.  It was cold, but she got to be in the sun one last time.  I knew she wasn’t feeling well.  She spent half the day on her yardstick and didn’t want to eat.

Roxanne Face

This morning, I opened the door to the office and said, “Good morning, Chicken!,” but there was only silence.  I glanced under the cage cover to find she had fallen off the roost sometime in the night.  She was dead.

How could this happen?  She was doing so well.  She was in my house, under my watchful eye and almost ready to go back outside.

We always want to explain it, but you can’t explain death.  No amount of medical information explains how a lively living being makes the transition to something inert.

I’ll take her little body to a place called Homeward Bound today, where they can cremate it.  I’ll clean up the office and save a few feathers.  We will miss her, like we miss every other animal we’ve lost on the Homestead and every person we’ve lost in our lives.

And I’ll take it as just one more reminder that it is kind of a hard world.

***

© 2013 Hungry Chicken Homestead

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Roxanne Chicken’s Surgery (With Graphic Pictures)

Normally, I try to spare you, dear readers, from the gory parts of homestead life.  I try not to show you pictures of the bushes eaten up to chicken height, the chicken coop before I clean it or any pictures with blood (mine or the chickens’).

Today, however, will be different and those of you with sensitive stomachs may wish to find something gentler to read, such as my November Chicken Update or the post on the Mac Corner.  (After all, isn’t that why we like computers?  No blood or dramatic emotions.)

I’ll give you a moment to decide…

"Can you handle this?", says Roxanne.  She handled it well.

“Can you handle this?”, says Roxanne. She handled it well.

Ok.  Now we’ll continue.

Those of you who remain will recall that Roxanne has been visiting the Pikes Peak Veterinary Clinic for foot care.  Her case of bumblefoot had progressed to the point where everyone’s favorite chicken doctor, Dr. Melanie Marsden, suggested surgery.

You can see the scab that developed on the bottom of her little foot.  She also had a big blister on the top of her foot.

You can see the scab that developed on the bottom of her little foot. She also had a big blister on the top of her foot.

Roxanne never complained, but it looked to me like her foot hurt, so I took Dr. Marsden’s advice and brought her in.

First, Dr. Marsden's assistant, Prudence, gave Roxanne a foot bath.

First, Dr. Marsden’s assistant, Prudence, gave Roxanne a foot bath.

So far, it looks like she’s getting a pedicure.

Next, they wrapped her loosely in a towel.

Next, they wrapped her loosely in a towel.

This part seems less like a pedicure, but apparently it comforts the chicken.  Roxanne also got a local anesthetic in her foot.  They said she didn’t fuss at all.  No wonder she’s their favorite chicken patient!

They cleaned her foot, no easy task if my experience is any indicator.

They cleaned her foot, no easy task if my experience is to be trusted.

The doctor told me they would use a scalpel and a curette to get the infection out.  “It’s like a sharp spoon,” she said of the curette.

Here she is cutting around the infection.

Here she is cutting around the infection.

The infection becomes a waxy plug, or at least that's what I've read.  That's what has to be removed.

The infection becomes a waxy plug, or at least that’s what I’ve read. That’s what has to be removed.

She removed the plugs, which you can see here.

She removed the plugs, which you can see here.

Apparently, the infection went all the way through Roxanne’s foot, from the scab on the bottom to the blister on the top!

Dr. Marsden had to take the whole plug out, which made a big hole in Roxanne's little foot.

Dr. Marsden had to take the whole plug out, which made a big hole in Roxanne’s little foot.

I wasn’t there for any of this.  Prudence took all the pictures and mailed them to me so I could see how it was done.  This just reinforces my gratitude that we live in town and I can take my favorite chicken to Dr. Marsden for surgery.  I have no desire to do it myself.

Roxanne is recovering nicely.  She has a few more days as a House Chicken (much to the delight of the House Cats who are constantly asking to visit her), but her foot looks so much better!  She’s eating like a feathery horse and her feathers are growing in nicely too.

Soon, everything will be back to normal!

Soon, everything will be back to normal!

***

© 2013 Hungry Chicken Homestead

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November Chicken Update

I arrived at the veterinarian’s office to pick up more antibiotics for Roxanne and stepped up to the counter.

“Last name?”, said the attendant.

“Um … Chicken,” I responded.

After a moment of confusion, she clarified that she wanted my last name, not Roxanne’s.

Roxanne's foot had not been getting better, probably because this had been my first try at medicating a chicken.

Roxanne’s bumblefoot had not been getting better, probably because this had been my first try at medicating a chicken.

Other than her swollen foot, things are going pretty well for Roxanne.  Not only is she getting several pieces of antibiotic laced meat every day, but she has moved up in the rankings.  That happened because two new chickens joined the flock.

 

And so it happened that two more chickens joined the flock.

The new chickens came from the same place as Roxanne and Marshmallow.  They are already acquainted and they remember each other.

The one on the right is a buttercup chicken and so I am calling her “Buttercup Chicken”.  The other, an Easter Egger, is called “Pumpkin Chicken”, at the suggestion of my friend Annie.  Buttercup and Pumpkin joined Roxanne’s original flock as chicks, leaving Roxanne with a higher rank.  Since they remember her, she still outranks them.  I think the hierarchy looks like this now.

  1. Marshmallow
  2. Redhead
  3. Middle Chicken
  4. Specklehead
  5. Blond Chicken
  6. Roxanne
  7. Buttercup
  8. Pumpkin

You may recall that Marshmallow, a huge, no-nonsense Delaware chicken, became the Head Chicken with very little fuss last year.  She fit right in with the Rhode Island Reds, easily becoming part of a group I have nicknamed the Chickens From the Wrong Side of the Tracks.

These are tough chickens.

Don’t try to infringe on their territory.  These are tough chickens.

That leaves us with three Refined Chickens; Roxanne, Buttercup and Pumpkin.

The new birds were not thrilled with the idea of sleeping in the coop with the Chickens From the Wrong Side of the Tracks.

The new birds were not thrilled with the idea of sleeping in the coop with the Chickens From the Wrong Side of the Tracks.  Here they are perched on the run, uneasily looking in the window.

I made a separate room for the Refined Chickens in the coop.  Nobody is laying eggs right now anyway, so the nesting room makes a perfect extra bedroom.

Interestingly, Roxanne had been sleeping in the nesting room, but as soon as the new chickens arrived she insisted on sleeping with the tough chickens.  I think she is trying to prove she is cool … which she is.

The other two are still getting used to the idea of sleeping in there.

The other two are still getting used to the idea of sleeping in there.

The first night, the new birds spent a lot of time figuring out where to sleep.  They tried to fly up and land on the sloped roof (impossible since it’s made of corrugated metal).  They attempted to fly in through the plexiglass windows.  It was hilarious and pitiful to watch all at the same time.

After a few nights, Buttercup runs around and around the coop until the last bit of daylight and finally jumps into the coop.  Pumpkin tries to blend in with the blanket on top of the run until I see her and make her go in too.  Nobody is allowed to sleep outside.

After all, this is a family.  Just ask for their last name and you’ll see that it’s true.

***

© 2013 Hungry Chicken Homestead

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