Category Archives: Chickens!

Cast Out

A day like any other
The old hens all went mad
They attacked a little chicken
She looked so weak and sad

They chased her round the henhouse
They moved in as a team
White feathers flew all over
A gruesome, horrid scene

I made a quick decision
I had to move her fast
Out she jumped so quickly
She was free at last

Once she shook and cowered
And trembled hard with fear
Now she chirped and strutted
As slowly she came near

The new ones saw her coming
They knew she was no match
Three of them could take her
And win without a scratch

Our lonely bird, deflated
Ran fast under the coop
And there she hides and cowers
Cast out from both the groups

The Big Molt

The new girls are now half again the size of the leghorns and their feathers are fluffy and shine in the sun.

They are truly beautiful birds, and the old ones?

Well, they are looking…pretty bad.

Their feathers are missing, they are pecking at each other and raw red patches of skin are showing.

They’ve become more and more bedraggled over the past couple of weeks. We change their water regularly, keep them in food and clean out their coop so what the heck is going on?

I was sure they were slowly murdering each other.

Ray thought they might be molting.

I liked my explanation better, but I looked up molting anyway.

Bingo. Our leghorns are going through a rather hard molt.

Great patches of feathers are missing. Some of the hens look fuzzy with odd looking new feathers growing through stubby old ones, while others look like they’ve been plucked alive.

During molting, all of the feathers fall and new feathers grow. Feathers are more than 80% protein so growing them takes a lot of energy.

Energy that is normally used to lay eggs.

Our egg production has not gone down that much, but it has dropped from 11-12 a day to 8-9 a day.

In order to balance things out a bit, we are going to start supplementing their diet with extra protein.

They’ll get mealworms, sunflower seeds, fresh herbs and maybe leftover scrambled eggs…maybe.

Few fluffy feathers
Hastily hobbling hens
Bare, bedraggled birds

Little Brown(ish) Eggs

The new girls have started laying eggs!

At first they were tiny and cream colored with titanium shells. Seriously, they took a few good whacks to crack. Crazy enough, every one has had a tiny yolk!

After about a week, they started to get a little bit bigger and the brownish hue deepened into a nice caramel color.

And then today I collected the biggest so far. It’s barely smaller than the behemoths the old hens lay. It’s not as brown as the others have been, but it still has a cream hue.

Old hen egg (left) vs New hen egg (right)

The new girls were pretty proud of themselves and were rewarded with grapes…their favorite.

Little brown(ish) eggs
Growing so slowly in size
Soft and creamy white

Processing

It only took a few days to get ready to process the two roosters we butchered last week. By day three, I was ready.

They had soaked in a saltwater brine for the full three days. Some say to soak them longer, some say just a day. I picked three days only because we went on vacation.

For the dinner, I threw a bird in the slow cooker with apples, onions, carrots, celery, fresh garlic from the garden and a random selection of fresh herbs.

I cooked it on low for 24 hours and then switched to “keep warm” for the afternoon. The aroma that filled the house was mouthwatering.

For the bone broth, I filled a big stockpot with water and dumped a freezer bag full of onion tops, celery and carrot scraps I’d been saving for just such an occasion. I also threw in two whole bulbs of fresh garlic.

I simmered it for a full day. When I went to strain the broth, the chicken fell right off the bone. The boys and I sampled it. It does not taste like store-bought chicken and it is much darker with very, very little fat.

I added the shredded chicken to the crock pot and the veggies went to the chickens. They were happy little hens.

I cooked rice for dinner and spooned the tender chicken and veggies over it.

It was delicious. The apples added a nice sweet flavor and the carrots were perfect. The meat was not dry like it was the last time I tried cooking a fresh bird and the boys each had two helpings.

From two big roosters, we got 6 quarts of bone broth and 3 days worth of meals. I’ll freeze the little that is left over and make enchiladas next week. YUM!

Girls Night Out

Queenie was a pretty bird
A crown upon her head
Cheep-Cheep was the kooky sort
Her toes were painted red

Nita was the quiet one
Her thoughts a jumbled heap
Where were all the roosters?
They left without a peep

They all looked at each other
And wondered what to do
The boys had fled the coop
Without leaving a clue

They huddled close together
And clucked all their concerns
Would they be safe without roo’s?
When would they return?

And then they saw the farmer
An axe was in his grip
Xavier and Pecky–gone
They’d made that final trip

The girls knew they were safe
From sharing that same fate
For they’d soon lay some eggs
And fill the family’s plate

So they puffed out their feathers
And strolled around the pen
Ready for a girls night out
Without the other men

Xavier McFeatherington

Pecky Greenleg

Queenie, Cheep-Cheep and Nita

The Stockpot

Sir Hubert was the first to go
Caught by something sly
Then came little Fluffy
Her death made me cry

Then roosters started crowing
And squabbles soon began
We knew we had to do it
So I prepared the pan

The biggest two were chosen
The first to hit the pot
We calmed their nervous shaking
We told them thanks a lot

They lived in ease and comfort
Eating yummy scraps and bugs
We thanked them most sincerely
With kind words (instead of hugs)

*We butchered two roosters yesterday. We take their lives with respect and we thank them for their work on our homestead. In return, we treat them well, feed them scraps and treats and provide them with the safest home we can. Despite the humor infused in my stories and poems, we do sincerely thank our birds for providing us with eggs, meat and fertilizer.*

Crowing Contest

The roosters are crowing
A contest of sorts
They crow in the morning
They’ve made it a sport

The newer ones start it
Then Pecky joins in
They crow at each other
They cause quite a din

The ladies all flutter
The girls fluff their wings
At four silly roosters
As they crow, call and sing

They started out quiet
Uncertain and muffled
And when they got louder
Some feathers were ruffled

Now it’s a battle
Between old and new
Who can crow louder
The white or the blue?

