Showing posts with label Chickens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chickens. Show all posts

Feb 5, 2019

4 Things I Wish I'd Known about Backyard Chickens

What I Wish I'd Known about Raising Chickens
I grew up with a pet chicken and have now consistently had a laying flock for about seven years (barring a short period of hen-lessness when we sold our suburban home and moved to the country). I vividly recall trying to convince my husband that having backyard chickens in the suburbs was totally do-able - and worth doing. He was difficult to persuade, but now he might be even more pro-chicken than I am!

So, needless to say, we think chicken-keeping is worthwhile. Still, if you've never had chickens before, there may be some surprises in store for you. Here are some things that surprised me when I first started keeping chickens as an adult.

1. Some hens lay a lot less than others. Actually, I did know this before I got my first flock of hens, but it took a while for me to realize just how dramatically the choice of breed affects egg laying. For example, we once had a neighbor who chose fun, fancy-looking hens, and even though they were in their prime, they only laid one egg a week. On the other hand, the chickens we kept at the same time (which were Plymouth Rocks) typically laid an egg a day. At one point, we also adopted some fully-grown Silver Wyandottes; they were sweet, mellow hens, but they weren't nearly the layers our slightly more ornery Plymouth Rocks were. (Nowadays, we're loving our Australorps; they are sweet and gentle, but excellent layers.) So before you buy, be sure to check out a good chicken breed comparison chart that offers an idea of how well each breed lays.

2. Free range birds lay fewer eggs than birds in a smaller run. At least typically. We started out with hens in a small run, letting them free range for perhaps an hour or two most days. Six birds laid six eggs a day. Then we expanded our run, and suddenly the egg production dropped to just four eggs a day. This isn't uncommon. Chickens expend a lot of energy scratching around, and may receive less balanced nutrition if they don't eat much feed; hence, they lay fewer eggs. On the other hand, hens that are given high-quality land to free range (i.e., there are lots of different kinds of bugs and plants for them to eat) produce healthier eggs. Click here to read more reasons why we no longer free range our hens.

3. You really don't have to buy store bought eggs again. It's common to read that despite having backyard hens you'll still have to buy some store-bought eggs. Assuming you don't have severe restrictions on the number of hens you're allowed to have, and assuming you don't have a huge family, this simply isn't true. Choose your breed carefully, selecting excellent layers. Keep in mind how many eggs you currently use before determining how many hens you keep. Plan to store extra eggs in the fridge; if you don't wash them before storage, they last for at least 6 months in the refrigerator. Or, freeze extra eggs instead. Then, when your hens begin molting (and therefore stop laying), you'll have plenty of eggs in the fridge or freezer to last until they begin laying again.

4. Backyard eggs are actually cheaper than store bought. Again, before we got our flock, I'd read repeatedly that keeping chickens wouldn't save us money on eggs. This definitely wasn't true; read about our .06 cent eggs here.

A version of this post originally appeared in August of 1012. This post featured at Simple Life Mom's Homestead Blog Hop.

Related Posts:
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/11/8-rooster-myths-busted.html
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/06/how-can-i-tell-if-my-hen-is-laying.html


https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/05/8-common-chicken-keeping-mistakes-and.html

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Jan 2, 2019

Most Popular Posts from 2018

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Another year come and gone. To me, it seems time speeds up each year! But now that Chritmas and New Year's are over, I need to hunker down and get to work. I'm currently finishing up a historical fashion book for Dover Publications. (Years ago, historical fashion books were my mainstay and I've enjoying getting back into that subject.) And as usual, this year I want to try to make this blog better than ever...meaning, I want to hear from you! What do you wish I'd blog more about? Let me know in the comments or through a social media message.

This is also the time of year I look at this blog's stats to see if I can understand my wonderful readers even better. It's always fasncinating to see which posts you like best.

