Category Archives: The Chicken Wars

Bloggy McBlogs-alot

Blog post number 603.

In just under 3 years, I’ve written 603 posts on gardening, homesteading, cooking, chickens, bug hunters, mice, writing, homeschooling and a pinch of everything in life.

I’m still learning.

Learning how to write a blog post that will appeal to multiple audiences.

Learning how to take the criticism–both constructive (which really helps me get better) and destructive (which really doesn’t help me. At all.).

Learning how to grow as a writer…as a homesteader…as a human.

I’m having fun.

I’m feeling a sense of accomplishment…a sense of pride at my stick-to-it attitude.

I’m writing!

I had traveled so far away from my original dream. The dream I’ve had since I was a kid. The dream to write.

But, my journey through life has given me fodder for the stories I share.

I’ve wandered back to writing.

I’ve walked back to my dream.

I’m telling my story one post at a time.


Poultry Poetry

When I went out today
To check for chicken eggs
I found a angry bunch
All standing on two legs

The leader was disgruntled
The others very mad
I wondered at the anger
For I’d done nothing bad

And then I saw the problem
The thing that sparked their ire
The hose that brought the water
Was dangling from the spire

I smiled and thought how silly
I laughed a little too
But then I saw their faces
Such rage was in a few

I coughed and said “I’m sorry”
I shuffled both my feet
This made them very angry
So I gave them a treat

I tried to reconnect it
But that hose just wouldn’t work
So I brought them an old dish
And got a livid smirk

And while I stood and watched them
One slowly came my way
I thought it came to thank me
How wrong I was this day

The little blond came to me
Then came a red so sweet
And then, before I knew it
They pecked my hands and feet!



It was around 10 o’clock on a bright and warm Sunday morning.

The sky was cloudless with no rain on the horizon.

The beginning of a perfect day.

But, on the way out to check for eggs, we could tell something was amiss.

There were a few chickens out, running around the pasture. An odd sight since we knew that they had all been in the playpen the night before.


A feeling of dread seemed to fill the air around the coop.

A few chickens clucked guiltily and turned away in shame as we approached.

An unconcerned, perhaps uncaring four strutted around the pen…seeming to congratulate each other on…something, but what?

The rest warily huddled together in one corner of the pen.

We started the count…only 13. We opened the coop only to find an empty roost and bare laying boxes.

We counted again.

Still 13.

Then we saw it.

A pile of feathers. A former chicken.

With foreboding, we searched for the other errant bird.

There it was, under the coop. A solitary egg rested nearby.

The last egg it would ever lay.

Feeling eyes upon us, we looked back at the bold ones. There they stood, brazenly looking at us as if daring us to question them about the cause of the two deaths.


It was at that moment that we noticed. The casualties were two of the Nine Blondes. The four birds who so fearlessly stared at us were not just the Old Ones. No, two were the new girls.

Had they joined forces and sacrificed two of their compatriots to form a new alliance? To prove that their loyalties now belonged to the Old Ones?

One look at the huddled group of birds gave us the answer.

The only remaining question? Would peace now reign?


Turf Wars

The Truce, apparently, has ended.

Gone are the days of peaceful co-existence among the old and new hens. Fights are breaking out in the pen, in the yard and in the coop.

Squawking hens can be heard all day, disturbing the peace and scaring the frogs into silence.

The cats don’t even go near the coop anymore. It’s that bad.

Of course, they don’t do much fighting in front of us. When we go out to feed them some scraps or collect eggs, they act like nothing is wrong.

But I can see the missing feathers.

The red raw backs from pecking beaks.

The terror.


I thought they had come to a peaceful coexistence. There were no outward signs of discontent. In fact, they seemed to be working together to tear down the vegetation when we moved them and to seek out the bugs and grubs.

So what happened?


After researching on a few of my favorite chicken blogs, I have come to the conclusion that it is one of two reasons: turf wars or boredom.

Now that all hens are full-grown, there may not be enough room for the Nine Blondes, the Scabby Gal Duo, the Ruffled Feather Trio and the Bully in the coop.

The rule of thumb is 4 sq. ft. per bird, including coop and run but excluding laying boxes and food area. We built a coop that comes out to 52 sq. ft. After considering the space needed for the laying boxes and food, we need roughly 64 sq. ft.

