Monday, June 25, 2012

everything hen


the chickens are almost 13 weeks old now. i've never gotten around to posting very much about them besides pictures, so here's a little summary of what they've been like so far, their personalities and my whole chicken-keeping-newbie experience. and more pictures.


minerva (minnie) is a rhode island white. if you're into chickens you've probably heard of rhode island reds, but maybe not this rarer variety. she's supposed to produce large, light brown eggs, up to 300 per year.



wynonna (wynnie) is a barred leghorn, also a rarer variety of a popular chicken breed. she'll produce white eggs, up to 280 a year.


printemps (prinnie) is an ancona. most anconas produce large white eggs, averaging 250-300 per year, but some lay eggs with a slight blue tint to them.


chicken keeping has been less work than i expected. they're very low maintenance. my main obstacle to getting chickens was fear of changing circumstances. they live a long time, and although my job and life seem pretty stable right now, the world isn't stable, so who knows where i'll be in eight years? chickens don't need much, but they do need to live outdoors in their own little structure. so what would happen if i had to live in an apartment? or at a house that didn't allow backyard chickens? or if i suddenly decided to divest of all material posessions and travel around in a van? (chickens + van = stinky.) i don't think my parents would take them in, and i would be afraid to give them away, because chickens are...edible.



my friend cam solved this problem for me by volunteering to be their Fairy Chicken Godmother. if i'm ever in a place where i can't keep them anymore, she'll take them. (she's vegetarian, too, and she has experience with chickens.) i think it's always a good idea to have potential foster parents lined up for pets. i've seen too many animals go to shelters because of changing circumstances, or unforeseen conflicts.



i was worried that the chickens would destroy my garden (and i'm sure they would, given the chance), but the fences have kept them out very effectively. the only thing that's suffered is my herb bed. they munched all but one of my nasturtium seedlings, then they picked a spot right in the middle of the bed as one of their go-to dirt bathing stations. i can't fence it off, and it would be pointless to try to grow anything there. it's ok, they can have it.



i love the coop and i love that i didn't have to build it myself. i never would've had the time this spring, and i never would've been able to make one this cool anyway. it's big--the top of the A-frame is almost seven feet tall, so i can stand up straight in it, and the base dimensions are 12'x8' giving them nearly 100 square feet of space. the front half is all open air with chicken wire, and the back half is covered and enclosed in wood, with six nesting boxes inside. both ends have wood-framed wire doors. underneath the floor there's a layer of chicken wire so nothing can dig up into it.


it's all solidly built, well-ventilated, and seems very safe. i named it "the henlopen" after the condos where i used to stay on annual family vacations at rehoboth beach. we always stayed in room 804--sometime i'm going to get some little house numbers to hang on the henhouse door.




the outdoor couch is like a magic chicken tranquilizer. as soon as i sit down, all three of them hop up with me. minnie struts over onto my lap, curls up and falls asleep. the other two find a place either on the arm or the back of the sofa, and curl up and fall asleep. it's adorable and it makes me feel like daenerys targaryan with her three dragon babies.



before i got prinnie, minnie and wynnie formed an abusive/codependent relationship where minnie absolutely ADORED wynnie and thought she was her momma, and wynnie wanted nothing more than to peck at minnie's eyeballs and push her around. then prinnie joined the gang and instantly took the top spot, further antagonizing minnie and putting wynnie in her place. eventually minnie adopted this crazy-like-a-fox attitude where her reactions to getting picked on were so overblown and batshit that everyone quit messing with her.


since they moved outside full-time, no one picks on anyone anymore. in fact they've united to pick on other creatures, like squirrels. once there was a squirrel trying to climb down from a tree, and the three of them circled the trunk, and every time squirrel came close to the ground one of them charged. but amongst the thundersome threesome it's hard to even say what the pecking order might be--they all get along so well, and travel around in their little pack. i can get all three into their coop just by carrying one of them in (of course treats work too, and are chicken-preferred).


wynonna has always been the most independent chicken, and probably the smartest. as a baby she was very calm and quiet compared to the others, and she was the first to figure out foraging. whenever i catch her eye she looks like she's thinking.


minerva is my sweet little lapchicken. she's the calmest and responds the best to affection. when they were babies i would lower my hand into the cage and she'd be the first one to jump on and ride around.


printemps does not like to be held, but she loves to perch on my shoulder, parrot-style. it needs to be on her terms, though. her terms are decided very suddenly and randomly. the other day i was carrying minnie around the garden, puttering, not paying any attention and suddenly SWOOP there was prinnie on my shoulder. quite a few of the times she's done this i've been holding minnie. maybe she gets jealous?






6 comments:

The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

As a fellow veggie, what made you get the beautiful chickens, Ms. Targaryen? Solely as unique feathered companions?

Kim and Victoria said...

Great post! Very nice to read stories about your hens and their personalities.

Vetsy said...

I love your chicken story. It's so amusing and the chickens are beautiful.

Lauren said...

I love your girls! They are gorgeous!

I wish that I'd been more patient and tried to find more unusual breeds like you.

the Knottie Knitta said...

Awwwwwwww we need to come she you and your fluffies again, spoons!

Emily said...

stay @ home gardener--it was a mix of things. i guess i was never that interested in having chickens until i suddenly had a coop in my yard, and then i started picturing them in there, and thinking about all the benefits they bring to a garden. they are such sweet little friends. and i'm excited to eat their eggs.

victoria--thank you! i hope they get as huge and docile as your chickies.

vetsy--thanks so much for reading.

lauren--it was not easy holding out for the right breeds. i'd picked out three i wanted from the huge selection on the website of a local hatchery, then i called ahead and all three varieties were sold out for the next two months. i didn't want to wait that long, so i spent a semi-frantic couple weeks calling all the stores in the area that carry chickens every time they got a new batch in, until i finally hunted down three i liked.

spoony--yes you do!