Chickens are one of the best parts of our little suburban garden, barnyard-ish, whatever you want to call it, set up. We currently have 5, I’d like to get 5 more, this would max us out for our city regulations. We get between 2 and 4 eggs a day right now. We use to get 5 a day in the cooler months, but we lost a good layer due to the heat this summer. 118 is a little rough on any animal and she was one of the bigger hens. I’m pretty sure one of them is NOT laying, but to tell you the truth there are a couple of them that I really can’t tell apart and I’m 90% certain it is one of them.
We feed them an organic, non-soy, non-corn, non-Canola, and non-GMO feed that is trucked down here from Montana. You can get in on “the deal” here if you live in the valley. It is the best price for good feed that I have found. About the same price as the organic feed at Pet Club, but you get 25% more of it and the quality of the feed is SO much better.
These are “the ladies” as we call them.
We have a large chicken run, that is about 400 square feet. Seems plenty big for five birds. But we have an issue. Anybody notice anything about “the ladies?”
Let me give you a hint. One of these things is not like the others…
Yup, there is a PRETTY one. One hen is fully feathered and absolutely gorgeous. And she spends a good portion of her time guaranteeing that none of the other ones will be anywhere nearly as beautiful.
She picks on the other ones. A lot.
So we decided that we would “free range” them, as much as possible in a suburban back yard anyway, and It is definitely helping. They have better access to all of the bugs in our backyard, which hypothetically helps keep them out of the house, and they have more room to move around, run away from each other… even hide from each other. They eat grass, bugs, weeds, lots of random tidbits here and there, and less feed than previously. Bonus all around!
It seems to be working, all of the hens are showing more feather growth. One of them is even starting to lose her bald spot. I actually mistook her for the pretty one this morning when I let them out of the coop.
The funny thing is that the super mean one is actually really sweet to people. She doesn’t run away, in fact she runs up to you, will follow you around, and doesn’t mind being picked up. She’s really nice… unless you’re another chicken.
I also noticed that she struggled less with the heat this summer than any of the other hens. Her eggs are a little smaller than some of the others, but she is very consistent. All around a good chicken, just not so hen-friendly.
We home school our children and so my kids are home all day. They watch the chickens and even pet and play with them. They are pets in a sense. Not our only pets, we still have a lizard, a snake, and this guy.
I was a little concerned about free ranging the chickens with him around, I thought his hunting instincts would kick in and he would end up with a chicken dinner. So when we started integrating them I was a little cautious. Fortunately the chickens set the tone for the relationship by putting our little Buddy in his place. Look at the chicken picture again. See the scrawniest, littlest, most picked on hen? Yeah, she chased Buddy across the yard pecking on his backside.
Finally somebody that SHE could pick on. Oh yes, it’s official, the dog is the lowest chicken in the pecking order.
Kind of pathetic, but it’s probably better that way.