1.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/12/deciding-what-to-plant-in-your.html

2.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/12/23-fun-practcal-ways-to-upcycle-feed.html
3.

https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/03/how-to-dehydrate-zoodles-other.html
4.

https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/01/why-and-how-to-prune-blueberries.html
5.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-biggest-lie-about-growing-tomatoes.html

6.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/05/can-you-grow-fruit-trees-from-seed.html

7.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-best-salsbury-steak-recipe-keto-low.html

8.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/11/the-ultimate-dandelion-medicine-book-is.html
 9.
10.

https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/11/his-grace-is-revealed-through-parenting.html


I also look at which posts are all-time favorites:



https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/09/how-to-easily-clean-ceilings-walls-even.html
4.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/09/how-to-easily-clean-ceilings-walls-even.html
5.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2011/05/the-best-free-apron-patterns-on-net.html
6.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2013/03/best-ideas-for-upcycling-jeans.html
7.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/09/50-low-carb-and-keto-thanksgiving.html
8.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2012/04/how-to-clean-really-dirty-stove-top.html
9.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/05/how-to-make-dandelion-wine-recipe-for.html
10.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2013/08/canning-pickled-green-beans-dilly-beans.html
Happy new year!

Dec 5, 2018

23 Fun & Practcal Ways to Upcycle Feed Bags

How to Reuse Feed Sacks
UPDATE: It's just been pointed out how similar this post is to Murana Chicken Farm's. Check it out! They offer a number of ideas I did not.

If you have any pets or farm animals, you've probably thrown away a ton of feed bags. Each time you've done this, maybe you've wondered: Is there something better I could do with this?

Well in fact, there is! Feed sacks are made from wonderfully durable material and with just a little imagination, you can turn them into all kinds of useful and fun things. Here are some ideas:

1. Nail feed bags to the walls of your chicken coop (or garden shed, or stall, etc.) to help give added warmth during the winter.

2. Use a sack as a container for muddy/sandy clothes or shoes.

3. Cut open a bag or two and lay them flat in a car trunk, to help keep the floor clean.

4. Sew a bag or two into a tote bag perfect for groceries. Or a messenger bag.

5. Sew a feed bag into an apron.

6. Use feed sacks as a grow bag. This might work for potatoes and tomatoes, as I often see online, but I think they'd be even better for herbs, greens, radishes, carrots, and similar crops.

7. Use empty bags in place of landscape fabric, between garden rows. Pull them up every year, however, or you'll end up with bits and pieces of plastic all over your yard.






Outdoor cushions, via ThriftyFun.
8. Use bags as garden totes for hauling weeds, cuttings, compost, etc.

9. Use empty sacks to store manure you'll later use in the garden.


10. Use feed bags as trash bags.

11. Place donated clothes and household items inside empty bags (instead of wasting garbage bags).

12. Cut bags open and use as shelf liners in the garden shed or garage.

13. Cut sacks open and let your kids use them as sleds.

14. Turn old feed sacks into farmhouse decor Christmas stockings.

15. Sew feed bags into outdoor cushions. Talk about low maintenance!

16. Turn empty bags into a tarp.
Feed bag apron, via Scoop from the Coop.

17. Sew sacks into a tablecloth. This would be perfect for garden stands, the farmer's market, a picnic, or even just as a table covering for kids to do messy crafts upon.

18. Sew a sack into a zippered pouch. Really, you could use almost any purse, pouch, or bag pattern.

19. Turn an empty feed bag into a bib.

20. Make easy wall decor.

21. Turn a feed sack into a clothespin bag.

22. Make a pillow. This would be cute for the porch!

23. Sew some feed bags up into a dress?!
Feed sack grow bag, via Linn Acres Farm.



Jun 5, 2018

How Can I Tell If My Hen is Laying?

How Can I Tell if My Hen is Laying
Q: I'm not getting very many eggs from my hens. I have 8 that are about 3 years old and 9 that are about a year old, and I only get 9 eggs a day. I know the older hens are past their prime, but how can I tell which ones (if any) are still laying?

A: You're right that you should be getting more eggs. I expect one egg per hen per day (on average) and don't put up with much less. Slackers have gotta go! Fortunately, there are several ways to determine which of your hens are good layers and which are not.