It may not seem like such a shortage, but that means that three birds are fighting for space. And, if three birds are starting fights, 12 birds are defending their turf.

It’s enough to start a war.


I’m pretty sure this is why new battles have broken out. We’ve put measures in place to build another 8×8 pen that we will somehow attach to the current system–a new peace treaty in the works.

But, in the meantime, I’m blu-koting the girls with open sores and providing some extra stimulus: a honey-coated paper towel roll dipped in their feed, a bell and a ping-pong ball.


All three ‘toys’ are in the playpen, enticing the girls to play.


So far…complete fail.


The war has resumed
The carnage returns full force
Time to build the pen


Our chickens, who were laying on average 10 eggs a day, have suddenly halted production and reduced their output to a measly 3 eggs a day.


The first day we got 3 eggs, we thought that maybe the hens were just having a bad day and they’d be back at it again after a good night’s rest.

On the next day we collected 2 eggs.

The day after that 1.


We opened the coop to see if they’d been stashed in a corner. Nothing.

We looked for signs of discontent.

They had enough food, their water was clean, we’d moved them on to fresh grass and their bedding was dry.

They all seemed to be getting along…finally.


We were treating their scabby, red and sore looking backs using Blu-Kote to kill fungus and provide a barrier against further attacks. And, while they didn’t appreciate our method of application, they did seem to find some relief from the bright blue coating.


So what is the problem?

Did we give them too much watermelon? They had two entire watermelons over a three day period…maybe it was too much of a treat all at once.

Are they getting enough calcium? We switched them to organic feed over a month ago. They seem to like it, but maybe they need additional nutrients.

Are the new layers just a little temperamental while the older hens are moulting? This seems like a possibility, but it seems odd for all six old gals would start moulting at once.

Are they on strike?

We are at a loss as to what is hindering their egg laying.

Any ideas or suggestions would be MUCH appreciated.

Sincerely hoping for an answer to this mystery,

Eggless in Illinois


The hens are on strike
Egg production has gone down
What is the problem?

A Truce

Chickens love watermelon rind.

They eat it down to the outer green shell.

I’ve seen fights break out over one small chunk with barely a trace of fruit left on it.

They love it.

So when I tossed pieces of rind from an entire melon into the playpen…the Old Ladies went a little nuts.

I stood back and waited to see if the New Gals would join in the fray.

They peaked out the coop door and ever so slowly, started down the ramp.


One made it all the way into the pen and then hightailed it to the back corner, hoping to go undetected. The Old Ladies were so busy gorging on their treat that they didn’t even notice.

That is, until she got brave enough to venture a peck at the rind.

By the time they were finished punishing her for daring to dine with them, she was cowering on the ramp–both from embarrassment and fear.


Thinking they had successfully beaten the usurpers, the Old Ladies went back to their feast.

Then, something miraculous happened.

The one I’ve named Elinor stepped out of the coop.

She looked at me as if to reassure me that all would be well.


Cautiously, she creaped down the ramp.


I held my breath, waiting for the inevitable to happen.

When she made it all the way down, she stood with her head held high and her beady eyes fierce.

At first, only one of the Old Ladies noticed her standing there. She squawked at the others, alerting them to the usurper’s presence.

All six birds raised their heads and stared at her with disdain. Who was this young upstart who dared challenge them?


But Elinor, brave and courageous Elinor, stood her ground.

After what seemed like an eternity, the staredown abruptly ended and the Old Ladies continued devouring the rind. Elinor took a few cautious steps and managed to get a piece for herself.

Being a generous gal, Elinor pulled the small morsel back into the coop to share with her sisters.

As I walked back to the house, I felt the blossom of a small kernel of hope. True, there was still a long way to go for all 15 birds to get along, but the Old Ladies were on their way the from hostility to indifference.

A truce, it seems, has developed.


Revving Up

The weather is getting warmer and the planting frenzy is about to begin.

I took the van over to the greenhouse to pull the rest over for planting and sharing.


When I walked in, I was greeted by a wall of 100* heat and a sad sight in the lettuce bin. The once fluffy and gorgeous lettuce had wilted and sagged.

It’s doubtful that it will perk up again with the high temperatures in the greenhouse. The shade cloth will be going up next week, but it’s too late for round one.

