Chicken observations

I was out watching the chickens the week before last while taking a break from the garden. I watch the chickens a lot, but I am usually mulit-tasking This day, though, I was only laying on a blanket watching the chickens. This is really fun and relaxing and I should do it more often. Anyway, I noticed a few things. We definitely have two roosters (cockerel, really since that is what they are called until they are a year old), and one of them does not stay all that close to the pullets. I’ve noticed this more since then and am thinking this rooster is not a keeper. On this day that I was watching him, he also got freaked out by something and then suddenly attacked one of the hens by biting her near her ear. Not nice, Mr. Rooster! 

I also noticed that the hens really look different, but that you have to look closely to see the differences. I was laying there, watching them and writing down notes so that I could tell them apart. I noticed that one has a ring of black tail feathers. You can’t really see the black feathers from the top or the front, but if she is walking around, scratching at the ground, you can see the ring of feathers. Another hen has some black near her hackles. It’s hard to see from far away, but up close is easy to see. This hen is also a little darker than the others. One of the hens is a bit lighter and I think is the chick that was always a bit smaller and lighter in color. So anyway, now that I can sort of tell them apart it is time to give them names. We were planning on using the names of my grandpa’s sisters. I made sure this was OK with him since he reads my blog. He said it was fine and it actually worked out that we have 4 hens. He had five sisters, and four have already passed away, Aunt Hazel being the most recent. So I figured we would name the four hens after the four who have passed away: Lula Mae, Rosalie, Georgie, and Hazel. As soon as we figure out which is which, I will take pictures and post them with their names. 

While I was watching them that day, a hawk flew over head. I did not see it at first, but I did notice something was wrong as they were all peering at the sky with one eye and making a sound I have never heard them make before. I cannot describe the sound, but it must be the “hawk” sound that I’ve read about. I looked up in the sky and finally did see the hawk, but it was long after they saw it. They happened to be outside the movable coop (for some reason it seemed that they could not find their way in) in a huddle anyway. So they were not easy to spot and the hawk moved on.

In other news, the chickens are free ranging for large parts of the day. It just depends on what is going on. I don’t like to leave them unsupervised, so Sunday and Monday they didn’t get out much. Then on Tuesday I let them out and I ended up getting bonked on the head by something and wanted to go inside. So I left them out and they ranged all around the house and the garden areas. They seemed very happy about this situation. I wanted a breed that would do well free-ranging or in confinement and New Hampshires are supposed to do well in either condition. The thing that I didn’t read is that once you let them range, they will not be happy being confined. They are not happy being in the movable coop for long. Even if it were bigger, I just don’t think they would want to be in there for very long. They love ranging. The benefits of free ranging chickens are numerous. They are obviously happier, therefore they will be healthier. When they start laying eggs, their eggs will be healthier as well. They are eating lots of bugs and weeds, which in turn means they are eating less feed. This is exactly what I wanted to happen.

I do worry about hawks still, but now that it is spring I can easily see how much shade and cover the chickens have to hide from hawks. The bigger concern is the outdoor cats, but so far the chickens seem quite unconcerned about Swirly or Little Gray. The chickens did have to set their boundaries with the cats, but they did that and now don’t pay much attention to those two cats at all. Mama Cat seems fine as long as I keep her tummy full. I’m sure she will disappear again once her kittens are older, but hopefully not before we can get her fixed!.

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6 Responses to “Chicken observations”

  1. Janelle Says:

    I completely understand the hawk concern. One day when my hubby and I were outside, we had FIVE circling overhead! We couldn’t believe it! I had to pry the shotgun from my husband since they are considered endangered and I didn’t want to be visiting him in jail.

    So far, we’ve had no incidence and I think it’s because of all the shrubs and trees we have. We have one cedar tree with branches all the way to the ground about 25 feet around very close to the coop and they love that spot. I am also going to plant a few shrubs in pots and move them around with the coop.

    • hippygirl Says:

      I have read somewhere that hanging shiny things up will help keep the hawks away, as well as attracting crows (though I’m not sure I want those around the garden!). Anything that will interfere with their vision will help keep them away, I guess. I will have to look all that up again and see what I can find out. Having shrubs and trees around is really good, though, because the chickens just know to go hide. I think we’ll build a permanent coop and put it near shade trees. I still have to figure out the housing issue.

      Did you hear your chickens make the hawk sound?

  2. beingmaisie Says:

    i too have a pair of almost identical twin hens, both reddy brown in colour. I have been unable to name them so i bought some id rings and put one of one of their legs to tell them apart. Silly thing is i still cant come up with names for them yet.
    I know what you mean about just watching them though, they are interesting. The first time they went in their open air run a pigeon flew over and they all ducked, its was so funny.

    • hippygirl Says:

      They are fun! It brings a smile to my face to see them do a full out run, too. 🙂 I love coming up with names since there are so many sources: movies, music, books, etc. I was thinking of naming some of the Orpington hens after Leia and Padme from Star Wars. I thought the kids would get a kick out of that. 🙂 Maybe there is a book or movie with twins that could be your inspiration? Please let me know what you pick out! I love hearing names for animals and the reasons.

  3. beingmaisie Says:

    At the suggestion of my cousin i have called them Holly & Ivy as i love Christmas so much.

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