Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chicken empire

When I got home from my trip to Banff I discovered a few things: the leaves have started to turn, Frankie and Petunia didn't even notice I was gone, and Kim has started a chicken empire.

When the decision was made to start our adventure in chicken land, I was already busy with the perennial and vegetable gardens so Kim agreed to be the main chicken mama at Mucky Boots. And she is the best chicken mama ever. Our five pullets and five cockerels are strong and healthy and haven't suffered a moment's thirst or hunger in their 13-week lives. They live in a beautiful, clean, warm and dry coop and have the best of feed and fresh fruit and veggies. Kim even planted a rye garden for their winter pleasure, which is growing like mad.

Our original plan was to keep the hens for eggs and maybe one crowing rooster for barnyard-atmosphere and possible breeding, and send the other roosters to the slaughterhouse where they would become dinner. But all the love and attention Kim has lavished on her birds has meant she's not so sure anymore about the dinner part. At the same time, she's starting to become quite interested in the breeding part.

That raises some complications. We shouldn't breed brother and sister, for obvious reasons (although this didn't occur to us until just a while ago...) and so Kim decided we needed a Buff Orpington rooster from another bloodline. So she found another breeder nearby and swapped one of ours for one of hers. There's still the problem of what to do with the rest of the original roosters, including Red Toe, who is not enjoying favoured status these days as he's been a big bully around the new rooster and has taking to pecking us, too.

Kim also decided to add a second breed to the mix. Meet our two new Black Australorp pullets.

They look amazingly like fluffy crows. The best part is their black feet. The old girls didn't know quite what to make of them, but the new girls are quick and strong, and are carving out a space for themselves in the flock.

With all this coming and going in the chicken yard, Kim has had to create a third enclosure in the chicken coop to house the new birds at night until it's safe to let them join the flock. The new girls stayed there only one night, but the new rooster is going to be there for at least a few nights because the rooster enclosure is a bit too small for comfort, given Red Toe's nippy tendencies.

Kim has also been adding feeders and waterers, to make sure the new birds have a chance to get eat and drink if the original birds are being proprietorial - and she's been so clever about it. She made three new feeders from recycled buckets, plant pot drip trays, and even the base of a ceiling light fixture we replaced a couple of weeks ago. She's in her element: planning, building, making do. That's my girl!


Paula said...

Hi Miriam- are you feeling any better yet?

You know- it'd be swell if maybe Kim would post instructions for her little 'make-do's'....maybe a second page? Pictures of the stuff she's cleverly cobbled or deftly designed?

Marguerite (Tina) Smith Hart said...

Hi Miriam;
I so enjoyed the story of your chickens. I someday would love to own a place where I could have a little flock myself. I spent the first 5 years of my life on a small farm in Texas with a mother from Montreal who hated chickens (and farm life in general), but I always thought they were just hilarious to watch.
Yep the eating part was one of the reasons my mother hated farming. I don't think the "eating" part would be my cup of tea either...
I'm with you Kim!
Tina xo

Alison said...

Wow, I'd love to spend a weekend with Kim, making some chickeny projects!

A month or so ago, after once again spending hours looking at "chicken porn" on the web, I announced to Miss Chef that if we ever got a small flock, I would want Black Australorps. Looks like you all are building a solid little flock there. Still, I'd be ready to get rid of 5 of those roosters; two roosters is one too many!

Miriam said...

Paula - thanks for asking! I am feeling a bit better, but I think I started on the Umcka too late (three days in) for it to really do its thing. We'll definitely keep it on hand for the next cold that comes calling! Thanks again for the suggestion!

And everyone else - I promise to be on hand with my camera the next time Kim does something clever (which is practically every day)!

Toni aka irishlas said...

Well, that's quite the impressive chicken housing.
You should be proud of your chicken mama!

I think, sadly, that you are going to have to thin your roosters or things might get a bit ugly.

The black austro's are pretty birds!

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