It’s chicken-mania at Appalachian Feet lately. We started with 27 chickens in early May with the goal of keeping 6 for our personal backyard flock. Yesterday, we said goodbye to 21 of them (they are destined for good, free-range farm homes with people we know).
We’re glad to know these laying hens will be treated well, but that doesn’t make us miss them any less. Considering I’ve been herding nearly 30 chickens out of the kitchen every morning and back into it at night (yes, that does smell as bad as you think it does) you’d think I’d just feel relieved.
Okay, I am relieved. I will not miss escapees pooping on the floor or the incredible racket when they wake up in the morning and think I haven’t let them outside as early as I ought. Talk about mayhem!
I will however, miss our morning routine. When I took the bird netting off the top of the pen they would promptly hop out and march through the back door like a group of kids exiting the school bus. Also charming (before we realized a bird netting lid was a necessity) was opening the fridge and having a chicken fly clear across the kitchen so that it could perch on our arm. (Yeah, we kept that chicken).
I won’t miss how quickly they discovered the joys of decimating the garden. In only 2 days they managed to make my thriving herb and edible flower beds look like they had mange. More incentive to finish all our fencing…
They fanned out into the vegetable garden yesterday and had a blast digging up the raised beds and putting beak-shaped dents in the foliage. They’re like tiny plant piranhas.
I can’t be mad. Just look at that face! She thinks I planted the garden just for her. It’s my fault we’ve taken weeks longer than we anticipated getting our coop and fencing ready (isn’t that how it always works)?
Here she is again. We kept 2 of the 3 “lavender” colored chickens (who were equally as friendly). I guess this one was more of an underdog because of her comical charcoal face. Also, in her first couple weeks of life she confused human hand veins with potential worms and quickly earned the nickname of “mean chicken.” She grew out of the hand-pecking habit and proved herself to be extremely sociable.
But really, all of our chickens are so well socialized that our bar of how sweet they are depends on how often they jump in our lap. Here they are following my daughter around the yard. (To her right is the rock-walled herb beds that they enjoyed eating for lunch).
The Cuckoo Marans gained the reputation of being the least friendly because they squawked loudly whenever they were picked up. There were a couple, like the small one pictured above (and the one we kept) that didn’t mind being held. It’s not as big a deal to me as it is to my daughter, although I admit it’s much easier to catch a chicken that doesn’t dread being grabbed.
Our pullets seemed a little careless about checking for predators (though they’ll be safe from the common cold since they scatter for cover every time someone sneezes). I’m not sure if that’s a product of how tame they are, but we tried to discourage hawks by making our yard look like a redneck paradise. I guess I need to take photos and submit it to The Yard Art Game. Most likely a very hungry hawk is going to attempt a nosedive no matter what debris is in the way — but I hoped they’d prefer the squirrels in the open field next door.
The Golden Polish freebie that I wrote about in a previous post alleviated my fears that our chickens would eat the bees. I watched as it walked up to the hive and taste tested a couple… and then cartoonishly ran around the yard trying to rid itself of irritated guards. After that, the hive gained some respect and a wide berth.
No worries, it soon learned that earwigs and roly polies were much easier pickings from the compost pile. I use the word “pile” loosely after the chickens foraged in it yesterday. We’re going to have to pitchfork it all back into place.
Speaking of the favorite foods of chickens… can someone tell me why I can give them an all-you-can-eat buffet of grain in their chicken feeder, but if it happens to be in the palm of my hand it is a delicacy worth fighting over?
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We sprinkled oatmeal on the ground when it was time to gather them up into pet carriers and sent them on their way to Pecandale Farmstead. I hear that their backseat transport involved some extra special aromas since rolling down the window required getting soaked with rain. However, they happily settled in to their new home.
Our permanent flock of 6 chickens have been lazy all day. It could be the heat, but maybe they are missing their friends as much as we are.