Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pullet Pizza Party

Doc and I had a fierce craving for a vegetarian Margherita Pizza. We raced to the local purveyor of pie and greedily consumed our treat, clucking over the good parts and stuffing ourselves silly.

We took the remaining slices home for the flock. I carefully crept up the to fence and lifted the poultry netting. The birds circled me, screaming for the awesome deliciousness they were sure I would soon provide.

I dropped a slice into the chicken run. They greedily consumed the treat, clucking over the good parts and stuffing themselves silly.

De was a little skeptical at first, but ready to try it.
De starts with the thin end
One of the red pullets moved in to investigate this alien morsel.
"Share" is not a chickeny concept
The rest of the chicks were ferocious. The instantly closed in and stripped the flesh off the pizza, leaving nothing but bones sinking to the bottom of the run.
School of deadly chickens
Pizza carcass, stripped in seconds
It was a grisly sight. But oh, the chickeny joy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stink Eye, the Chickeny Look of Disapproval

Chickens are expressive creatures. They let you know when they are content. They let you know when they are frustrated. They let you know when they are hungry.

But when they want you to know they are very displeased with you, they have a special expression. They give you the Stink Eye.

When Vo was forced to test drive the new coop, she expressed her displeasure with being unceremoniously relocated.
How dare you disturb my repose!
The chicks, new to the facial expression thing, looked a little more disappointed than disapproving when the treats did not leap from my hands into their pen.
How could you?
Mr. Big, always vocal with his opinions, was not at all pleased to be pushed away from the yogurt bowl when there might still be a speck or two in there.
Yogurt makes a delicious fashion accessory
Buffy, another vociferous bird, wants nothing more than to be free of all constraints that keep her from anything she desires, such as world domination or fried mealworms.
But De is the Queen of the Stink Eye. Mere proximity offends her. I went to close the coop one night and got a full blast from her. I ran like a fraidy cat.
Begone foodless human!
I bet you would have run away too.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cool white roof

Doc and I, with help from some likely youths, constructed a coop for the chicks. It has wire walls and shade cloth to keep the chicks cool. But with Texas temps going over 100, more thermal control was needed.

We tried a mister. It has worked well, but the soil, dry from 5 inches of rain in 7 months, has gone into stinky decomposition overdrive. And still the birds are slow roasting in the coop....

But my nephew arrived for a visit. Free labor, hooray!

We moved Jailbird Vo and the chicks into the adult pen. Buffy gave them a warm welcome.
Say hello to my little friend
Once the red chicks outnumbered the adults, things got calmer. The chicks liberated the mister and the adults withdrew to the coop to sulk about today's youth and their lack of respect.
Chicks in the mist
With the chicks squared away, we set to work on the roof. The nephew and I mounted ladders and braved the entangling poultry net of doom.

Only a fool would put a poultry net over of roof before painting it. Sadly, I am that fool.
There must be a better way
We used up a can of gummy white primer, sealing holes, covering metal, and sometimes painting the net. An hour on the ladders was all we could stand, so we declared victory and hastened to the house for iced tea.
Not as bad as I feared
We put the chicks back and fed them treats. Oh the chickeny joy!

The white roof cut the coop temperature by 5-10 degrees. Now the hot chicks are cool. Aaaaaaaay!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mixed up chickens

Jailbird Vo is Mr. Big's very special friend. This entitles her to missing feathers, bare patches of skin, and bloody scabs. The latest prize in her collection is a sprained leg.

Because of the sprained leg, she squawks every time Mr. Big mounts her. He seems oblivious to her discomfort.

Because the new chicks are living in the new coop, I have no good way to safely isolate a chicken. So I juggled the pecking order instead.

I put Vo in the chick coop. She immediately transformed from the docile low bird to a bloodthirsty seeker of power. She explored the coop, sat on the roost, and ate the food. The first chick in the door was an aggressive red who has a habit of attacking other chicks so she can eat fresh feathers.

They squared off, reared their heads back, and tussled in a noisy feathery fury. Since Vo was already injured, I grabbed the red and took her away before the two could do more than cuss vigorously.

When Oreo and the other reds arrived, Vo was careful to give each one a peck or two or twelve. By sunset, I had to scoot Vo to one end of the roost, ceding her hard-won territory to the terrified chicks.

I placed the aggressive red chick in the adult coop. She went from alpha chick to lowly intruder in just a few heartbeats. She immediately set about trying to hide from the furious Buffy.

With the unsettled pecking order, bedtime is a noisy affair. Mr. Big and Buffy shrilly protest the presence of the interloper. The red chicks cluck their terror of the big bad battle-scarred veteran sitting on their roost.

I can hardly wait for Vo to finish healing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hot Chicks

The Texas heat has been living up to its reputation. I have tried passive cooling for the chickens, but as the temps go over 100, I have to take action.

Enter the Mister. This doodad attaches to a hose and allows the water to slowly escape as a fine mist, purportedly reducing the temperature by 20 degrees.
Even a little pressure makes a cooling mist
To entice the chicks into soaking range, Doc and I placed chick pellets near the mister. The moist pellets were a big hit. The chicks consumed them with relish (the attitude, not the condiment).
Moist pellets are our favorite!
Some of the chicks loved it. Some were less than thrilled.
I feel pretty

You will pay dearly for this indignity
To entice the adults into the misting area, we removed the barrier between the chicken runs. Mr. Big was the first to arrive. Oreo took the opportunity to say "Hi Dad".
Oreo, Mr. Big, and mist rainbow
Rather than rely on the wind, I set up a second mister in the adult run. The adults were a little less sanguine about the mist, but much happier with the damp soil.
Mr. Big and Buffy mud bathing 
The mister was a big success! It used very little water and made a cool spot in the chicken runs. When the sun got to be too much for me, I went to stand in the mist too.

I am going to save this memory for winter....

Oreo and the red chicks are growing

Oreo hatched from an egg that had been intended for breakfast. Confronted with the reality of a live chick, Doc and I realized we were still unprepared and raced out to Tractor Supply to get some last minute chick doodads, and inevitably, more chicks.
Oreo, newly hatched
Ten days later, we let the gang out into the tractor, with adult supervision. Oreo and the reds were utterly adorable with their little wing feathers and fuzz.
Adorable at 10 days
At about three weeks, Oreo was the cutest chick in an awkward bunch. One red looked like a vulture.
Three weeks and awkward
Oreo looks like a real chicken at 7 weeks. Her red comrades seem to have feathered out nicely as well.
7 weeks with nice feathers
Oreo and the red girls are looking like proper young ladies at 11 weeks. They work together to patrol their run, protecting it from lizards, bugs, and amazingly delicious seeds that mysteriously fall from the sky when I am near.
11 weeks and full of themselves
Some time in the next three months we will have to build nest boxes. Oh the chickeny joy!