We are super happy to announce the addition of 4 new chickens to our family. We just got them home and into their new coop. These girls will be free range in a couple weeks enjoying their new big yard. We will post pics of them in their new coop once we get them to sit still, for now we are feeding them all the goodies we can!
Phoebe, our youngest hen, was born on our property back in April and is now all grown up. She has had trouble fitting in with the other girls, but seems to like hanging out with Speckles, Big Mama, and Lucy (our Brahma Buff/Jersey Giants). Sometimes I feel bad for her because she is definitely on the bottom of the pecking order. Aaron always reminds me that this is normal, but I still give her a small bit of feed away from the other girls sometimes.
We noticed that she was acting a bit crazy one day: squawking a bunch and moving around constantly by herself. She has always been a bit vocal, but this was out of the ordinary. When I saw her try to get in the coop I figured she must be about to lay her first egg. Awesome!! She couldn't seem to figure it out for a long time and kept moving to a different nesting spot. Of course I would be acting crazy if this was happening to me all of a sudden too!
After about half a day of moving around, her final choice was the front seat of Aaron's jeep and she laid a beautiful white egg. Now she has finally joined the other girls as a grown up :)
After our chickens were harassed by mongoose many many times, they stopped laying eggs inside the coop we built for them. Aaron and I worked really hard to build this coop and this was enough to get us thinking of ways to fix this problem. We are always on the lookout for mongoose with our trusty pellet gun, but this does not eradicate the humongous mongoose population we have on island. So, we had to think of something else.
So we decided to raise the coop on posts and see if this helped. Our initial plan was to raise it up, put chicken wire around the entire coop, and keep the chickens inside the coop for half the day. But, I don't want to keep them cooped up. They seem to really love free ranging all day :) So, we just raised the coop on posts.
A few 4x4 posts, four 2x4 boards for support, some cement, and a bit of paint, and we had the base ready. The moment the coop was raised up, the girls came to find out what was going on. Once we added some hay inside the nesting boxes, they started laying eggs in the coop. And, mongoose have not been able to get in because the nest box access is about 5 feet off the ground. Success!
The coop is also now in a really shaded area and the girls really seem to like hanging out around it now. Doesn't it look like a cute little house now? I like it :)
It seems like just yesterday that our smallest chickens were just babies. Now they are almost full grown and fend for themselves. I like to call them the Three Muskateers :) When Aaron was painting the doors for our casita, a few of our chickens decided they should check the dryness level of the paint. This guy below must have thought the paint would taste good because it was all over its beak. Maybe we will call him Picasso. I am not completely sure if this guy is a boy or girl, but Picasso might work for both. Some of our other girls have white paint on their legs and/or feathers too. Silly chickens :)
The three baby chicks have grown so much in the last few weeks. After our encounters with mongoose about a month ago, we have been very hesitant to let them out for long and they are usually only out scratching around for a few hours a day. This is making Sally (the mom) go a bit stir crazy but we feel a bit better with this arrangement. The chicks have outgrown their baby feathers (fluff really) and are starting to grow tail feathers. Each of them are growing different patterns on their wings too. Their legs are much longer now and they can fly short distances already. It is really cute watching them fly :) Sally is a pretty good mommy and still doesn't let them out of her sight.
Just yesterday, the chicks were all trying to roost on top of Sally. I wish I would have had a camera to catch the moment with all of them on her back! We are enjoying watching them grow and can't wait till they have their own personalities.
Our baby chicks purchased during the St. Croix Ag Fair are growing up and are now about four times as big as they were when we got them. I am sure you are intrigued by the title of this post, and I will soon explain. We have been watching these five girls grow up for about two months now and they have begun displaying behavior that is very similar to behavior shown during a football game. It has become a very fun pastime of ours to watch the game. First, lets meet all of our team players:
Big Mama - Being about a week older than the other chickens made Big Mama much bigger than the other chicks when they joined our family. She acted very much like a mama chicken and all the other chicks used to huddle under her belly or wait until she did something to repeat it. It was really cute to watch :) Even though she is not the biggest chicken now, we still call her Big Mama.
Goldie - Goldie was named immediately when we picked her out of all the other chickens for sale during the Ag Fair. She is golden in color, a bit mischievous, and still the smallest of the bunch. After watching the chickens interact for a while, you will notice that Goldie is the instigator to most tackles and has been since we got her. She loves to fluff up and charge at all the other girls. She likes to play all positions...
Dottie - Dottie is mostly black with a mid section that is a golden orange color with black spots. She has now become the biggest chicken of the five and likes to watch the game for a while before joining in.
Speckles - Speckles has feathers that are dark with streaks of gold. She looks like someone painted specks of paint down her back and chest. During the game, she sometimes appears to be the referee when disputes come up.
Lucy - Lucy looks a lot like Dottie and has a bunch of black dots on her golden feathers. Lucy is a lucky chicken. Before we left island for a trip to Nicaragua, all of our chickens got a cold and their eyes started getting puffy and infected. We bought some antibiotics to put in their water and started rubbing antibiotics in their eyes right away. Lucy had the worst eye cold and still looked pretty bad when we left so I was worried. While we were gone, they were cared for by others and all but Lucy were 100% cured. Lucy was unfortunately left with one blind eye. I didn't think she would be too happy with a name like Blindy, so I chose a pretty name for her instead. The others look after her so all is well.