1. Check the Vent. The first thing I do is take a good look at each hen's vent (the hole where her eggs come out). Good layers usually have large, oval, moist openings. Poor layers have smaller, rounder, drier vents. I believe this is the best way to tell a good layer from a bad one (aside from separating each hen and watching her daily).

2. Check Color. For chickens that have yellow-pigmented beaks, legs, and skin, the vent of a good layer will typically look pale. If the hen is not laying, the vent should be yellow. (This is because there's a limited supply of yellow pigment in a hen's body, and if she's laying, she needs that pigment for her egg's yolks.) Good laying hens of all breeds also have bright combs and wattles. A hen who is not laying will have a paler "complexion" on those body parts.






3. Check the Abdomen. Lay each hen on her back (as if you're cradling a baby in your arm), and gently feel her abdomen. If it's pliable and soft, she's probably laying eggs. If it's not very flexible, she's probably not laying eggs. This test isn't foolproof because if the hen has an egg forming, her abdomen will feel harder.
Comb and wattle color matter. (Courtesy of Anup Shah)
4. Check the Bones. While you're at it, take a feel at her pelvic bones. If they are far apart (say, 3 or 4 of your fingers fit between them), she's probably laying. If there's a more narrow space between them, she's probably not laying often. You can also look at the space between the hen's vent and keel (the pointy bone at the base of her breast). If you can fit about 4 fingers between the vent and keel, she's probably a layer. Less distance means the bird probably doesn't lay well. (These measurements only work for full sized breeds.)

5. Check for Appetite and Activity. Although activity levels vary from breed to breed, generally speaking, hens who are laying are usually more active than those who are not. They have an active appetite, too, and tend toward eagerness when you supply food. Hens who aren't laying, aren't nearly as eager and won't eat as much as laying hens.

* Cover image courtesy of  Tamsin Cooper

Dec 28, 2017

Top 5 Most Popular Posts for 2017 - Plus Top Posts of All Time!

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

2017 is nearly at an end, which means it's time for reflection and maybe some new goals. This year has certainly been a life-changing one for me: Reversing my diabetes (and most of my other health complaints) through a keto diet; hubby no longer commuting 92 miles one direction in order to get to work; and my need to do more to help support my family financially. And one of the things I always do around this time of year is access this blog.

So let me ask: What are my readers (you!) needing from me? Please, let me know in the comments below!

Another way I learn what readers want is to look at this blog's most popular posts from the previous year, and for the entire life of the blog. (Did you know I've been writing this blog since 2009?! Holy smokes!)

Most Popular Posts from 2017


# 5. Catnip for Human Medicine 
This popular post was inspired by the catnip patch that came with our homestead - and which our cat (who also came with our homestead) adores. I was surprised to learn catnip is so beneficial for humans, especially for helping us relax. It also repels mosquitos better than DEET. Find out what else catnip is good for by clicking here.

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/07/catnip-for-human-medicine.html#.WkVtLnlG0dh

# 4. How to Get Out from Under the Laundry Pile
A lot of you struggle to keep up with your family's laundry, and in this post, I give you my best tips for how I make laundry easy and stress-free. 

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/11/how-to-get-out-from-under-laundry-pile.html#.WkVtZHlG0di

#3. Can I Use My Instant Pot Pressure Cooker for Canning?
The Instant Pot electric pressure cooker (buy it here) hit the world by storm in 2017, and my third most popular post definitely reflects that. In it, I dispell myths about using pressure cookers as pressure canners. Be sure to read it before you can!

