Friday, February 27, 2009


I think anyone with chickens likes the feeling we get from going to the coop and gathering a batch of fresh eggs. I believe for people who want to sell a few eggs on the side, presentation is everything in keeping customers. For someone that does not keep chickens, nothing will turn them off more than opening a carton and seeing feathers and manure stuck to their eggs. For example, when younger I used to try and buy the leghorns or other white egg laying chickens. I always considered the brown eggs as dirty or less desirable than the white, I was often surprised at people asking for the brown eggs. The reason for my dislike of brown eggs came from something that happened as a kid. A couple near us used to sell eggs, when we would open the carton the all brown eggs would always be covered in chicken manure, feathers and there would also be ants crawling on the eggs sometimes. I remember my mother throwing out a dozen and saying that was the last time we would get eggs there. Only now do I see the brown eggs as being the natural original egg.
Most of us will agree, if your eggs are dirty there is a problem. Keep the nests clean with fresh straw or shavings. If the hens are sleeping on or in the nests, then there is something wrong with the perches, either you don't have enough space for all your birds or they are not comfortable. Figure out what your problem is but the hens must not sleep in the nests as they will poop all night in the nest. I often read not to wash the eggs however I always do. Even though they are pretty clean, I still run them under cool tap water and just rub off any dirt. Don't use soap, don't use hot water, don't soak them and don't put them under any high pressure as you don't want anything to enter inside through the shell pores.
Now I like the brown eggs, the white eggs make me think of factory farms, void of nutrition and colour. However leghorns are great hens no mistake about that. I remember once a woman who was selling eggs that were dirty laughed and said the people will have to realize this is nature and they need to toughen up. We have to remember people are going to put the eggs in their fridge, would we want chicken manure in with our food. Last summer at my parents I was even surprised at a store bought dozen having dirt and feathers, and as a lesson to learn from, my Mom said to my Dad "I must remember not to buy that brand again." I also pick out any eggs that look a bit odd, I figure better to just keep it for myself.

This egg I kept for myself, it had a spiral on the end and a smiley face!

I also keep all Gracie's eggs, people told me they would not mind getting them but I feel they are too small and I don't want anyone to feel cheated, I would only give some away as an oddity.
Gracie's tiny eggs with regular eggs.

I am so relieved that Gracie is laying, I just hope when things turn warmer, she will think about hatching. March is here finally and I think in another four to five weeks it should be nice enough for the girls to go out!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chickens do fly, sort of.

It is interesting that a lot of people think chickens can't fly at all. When I put up the perches so many people asked why so high, they thought that at about waist height would be enough. With some larger breeds I guess it would be better to place them lower or have the ladder type but the lighter breeds like to get high off the ground when they can. When I was a teen, one of our neighbors used to let his chickens run free in the summer and they roosted in large pine trees at night next to his house. The branches were well above my head so they managed to get up there somehow. With the red girls they came from living in a tiny house, so at first they slept on the lower perch but I knew in a few days their instincts would tell them to go higher. With the black girls they came from a barn with very high perches and so they kept trying to perch on top of the door frame. It took a while for them to accept perching lower. With certain bantams they can fly quite high, getting over a two meter (six foot) fence. The lighter the bird the better they fly, usually. Gracie is small but does not fly well, I was told that cochins do not fly well, yet even she who lived in a cage, started to come out and learned to fly up and perch. Her instincts would tell her that she was safer higher up and she wanted to be with the other hens. I also find it a bit of a "use it or lose it" with hens, if you give them the chance to fly they get better at it, don't worry they will never be able to one day 'up and fly south' or something like that.

The problem with Chico is that silkies don't have proper feathers on their wings and so are not able to fly. I did not know that until the lady told me when I got him. Chico and his family did have perches but they were only about 10 centimeters (4 inches) off the floor. When I brought him home I made a lower perch for him to sleep on, however he would not use it. He would be so upset because he could not get up with the other girls, that he would walk around until dark and then make these sad little noises in the corner on the floor. At that time Chico was very cuddly and I felt really bad for him, I used to lift him onto the lower perch to sleep because I knew he could hop down. Chico began to use his wings and could get up on places that surprised me. I asked Dan to build a ramp and he came up with the idea of a shelf and ramp for Chico to get up on.

