Saturday, March 19, 2011

a social mixer for the chickenyladies with a new roosting site to boot!

we have enjoyed big chicken excitement in the hippychick universe these past few days.

our wee 14 girls are growing up - 7 girly white leghorns and 7 girly rhode island reds.  they are now laying their first wee little eggs - little brown eggs and little white eggs which are so cute, cute, cute.  as time goes by the size of the eggs will increase, for now, they are ramping up.

the eggs do look great even if they are small.  the shells are hard, the color of the yolks are a bright orange and they taste great! 

mr. man and i moved the wee 14 girls from the tin shed coop.  they will now reside with our already established heritage breed chickenyladies.  we made the move under the cover of darkness just a night back.  all has gone well.  there have been no big pecking order issues and everyone seems quite happy for the additional company.

while i am on topic...
a few notes on integrating chickens into an already established flock
  • i have found that integrating chickeny girls is best done after the ladies have gone to roost and under the cover of darkness
    • chickens do not see well in the dark which helps in two ways
      • they are calmer making it much easier to collect them from their roosting site.
        • if you have ever had to chase a chicken then you'll appreciate this number one point.
      • if all goes well, they might just wake in the morning thinking the new chickens are not so new.
      • that's not how it works each and every time but sometimes it can help.
it is often true that chickens will roost where you first place them or where they first roost in a new place, so make sure there is plenty of room for all chickens to roost before you transfer them into a new coop.
  • i have found that integrating young chickens (not yet laying chickens) with established layers will often go quite badly.  wait until your younger chickens are fully grown and laying before integrating them into a new flock. *this is generally at 6 moths or 25 weeks of age from hatch. 
    • one - i don't know if there is anything to this but i think a "new" laying chicken is gifted with some kind of street credit and often not bothered by the older girls as much as she would be if she were not yet laying.
    • the original flock may and probably will attack smaller birds and do have the capability of hurting or killing the younger girl.  i myself have had to remove younger ladies after trying to integrate too soon. 
    • the wait will prove positive.
  • i have found that integrating larger numbers of girls into an already established flock cuts down on the pecking order business a great  deal.  
    • "there are just too many to mess with" kind of deal "so let's just keep to our normal digging and scratching..."
    • this is good for both the established and the new girls - less stress equals happy happy girls and no laying interruptions due to stress induced moulting.
    • moulting is a natural process of shedding old feathers for new.  because feathers and eggs are protein based, egg laying often slows or even discontinues during the moulting process.
  • make yourself available early in the day and during the day following the evening integration of flocks.  this is when the pecking order actions are going to happen.  this is when the bullying, if it happens, will happen.  this is your opportunity to pull the young girls back out if things get too rough.  
    • how do you know when it's too rough?  trust me you'll know!
      • the older girls will corner younger girls and peck and peck and peck
      • if you see blood it might be too rough - i always pull girls out at the first sign of blood
      • again - allowing the young girls to grow to full size and begin laying really makes a difference.  patience grasshopper, patience.  
      • keep and eye out - identify who goes in for the bullying first - this is probably your top lady chicken of the established flock - look for her back up and who else takes part.  these are the girls you'll need to watch when you next make efforts to integrate the flock.
if all goes well, then eggcellent.
if not, you owe it to your girls to pull them out immediately and to give them more growing time before trying again. 

the wee 14 are both fully grown and laying.  we were lucky fore not a single incident occurred.  sure there was a little peck peck here and there as was expected but nothing major. no one was cornered.  no one was chased about.  just a few reminders about just who gets to the feeder first, thank you very much.

but before i moved the girls, i built a bigger and better roosting system for all.  it's a simple affair but designed with a more efficient use of coop space and offers five times the amount of roosting space for the ladies.  

i made it from goods i had around the place.  actually, i used the old bits from the meatie coop.  the meatie coop is only up when i'm raising meaties and i raise meaties primarily in winter so the goods were ready and in waiting for a new farmy task. 

i did purchase one item - a twelve foot 4"x4" post at the local home depot and had them cut the post into four 3'-0" pieces.  you see i don't have a chop saw or a blade that would make such a cut on a post.  i could hand cut it but i promise you, it would not be a straight cut and I needed good cuts this round that would prove level.

i used
7, 2 x 4 x 8'-0" boards
6 to full length
and 1 cut to two 4'-0" lengths
a handful or two of 3" wood screws

hippychick's chickenychica's fancypants new roosting place
  • first off i set out two of the 4"x4"posts the distance of a 2x4x8 length
  • i attached the 2x4x8 to the face of each post - thus creating a piece that looks something like this
   I                       I   
  • i did this twice which created the front and the rear support for the roosts
  • i then connected the front and rear support using the 4'-0" lengths of 2x4 to the top of each 4"x4" post creating a fully connected rectangular structure

  • lastly i secured the remaining 2x4x8'-0" lengths to the top of the structure.
    • i spaced the 2x4x8'-0" lengths the distance between my wrist to my elbow apart
as you can see, there is no exact science to this just a best guess as to how much space girls need front to back and side to side. 

the good news is that the ladies took to it immediately.  in fact one of my girlies was up and on the roosts before all screws were in.  i don't know about your chickenygirls buy my chickenygirls love construction projects.  they don't run and hide the moment i come sauntering in with my screw gun, no no they hover.  

what's this?
is this for me?
it must be for me?
can i see that?
oh let me jump on that, that looks interesting.

get the picture?

well please forgive me for my awful building instructions - i say look at the photos and draw your best conclusion from that.  the key is proper support and spacing.  you'll see your girls huddling up in winter to keep warm and you'll see them spread out some as the temperatures rise.  plan for that spacing out when temperatures rise.  

- one last note -
i once used this old wooden ladder as a part of the former roost
it is now secured up in the eves of the coop for those girls who prefer a roost at heights beyond that of 3'-0".

nothing goes to waste
a ladder that was once a roost
is now
the superhighway of the eves.

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