Now that you have met our football squad, I shall explain the game that is played very frequently in our yard. All girls are usually huddled together (surely discussing the next play), and then all of a sudden they disperse and run around in apparent strategic formations. During the play, their is often a ball (bug or treat) being tossed around but sometimes it is imaginary. When they are not in the middle of a full play, they constantly practice tackling by running at each other and puffing out their feathers. They have recently developed the skill of jumping (flying short distances) which aids in the game. Some of my thoughts on what they are discussing:
Huddle, (Big Mama speaking): See that pigeon eating all of our corn at 3:00? Speckles, you take him from the side. Lucy, you and Dottie go straight at him from the back. Goldie, you rush and steal the corn while we tackle.
Huddle, The human has a treat in hand. Once the treat is located and retrieved, grab and run. Tackle the player with the treat and repeat until you reach the goal.
Huddle, Never mind. Attack!
Huddle, Lets race to see where we should lay down and rest.
Huddle, It is almost dinner time. We must entertain the humans with our football skills so that they reward us with lots of crushed corn. Since we practiced play Omega all day today, lets repeat this play four times.
And so on.... Very entertaining :)
This has been a sad week for us. A few days ago, we were unable to get the two mommas and baby chicks into the coop before going to work. It is understandable that they wanted out considering they had been laying on eggs for a long time. When we got back home, we couldn't find Bossy (the white one). She hardly ever left the baby chicks so we knew something was wrong. Sally (the brown one) was acting very agitated and stressed, so we started looking around for Bossy. I was hoping we wouldn't find her and that she just decided to roam around, but we found her in a nearby bush. She had been attacked by a mongoose and was already gone. I felt terrible. If only I had gotten her in the coop, she would have been protected. Instead, she died saving her baby chicks. Can you grieve for a chicken? Yes you can and I definitely grieved. I am still so sad for her. Even though she was the bossy one, I was already attached to her and so happy that she finally had some little ones to care for. I will miss her.
That left Sally and the four baby chicks. We have been extra careful when letting them out of the coop to make sure no mongoose could get close to them. Today, when it was time for them to go to sleep we locked them into the coop and were enjoying a glass of wine on the deck. We heard the baby chicks chirping really loud because Sally went up to the nesting boxes and they couldn't figure out how to get up there. Because the coop is surrounded in chicken wire, we were convinced that they were fine. But then we heard a lot of noise and knew a mongoose was near the cage. We rushed down, but it was too late. Somehow the mongoose attacked one of the baby chicks through the chicken wire without even bending or breaking the wire. How is this possible? The little chick didn't make it :( How can this happen twice in one week!? We immediately got some plywood and placed it on the outside of the coop to help protect them. Tomorrow we will be placing another layer of chicken wire on the outside of the coop for reinforcement. I don't think I can handle another death in this little family. Poor Sally must be so upset. I had no idea that a mongoose could bite a chick through the wire. Now we have to keep the remaining three chicks and Sally safe.
We adopted a chicken from someone that left island about a month ago, and she is a VERY different chicken from all the others. Her name is Patty and she was rescued as a baby chick during St. Patrick's Parade in St. Croix a few years ago (hence the name Patty). Since she was so well cared for, she had become very used to being held and petted (not like our other chickens). I can tell that she also wants treats and she would very much like to be invited in the house…. Buddy was not having any of this nonsense of her being too near his castle though! After a few times of being chased away, Patty has learned to not get too near the house.
I am hoping that she will learn to be more of a normal chicken with help from all the other girls, but it will be a slow process. For a while, we were unable to figure out where Patty was laying her eggs. But we eventually found her latest secret spot. She picked a new nesting area in a fountain that we put outside with the intention of hooking up to a water supply one day. At least now we know where her eggs are :) She isn't going to like when we decide to make this fountain function, but that won't be for a while. So now we have this very different chicken to care for. Always an interesting day at the Boswell house :)
Yesterday as I was driving home, I thought to myself that we should check the eggs under our broody hens and make sure something was actually growing in them since it had been about 3 weeks since we put the eggs underneath them. Well, when I got home to check on the girls, I walked towards the coop and heard a bit of noise. What could that be??? I opened up the door and saw a cracked egg. At first I thought that a mongoose had gotten into the coop and eaten an egg, but then I saw two little chicks hiding under the wing of Sally!! Two little chicks! Oh man, Sally and Bossy Pants were so happy and content. Big difference from the crazy stage :) Today we got one more chick and there are still three more eggs. The mommas are being really nice and sharing the chicks so I think it will be one big happy family :) Nothing like witnessing
A few weeks ago two of our hens started acting crazy… They began fluffing up their feathers a bunch, started guarding the entrance to the coop, and pecking the other girls. Then, they would NOT come out of the nesting boxes. We were sure they had gone off the deep end. At first it was just Bossy Pants (the white one), but then Sally joined the party. Great… that means that we have a 40% "going crazy" rate for our flock.
They were practically sitting on top of one another in the nesting box. We had no idea what was going on so I fired up Google and immediately found out the problem. They were broody, which is a hormonal stage in which they want to incubate and hatch eggs. Well, we don't have a rooster so none of the eggs were fertilized… What to do??
Supposedly the only way for them to get out of this hormonal stage is to have them hatch eggs or put them in a cage with no nesting area for a few days. It just so happened that we had a few roosters visit (uninvited) and collected the eggs from the hens that were following them around. Currently, Sally and Bossy Pants have 6 eggs that we hope are fertilized and have been sitting on them for about 2 weeks now. Now we wait...
Theresa and Aaron
We have always dreamed of setting up a homestead that is self sustainable. This blog is dedicated to our journey getting there.