Chico's ramp.

As the day wears down, Chico gets up onto the shelf and then climbs the ramp to the top perch and encourages his flock to come to bed like every other rooster. This way he is much more contented that he can sleep with the rest of the girls. The shelf is also handy as I keep a wooden box of oyster shells for the hens, this way when thy want some they just fly up and eat. I found this way it stays clean because they can't scratch straw or shavings into the box.

Chico, keeping an eye on Gracie.

Also to keep the coop cleaner, since chickens do a lot of their pooping when resting at night, I tried putting a barrier just below the perches. Since I have the room, it actually works quite well. The hens almost never cross the barrier and this way the rest of the coop stays cleaner since they are not tossing the litter from under the perches back into the coop. All that work for Chico and he turns around to become an attack chicken, lucky for him he is so little and cute!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Colour me puzzled!

All my laying hens are brown egg layers, I like the look of the brown eggs and I find it gives a lot of people that feeling of them being fresh off the farm. Well in my case not a farm but you understand what I am saying. Except for little Gracie my bantam who lays a tiny off-white egg, the others are mostly the same colour.

An example of the eggs mostly looking the same.

The girls are hybrid black sex-links and red sex-links from a hatchery, also know as black stars, red stars, Isa browns, etc. They are suppose to lay brown eggs, its in their genes and usually a hen will lay the same coloured egg all her life, however what surprises me is this.

All eggs from the exact same hens as above.

Some days I get an almost white egg, an almost pink egg and sometimes a half dark brown, half light brown egg! There are no other hens around, just the same black and red sex links as those who gave me the dark brown eggs in the first photo. When I was a teen this never happened. Every one stuck to the colours they started with for life. Over time I had every colour, brown, white, green, blue, and an almost pink, however I never had extra colours show up so I find this interesting. I assume it has something to do with the feed but I'm not sure. Like I said before, they are good stock that came from a hatchery that sells only a few types of laying breeds so there is no mix of fancy chickens with coloured eggs in their breeding. The eggs are really hard there is no problem with thin shells etc, so I'm not worried, just puzzled. Some days I feel like I am on an Easter egg hunt and I am never sure what I will find.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fried chicken, almost!

Two weeks ago something happened with Chico that could possible have turned out devastating for the entire flock. With the extreme dips in temperature we often get from the end of December until the end of March, I have to keep a heat lamp on the water most days. From early morning until noon and then again from evening until night the heat lamp keeps the water from freezing.

One day I walked in and noticed something funny about Chico, he seemed to be missing his punk-rocker tufts on the top of his head. When I caught him to examine further, I saw that he was singed on the top of his head. Chico is not tall enough to get so close as to burn himself, so the only thing I can think of is that he must have been standing under the lamp and started to crow. By crowing he would stretch himself up as far as he could and must have bumped his head on the lamp or came close enough to singe his feathers. The feathers of a Silkie are very fine and I assume that is why they burned under the heat, I can't help think what if they did not melt from the heat, but instead caught on fire. With straw and shavings on the floor and everything else made from wood, I hate to think of what could have happened and the way they would have suffered.

You can almost see a little touch of the blackened feathers on top.

The heat lamp was a larger one than the in the picture above, I raised it a little higher but the hens took it out a few days later. A few hens have this bad habit of flying off the perch right into the heat lamp, as I went to enter the coop, one of the little bombers jumped off the perch and took a nose dive into the heat lamp, banging the bulb on the metal water container and breaking the coil inside the bulb. The new heat lamp is not as hot but still does the job. Actually I have not used the heat lamp for the last week, if the temperature does not dip 15 degrees below freezing, the coop stays warm enough to keep the water from turning to ice.

