We have seven chickens who happily free-range around our yard all day. These are their stories.
Hi, woodland chums!
No recipe this week as Emily is busy with photography work, so I thought I’d “entertain” you (rarely was a word used so incorrectly with such flagrant abandon) with a little video diary. Last September, we got five new chicks, and like any proud parent, I Periscoped the hell out of them for about a month before promptly dropping the whole documentary process.
Dear reader, or indeed, readers: You may, singularly or en masse, have become increasingly concerned at the startling lack of chicken-related news in this blog. It is possible, but admittedly not likely, that you are of a nervous disposition, and have been unable to reconcile the existence of a “Chickens” menu with the non-existence of any news or updates regarding them. Well, my anxious friend, this post is for you.
We started out almost exactly two years ago with four red sex-link pullets. Since then, we have gained two Ameraucanas – one of which turned out to be a rooster and had to be “returned to the farm”. I don’t know why I put that phrase in quotes, he literally was returned to the farm. To, you know, “live out his life in the paddock”. What? It’s the quotes, they make everything look suspicious. Anyway, the farmer promised to “take care of him”, so I’m sure everything’s fine. Just fine.
A lot of people have been asking me how our chickens have been coping with the winter weather. To be honest, I had been a little worried about keeping them safe through the cold months. We’re not exactly Minnesota, but we do get snowy winters. Last year the snow didn’t seem to stop coming until April.
And as for this week … yes, it has been cold (see left). The current cold snap may be an outlier, but it’s still a serious threat to your health if you spend too long outside in it. I was half-inclined to make the chickens a little winter palace in the basement, but to be honest, they wouldn’t be that much better off inside.
The house we’re renting is, let’s say, insulation-ally challenged. The old half of the house has new windows, but cold floors. The new half has old, draughty windows and inefficient baseboard heaters. When it reached -5F last week, it was simply impossible to keep the ground floor heated. Both the cold AND the hot taps in the kitchen, as well as the pipes to dishwasher and washing machine, froze up. We rounded up every blanket in the house and kept ourselves warm with maple syrup old-fashioneds.
It’s been an exciting sort of week in the world of chickens around these parts.
First, we started getting eggs last weekend. I might have mentioned in our first chicken post that we weren’t exactly sure how old our hens were, but breath was baited, fingers were crossed, wood was touched, and, more practically, I purchased a couple of small plastic eggs from Amazon and set them in the nesting boxes, as if to say, “Look. You see that? That’s what you’re supposed to do.”
The days are getting shorter. My research suggested that hens need about 14 hours of daylight to lay, so I had also run a light into the coop and set a daily timer to come on at 4.30 every morning. (I’ve since relented a little and given them a little lie-in; it now comes on at 5.30 every morning. I’m not a monster.)
Whether any of the above helped, or whether it was just their time, our first small, brown, speckled egg appeared on the morning of Saturday 12th October, exactly six weeks after we first settled the chickens into their new home. The next day, one more, and the next day, two. That day I also found one of the hens crouching at the corner of the garden, and when I investigated, found it had created something with a soft shell.
Hello there, chickadees! You’ve probably gathered that I’m not quite as prolific as m’wife when it comes to updating the blog, but I think it’s about time – no, past time – for an update on how the chicken coop is going. Well, it’s done. We have chickens.
“What’s this?”, you cry in alarm. “The last we heard you were planning on building one, and now you’ve built one, and you have chickens, and this is how we find out, you tell us?”
All those things are true. I found a plan online, a plan that was detailed and had lots of pictures (quite important for an idiot like me with no knowledge of power tools), I ordered the lumber and hardware parts, and hove at it. There was sawing. Quite a lot of sawing. There was the judicious application of nail and screw, along with a fair number of brackets, and a great deal of hardware cloth, wrapped around and sunk a foot into the ground. There is a brace, ‘cos it’s a bit wonky.
Essentially, it’s a walk-in coop consisting of a framed shell, roofed with corrugated vinyl, and enclosed on one side with interior plywood and exterior siding, to form the henhouse. Once the frame was together, our friends Karen and Tom helped us position it down in a corner of the yard, and I built up the frame, roof, netting and henhouse a step at a time when I had a few hours in the day. Last weekend I finished the plywood nesting boxes and interior walls, and today we drove up to Saugerties and handed a farmer some cash money in exchange for four chickens.
The design of the coop means that they can be confined within, but since we have a fenced yard, they should be safe to roam around under supervision, provided the whistle-pig doesn’t take a fancy to them…
Yes! We picked these four lovely ladies up today. Seriously, can you believe we actually have chickens? In our yard? I’m agog. AGOG, I say!
Arya says: “Whats? Im cant beleave!”
(At least she seems to realize they aren’t her dinner…so far.)
When I was a teenager living in Wateringbury, Kent, we kept chickens. We had a moderate garden behind the house, which I was proud to have helped to plan and build (I designed the curved patio area – to this date probably my only piece of landscaping), and my mum and stepdad set up a chicken house alongside it. At any one time, we had up to six chickens – I’m fairly sure we lost several along the way to foxes and dropsy, but I remember we had them for a good few years. They had free run of the garden and, if the bottom part of the kitchen door was left open, they’d wander in and investigate the house. I don’t remember having any real responsibility for them, other than a bit of cleaning and feeding; the clearest memory I have is of chasing them down as they ran, single-file, out of the garden gate and down Pizien Well Road. I don’t know where they thought they were going.