Sunday, April 10, 2011
We got a call the other day about someone wanting to get rid of 1 year old chickens...the price was right, FREE, so off I went to pick them up (all 23 of them!...though we may not end up keeping all as another local family whose lost a number of their to dog attacks may be taking some). Lets just say they probably think they died & arrived in chicken heaven (compared to where they were), or they most certainly will feel that way once we start letting them free range (though their coop/run area is quite large).
This presented an excellent opportunity to finally integrate the Red Stars & White Rocks who seemed ready since they'd been intermingling during their daily free ranging on the property. This also put the need for a second coup area even higher on the priority list. The run was completed by the time I picked up the new chickens, but no coup yet, so I moved the new chickens into the existing coup & run that first night and transferred the red stars to the barn stall that the white rocks had been temporarily calling home. The next day my husband, with the help of my dad got the coup built just before sunset (well, the roof was covered as side vents sealed up the next day since the rafters leave enough space for ventilation).
Needless to say the chickens seem to much prefer their new digs over the barn stall and they are getting along great (they save their skirmishes for the new chickens in the old adjoining coop space). Once they'd layed their eggs I let them out to free range (wanting to make sure they knew where the eggs belonged since the previous days juggling really confused them a bit) and they all managed to find their way to the new coop come sundown. I like the fact that the new coop is higher & attached, but not inside the run...I think we might enclose the underneath portion later & add a run to it for young chicks that aren't quite ready to be integrated into the group, but need to start socializing with them & get outside.
The new chickens...I'll start positively & say that they are an eclectic bunch and I've enjoyed searching my chicken catalogs to identify the breeds. We're happy there are some easter eggers in the bunch for some egg color variety. Now, not so positive...well, you know that old saying, nothing is ever free?...So far, they have yet to impress when it comes to laying, and unfortunately of the eggs they've laid, we've come close to losing half to egg eating (despite me running out to the coop a ridiculous amount of times/day to collect eggs). They are eating up my organic chicken feed like its their last meal (which is especially annoying since my I can only get it from my co-op once/month and my alternative is much higher feed store prices) and since the food isn't necessarily going to egg output, they are pooping insane amounts. I put golf balls in the nest boxes to see if it might help (they keep kicking them out...could that be a chickens way of flipping the bird?)I pulled 7 of the chickens out of the bunch & put them in the barn in the hopes that reducing their numbers might improve the situation. Now those 7 gave me 6 eggs the next day, but unfortunately I caught one of them in the red star/white rock coop eating an egg (the door was open so they could free range)! The last thing I need is for them to pick up that bad habit! So, I've decided that I'm going to try a few more things...maybe pull some more chickens out, add more nest boxes, let them free range here and there...and if things don't improve then I'll be making room in my freezer since I'm not particularly attached to this bunch...there are some nice heavy breed birds in the bunch and the little ones will make good soup!