Guest Post by Michelle Mather
Last week we picked up four new “ready to lay” hens from our local
feed mill. They are the same type of chickens as our first four – I believe
they are called “Red Sex Link” as they are a cross between a Rhode
Island Red Chicken rooster and a Delaware Chicken hen. We had thought about
getting some “exotic” looking chickens for our second batch, but in
the end we decided to stick with what is working so well. Our original four
hens, Henny, Penny, Flora & Belle, are now about 19 months old and laying
quite regularly and consistently.
Also, our rooster “Colonel” is pretty flamboyant looking, so our
desire for exotic colouring has been satisfied with his addition to our flock.
I picked up the new “ladies” last Wednesday. I have a rather large
cat carrier and so we put a towel down and off I went to Napanee to pick up our
new chickens. Last year when we picked up our chickens the fellow ahead of us
had ordered 3 but hadn’t brought anything to put them in. So he grabbed a feed
bag and instructed the feed mill employees to just stuff the chickens into the
sack. Needless to say, our chickens had a much nicer ride home!
Once we arrived home I decided to let the older 4 and the rooster out to
free range and I put the cat carrier inside the pen and opened the carrier
door. It took a few minutes but finally one of the new girls stuck her head out
and began pecking at the ground in front of the carrier. Soon all four of them
were out of the carrier and exploring their new territory.
Eventually I herded them into a new section of the pen that Cam had fenced
off where they could see the other, older chickens but they couldn’t touch each
other. When we put the older ladies and the Colonel back into the pen they made
some aggressive moves towards the new, young ones, but they couldn’t get
through the fence to hurt them.
On the first night we tried following some advice that I had found online.
We waited for the rooster and the older chickens to get settled in the coop and
then we tried sneaking the new ones into the coop. No go! What a ruckus! The
rooster in particular seemed incensed that we would allow these intruders into
his coop! So we tucked the four new girls back into the cat carrier (with some
straw on the bottom) and put the carrier on our enclosed back porch, safe from
The next day we put the new girls back into the new side of the pen, but
this time we left an open spot in the fence between the new section and the old
section. The new girls could come and go from the new side as they pleased, and
during the day they would often visit the old section of the pen but run back
to the new section whenever they were chased by one of the “old
gals.” There were some squabbles during the day but the youngsters quickly
learned to run and climb a hay bale to get away. We made sure to provide them with
food and water on their side of the fence too.
On the second night we decided to keep Colonel out of the coop. We put the
new hens into the coop, closed the door and then waited for the older ladies to
show signs of wanting to go to bed. Pretty soon they were prowling around the
base of the “gangplank” wanting to retire for the night. Eventually
we let them in, there was a bit of squabbling, but pretty quickly the 8 hens
all settled down. We locked Colonel out of the coop that night and instead I
left the cat carrier in the pen and he tucked himself in there for the night.
Once again we put the carrier on the enclosed back porch, safe from predators,
and he seemed to have a fine sleep that night.
By the third day we were able to open up the fence between the old and new
section of the pen. There was still some squabbling between the old and the new
birds, but much less than on the first two days. We really got a chuckle that
evening when we noticed that Colonel was the first one into the coop to put
himself to bed! It seemed like he was saying “There’s no way I’m sleeping
in that cat carrier again tonight!” He jumped up on top of the nesting
boxes and hunkered down. The older ladies soon joined him. The younger ones
hung out at the bottom of the gangplank and as soon as things seemed quiet in
the coop, they too headed to bed. There was a few complaints but we quickly
closed up the door and they all settled down. Phew!
We haven’t named all of the new girls yet. We are calling one of them
“Feist” (after the singer) because she is such a feisty little thing!
She doesn’t take any guff from any of the others and even if one of the older
ladies or the Colonel tries to chase her, she holds her ground!
Last year it took our hens a couple of weeks before they began laying eggs. One
of the new ladies has already started laying! Two days ago she escaped from the
pen and tucked herself under a raspberry bush. I only knew that she was there
because Colonel managed to escape too and he stood guard over her. I put her
back in her pen and she escaped again and the second time I found a tiny little
egg under her!
Yesterday she again escaped and again we found her under the raspberry bush.
This time we tucked her inside the coop and closed up the door. About 20
minutes later I came back and there was an egg! Her eggs are teeny tiny but she
is laying already! I’m hoping that she gets the hint that we’d prefer that she
lay in the nesting boxes!
As you can tell, we continue to enjoy life with our chickens! They love a
bowl of oatmeal first thing in the morning. I take a quarter cup of instant
oatmeal, add some hot water from the tap and dump it into a bowl for them. They
fight over it! They love grapes and sliced bananas and chopped up apples.
Cooked pasta is one of their favourite treats and it’s pretty funny watching
them grab a long string of spaghetti and run around the coop trying to keep it
from the others.
On my recent birthday I was given a lovely little book called “Minnie
Rose Lovgreen’s Recipe for Raising Chickens.” (Thanks to Shirley for
the book!) The woman who wrote this book was born in 1888. She first published
her little book in 1975. According to my math she would have been 87 years old
at the time! After a lifetime of raising chickens, she says “The main
thing is to keep them happy.” This wisdom seems to be working with my
Our cat Lizzie likes to hang
out with the chickens too!
Michelle & Cam have written a book about their move from the city to their off-grid home in the country that they call “Sunflower Farm.” The book is called “Little House Off the Grid” and is available from Mother Earth News or from www.aztext.com