The chickens are eleven weeks old now. Pretty much twenty-somethings in chicken age. They are establishing themselves well in the coop and run and making all the necessary changes needed to become “hens”.
My habit is to go out in the mornings and open the coop door so they can all fly out and spread their wings. Much like humans do when leaving their beds, chickens stretch their legs and spread their wings and make all the noises you’d expect a stretching, spreading chicken to make. Unlike most humans, they also make a lap or two around the chicken run each morning. I have no idea what that’s about, unless it is just the joy of having so much space after being crowded onto a roost all night with fifteen of your closest chicken friends.
Once they are out and about, I lower the feeder, which then signals breakfast and the rush back through the door to eat. I usually leave them at that and make my exit before someone realizes I still have a healing mosquito bite on my leg they might need to peck.
It is still hot here in North Texas and I feel bad for anyone or anything that doesn’t have air conditioning to escape to when the temps top out in the high 90s. That includes the chickens, although I’m sure they would much rather be outside than in, no matter the temperatures. I usually take them a treat at midday to make up for not installing a/c in their coop. The treats vary, depending on what I have to hand and how hot it is outside.
From the start, I’ve used a dish I made from a bowl and a flower vase, originally put into service as a water dish for bees and butterflies in the garden at our old house. The inverted flower vase fits over a piece of PVC hammered into the ground. The PVC keeps the dish upright and balanced and at about the right height, it turns out, for chickens to feed.
Last week, they got frozen watermelon.
When I went out to fetch the dish, no morsel of watermelon was found. They ate melon, seeds, and rind!
I noticed, since changing their food from chick feed to finishing feed, that a couple of my girls have started eating feathers. A quick check on the chicken forums let me know this is a sign of protein deficiency, so I started putting yogurt in their dish and they devour it.
It’s been kind of fun to see what they will and won’t eat.
I’ve been watering down the ground in the run since hot weather set in. It helps the girls stay cool while softening the packed sand. Once I have a nice soft spot, I set to work with the hoe and rake to break up the crust of hard dirt and get the nice earthy stuff to the surface. Then the chickens take over, pecking and scratching and churning the dirt into a nice fluffy area. In the process, they unearth worms and bugs and roots, which keeps them happy and helps them learn to forage.
The downside to having them in the run and not free-ranged is that they have decimated every available green sprout and shoot. I’d rather they have some sort of greens and not be fed just the bagged chicken feed, so I’m looking for solutions to that as well. Yesterday, Mike, aka Coop Daddy, helped me rig up a cabbage tether ball for the girls to play with.
I didn’t take a photo of the whole cabbage. But this is what it looked like hanging from the run ceiling after the chickens had polished it off! I guess they like cabbage well enough.
Coop Daddy finished building nesting boxes for the girls this weekend. Yesterday I took everything out of the coop and cleaned and disinfected it. While the ladder was outside, the girls pretended to be Bald Eagles.
Once the coop was clean and dry again, we moved the nesting boxes inside and set them up on concrete blocks. I won’t fill them just yet, since the girls aren’t quite ready. I was curious to see what they would make of them, but at bedtime they filed up the freshly cleaned ladder to their freshly cleaned roosts and totally ignored the additional furniture.
In another few weeks they will be ready to change foods again and start ingesting oyster shells in preparation for egg production. I am excited for this phase of the journey, since fresh eggs was the reason to get chickens in the first place.
Although, I have to admit I will keep them for entertainment value regardless of the eggs.