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/06/can-i-use-my-instant-pot-pressure.html#.WkVtnnlG0dh

#2. Cauliflower Chowder Recipe
Combine the Instant Pot and a keto recipe and you get my second most popular post from 2017. This is actually a revised version of a non-keto, non-Instant Pot recipe I posted in 2015. It's been a family favorite, so when I went keto, I was thrilled it was easy to make low carb. It's also easy to make in the Instant Pot (or slow cooker/crock pot, or the stove top). 


http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/03/cauliflower-chowder-recipe-low-carb.html#.WkVtx3lG0dh

 #1. 50 Low Carb and Keto Thanksgiving Recipes
When I started eating keto in December of 2016, I never dreamed that keto recipes would turn into the most popular posts on my blog! It's really a testament to this healthy diet, which truly works for treating type I and type II diabetes, cancer, Lyme disease, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, metabolic disorder, sleep disorders, pain, infertility (especially PCOS), multiple sclerosis, and other diseases - not to mention for losing weight, especially when the pyramid diet fails. (I've lost 45 lbs., my husband has lost 60 lbs.) Keto works, my friends!

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/09/50-low-carb-and-keto-thanksgiving.html#.WkVt9XlG0dh






Most Popular Posts of All Time


#5.  Easy Refrigerator Pickled Beets
Here's a little secret: I hate pickled beets. But my family loves them - and, apparently, so do you! This post from 2014 continues to be among my most read. 

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/08/easy-refrigerator-pickled-beets.html#.WkVuJ3lG0dg

#4. The Best Free Apron Patterns on the Net
I'm glad I'm not the only one who loves a good apron - or two, or three, or...Since 2011, this post has pointed ya'll to some pretty awesome, free patterns for my favorite kitchen accessory.

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2011/05/the-best-free-apron-patterns-on-net.html#.WkVuX3lG0dh


#3. 6 Ways to Teach Kids the Books of the Bible
I'm so happy at least one God-centered post is popular on this blog! ;)

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2011/06/6-ways-to-teach-kids-books-of-bible.html#.WkVuiHlG0dh


#2. How to EASILY Clean Ceilings & Walls - Even in a Greasy Kitchen!
It turns out, greasy kitchens are my specialty. I also specialize in finding "lazy girl" ways to clean. This post from 2014 combines both these "talents."

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/09/how-to-easily-clean-ceilings-walls-even.html#.WkVurHlG0dh

#1. How to Train Chickens
This has been my most read post since 2012, which cracks me up! I'd have never thunk it. But I guess hubby and I are pretty good at getting our hens to cooperate and do the things we want them to.
http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-train-chickens-and-get-them-to.html#.WkVu1nlG0dh






Nov 13, 2017

8 Rooster Myths: Busted!

8 Rooster Myths
Poor roosters. They take a lot of flak - even for things they don't do. Are you guilty of believing any of these rooster-related myths?


Myth #1: Roosters always mean. 

Many roosters are friendly to humans and hens, and some are downright sweet. On our homestead, our rooster, Joseph (shown in the photos for this post), is a gentleman with his ladies and would never dream of pecking or hurting any of the humans on our property. He's a little hard to catch, but once we do catch him, he submits to us completely, and never tries to fight us. In his demeanor, Joseph is not unique.

How do you choose a rooster that's friendly? Selecting a docile breed is a good idea. But chickens, like humans, are individuals, and some are just more pleasant than others.

Myth #2: When you have a rooster, your hens will lay more and bigger eggs. 

Having a rooster in your flock won't change your hens' laying or eggs in any way...except that the eggs will be fertilized.

Myth #3: If you have a rooster, all your eggs will have blood spots in them. 

Blood spots can occur in any chicken egg, including those that aren't fertilized. Blood spots (also called "meat spots") occur when a blood vessel on the yolk surface or the wall of the oviduct ruptures. They never indicate fertilization, and eggs with blood spots are perfectly safe to eat. (Incidentally, those of us with backyard flocks are far more likely to bump into eggs with blood spots because commercial eggs are checked for blood spots, and those eggs that have them are discarded or put to a use other than grocery store egg cartons.

Fertilized eggs, however, do have "bullets" - a blastoderm, or the first stage of embryonic development. Most people don't even notice this bullet, because of it's subtle nature. (Click on over to The Chicken Chick to see a photo and a more detailed explanation.) In order for the blastoderm to develop into an embryo, the egg must be heated for a specific length of time, so there's no fear of finding a partially formed chick in your eggs...unless you let your hens sit on them.





