Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Yearly Chicken Transition

Every year about this time we go through emotional chicken turmoil.  Both for us and our young chickens.  The story is the same every year.  The kids tame the sweet baby chicks, give them names, carry them around and play (and talk) with them as if they were other children.  Then, the chicks grow up.  The kids still call them by name, carry them around and play (and talk) with them as if they were other children, but now they're too big to be kept in the chicken tractor all day, so we let them free range in our yard.

Both the kids and the chickens love this.  But even though I can tolerate chickens in my flower beds and a little chicken poo in the yard, I cannot tolerate chicken poo on my back porch, chickens wandering into our neighbors' yards or chickens pecking through the bird netting and eating my blueberries.  The neighbors haven't complained, but I certainly don't ever want it to get to the point that they need to say something.  And, eating my blueberries without my permission?  Not allowed.

The pullets are still smaller than the full grown hens, so the chicken fence needed some reinforcing and doubling up so the older hens wouldn't be able to chase them through and back into the main yard again.

In order to teach the younger chicks where their new home is, they (with the older hens) are shut up in the hen house for a few days.  This teaches them where to find their food and water and where to roost at night. It also, well, kind of forces them to learn to get along, discover the new pecking order.  It's normal, it's natural, it's necessary.  But it's never fun to watch.

the snobby, older hens hogging the food and water

sorry for the blurriness- one pullet was determined to get past me

It often takes them a little while to find their way down the chicken run into the big chicken yard even once the hen house is opened up again, but they always figure it out eventually.

the chicken run from house to yard

coming out of the run into the chicken yard

While closing up the hen house for the acquaintance-forcing of the young and old chickens, we discovered Merv, our trusty rooster dead.  He had an old-looking wound we were unaware of, but other than that no tell-tale signs of how he died.  He was a beautiful rooster and so very calm and friendly.  He will be missed.

Merv will be missed.

We're not sure what differences we'll see in our flock with him gone.  It will obviously mean no chicks will be hatched out, but we haven't had the best success with that anyway.  Sam is convinced that one of our pullet is actually a cockerel, so we'll see.  We've been so spoiled with Merv that we won't be tolerant of any new rooster that is mean to the kids or chases me around the garden.

Been there, done that.

So, the kids have been visiting the pullets in the hen house- giving them their own feed and water when the older hens chase them away from theirs.  The other day I found Sadie and Miriam in the roost room, climbing on the roost as if it was a jungle gym.  Needless to say, a bath ensued.

At other times, you can find Miriam out in the chicken yard, hand feeding them unripe pears from the tree just over her head, a little flock surrounding her as if she was their mama.

Did I ever tell you the names these pullets have?  Sarah, Tony, King of the Wind, Spotty Horse, Scrapple, and Princess Gigi.  Just to name a few.

These kids sure love their chickens- despite all the ups and downs that come with them. Pin It


  1. Just wondering.... how do your children deal when their "friends" become dinner?

    1. These pullets are laying hens- we likely won't eat them. When we do raise "meat birds" the kids know it from the beginning, don't get as friendly with them and are surprisingly fine with it when we do harvest them. They know that's where chicken meat comes from:-).

    2. But they don't lay indefinitely, so then what?

    3. So far, we've just kept them. One dies now and then. We've had one or two that became sickly looking, so we put them down (of course we didn't eat those). It's not that we we're opposed to eating them, it just takes a lot of work to dress one or two at a time when there isn't a lot of meat there- and it's tough because of the hen's age. Some stew these and we've tried that- just not worth all the trouble for us right now.

      By the time they are older, the kids' attention is focused on the younger group of chickens, and again, they know that chickens are for eggs and meat. We enjoy them very much while they're here, but they aren't pets to us in the same way they are to other people.

  2. Ah, yes, the merging of the new and old flocks!:) know all about that!:)

  3. I love that idea of a corridor to get them to their yard. We may do something similar as their "yard" isn't big enough for 50 birds so they currently free range and I've lost several to predators. We are also starting to transition young birds to the older flock but it's harder when they free range to teach them where "home" is!

  4. I too have found Eliza dangling from our roosting bar. I never quite understand why she liked going in the coop so frequently until I found her doing that. Love the name Scrapple.

  5. My grandson Hank adores playing in the chicken yard but grandmas not quite so thrilled : )

  6. I would love to see the layout of your yard to see how you have all your chicken stuff laid out. I would love to get chickens, and know I need to learn from experienced people!

    1. Here are a few more pictures...http://www.thyhandhathprovided.com/2008/09/hen-house.html

  7. Hello,

    Glad I found your blog. I have a couple questions for you. I've started using the BTE method this year, and next year I plan on getting chickens. I love in a high dessert area- Central OR and I'm wondering with our low rainfall if this method might not work as well- after all it takes some work to get compost to break down here. I've been trying to find someone in a similar climate that has tried it- with no luck.

    About the chickens- do you add wood chips to the chicken run too? We have very sandy, dusty soil and when the benefits of the wood chips I'm wondering if I should add them there too?



    1. Hi, Tessa. I only know our climate so it's hard for me to answer some of your questions. If you see wood chips in our chicken run it's because a nearby tree lost a number of limbs and there is a still a lot of debris in the run from it. Chickens LOVE the dust. They dust bathe themselves to keep bugs off their bodies. So as long as they have access to plenty of water and good things to eat, they'll enjoy the dustiness:-).


Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

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