Updated: Oct 27, 2021
My chickens are bowing!
I know that sounds ludicrous, but really… they are! And this is how I figured it out.
You may recall in Part 5 that Etta James would run into the chicken coop whenever she heard me coming, and how she would cluck at all the nesting boxes. After a few visits, she started squatting down in front of me whenever I entered the coop.
At first, I thought she was trying to lay an egg right then and there, and I had all kinds of fun telling people I would have my chickens trained to lay an egg whenever I arrived. The problem with that scenario was, Etta James never laid an egg after squatting.
She wasn’t pooping either, so I wasn’t sure WHAT she was doing!
After seeing Etta James do this, Jenna started doing it too. That’s when I started thinking this was some sort of weird chicken behavior. (Click HERE to see the Jenna-chicken bowing.)
Researching ‘bowing chickens,’ I discovered a forum where CatsCrazyCoop had asked if her chickens were bowing. I especially liked the Imp’s response, “It is a submissive gesture, and their way of saying that you are a handsome roo.”
According to Scoop from the Coop, the correct term is called squatting, and it is a way that chickens show their submission – whether it be to the alpha hen in an all-female flock, to the rooster for mating purposes, or to the human who takes care of them. (That’s me!)
So there you have it… I AM THE CHICKEN QUEEN!
I always wanted a tiara.
The Butterball Buff
Feeding chickens brings to mind how much the girls enjoy my daily visits. Going through bags of chicken scratch like $h*t through a tin horn, I began to wonder if giving them so much of the stuff was a good thing.
After purchasing a book on everything about chickens at Tractor Supply, I have spent the last few weeks pouring over its contents and learning all kinds of details about chickens that I didn’t know before. One section detailed how often you should feed scratch to your chickens.
Honestly, I thought the 7-grain mix would be a healthy supplement to their daily laying mash which would offer more vitamins and minerals to their diet, but I was wrong, Wrong, WRONG!
Chicken scratch, I learned, is just like CANDY for chickens. Not only will it make them fat, but chickens will stop laying eggs if they become overweight.
Looking at the size of Abbey, the Buff Orpington who would rather hover over the food bowl than come say hello… I can see now why she isn’t laying eggs yet. I mean, this Buff is looking quite like a Butterball Turkey! And some of you might recall what I think of turkey.
It was time to ration the scratch to once a week, or only offer it on evenings when temperatures are expected to dip down below freezing since it helps rev up their metabolism and keep them warm.
Unfortunately, the girls are a little peeved I’m not feeding them candy every day now. Knowing how moody and emotional they can get (recall Part 4), I hope they will get over it quickly.
Trying to find another treat for the girls without the candy after-effects, I thought to grow special greens for them throughout the winter since they loved eating clover so much this summer. Afterall, daily rations of laying pellets seemed especially boring to me.
I prefer a variety of foods in my diet, don’t you?
When looking up which kinds of greens could be grown all winter, I found Premium Chick’s Mix – a quick-grow blend of white clover, ryegrass, flax, alfalfa. Planting trays of this mix would surely help break up the monotony of eating laying pellets every day, and elevate any winter doldrums my girls might experience. Plus, it gives me another project to work on through the dark, dreary months ahead. BONUS!
Then I looked it up in my handy-dandy chicken book.
The problem with frequent feeding of mixed greens is that it requires more grit to aid in digestion, and can actually DEPLETE their bodies of vitamins needed for egg production! That means, like scratch, the chickens can’t eat this all the time.
I suppose monotonous mash will have to be their mainstay.
Rocks in Boxes
Remember how I needed to find fake eggs to put in all the nesting boxes so the hens wouldn’t fight over a single box? Lisa Steele suggested using items such as golf balls, wooden eggs, plastic eggs filled with sand, or rocks to fool the chickens into thinking all the boxes were ideal for laying eggs in, so I tried rocks.
Sorry, but my girls are not that easily fooled!
