My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?


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My chickens may be laying outside in the bushes – but where?

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King George is a bit confused today. Things are not quite the way he is used to. He is waiting beside the coop door, so close to the coop in fact, that his tail feathers are squashed. What is he waiting for?

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He is waiting for his girls to be let out of the naughty room. I have not had any eggs for ten days. Now I know all three of them wouldn’t stop laying on the same day. They must be laying in the bushes somewhere.

So yesterday I watched the girls closely and I think I know the general direction of where the nest might be. I saw King George standing with Hilda and Hannah in the bush, just waiting. That’s what they do when each other is laying so I knew she must be close. They think they can outsmart me!

So I waited and waited and finally saw her come running towards the others. The bush where she has her nest is quite dense and after a quick look yesterday, I was not able to see it. But husband Haitch is going to help me look this afternoon. There should be a mountain of eggs in this nest!

But there is a bit of a twist to this story. Why would they all suddenly decide to lay outside for the first time in over a year of happily laying in the nesting boxes. There are no mites in the boxes and they are quite happily sleeping there each night. But I have had no eggs whatsoever in the nesting boxes for ten days.

Then yesterday while I was waiting very patiently for Hannah to finish laying in the bush somewhere, Helen trotted into the hen house and laid in the nesting box! Why today? Has she been laying in there each day and her eggs are disappearing! And if she has been laying outside, why would she suddenly lay in the nesting box today?

So today, I have locked the lovely chickens in their coop where they will have no choice but to lay in their nice clean, dark, warm, safe nesting boxes.

Let’s see what happens.

 

 

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The possum who thought he was a chicken.

On the way home from work last Friday, we decided to stop for a meal. We got home about 8pm, which is dark here in New Zealand at this time of year. When we got home, I went outside without my torch and felt my way to the door of the run and shut the chickens in for the night.

The next morning there were the chickens as usual, at first patiently waiting and then if I don’t come out quickly enough, crowing and cackling to make sure  I am awake so I could come and let them out. As soon as they hear the sliding door open, they stop their noise and look expectantly at the corner of the house where they know I will soon appear with treat tin in hand.

An hour or so later, I went back outside to collect the eggs from yesterday. I lifted up the lid of the nesting boxes at one end of the chicken house. Two lovely brown eggs. Thank you Hilda and Helen.

Then I walked around to the other side to the other nesting boxes.

I opened the lid and I got such a fright! I could not believe what I saw! There curled up sound asleep in one of the nesting boxes was a possum!

How on earth did he get in there?
When did he get in there? Possums are nocturnal animals and he would not have been curled up asleep in there before I shut the door to the run at 8pm.
He was not there that morning as I cleaned the nesting boxes before I went to work.
There is no hole in the run or the coop so he could not have got in after I had shut the door.

The only thing I can think of is that he was in the run when I shut the door and he got locked in for the night. It was a very dark night and if he was in the run, I wouldn’t have seen him. But why didn’t he make a noise when he saw me?

But what did the possum do after I shut the door?

Did he just go into the chicken house, squeeze past King George and turn right and choose the nest box that Hannah wasn’t sleeping in and curl up for the night?
But he is a nocturnal animal. Maybe he roamed all night in the small run, trying to get out before giving up and going into the house to bed.

How did he manage to get past King George? King George only just fits in the chicken house. He squeezes himself through the door and just plops himself down on the floor, almost filling the whole floor area. I am sure King George would have made a fuss if he saw a possum trying to squeeze past him?
Why did the possum not try to attack my girls?

How could the chickens not be aware of the posssum sleeping beside them when they got up the next morning? But then I guess it is dark in the house. Can they not smell that there was an intruder sleeping in their house? Maybe chickens don’t have a sense of smell?

When King George was crowing at 5am in the chicken house, how did the possum not wake up and get a fright and run about?

It is all a big mystery that I do not think I can ever solve.

So what did I do with the possum? I got a broom and woke him up and poked him out of the house and into the run. Possums are classed as pests in New Zealand as they  eat our native trees and birds eggs so I won’t go into what happened next.

A very bizarre experience but the egg that Hannah had laid the day before survived being slept on by the possum. He had somehow managed to roll the golf ball out of the nest but the egg as still there, intact and safely buried in the wood shavings. I am surprised the possum didn’t eat it.


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King George the rooster has broken two of my rules

King George turned up at out place and made my chicken coop his home. We didn’t want a rooster.

But we decided to let him stay but with three rules.

Rule number 1 – He doesn’t crow in the early hours of the morning.
Well of course he has broken this rule! One morning my husband Haitch said to me “that rooster has got to go. He was crowing at 4:30”.
I said to him “if you want the rooster gone, you ring our neighbour / friend and you tell him to come and take his rooster away and kill his him. If he takes him back home across the road, King George will just keep coming back here”.

Rule number 2 – He is gentle with my girls.
King George is huge and I am scared he is going to squash my girls when he has his roostering way with them. I have never seen him doing anything with my girls so I was thinking that he is aware of his enormity and is therefore being a kind rooster and leaving my girls alone. After all, Hannah Hen, my bantam, only comes up to the top if his thigh!
I had some friends around last weekend and they know about chickens. They said that King George would definitely be having his roostering way, so to prove it, we broke one each of my girls eggs into a bowl.
Hilda Hen’s egg was fertile.
Helen Hen’s egg was fertile.
And yes, tiny, little Hannah Hen’s egg was also fertile.
And then a few days ago, I heard a ruckus and looked out to see Helen Hen looking indignant at King George and there was the tell tale sign, he had one of Helen’s feathers in his beak! So rule number 2 is on the verge of being broken.

Rule number 3 – He is not aggressive in ANY way
This is my most important rule. I have not seen any sign of aggression so far. He is very gentle and is learning not to run away from me when I go outside. He is learning that I have treats. He has even started coming over to me when he thinks I have food, but not too close of course.

So you see, King George has broken one rule and partially broken the second rule but he is still here. I know I said if he breaks any of those rules, he is out. But I’ve grown attached to King George the rooster and they are my rules, so I can choose to remove them on a whim.  (And then of course reinstate them, even without letting King George know.)
I hope he never breaks rule number 3, because there is no negotiation on this one.