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 baaaaaaaaaa...uk, 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.


Amy said...

Nice french!! :D!
How many eggs do you get a day?

Amy x

nobody-but-us-chickens said...

Amy: Oui oui! :)

Out of the six laying hens the most I get in a day is five so far. It changes week to week but when everything is going fine I usually get four to five eggs a day for a period of three to four days, then I will get three eggs for a day or so, then back to four or five. I guess they take turns on a rest day. When they pulled all their feed onto the floor and I made them clean it up they went down to three a day but I have lots of eggs so I did not mind. The temperature can swing really wide here from -25 C to +8 C in a day or two and that really mixes them up as well and they can drop in egg numbers. I don't really push them so as long as I get at least three a day I'm happy. Gracie is old so I don't expect a lot from her, plus she is not a laying breed. Maybe I will make a month long chart so people can compare, as I usually write down each day how many eggs I get.

Amy said...

Ok, we got another one this morning. it was off white in colour but very soft, can't really tell which chicken laid it, i will have a look for anymore in the morning.

Also, i have a blog award for you on my blog....come and get it.

Amy :)

nobody-but-us-chickens said...

Amy: Soft? As in no shell or almost no shell? Get oyster shells from a feed store for chickens if you don't already have some.

nobody-but-us-chickens said...

Amy: Thank you for the award, for some strange reason I can't comment on that post to thank you.

Amy said...

The other eggs i have been getting are perfect, this one though was a soft thin shell that was "sqiggy". They do have some sort of grit, but i will give the oyster shells a go. Also, i have read that if you bake the smashed up shell from their eggs,that works as well as oyster shell or grit.?

Amy :)

John Gray jgsheffield@hotmail.com said...

Gracie is a sweetie.......and has such a tiny head!!!

Amy....my vet says that some hens lay soft eggs because of infection.....

I have never figured this out

Cottage Rose said...

Amy it could be her starter eggs, they improve with age. Your chooks are youngish?

Nice post about Gracie, you sure do love your gals!


nobody-but-us-chickens said...

Amy: I just dry the shells out, then I crush them. Yes they are good for the hens to make shells, sort of like recylcing (haha), still however I find oyster shells are the best for thin shells. Do not mix it with the feed, just place some, where they can pick at the shells whenever they want. A bag will last a long long time. Rose is right, your hens are only starting to lay and that sort of thing often happens with young birds.

John: Gracie thanks you! She does give me the biggest smile, I had forgotten how much fun bantams were, I only wish the guy had two or three hens instead of one. You are lucky you have a vet, all the ones around here want nothing to do with chickens.

Rose: Thanks for the information towards Amy.
I do really like the girls, I find it relaxing to watch them, I can hardly wait for spring so they can get out into fresh air again.

Amy said...

Thank you for your kind comment....
A camel for the backyard....good idea!!! :D!!

Amy x