Myth #4: Roosters crow only at dawn. 

Nope. Roosters crow whenever they feel like it, which is usually often. This is why it's a great idea to have the chicken run far enough away from your house that crowing is a pleasant sound in the background.

Myth #5: Only get a rooster if you want chicks (or fertile eggs). 

Even if you don't want fertile eggs or chicks, an excellent reason to add a rooster to your flock is that he will do everything in his power to protect your hens. Roosters are ever on alert, watching for any danger to the flock. If danger does appear, roosters will give their life to protect the hens.

Myth #6: Only roosters get spurs. 

Some people think they can look at pullets (teenage hens) and determine whether they are male or female by seeing whether they have bumps on their feet that will grow into spurs. But all young chickens have these bumps, including the girls. In most hens, those bumps don't grow into spurs...but it's not uncommon for hens to develop spurs as their egg-laying slows down. In addition, some breeds of hens (like Leghorns, Polish, Ancona, and Minorca) are more likely to grow spurs. Sumatras may even develop multiple spurs on each foot!

Myth #7: Roosters kill chicks. 

I heard this myth a lot after the recent loss of our chick. But the truth is, all chickens have the potential to kill chicks, and roosters are no more likely to do it than hens. Roosters do not try to kill chicks because they want to mate with the mother hen. In fact, most roosters are protective of the flock's chicks - sometimes even "mothering" the chicks the way a good hen does.

Myth #8: Roosters can't live together. 

Most people believe each flock can only have one rooster, or the roosters will fight until only one lives. However, more than one rooster really can live happily in a flock, though the males will scuffle with each other to work out their pecking order (just like hens do). Eventually, the roosters will sort things out - sometimes allowing mating privileges to only one male. Only breeds raised for cockfighting will actually fight to the death.

That said, it's smart to keep your rooster to hen ratio in mind. This can vary from breed to breed, but generally you'll want  rooster for every 8 - 12 hens.

This post featured at Simple Life Mom's Homestead Blog Hop.


Sep 15, 2017

The Little Chicken Who Couldn't

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Our Internet line was down for five days, so I'm playing a lot of catch up! (Not only do I work exclusively online, but my children were doing online school, too. Oy.) And while I was disconnected from the world, a lot of things happened at the homestead - including the hatching of our hens' eggs.

X marks the incubating eggs.
Mama hen had been sitting on 10 eggs for 21 days. When she first started sitting, I carefully marked each egg with a penciled X, so I'd know exactly which eggs were being incubated. Then I left Mama to it.

I knew the general advice is to separate the mama hen from the rest of the flock, but I had no way to do this, and I wanted to see what happened if I did things the old fashioned way - letting Mama do all the work.

Well, Mama was an excellent broody hen. She sat diligently every day, only getting up rarely to drink, relieve herself, and eat a wee bit of food. She growled at us when we checked on her (yes, hens can growl!), though she never pecked when I peeked under her. (I'm telling you, Australorps are the sweetest chickens ever!)

One day when I went to collect the other hens' eggs, I laughed because I found two eggs immediately in front of Mama's nest. I assumed (ahem) the other hens wanted to lay in her nest - because hens are like that; you can give them each a nesting box, but they'll all lay in the same one. Then, I thought, they couldn't hold their eggs any longer and out they popped in front of Mama's nest.

Mama, sitting diligently.
Well, a few days later when I went to cook with those eggs, I got a surprise. I was making a huge batch of pancakes to freeze for my children's breakfasts, and when I cracked one egg, the contents were bloody. Upon closer inspection, there was an embryo in that egg. Gross. That huge batch of pancake batter had to go in the trash, but the kids were fascinated to see a real embryo up close and personal.