Gone before we could taste it.

Round 2 has a chance though.


I pulled everything else out in fear that the tomatoes would succomb to the heat wave in the greenhouse. All plants are now hanging out in the kitchen garden, waiting to be planted or to go to their new homes.

After mourning the loss of so much promising lettuce, the boys and I did some planting. We planted corn and sunflowers out back.

Joe and Jake had each started a sunflower inside. They were getting tall and leggy, so we transplanted them outside, as well as threw down a few more seeds to keep them company.

They each picked a spot. Jake started to dig his own hole but quickly got bored so Joe took over. I labeled each plant…the both really liked that.

Joe is excited to watch it grow. I’m excited that he’s such an eager little gardener.

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After we finished there, we stopped by the asparagus patch. We have three spears that shot up this year. We planted nine. I’m told that more will come up.

It’s really hard not to cut this one and saute it in some olive oil and garlic, but we need to let it go to seed so we can have even more next year.


Walking by the kitchen garden, we checked on our cabbage and the blanket of dill that is spreading. We didn’t plant dill this year. All of this is coming up from last year and is perfectly placed to help the cabbage and cucumbers fight off pests.


The strawberry patch is flowering and we even have a few green berries forming. The boys are concerned that they won’t get any so we are keeping it a secret from the birds.


I also reminded them that we have Boots and Echo to stand guard.


I’m not sure how I missed the grape leaves. All three we planted in 2013 are growing. This year, we might actually have grapes!


We were all hot, so we went inside to get a glass of water and to make our custom swale seed mix.

Along with crushed egg shells we have cabbage, dill, chives, radish, chard, marigold, salvia, lettuce, sunflower, nasturtium, amaranth, spinach and cilantro. I need to crumble up some dirt to mix in and then it will be ready to throw in the swales.


The weather is warm
The plants are ready to go
The frenzy starts now


Mabel, The Bully had successfully cornered the Ruffled Feather Trio and the Scabby Gal duo.

They cowered in fear and thirst at the back corner of the playpen while Mabel paced back and forth, guarding the water.

The Nine Blondes were jumbled together on the ramp. Each time a brave bird tried to cautiously step out into the pen, Mabel darted toward it with her sharp beak.

Feathers would fly as the Blondes scrambled to get back into the coop.

As Mabel continued her pacing, one hen from the Trio met the beady eye of the leader of the Blondes in silent communication.

She nodded her head slightly, as if agreeing to a secret plan.

It was time.


After a series of clucks, 5 hens spread out across the back of the playpen, ready to charge Mabel.

Quietly squawking, the Blondes lined up on the ramp, ready to dart out with speed and precision.

All beaks were ready and sharp. All hens nervous and all pullets determined.

In unison, all 14 birds charged Mabel.

It was a brutal battle. Feathers flew everywhere. The cluck of hens could be heard for miles.

When it was over, 9 weary Blondes huddled in a laying box trying to still their fast beating hearts.

Five terrified hens crouched at the back corner of the pen, looking even more bedraggled and raw than before the skirmish.

And Mabel, looking just as pristine as before the battle, clucked with satisfaction and continued to pace.


The Bully

Most of the hens have feathers missing on their backs.

At first we thought the signs were consistent with moulting.

Then we saw the puncture wounds and scabs…and we knew.

Something was wrong.

Two old gals have horrid scabs on their backs, red and angry looking.


Three unlucky ladies look disheveled most of the time…feathers missing and fear in their eyes.


Only one is pristine.

Her feathers are red and glossy…not one out of place.

She’s the big one.

The one who pecks at hands.

The one who struts around looking down her beak at the other frightened hens.

The Bully.


There’s a pecking order, and she’s at the top.

My guess is the Ruffled Feather Trio are somewhere in the middle and the Scabby Gal Duo are on the bottom, subject to all manner of harsh hazing.

Enter the Nine Blondes. I’m curious to see what will happen when the new girls find their courage. When they stop huddling together in terror.


Will the Scabby Gal Duo enlist their help?

Will the two groups join forces with the Ruffled Feather Trio to take The Bully down?

Will they succeed in upsetting the pecking order?

Will they come out on top?

Only time will tell…

Big bully just wait
By sharp axe or by spiked beak
Your days are numbered