Sunday, April 10, 2011

Article: Backyard Chickens Chapter 2

Willa, Rita, and Eliza roosting on their new branch

We've now had our chickens for about 10 days, and they are about 2 weeks old. They're getting big fast! The eight chickens under our care have gone through three quart-sized mason jars of organic feed.

They are beginning to develop their adult plumage, which makes them look a little ragged. It also changes their markings and colors... so there's an added challenge in keeping track of who's who.

The chickens have recently been fitted with a roosting branch, and they like it quite a bit. Three or four of them are on the branch practicing their roosting at any given time. The word on the street is that this helps them practice gripping, which serves them later in life when they roost for real. While we plan to keep their coop and yard free of chicken-eating predators, old habits die hard... and the chickens are more comfortable if they can perch somewhere off the ground.

Margo trying to escape
Within a few hours, Margo figured out how to use the branch to get to the top of the box. Time to find some wire mesh to put over the box.

Speaking of... the chickens have been upgraded to a larger box. The new box is about 2-feet square. They had been pecking at each other a bit in the former, smaller, box (roughly 16 inches by 2 feet). The pecking has died down a bit in the new box.

We've also lowered the box temperature to around 90 degrees F. We plan to start feeding them things like worms and kitchen scraps in the coming week.

Will Cash sharpening the chainsaw
While I have not yet begun building the chicken coop, I bought the lion's share of the lumber this weekend. I also transplanted a grape vine and an apple tree that needed to be moved from the planned coop and yard area.

The apple tree couldn't be moved until a whole mess of juniper bushes were cleared... which Will and I also did today. As a side benefit, Will learned how to sharpen a chainsaw.

The chickens are still very cute, and are developing their own "chickenalities." Willa, like her namesake Will, is the most curious and sociable of the flock. Margo, in addition to being adventurous, is also the largest. Let's hope she doesn't develop a complex about it.

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