I knew then that the egg had originally been under Mama, and somehow got booted from the nest. And over the course of the next several days, I found a few other partially incubated eggs with embryos in them. (Needless to say, I started cracking eggs in a separate bowl before adding them to whatever I was cooking.) Embryos only develop in fertilized eggs if those eggs have been incubated (i.e. warmed up by a sitting hen or an electric incubator). So either Mama booted those eggs accidentally, or other hens snuck into her nest when she got up for a quick break and they booted them, or Mama rejected the eggs, thinking they were bad.

None of those embryo-filled eggs had pencil marks on them, by the way. Note to self: Use a pen next time.





In the end, though she had six eggs under her at the end of 21 days, only one egg hatched. In other words, only one egg had been under her for a full 21 days.

Some people asked why I removed all the unhatched eggs after that time. Why not just leave them under Mama and let them hatch when they were ready? I had two good reasons not to do that. The first is that most hens will abandon their chick before they abandon the eggs in their nest - which means the chick has pretty much zero chance of survival. In fact, this scenario played out on our homestead.


I heard peeping on a Monday afternoon. By Tuesday afternoon, I could still hear peeping, but couldn't see any chicks. I didn't want to disturb Mama too much, so I didn't peek under her. I assumed (see how my assumptions lead to bad things?) she had chicks still hatching.

That night, however, when my husband locked up the chickens in the hen house, he looked inside with a flashlight. There, in a spot underneath the slightly raised nesting box, was the chick, peeping for Mama to help him. Somehow, he or she had fallen out of the nest. But Mama would not abandon her eggs. (Hubby says broody hens are a lot like Daleks from Doctor Who, but instead of having a one-track mind that says "Exterminate!", they have a one track mind that says "Incubate!") Fortunately, this happened during a heat wave, so the chick didn't die of cold, and my husband tucked the chick back under Mama, who seemed grateful.

Mama and her chick.
The second reason I needed to dispose of the additional eggs is that in 21 days, Mama had hardly eaten or had anything to drink. By the time chicks hatch, the hen is much thinner and really requires a break from sitting in order to be healthy.

So, the other eggs were gone and Mama was focused on her single, cute little fluff butt. The chick seemed bright and alert and curious, and Mama had her work cut out for her.

By the third day, she took the chick out of the nesting box and let it wander around the hen house. She showed it the water and the chick feed and taught it to eat, and she remained highly protective, even fiercely pecking my husband once. (Normal for the average hen, but really aggressive for this one.)
Mama love!
Then she must have taken the chick outside to teach it to scratch. That evening, my husband found the chick dead in the chicken run, its eyes pecked out.

We'll never know exactly what happened. Maybe the chick took a turn for the worse, it died suddenly, and the rest of the flock did what chickens do to dead things. Maybe the chick showed signs of illness, which chickens greet with cannibalistic fervor. Maybe the chick fell of the ramp to the hen house and was injured or died. Or maybe Mama simply didn't do a good job protecting the chick from the rest of the flock, who, not knowing what it was, assumed it was food.

Sigh.

It's never easy when animals die on the homestead, but at least I know we gave the chick every chance and that nature took its natural course.

My husband says he wants to use an electric incubator next time. Personally, I'd like to give Mama another chance, but this time put her (and her chicks) in a smaller run of her own, safe from the rest of the flock. We'll see.


Jul 5, 2017

Why Did the Rooster Cross the Road? Because Our Hens Were on the Other Side!

Late Sunday afternoon, my hubby spotted a beautiful rooster wandering around the outside of our chicken run, trying to find a way in. We've been wanting to add a rooster to the homestead, but every time we see one advertised, someone else has already snatched it up. So light bulbs went on above our heads. My husband called our neighbor, knowing it must be his bird. "Your rooster is over here romancing our hens. Do you mind if we keep him for a few days?" Our neighbor readily agreed.

So we opened the gate to our chicken run - there was little danger of our hens wandering off; they are so content in that run, they show little interest in leaving it. And within minutes, the rooster had found his way inside.

First, he crowed. Repeatedly. "I proclaim these ladies are mine!" I imagine him saying. Then he spread his wings wide as if to impress our girls with his splendor. Soon, he started scratching around, found some food, and called to the girls. "Ladies! I found something tasty! Come and get it!"

