Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What the City Chicks have taught us

It’s hard to believe but we are nearing the one year mark of being the people to some City Chicks.  When we got chickens we knew zilch, nada, nothing about them except what we had read in books.  (And maybe a little hands-on time knowledge for me if you count gathering my grandma’s neighbor’s eggs when visiting my grandma and those summers in the commercial chicken houses…I’ll spare you the details of my job there!)   It has been an interesting and educational year as we’ve discovered some great and not-so-great things about chickens.  

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Chickens can be noisy!  In our reading we thought we only had to worry about roosters making noise.  Nope.  The hens do this little bach-bach-bach-BAAAACH song for about a minute after laying an egg.  (Except for Scratchy pictured above.  You just hear her egg hit the floor of the nesting box.)  They will also let you know if their water is frozen, if a crow has some how wandered into their run & is flying around, or if they want a snack.   Our neighbors have told us (with out us asking) that they honestly don’t hear them very often.  I really don’t hear them much either but it’s funny when you hear a chicken singing bach-bach songs in the city!

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Speaking of snacks…our chickens love me!  When they hear me coming, they come running.  They will jump at whatever is in my hands.  Why?  Because I am the snack lady. 

Ok. So maybe they really love the snacks but it makes me feel good that they are so happy to see me.

And chickens will eat almost anything.  Any kind of veggie or fruit (except citrus and onion).  Leftover pancakes.  The ends of the bread that no one wants to eat.  Even spaghetti noodles and cooked rice.  They even like…scrambled eggs!

My kids think that is weird but I see the protein going into our new eggs and the lack of leftover food being wasted in our home. 

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I don’t want to say this one but…chickens can be mean.

I know it’s what they are supposed to do with the pecking order and all that.  But it breaks my heart to see my sweet Pecky Sue missing feathers because ol’ Bitey maintains her place at the top of the pecking order. 

I just wish they could all get along and play nice!

But nature is nature.  We just try to minimize the pecking and feather pulling by having things for the chickens to do. 

Some of the City Chicks favorite activities besides free-ranging are: (And I think this would not be as big of a problem if they could free range more but we live in the city so we are limited.) 

digging through leaves from the leaf compost pile (and breaking down the compost for us)

searching for chicken scratch and black oil sunflower seeds under those leaves

digging through the piles of weeds from the garden and flower beds

taking dirt baths

eating heads of cabbage (keeps them busy for a while)

One thing we are going to do to hopefully cut down on this pecking problem is to extend our chicken run to have more room.

(By the way, our chicks have been handled by us since they were babies.  They are not mean to us at all.  This is just the whole pecking order thing that you read about.)

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The City Chicks are funny!  They are so peculiar in their ways sometimes.

For instance, they only like one side of the nesting box as opposed to the other.  In the picture above, one chicken is sitting in the nesting box, one is waiting in the coop for her turn, and one is waiting on the walkway for her turn!  There was plenty of space for another chicken to lay but no – it had to be right there in that spot!

One day, just to see what they would do, I moved an egg from one nesting box to the other.  The silly chickens pushed it out of the side that I had moved it into!

They really are partial to one side of the nesting box!

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The City Chicks are also full of personality!

They really do have personalities.  One chicken is kind of bossy (even to us).  One chicken is shy and quiet but very sweet.  One chicken is the boss of the other chickens (she’s kind of like a rooster hen).  And one chicken is called our lap chicken because she likes to be held.  Many times, she’d rather be held than walk around.   

Our “lap chicken” loves to fly up and sit on David’s shoulder in the mornings.  This morning, I was in charge of morning chicken duties.  Tundra, the said lap chicken, was eyeing me to fly up to sit on my shoulder.  And I didn’t realize it until she landed…on my head!  Good thing I had not washed my hair yet! 

This year has taught us a lot about chickens.  Not all of it has been good.  Would I still get chickens knowing what I’ve learned this year?  You betcha!  Despite any negatives, the chickens have turned out to be fun and loving animals that give back in a tangible way. 


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