All those rocks ended up shooed out of the nesting boxes and onto the floor of the coop. Since all the chickens aren’t laying yet, I still have time to offer perfect nesting boxes before any feather pulling begins.
Low and behold, Tractor Supply had ceramic eggs to solve this problem, but so far, these fake eggs are only fooling me! Every time I go in the coop to gather eggs, I grab a fake one. I wonder if the chickens would notice if I marked the fake ones with a big X?
What do you think?
Old Man Winter is Knocking
As the migrating birds fill the trees and sing their gathering songs so loud it would rival any aviary chorus, it’s as if Old Man Winter has sent Michigander’s notice that he will soon be visiting.
Other signs include loads of pinecones at the tops of the trees, bushels of apples awaiting harvest, leaves changing color, and the docks and boats being hauled out of the water to be wrapped and stored for the winter.
Still other indicators that summer is over include the Fall Baking magazines lining the checkout aisles at the grocery store, the vast assortment of pumpkins, gourds, and mums at local markets, and the exciting countdown to Halloween on Facebook.
The problem I’m having with all this is… while the sun is still all shiny and warm, I don’t want to work on winterizing my chicken coop. I want to pretend it’s still summer for a while, but I HAVE to get busy and do it soon because I don’t want my girls to freeze to death this winter. So I’ve made a to-do list of tasks that still need to be done.
1. The first thing that needed to be done while temperatures were still warm was to stain any exposed wood on the coop additions to protect it from the wet weather.
CHECK! Even though I had as much stain on me as I did the coop, it’s done!
2. Since you can see daylight through the slatted boards that make up the chicken coop wall, the cracks needed to be sealed with weather-proof silicon or caulk. The stuff we are going to use is really stinky and takes time to harden, so it needs to be applied on a warm day, early enough that it dries before nighttime.
CHECK! There weren’t as many cracks to fill as I thought, so this was an easy one!
3. A metal roof and wind block will need to be made for the northwest corner of the coop to prevent snow from piling up outside the chicken run door. It will also help keep that wicked, winter wind from freezing my girls to an early grave. And they can’t move into the house even though they make chicken diapers so they won’t poop all over the house? Can you imagine?!
4. Extra insulation needs to be applied to the windows and the outside walls of the coop – most especially the north side where the nesting boxes are located. Luckily, we have some left-over reflective insulating sheets. The trick will be getting it secured onto the outside of the coop so it won’t blow off this winter.
5. Electric needs to be run to the coop for:
a light and switch for checking on the girls after dark.
keeping the light on to force egg production if needed.
a water heating device so their water doesn’t freeze this winter.
powering the chicken warmer for times when the weather gets too cold.
6. Having eight chickens cooped up in a box all winter will be plenty stinky. That's why it's so important to have good ventilation in a coop. Ventilation that allows the stink to escape, but not give the girls a chill. A small vent needs to be installed in the top just under the roof.
7. The last thing we need to do is make a sliding door to open and close the coop from the outside of the pen. This will keep blowing snow out of the coop, as well as open the door without having to walk through the coop so the chickens can go outside on nice days.
All in all, I think ‘we’ have a pretty big list to conquer before the end of October. Hopefully my husband can help me with this lengthy, honey-do-list so the girls are comfy and cozy all winter. I guess I should stop writing about it and get to work!
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time.
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If you would like to read the Crazy Chicken Chronicles in order, here are some handy links:
CatsCrazyCoop, October 21, 2011, Forum - Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying, https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/are-my-chickens-bowing-to-me-and-other-questions.588126/
Elaine B., October 15, 2015, Why do hens crouch when approached, https://www.scoopfromthecoop.com/why-do-hens-crouch-when-approached/
Netflix, 2020, Tiger King, https://www.netflix.com/title/81115994
Steele, Lisa, 2014, Nesting Box Wars Between Chickens, https://www.fresheggsdaily.blog/2014/03/nesting-box-wars.html