They eyed him suspiciously and didn't take him up on his offer.

Finally, he began following them around, cooing bewitchingly. At least, I guess he was bewitching, because within 30 minutes, he was making whoopie with one of our hens. He then wasted no time getting friendly with all of them.

We are thankful he's a gentleman about it all. He never once pecked, scratched, or got violent with the hens. And when dusk came and I locked the hen house...he was nestled away in there like he'd never had any other home.

His second day here, I walked by the run to see how things were going...and discovered the gate was unlatched. That morning, my daughter hadn't closed it properly. All but our two broody hens were missing. (Broody hens are in a hormonal state that prepares them to hatch eggs.Among other things, they sit on the nest and do not leave it. It doesn't matter that our eggs were not fertilized. ) I was a little panicky, since the rooster was not ours to lose.







My first thought was that Mr. Rooster had lead our hens to his old property, wanting to integrate his new lady friends with his old ones. But before we could call the neighbor, my son spotted the partial flock in the woods, busily scratching away on the forest floor, finding bugs. The rooster hadn't been trying to get back home. He was merely looking out for his new hens, finding them a good foraging location.


To complicate things, our 90 lb. puppy, Ed, got loose. He's good around "his" animals, but I was worried he'd go after the rooster, thinking it didn't belong on our property. So I spent 15 minutes trying to catch him, wrestle with him, and lock him up before I could proceed with the chicken rescue mission.

By the time this was accomplished, Mr. Rooster had lead the hens to a prime foraging spot under some trees on a steep embankment. And, naturally, he did his best to protect them from me. Still, one by one I grabbed squawking hens, handed them to the children, and had them put the girls back in the chicken run. 

I was not looking forward to picking up the rooster. Roosters have spurs...need I say more? (I didn't realize at the time that Mr. Rooster is young enough he doesn't have spurs yet.) But I walked back to the woods to do my best and...he had disappeared. Completely vanished. I hoped he was headed back to "his" ladies. I was right! I don't know how he moved so fast, but he was already pacing outside the run, with the hens ruffled and upset he wasn't inside with them. (Amazing how quickly those hens adopted him!) I opened the gate and chased him until he ran into the run to flee me. Whew!

Later that day, amazed by how the rooster seemed to complete our flock - how the hens already adored him and obeyed his gentle commands - and entranced by his lovely crowing that just made the homestead more homesteady - my hubby asked the neighbor if we could buy his rooster.

"Tell you what," our neighbor said. "Give me half the chicks from your first two clutches, and he's all yours."*

Happy dance!


Of course, hatching chicks the natural way is a little bit iffy. There's a reason chickens mate constantly; not all clutches of eggs hatch, and all newborn chicks are incredibly fragile.

But, best case scenario, sometime within the next 3 weeks, our hens will lay some fertilized eggs, and one of our hens will be patient enough to sit on them for 21 days, then mother the resulting chicks.

Hens often get fed up before 21 days of sitting have passed. But we have one particularly broody hen who seems very patient. Twice now, she's plucked her chest feathers and sat on unfertilized eggs. She's felt hot and gives that gentle clucking sound only broody hens make. When we remove eggs from under her, she scolds us - and even, once, pecked. (Which is a huge deal for Australorps. They are not much into pecking, especially at their humans.) In fact, when Mr. Rooster originally crossed the road, we had her separated from the flock, trying to get her to come out of the broodiness she'd had for several days. Now she's in with the rest of the flock and we hope her broody dreams come true!

I'm ridiculously happy to have this rooster. He is so nice - which is a huge bonus. Many roosters are just plain mean. He is gorgeous. (I think he might be an Americauna.) The hens love him. And now my hubby has an excuse to get around to expanding the hen house. (Wink.)

Only one questions remains: What should we name him?


* In case you're wondering, Mr. Rooster shows zero interest in crossing the road again. For whatever reason, he has chosen our hens as his.