The Crazy Chicken Chronicles at the 44th Parallel, Part 5

As you may recall from Part 4, I had been showing a bit too much attention to the younger chickens in the flock and discovered that Katie-bird (as I call her) seemed quite perturbed about it.


Poor Katie-bird needed some extra love.


Favoritism among the flock.

It was time to make amends not only to my jealous chicken, Katie, but to help every member of the flock feel loved and cared for.


Taking a full bowl of blueberries over to the coop, I sat down on a log and proceeded to share with the chickens. It had been some time since doing this, so the chickens were a bit skittish. Especially when I started rolling blueberries across the pen floor.


At first the chickens ran from the rolling bombs as if they were going to explode at their feet. What chickens they are!


Finally, the bravest of the bunch, Maddie, had the guts to try one and liked it. That was all it took for the birds to enjoy this new snack with me. Coming up one-by-one to ask for more, I found if I smashed the blueberries between my fingers, the girls liked them even better. Pecking my fingers clean, I also noticed that some of them were a little rougher than others when taking a bite. Luckily, all fingers remained intact after.




It was on this day that Katie-bird let me pet her again after jumping up on the perch next to me. So cute, my sweet Buff-Orpington felt the love and got over her jealousy. Ever since, she is back in the front of the line squawking for my attention.


A Grape Snack!

Every day, my chickens receive something to snack on. Whether it be chicken scratch – a chicken snack mix of 7 different grains, or vegetable scraps from the kitchen. Whatever I have, my little flock looks forward to these daily visits.


Having fantastic hearing and vision, they run to the fence at the first notice of my appearance. Knowing who I am versus a stranger, they tend to run away from the fence if they don’t recognize the person.


Another snack date proved most interesting as my girls had their first real taste of grapes, and boy, did they love them! After Maddie tasted the first one, there was a flourish of feathers and chickens on the run after what they thought was the only grape in the pen.


The half eaten grape went from Maddie, to Gerdie who honked like a goose as she ran through the pen. When Betsy caught up and snagged half of Gerdie’s piece right out of her beak, she took off with her stolen treat back to the other side of the pen like her tail-feathers were on fire. Three more chickens in hot pursuit gave Betsy some heat to contend with. With the choice of running, or stopping to try and eat, she chose to keep on running until I captured the flock’s attention with rolling tidbits that had both Katie and Etta James sitting on the perch next to me, asking for more.


When I ran out of grapes, the entire flock stood around me clucking in disappointment.


The chicken coop expansion.

Since winter will soon be here, we had to make some coop modifications. Having 8 chickens instead of 4 per the original plan, there weren’t enough roosting poles… and there was no extra room to put more. Making another addition above the new nesting box area seemed the best strategy, so another section was built above it and a roof extension finished off the top.



The first night I watched through the window to see how the chickens fared with the new roosting pole positions, and oh what a melee it was! We had removed the highest roosting pole that Jenna and Etta James preferred, but they couldn’t tell it was gone. After jumping up to the roost in the expand-o, the two Rainbow’s flew to where the top rung used to be only to smash into the coop walls and fall to the floor.


There were chickens squawking, feathers flying, curtains rods falling, food and water containers banging against the wall and spilling out everywhere… there were screeches of shock followed by chicken grunts and groans. It was completely nuts! My poor chickens were having one hell of a time figuring out where to roost.


After giving up on the highest rung, my girls had to reorder their sleeping arrangements, so the alpha and beta picked and pecked at the littler chicks proclaiming their dominance over the best roosts.



It appeared only Gerdie could fit on the highest roost within the expand-o because the roosting pole was situated too close to the back wall. It was great for her because she wasn’t getting pecked on, but we definitely had some roosting pole repositioning to do.


The next day we rearranged the coop. Look at the girls watching my husband fix their roosting poles for them.



That night I watched again and found the girls approved the new pole positions and it was much easier for them to get where they needed to be. Well… all but little Betsy! It seemed she couldn’t figure out how to get up on any of the roosting poles. She always seemed like the daftest of the bunch, and I figured she’d end up at the bottom of the pecking order for just this reason.



Betsy paced back and forth stretching her neck trying to make herself a little taller as she wondered how she would jump so high. Feeling sorry for the Isa Brown, I stepped into the coop, scooped her up regardless of her squawking, and gently placed her on the west facing roost with Penelope and Gerdie, the Rhode Island Reds. Immediately, she quit her squawking, turned herself around to face me, and looked as if I had just placed a golden crown on her feathered head naming her queen of the coop.



Ever since, it seems that Betsy has been dubbed as a favorite by the rest of the flock, and she can be found right up in the front of the line with the alpha and beta vying for my attention.


An interesting development to say the least!



Chief Cheese In-Charge

Remember on the last post, I thought Maddie would end up being the chief chicken in charge? Well after making up with Katie-bird and putting Betsy up on a roosting pole, Maddie seems to have fallen out of favoritism in the flock. Even when calling her, she no longer comes to me.


*sigh*


I have tried to catch her in order for us to bond again, but she’s too quick and stays away. She is still the bravest of the chickens, willing to be the first to try new things. Maybe after she gets full grown things will change.


Colder Weather = No Eggs?