The girls are doing pretty good now and not wasting a lot of feed on me. I suspected the black hens were the ones pulling the feed out and from watching them I was right. I don't like when people debeak chickens but I can understand why, the blacks with their full beaks are the ones who will cause any trouble, the reds almost never fight or waste feed. Even little Gracie with her full beak, will toss out grains that she does not want. I placed mostly straw around the feeder as this encourages them to scratch for dropped or tossed grains. The rest of the house I used shavings. I worry that the black hens may be picking out the best feed and leaving the rest for the reds as the food comes out slower, for the last few days the egg numbers have gone down to three a day so I suspect something is wrong. I imagine in six weeks I will be able to let the girls out and that should solve the boredom problems, as for now there is still a thick sheet of ice and snow covering their yard.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gracie part deux!

Part deux is 'part two' for those not into speaking french, don't worry, I can't really speak french either. Gracie mostly spends her day in her protective pen, the reason is simple, hens are not like herd animals. If you buy a new cow, sheep, horse etc, they will find their place in the herd and maybe get roughed up a bit in the process. Hens on the other hand will sometimes kill new hens that are added to the flock. Usually you will be okay with adding a new group if they are the same size and have room to get away from a beating. Gracie on the other hand was a lone chicken and is only about 1/3 the size of the bigger hens. Also Gracie was not able to fly very well.
Cochins don't seem to have a tail like most other hens do. More like just body feathers that cover the bum.

When I placed Gracie in her pen, as I said before she began to immediately scratch around in the straw like a little toy chicken, which I thought was so cute. However Queen Lucy and Princess Melda were shocked at the intruder in their territory and did not find Gracie one bit cute. Filled with rage the two large black hens fanned out their feathers and began attacking the cage. Chico stood back not sure what to make of the situation, the poor red girls having bad memories of being beaten by the two nasty black hens I had to sell, went for higher ground. My reds flew to the highest perches not sure if some deranged hen was after them. Little Gracie however showed the courage of a true bantam, she began to fight back through the wire. The black girls however are strong and Gracie soon learned to stand back out of reach. I figured through time they would get used to her.

I made Gracie a better pen, one where the others could not peck at her through the wire. Even the reds lost their fear of her and would attack her. I used to take Gracie out when I was there and let her walk around but it did not work as the others seemed to have a hate in their eyes for her. I did not like the fact Gracie was penned up since she came from a small cage. I made a gate at both ends that only she could get under, when the others would all get up on the perch, she would come out and walk around, if one came down she would duck back under into the safety of her pen. I did not like the fact of her sleeping on the floor, I wanted her to start using a perch but the other hens were so mean to her that she could not come out and perch at night. Since the others seemed to not be accepting her I decided to build her a little house/pen inside the chicken coop. It would have her own perch and nest box, I thought I would try later in spring to get the others to accept her. I had everything ready, the wood, materials and I was waiting for the hens to go to bed before I put it up. That night when I walked in I had a surprise.
Gracie below. Don't be fool, she puffs her feathers up to look big but just see the difference in the size of her head compared to the two above.

When I walked in there was Gracie on the perch! This is one of the reasons I like her so much, she figured out to wait for the others to go to bed and she then comes out of her cage and gets up on the perch. She has been doing this for a while now and I am happy that she is able to fly up and perch like a chicken should, I gave her a new pen with larger wire, that way the hens see her clearer and are now finally getting used to her, to the point where she comes out for a while and runs back if she is getting bullied too much. She figured this all out on her own. It makes it so much easier than if I had to have a separate section for her, a little ironic however that she started to perch on her own just the very night that I was going to build her a little section. She has even established herself dominate over Marlene and Gertrude. She also will kick most hens out of her pen if they should happen to get in. Cute, smart and full of personality, that is why Gracie is fast becoming my favorite. The thing however that made me really happy about her this week is the little surprise I found yesterday.
I was worried that she was too old to lay and if she won't lay, then she won't hatch. All my hens lay brown eggs and most are large, so I knew who it was right away when I walked in and saw this little off-white egg in one of the nest boxes. It also gave me memories of some of the really great bantams I had in my teen years as they had the same off-white coloured eggs.

