And the Birds
In the fall of 2016 we were fighting what seemed like an onslaught of ticks. Each morning I would find two or three on each of the jennies. Not a good situation … but what to do? One morning in early October Ede mentioned that she’d read that Guinea Fowl could be a natural tick control. Having harboured a secret yearning to try out poultry here on our little hobby farm … zip! I was off and home again before you could say lickety split with four little keets!
They were tiny! I had discovered they had them at our local farm supply store.
Over the winter I spent time each day hanging out in the coop to ‘tame’ our little flock. We knew them as Miss Charlie, Sir Henry, Chip and Beaker. By May they were out and free ranging our woods and paddocks … and … the road! Not good … After a few weeks of watching them dodge cars and trucks (sometimes not so successfully) we decided that they needed a bigger farm to range. So they headed off to join a family who just moved onto their first farm this spring – 2017.
Having spent a great deal of time and money building our coop and our run I didn’t want that to go to waste. Hmmm … perhaps now we would try out our hand at raising some chickens. Cari and Owen gave me three of their chicks for a birthday present. And within a few days Haley was off to a heritage poultry sale and came home with three Marans to add.
The Marans are the little black chicks. The larger birds are a barnyard mix. These are my first chickens. I’m enjoying spending time watching them and handling them to help them to trust people. I’m also learning lots every day about how to care for them and how to train them. I don’t think we’ll end up with a bird playing patriotic piano …
… but you never know!
We had a wonderful fall and winter … and early spring … as the flock all matured. I found that I grew very fond of the roosters – all five of them! Yep – five roosters – two hens. As you can imagine, the hens were not all that pleased with being highly sought after by the ‘rooster flock’. At first I tried to rehome the hens down the road … in my ignorance I just popped them back in with the flock they came from. Finding them cowering in corners a few days later I picked them back up. Next came building a separate quarters for the roosters – all but one. That was great! For me – for the roosters – NOT for Edie or any other person who dared to enter their space. Every now and again I would let them run free with me while I did the chores. However, soon they began to disappear suddenly … only to be discovered because I would hear Edie yelling and cursing in the laneway while she tried to beat them off on her way to the mailbox. Alas … the poor fellows ended up joining a ‘freezer flock’.
The winner in all of that was Goldie. He was the last chicken to join us. He had been hatched in the kindergarten classroom up the road. He has a crossed beak and not so great eye sight. Plus, he thinks he is a person. So while the roosters were growing up in their flock of four – Goldie joined himself to me. He slept in the garage up on a shelf by the window. He couldn’t hop up or down so he would patiently wait for me to return in the morning to get him down. He followed me around and avoided the rest of the chickens – hens included – at all costs. If they were out front – he was out back. Now he and Lily (the only two of the original seven) hang out with Sophie (she of the ravaged back and shoulders from another farm down the road). They love to be set free in the morning to graze the front yard and gardens for bugs. Then the sleep away the afternoons either in the shade of their run or the warmth of their winter digs.
I’m sure my adventures with poultry are not over!
Five years later (2023) we are still enjoying our flock. The current roster includes five duck hens, seventeen chicken hens and one rooster – dear old Paddy.
We’ve been through multiple iterations of housing. Currently the chicken flock lives in the Palace. A beautiful 8 by 16 shed with six large windows and two large doors. That building opens onto what we call the ‘Chicken Highway’ with exits to the paddock AND to a large indoor space we call the ‘Clubhouse’.
The Clubhouse has four rooms that wrap around the donkeys’ barn. In the summer it is a screened in area with a heavy duty roof. In the winter it is tarped and has winter windows installed to keep it cozy for bad weather days. Two of the rooms can be closed off to be a ‘hospital ward’ … which we’ve needed once or twice. They can also be used to raise new chicks or to separate new hens.
The ducks have their own house. It opens onto the paddock and also has a separate ‘water room’ that opens into their own private side run. When we had drakes as well as hens I kept the two flocks separate. Now that there are just the five hens they prefer to run with the larger flock. It will be interesting to see where they hang out this summer. Their ponds work best in the side yard. Maybe that will become a duck/chicken hangout. It is the shady spot in the summer.
The birds keep me busy with chores! But healthy for being outdoors.