With Labor Day weekend came colder, nighttime temperatures and eight confused chickens wondering when Mother Nature was going to crank the heat back up. It wasn’t too long ago that we added makeshift sun blockers to the chicken run so the girls could escape the scorching heat of August. With the Cicada’s singing their August songs taunting my girls about the hot air lacking even a breath of wind, I don’t know if the girls feel relieved that the bugs have quit singing or if they still wish it was summer.


Checking on the chickens two and three times a day has been the schedule ever since they moved to the coop, but now that they remain on their roosting poles well after sunrise, I don’t know whether to disturb them or roust the flock from the coop.


As mentioned in the last post, I had hopes of finding eggs in the nesting boxes by the end of August or beginning of September. Now I am told that since the days are getting shorter, I’ll be lucky to see any fresh eggs at all, and will most likely have to wait until late spring of 2022!


I’m like… WHAT?!


Researching for confirmation of chicken egg laying schedules proved that like growing a garden, chickens, as well as plants, require so many hours of sunlight every day in order to produce. That said, I could set a light timer to mimic enough daylight hours, but would this lead to my flock molting during the coldest months of the year?! Having eight naked chickens in the middle of winter would NOT be good. In fact, I would probably lose my entire flock!


Still more researching states that besides chickens needing 15-16 hours of daylight to produce eggs, “The first year, most laying breeds will lay through winter without artificial lighting.” So I hope this information from Scoop from the Coop is accurate because I’d like the girls to get into an egg laying routine before their sun bathing days begin next year.


Interestingly, this same source mentions that the first molt won’t happen until the girls are 15-18 months old, and then every year after. That puts the beginning of their molt into next fall, and since a molt can last 8-12 weeks, according to Maat van Uitert, these birds better be as hardy as the details at Tractor Supply stated because that will be during the ‘BER’ months. Brrrr!



September Surprise

For the last week Etta James has been talking up a storm. At first, I thought she was informing me of the unexpected visitor they had earlier one day when I was at work. My mother-in-law had brought over some kitchen scraps for the girls – which they enjoyed very much!


But the next day, Etta continued with her clucking and carrying on.


Whenever I came, she would go into the coop and inspect all the nesting boxes. Throwing straw out of the upper boxes only to hop back down and pick through the straw in the bottom boxes, nothing seemed to suit her tastes until she finally settled on one of the upper boxes. I assumed she was getting prepared for egg laying and was letting me know.


For three days, Etta James clucked and clucked, carrying on whenever I came for a visit. For two of those days, she would get into her box and sit for a second before coming back out to squat strangely in front of me. At first, I thought she was ‘doing her business,’ but there was never anything on the ground after she walked away.


Something was going to happen, and soon!


When we went over for the next evening’s visit, my husband checked the boxes while I donned my chicken boots.


“An egg!” he cried. “We got an egg!”



Sure enough, our first, farm-fresh egg lay in Etta James’ nesting box.


Etta James was the first hen to lay an egg! Did you guess it right?


We were so excited to see our first egg and two days later, number 2 egg was found in the same nesting box. I’m not sure if it’s Etta’s egg again but being she should lay and egg every 2-3 days, it could be hers. Then again, Jenna, the other Rainbow chicken was doing a lot of clucking too, so maybe it’s hers being the egg is quite a bit smaller than the first.



The question of whose egg it is led to another thought… will the chickens all want to use the same nesting box?


According to Lisa Steele, they absolutely WILL want to use the same nesting box, and could get into some heated battles over whose turn it is. To nip this issue in the bud fast, she suggests putting fake eggs in all the nesting boxes to help the chickens choose any that is available.


Now I just need to get some fake eggs.


For now, we are hopeful that all the girls will get to laying eggs well before winter.


Next time:

Find out who is laying and who is not. Will we have more eggs than we know what to do with as so many friends and family are predicting?

Plans for winterizing the pen for a Michigan winter, and for growing winter greens in the greenhouse for the girls. What will grow?

And making a blend of nesting herbs? Huh? Is this really something my chickens need?


I’m telling you what… spoiling chickens is a lot of work!


Until next time, Happy September to you and yours. Keep your eggs fresh and your feathers fluffed, because baby, it’s getting COLD outside!




Thanks so much for reading!


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If you would like to read the Crazy Chicken Chronicles in order, here are some handy links:


The Crazy Chicken Chronicles at the 44th Parallel, Part 1


The Crazy Chicken Chronicles at the 44th Parallel, Part 2


The Crazy Chicken Chronicles at the 44th Parallel, Part 3


The Crazy Chicken Chronicles at the 44th Parallel, Part 4




Click Here to Read Other Past Stories




References


Gardening Channel, 2021, 26 Vegetables That Can Grow In Partial Shade, https://www.gardeningchannel.com/sun-and-shade-loving-vegetables-list/


Steele, Lisa, 2014, Nesting Box Wars Between Chickens, https://www.fresheggsdaily.blog/2014/03/nesting-box-wars.html


Twain L., June 8, 2017, Why Do Hens Stop Laying Eggs? 9 Reasons Why Hens Stop Laying Eggs, https://www.scoopfromthecoop.com/nine-reasons-hens-stop-laying-eggs/


Maat van Uitert, May 10, 2021, How Can My Hen Grow Her Feathers Back Fast, https://thefrugalchicken.com/grow-hen-feathers-back-fast/

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