Gracie sleeping with her head tucked under her wing.

Last night I went in after all the lights were off, so this was just caught with the flash. I woke her with the flash. Gracie is also smart enough to sleep under Chico's ramp so that no one poops on her as the lower perch was just suppose to be a step up. Chico needs a ramp to get up as Silkies can't really fly.

Gracie, wondering who is in the dark.
I'm sure she was not happy about me waking her up from her sleep. She was trying to listen and see who was there because I was in total darkness until the flash went off. She makes the funniest sounds when I handle her. She does not get upset and cackle or squawk but more like a slow, low tone, as if telling me "you can touch me but you better watch it mister!" What ever she is saying, even though it sounds calm, it sends Chico into a protective fit and I can expect to be suddenly attacked by a cotton ball! I really hope for some chicks from these two characters.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Little Gracie Part I

After I got Chico he became frustrated with my hens, he had been with bantam Silkie hens like himself and was able to mate with them. However being much smaller than most of my girls, he can not mate with them and began to get confused when trying to get the larger hens to sit for mating and instead began attacking them. I placed an ad for bantam hens, I thought if I could get two or three small bantam hens of any breed, that would relieve his stress. The only response I received was from a man who had one Cochin hen and wanted to give her to me. He was not far so I went to get her, I figured one mate for Chico was better than nothing. It was little Gracie.

Gracie in her protective pen.

I like the little Cochins, they look like they are wearing baggy pants because of the feathers on their legs and feet. I read where they are suppose to be good mothers. I am hoping that she will go broody for me in spring, if I can time it right I will let her hatch out a couple of eggs and also add in a couple of chicks I want to buy. I can't have too many more so if I get only two or three chicks I'm fine with that, any extras I would sell.

Melda watching Gracie, finally starting to accept her.

I feel that I rescued Gracie, she was not being abused or any thing like that, she was well fed etc. It is more that I got her from a breeder, so she was locked in a small dark cage with a rooster. There was no perch to sleep on, just the wire floor of the cage. Her comb was marked and bloody I assume from the rooster trying to constantly breed her and she was pale from no sun light. When I brought her home she could not fly and she had hard lumps of manure cemented to her toes and toenails from the wire floor and not being able to scratch in the dirt.

Gracie, not happy about a camera in her pen.

One of the first things Gracie did after bringing her home, was to scratch around in the straw the second I put her on the floor. I knew her being so much smaller than the rest was a real threat to her life, especially not being able to fly and so I had a protective pen ready for her. The thing that worries me is looking at her nails, she must be very old and if she does not lay in spring, she will not go broody and hatch chicks. I decided to treat her feet, she was not happy about being handled but is starting to get used to me now. Her toenails were spiraled like a cork screw, I guess from being in a cage. I had to use wire cutters to clip them, I also had to gently use the wire cutters to clip off the cemented manure. Some of her toes were a bit stiff but she is getting better. I am looking forward to the day I can let them out, I'm not sure but it is possible she has never been out doors in fresh air and sunshine. Even if she is too old to lay, I get a big kick out of her and I am fine with having her live out her days with me as just a pet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Production line

Day three of starving my girls, well not actually starving them just making them live off the grain they wasted. It has not affected their laying, in fact they started to go down in eggs and now have come back up. I think the exercise of scratching around does them good. I put the feeder back this evening and adjusted it to the smallest hole, it is much harder for them to get the grain out and they seem to be eating what comes out instead of tossing it onto the floor. Today is warm, almost ten degrees above freezing. I thought I was going to be able to let them out but sadly there is a sheet of thick ice in their yard so there was no point in letting them out. I happened to be in there while production was in progress and I always love to watch them go about their business.

Lucy, Queen of the flock.