Xavier Feathersworth: Chapter 2

This is a continuation of the story about Pecky Greenleg and Xavier Feathersworth.  Click here to read chapter 1.

This is based in fact. We really did lose one of our new roosters to an unknown assailant. 

*   *   *

“Murder! There’s been a murder!”

“Who was it?” peeped Esther.

“Who did it?” cheeped Hilda.

“Who’s next?” asked a calm and unusually confident Pecky.

The hens fell silent. Pecky had never spoken with such authority before…and the hens didn’t like it one bit.

“Well, it won’t be me,” said Mildred.

“Oh it won’t be any of us,” snapped Esther. “It happened in the other coop, not ours.”

“That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in this one,” said Pecky.

Puffing out their feathers, they all turned their backs to Pecky and continued speculating, a bit unnerved by Pecky’s question.

They should be nervous.

He and Xavier Feathersworth had come up with a plan to eliminate all the roosters in the smaller flock.

You see, Xavier was just as miserable as Pecky. Just as picked on. Just as fed up. Last night, Xavier had carried out step one in the plan.

Sir Hubert McFeatherington, the former leader of Xavier’s flock, had disappeared without a trace.

Only a pile of feathers and 7 nervous chickens remained.

As Pecky paced the run, he saw Xavier approaching.

“Well?” said Pecky.

“It’s done.”

Pecky sighed.

“How are the others in your flock taking it?” he asked.

“They saw the attack on Sir Hubert so they’re are nervous and scared,” said Xavier.

“How did it…how did you do it?” asked Pecky.

“I made a deal.”

“A deal?!”

“I couldn’t very well do it myself,” he said defensively.

“No, I suppose not,” said Pecky. “So…what attacked him?”

“An opossum.”

“That was quite a risk,” said Pecky, eying him with shock. He’d never heard of any chicken making a deal with a predator.

Pecky was a little in awe of Xavier.

Xavier was a bit worried about “the deal”.

“Wh-what was the deal?”

Xavier turned his head and picked at a few feathers before answering.

“You.”

To be continued…

 

 

Zounds!

Rain.

Rain.

More rain.

Really, that’s all that’s been happening over the past few days.

It rains, then comes in sheets, then pours buckets all over the land.

Our swales are full.

Our yard is full.

Our property is full.

Zounds!

A large mote ran around us for over a day. Ray was checking the basement almost constantly and I was pacing nervously, worried about a flood.

We had small breaks. During one, I went and pulled the smaller chickens inside. They had a tote for cover, but the ground was so full of water that it started to pool so I thought pulling them in would be kinder then leaving them to the elements.

Hopefully they agreed.

And still it rained on.

The water washed over the road.

Cars had to slowly wade through.

Our fedge was drowning.

I’m sure the kiwi are angry. The leaf edges had already started to turn black from too much water.

And still…it rained.

On.

And on.

And on.

 

Xavier Feathersworth

Sir Hubert McFeatherington is the leader of his flock.

The hens adore him and the other three roosters fear him.

Xavier Feathersworth was his faithful follower.

He’s the lieutenant and Sir Hubert is the general.

Yet, as they’ve grown together, Xavier has started to become…resentful.

Resentful because the other roosters pick on him while Sir Hubert just laughs.

And with this growing resentment, Xavier has started to become…disloyal to Sir Hubert…and his own flock.

One day, after a particularly painful pecking, Xavier quietly escaped through a gap in the run and darted over to the older flock to talk with their leader.

Pecky Greenleg.

 

Pecky and a few of his hens were out in the pen. They turned toward him when he cleared his throat.

“Hmmm,” said one of the hens. “What do we have here?”

“Looks like a little rooster,” said another hen.

Pecky eyed Xavier warily. The hens, who had no respect for Pecky gave a few sharp pecks and wandered up the ramp to eat.

Xavier’s heart fell. A henpecked rooster would not be able to help him.

“What do you want?” Pecky asked, embarrassed by the hen’s treatment of him.

“Well, I had hoped…but nevermind,” mumbled Xavier as he turned to go.

“Wait! Why did you came all this way?”

Xavier turned back and saw a desperate yet hopeful gleam in his eyes.

“I was hoping to find a new leader for my flock. A leader big and strong enough to put the other roosters to shame.”

Pecky looked at Xavier thoughtfully, then turned and looked at his raw, red back and his lack of tail feathers.

Maybe, this was his chance to start over with a new flock.

“Tell me more,” Pecky said, smiling as much as a henpecked rooster could smile.

To be continued…