Monday, December 20, 2010

Adventures in Chicken Keeping

Red, our hen with an insatiable curiosity.
The chickens have been so nutty lately, and Red has been driving me up the wall (er, fence rather) so much so, that I was almost considering the fabrication of my own chicken guillotine. My advice: if you don't want a challenging chicken, and especially if you don't have tall backyard fence, skip the Welsummer breed. No matter how enticing those dark brown colored eggs may sound. She hasn't even laid anything for us yet, the ungrateful wench. Hah.

For the last two weeks, that pesky, meddling hen has breached the divide between the neighbor's backyard and our own almost on a daily basis. I have dutifully hopped the fence each time, collecting up the bothersome bird, tossing her over, then madly scrambling back over myself. I wouldn't feel so sneaky about it if she did it when the neighbor was actually home and I could just ask to use the gate, but nooo, things never work out so easy do they? Then again, I'm not sure how the neighbor would react... so maybe it's better that she hasn't been home?

In the morning these past few weeks when it was time to throw out the scratch for the girls, I'd have only four running up. I'd look over at the neighbor's yard and there would be Red, darting back and forth as if she were looking for some magic portal to appear in the fence. Each time I collected her, I'd clip the feathers on one of her wings a little shorter. I hated doing this, but even more I hated the idea of my neighbor getting her feathers ruffled over our pesky hen scratching up her perfectly manicured lawn.

When I finally clipped the feathers on Red's wing so far that I couldn't clip anymore, I decided to start surveying the yard. How was this crazy bird getting over the fence still with only one reasonably flappable wing? I couldn't catch her in the act unfortunately, so I had to make some assumptions. Now the fence itself is fairly low, it's only about 4.5 feet tall, however, none of the other chickens had bothered to clear it. I knew that Red had, previous to wing clipping, been the best flyer of the bunch, but still, if she had been flying over then certainly she could fly back? What I hadn't considered though, was that she was also the most crafty. She was like those raptors in Jurassic Park... watching, learning, waiting for the perfect opportunity. We had a large log rolled against the fence at one end, and the kids' sand table against the fence closer to the house, aha!  She was using these to climb up on and then hop the fence. I moved both of these away. The next day, Red was in our yard with the other ladies, her plans apparently foiled.

A few days later though, I came outside to find her back on the other side of the fence. Absolutely baffled and convinced that I was going to find her a new home, I noticed that this time it was my fault. I had left the recycling bins too close to the fence, and somehow she had managed to jump high enough to get on top of them and then over the fence. After putting away the bins, I hopped the fence and gathered her up for what I hoped would be the last time. Luckily, that was the last time. At least to this date.

In other chicken news...

When I removed the morning glory vines from the fence, Chipmunk's (our Easter Egger) nest was disturbed and she hasn't laid an egg since. At least, not that I have found yet. I am dreading the moment I come across her new nest and find 20 odd eggs stacked up!

Our chickens are molting and look absolutely ridiculous!

Though I've read that most chickens stop laying in the Winter, our Barred Plymouth rocks haven't yet quit! As previously mentioned, Red never started laying but neither did Chilly, our Blue Cochin. Salt and Pepper have been quite productive. If you are in it just for the eggs, Plymouth Rocks seem to be a good bet.

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