This picture made me laugh, almost as if she is saying "go away, can't you see I'm laying"! That cross looking stare means business... but only to the other hens. I never thought that I would have as good a bond with these girls as I did when I was a kid with pet hens. However they trust me.

Petting Lucy.

I can pet them while laying and there is no fuss, I have never harmed them and feed them treats out of my hand so there is no fear of me taking their eggs. A tip for new people, hens really love when you take your finger and gently stroke downwards on their waddles under their chin. I moved when taking this picture so sorry a bit fuzzy. Today Lucy showed a lot of attention towards her egg and was very aggressive towards any hen that came near, she even put up her feathers and screeched like a brooding hen. Usually hybrids do not hatch, it has been bred out of them but I have heard of it happening. It would be interesting if Lucy hatched some chicks, they certainly would be safe, I would never have to worry about another hen touching them.

Gertrude decides to join the production line.

It is funny how the girls will stay by me in case of treats but then suddenly when it is time, then it is time and they go off to lay. The red girls are so laid back (no pun intended) they all get along with each other and are like best friends or sisters, I only wish the guy had more than four, even though I like the different colour hens I have now, it would have been a real joy to have six or eight relaxed kind hearted red girls. Some times the reds get along so well that you will find two or three laying in the same box together.

Diane also joining the others to lay.

Not sure what to do, Diane wants to lay as well however Lucy (black hen) is in the favorite nest. Most of the eggs will be laid in the end nest that Lucy is in, however Diane is afraid of Lucy and so will not risk a pecking.

Diane tries the third nest.

I like this shot, full production and by the end of the day I would get five eggs out of the six girls. The last nest is the least favorite nest and they almost never use it. I guess because it is by the door they feel it is less private. I held the camera a little sideways but the nests are not tilted, it just looks that way from my bad handling of the camera, I had to keep hiding it so that they would not think it was a treat and stop laying.

Petting Diane while laying.

Diane likes to make a perfect nest, not like the others who just get in and lay, Diane spends a long time placing the straw just right. As I was saying about the red girls, they are the most relaxed on life as a chicken could get. This is an example, here Diane is in the middle nest where Gertrude had just been. Diane did not want to use the least favorite nest and so crawled in with Gertrude. The two girls laid their eggs, stayed in there together for twenty minutes and Gertrude left to eat. Diane is much higher in the pecking order than Gertrude and could have easily kicked her out, however she, as usual did not harm Gertrude and just shared the nest with her. Lucy and Melda would never allow that, they would fight over the nest, even with each other. Funny but most people think that chickens just eat, poop and lay, they don't know there is a whole chicken society going on, I think that is why when people get some as pets, they often get hooked.

Monday, February 9, 2009

To spank a chicken

Can we spank chickens, with my girls acting like bored children up to no good, I am ready to give it a try! Like I said before, it has been very cold with a lot of snow since the beginning of November this year and that means the girls have been locked up for a long, long time. That is actually not normal for this area even though I'm in Canada, usually we start to get snow the third week in December, even then there will be a day or two with enough thaw that I could normally lets the girls out, but not this year.

That has left me with a house full of girls up to no good, I try every trick in the book to keep them busy, active and out of mischief. The new stunt that they pulled on me this week is expensive. I have one of those large metal containers that holds their feed and feeds free choice. Usually I fill it up and it takes them almost two weeks to eat it all. The other day I noticed it empty, I found that strange as I thought it was only last week that I filled it. I was in a hurry and so filled it half full that morning. That night I gathered the eggs but did not notice anything funny as it was after dark, the next evening I went in to get the eggs and saw the container empty and a large pile on the floor. The little brats have come up with a new game of picking all the feed out of the container. They must have spent hours pulling feed out as it does not allow them to get a lot at one time. I know they are bored but this is crazy, that is like buying feed and just throwing it on the compost pile! I took the container out and for the next few days they will have to pick through the straw and shavings to get their food. I have a lot of eggs so it will not bother me if they go down in production but they will have to act like chickens and scratch for their meal.
As for the offer of the bantam rooster and hen, I decided not to take them. My hens have not fully accepted Gracie yet and I don't want to make another pen as it would crowd the others, plus even though Chico can be a pain in the butt, I still like him enough that I don't want another rooster hurting him.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saying no, or maybe not!

