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Domestic chicken keeping facts
Here are a few chickeny observations which may help you decide whether to keep chickens or help you understand the ones you already have.
We've had our chickens for a little over three months now and they have become very tame. The easiest by far to handle is the Red one and the most skittish the Black one. As I am the one to clean them out and feed them I am now the head of their flock. If they should see me through the window in the morning they start to chatter and pace in anticipation of more food and a run about. If they are out in the garden they follow me around like ducklings and if I make a clicking noise they come running and will clamber over each other to get to me. They will also perch on my arms, shoulders and head - on one occasion the Red one was perching on me and so the White one decided she would too. She flew up and landed on my chest as you will see from my photo's. I have been sat enjoying some toast when the White one has jumped up and stolen a piece from my hand, so it's best to keep them locked in the run at dinner time unless you want to lose your food!
Chickens are stupid
I know many will disagree with me.
They learn very quickly but I think there is limited space in their brains for information. For example, they learn where their food comes from and who provides their food, but they will run into the house and scratch and look for worms on the carpet even though each time they do this the carpet does not yield any worms. They cannot work out glass or curtains, I am greatly amused when they try repeatedly to walk through the glass patio door. I have seen chickens on T.V. trained to recognise symbols (meal worms were put under a breakable seal with a symbol on it, a different symbol had no worms, and by repetition and trial and error they are able to go straight to the symbols that hold the worms), but their learning capacity revolves around food. Our three are trained to a certain extent, they know that the clicking noise we make with our mouths means kitchen scraps for them and if they see food in our hands they come running (whether its for them or not). They seem to think my toes are worms as they continually peck at them when I wear flip flops, and they peck at the buttons on my jeans and my jewellery!
Huge stinky poos
remember being shocked when we got them out of their transit box on the first day. I actually don't know what I was expecting, but certainly not that amount and that size. I clean out the hen house once a week, remove the poo and bedding and dust for mites. Once a month I use a specialised poultry cleaner solution for a more thorough clean, pest protection and disinfection. On occasion it is necessary to clean the poo out more regularly and you will know this if the eggs are a little messy - wash them straight away as eggs are permeable and will become contaminated by the dirt. It is best to then hard boil them to be extra safe.
Chickens love to eat eggs
The White one and Red one have laid a couple of soft shell eggs and loose eggs (no shells). This is due to a lack of calcium and simply giving them a little extra oyster shell and grit normally solves the problem. I also keep the egg shells, roast and grind them down and add them into the food for that extra shell building boost. Chickens will eat just about anything (except raw potatoes) and when I have seen a soft or loose egg it hasn't lasted long. Luckily they haven't learnt to break into the hard shelled eggs. If they do I have read that you should blow out the egg (make two small holes in either end of the egg - a slightly larger hole at the wide end, and gently blow into the pointed end and the egg will come out leaving the shell in tact) then fill with mustard and place back in the nesting box. Then if they try to eat it they will get a nasty shock and after a few days of this they should start to leave the eggs alone.
Chickens love greens
My three will decimate a large cabbage hung to the side of their run in around half an hour. Greens are essential for good egg production and keep the chickens entertained. Various areas of our garden are now protected with chicken wire - basically if it's green they will eat it! At first they weren't interested in lettuce but after a week or so they changed their minds and we lost our crop. Beware of young and small plants - in the effort of scratching for worms they will dig up root balls and bulbs and spread soil all over the grass and pathways. All of the plants that we are precious about are now in pots or behind the protective chicken wire. Ideally we will eventually have a big enough garden so that the chickens can have their own very large area and we can still have a lovely, undamaged garden.
My noisy girls
The White one makes a racket mid morning and keeps trying to jump out of the extended run. Unfortunately we are in the city and have neighbours close by and if she doesn't calm down she will have to be re-homed. It could be to do with her breed as she is a hybrid derived from a Leghorn and they are known for being flighty and noisy. So far we haven't had any complaints but hopefully a gift of fresh eggs will help calm the situation if one should arise. Aside from a little bit of clucking the Red one and Back one are very quiet.
The Red one, the White one and the Black one
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