Day 36: Chicken Check-Up
1/15/2012I started the Great Chicken Eperiment two weeks ago by moving the hens from the coop into my 800 sq. ft. greenhouse. The chickens seem to be enjoying their spacious, indoors-outdoors home I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that the best space for the birds in the dead of winter was in the hoop house. The greenhouse is a good ten degrees warmer than the coop. It’s bright, draft free, and full of grubby little insects to snack on all day.
It’s a relief not to worry about their water freezing over, or if they are warm enough when the night dips to the low 30s. I do try to select cold-hearty heirloom birds like Rhode Island Red and Barred Rock, but I adopted a little old banty hen, and I couldn’t resist this white-crested Polish chick last spring. The kids named the Polish chick, David Bowie. She has the most ridiculous plume of white feathers adorning her head to complement a green-hued, black body. I tried capturing a snapshot of her, but she’s crazy wild and won’t hold still. She’s nothing like the other curious and docile hens. David Bowie has some sort of personality disorder, probably because she is so different and sits at the bottom of the flock pecking order. She was always flighty in the coop, but now she actually has enough room to fly. She goes airborne whenever I enter .
When I relocated the birds more than 2 weeks ago, I had about 4 cups of chicken feed pellets left in their feeder. I finally refilled it today. Before the big move, they went through four cups in less than four days. The eggs taste better now too. It’s a little gross, but worms, potato bugs, and slugs make for tasty eggs.
The hens are more productive than ever, but they are not keeping up with demand. The boys eat four eggs almost every morning. Eggs are my primary source of protein, and will continue to be until I improve my hunting and fishing practice. I’m scanning Craigslist tonight to see if anyone in the area is unloading full-grown hens. I need a couple more girls to keep us satisfied.
People buy feed-store chicks all the time, only to find out chicks eat, poop a lot, and need a decent amount of attention. The best time to load up on free birds is shortly after Easter, when the thrill fades and that fluffy chick is nothing but a peeping pain-in-the-ass. I picked up a couple of lovely Laced Wyandotte chicks from a neighbor two weeks after last Easter. People ought to stick to the marshmallow version, unless they really know what they are getting themselves into.
So far, the Great Chicken Experiment is a great success. Egg production is rolling right along. There's been no trouble with coyotes, yet. I'm serving up less purchased feed. I have not had to pack hot water from the house to defrost the watering device. My raised beds are worked up quite nicely. There is no poop to shovel, and best of all, the girls are dryer, cleaner, and content (except David Bowie, but she's just crazy like that).