Last week a woman contacted me with an offer, it seems she stumbled onto an old ad of mine when I was looking for some bantam hens. I thought I had deleted all my ads when I was given Gracie. I had wanted to buy two or three bantam hens as company for Chico and also to have some chicks in spring. A man gave me Gracie and so I stopped looking. The woman is moving to the city and has a young bantam rooster/hen pair, they are her pets and she wants them to go to a home that will keep them as pets so she will give them to me. It is hard to say no to another bantam hen but my problems are 1) I worry about another rooster with Chico, I don't think two older rooster will ever get along and I don't want Chico to get hurt, and 2) my hens were very slow to accept Gracie, she still lives in a protective cage as she is smaller. Her cage has a low gate that only she can crawl under, she can come out to perch, get treats and run around but if she is bullied she knows that she can duck under the gate and no one can get her. While in the cage she still has full access to food and water. I don't want to have to start all over with a new hen now that the flock is finally meshing together, especially with one bantam hen coming into a flock of larger hens, if they get the chance they will kill her. I think I have to say no for the good of my own flock but then I would hate for the little hen and rooster to go somewhere and get killed, plus I saw a picture of the rooster and he is pretty. I love bantams but I thought if I were to get more, I would get two or three so that one is not always picked on like Gracie was. I'm so confused, it is hard to say no to the little hen as she is only a year old. I'll have to think more on this...hmmmmm.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Don't Bite the Hand That feeds You!

Don't bite the hand that feeds you, sometimes we hear that expression in conversation but I am living that expression at the moment with my little buddy Chico. When I got Chico in the fall he was a cute little guy, almost like a windup kid's toy. He already was a year or two old and he lived with a group of Silkie chickens and ducks. I had gone to this farm to buy the black sex-link hens and the woman had different groups of chickens in various barns. While there I saw a cute little brown Silkie rooster walk up to a door, she said "your late, its time to go in" and she opened the door to let him in. I looked in and there were two brown roosters and three white ones, she only had a couple of Silkie hens so she would not sell them but said she was selling the roosters. I had no white chickens yet so I asked for a white one and she grabbed Chico.My little guy 'Chico Chicken'

My friend Dan came up with the name, I was saying that silkies were from China and I wanted a name that sounded Chinese, like Chow or Chen and my friend said "how about Chico... Chico Chicken"! I laughed so hard because it sounds more Mexican than Chinese but I liked it and so Chico Chicken it was. Just in case a new chicken person reads this, you absolutely do not need a rooster to have the chickens lay eggs, in fact some hens lay better when they don't have a rooster to bug them, just without a rooster you will never have chicks hatch from your eggs as they will not be fertile. The reason I have a rooster is I like the crowing sound, their looks and the little dance they do. Also most roosters are great to watch out for predators and warn the hens. I had bought Chico to replace Fred my first bantam rooster.
'Fred' being camera shy

Fred was much prettier than Chico but sadly he had issues. He was not mean with people, in fact the farther he could get away from me the better. Fred's problem was he became aggressive with the girls, he was large enough to mate with them but still he would not bond with them. At night he would sleep at the other end of the perch and during the day he often attacked them. The girls got that they would have nothing to do with him as in the picture above, when he was out they were in and when he was in they were out. He started to pull their tail feathers and that was the end of him, I sent him back. I wanted a bantam rooster because they are smaller, less feed and less stress on the hens but still they can do all the other jobs. Actually with the smaller voice, most of the people around say they never hear the crowing which is a good thing, I don't want to bother anyone. With Fred gone it was a spot open and Chico filled the position.

Chico just about to crow

For the newbies, they are called Silkies because their feathers appear silky, are softer and look at times more like fur than feathers. It was hard to get these pictures, he is very active and will not stand still. However if you notice his head cocked a bit, it is because I have lowered my hands to snap the picture ...and that is now the problem with Chico. If he sees my hands he will attack and let me tell you, for a little guy he sure can bite! It all started when I got Gracie the Cochin bantam. Chico was becoming frustrated with not being able to breed the hens because of their larger size. Some of the red hens he can mate with but the black hens and the larger red hens he is too small to climb on and stay on, also because silkies don't have proper wing feathers to balance. He started to attack the black hens, so I thought if I bought some bantams to raise chicks in the spring, he could mate with them and not be so stressed. A man offered me Gracie so I took her as a buddy for Chico, it was love at first site on his part. The trouble was Gracie needed to be kept in a cage until the other hens got used to her, being smaller there was a good chance they would kill her. This made Chico even more upset and when feeding Gracie or caring for her, Chico started to attack me to protect his little hen. Now he has it in that little chicken brain that I am the enemy and nothing can change that. When he attacks my boots it is kind of funny, an attack puff ball. Now however the little monster has learned to bite my hands, he waits and pretends not to be looking but the minute I go to pick something up or move something, he is right there. He even knows the difference between me having my hands up my sleeve or thick gloves on, he has learned my weakness. I may have to part with him as the local children love to come and see the chickens, they also like to feed them and now sadly I can't let them do that as Chico would hurt them. For certain I will try to get another Silkie, I am actually hoping for a Gracie-Chico son, either way he will be small and hopefully cute. First I will wait until summer, I am hoping once they can go back outside that it will bring back the calm Chico.

Has anyone out there crossed a Cochin and Silkie? What did it look like?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chicken's salad

That would be chicken's salad as in a salad for chickens and not chicken salad. The girls loved eating grass in the summer, they all came from farms where they had free range. When I got them I felt bad about having to lock them up in a pen but a major highway goes by the door and also they are in a small village so I don't think the neighbors would like chickens digging up their gardens. Also I have a fear of the old question 'why did the chicken cross the road', I think with large trucks speeding past it would be their last time to cross any road.

I want to still give them their greens and so I picked clover and grass for them. Once winter came however I had to think of new treats to give them. I tried growing oats in flower pots on the window and giving it to them about two weeks after it sprouted but that was not worth the effort. I tried spinach and they love it, I also tried broccoli and at first they did not like it but now they have developed a taste for it.

Chicken's salad above

They also love if I break up pieces of bread and add it to the salad. I know bread is not that good for them but it is whole wheat so I tell myself it is better than if I was giving them white bread. I hang the broccoli to keep them busy however now that Lucy and Melda like it, the broccoli is pecked into nothing in a matter of minutes. I also have cabbage but I did not try that yet. They are all very expensive in the stores right now so I share my salad with the girls and not just buy it for them. I like that I never have to throw out bread or buns any more, the girls waste nothing.

I drop it in and they go wild for everything. One thing about Chico, he is very much a little gentle man when it comes to treats. He will not eat a single treat, he will only run around and point out the treats to the hens, calling them the way a rooster does when he finds something tasty.

Darn! Those girls ate all the treats again!

I don't give them lettuce, I'm not sure if it is good for them. I do know it is bad for rabbits being too watery for them and so I don't want to make the girls sick. If anything else works for you let me know. I also give them soft grass hay, they seem to really like that as well, I cut it up to be sure not to choke them with it. I also put straw on the floor, as I said before I find it makes them more active. The only draw back is the little brats will sometimes get scratching around so much that they will fill their food and water feeders with straw. I also feed them back their egg shells once I have used the eggs. The thing with this however is you must let the shells dry out and then crush, crush, crush them. If you don't and just give them the shells of a cracked open egg, you will be asking for trouble. The hens will learn that eggs are good to eat and then it is almost impossible to stop them. The only way being nest boxes where the eggs roll away into a little drawer. I mix my shells in with my oyster shells.