Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chicken neglect

Our chickens generally are awake and down in their run even before it's really daylight out, so I was surprised yesterday morning when I glanced out the kitchen window and didn't see any of them digging around in their run, which is where they spend pretty much all day. I figured they were up in the coop eating or something and thought nothing of it.

When I came back home from dropping the kids off at school and going for a walk, it was the same thing. No visible chickens. Strange. I figured there was a reasonable excuse for their absence, but went out to check on them all the same. Plus I had some food waste for them.

In our house I always exclaim with delight how our three chickens turn our garbage into eggs. What other kind of pet does that? In any case, I figured they'd jump down the ramp as soon as they heard the back door open, which is what they usually do. But still, no chickens.

As I was walking down the stairs they all starting piling down in the run. Phew. I realized that I hadn't even bothered to check for eggs the day before so I think they were all in there nesting on the eggs, trying to hatch them or something. Because there were eggs out there and they were warm.

When we first got the chickens I would diligently go out there every morning, let down the ramp, clean the run and the coop and get them set up for the day. But, then again, the weather back in September was warm and it was light out that early. Over the months I started cleaning less frequently and, since the run is completely enclosed, figured I'd just leave the ramp permanently down so they could come and go as they pleased. I rethought how often I cleaned the coop and it's pretty much down to every other week. I still go out there just about every day to give them some scraps and check for eggs. Well, except for the day before yesterday. Fortunately, the air temperature is about refrigerator levels so it's not that big a deal.

I've become a less anal chicken keeper and they don't seem to care just as long as they get their dandelion treats, which they will pass over everything else in order to eat. I call the dandelions I dig up with our weed extractor chicken toys because they spend hours nibbling on them and flinging them around the run. I have to make sure I give them at least three or more so they don't steal them from each other. They are quite silly about it - I figured they'd prefer the bread or pasta but, no. Their most favorite food in the whole world is dandelions. And, it's a good thing for all of us because we have a shitload of them in our lawn. It's a symbiotic thing we got going on over here.


Greenpa said...

ah, you human, you. :-)

One reason to continue to be meticulous about gathering the eggs- if a bird is getting hungry, and the egg is there all day, and all night- they can learn to eat the eggs.

That's a disaster. You only need one bird to learn to crack the egg; once there's a broken egg in the coop, 100% of the birds will then see it as food. Including the shell, which they will eat; all of it. You may see no sign at all that the egg ever existed.

Fixing an egg-eating problem is vastly more work than just making it a habit to pick up the eggs; every day- the quicker after they're laid, the better.

Voice of experience, here, in fact. Last summer we developed exactly this problem. In our case it wasn't chickens - it was wild crows. They learned to enter our movable chicken tractors, crack and remove the eggs. The guineas then learned to crack eggs from the crows, and all the chickens joined in eating. Got so the primary perpetrators just hung around waiting for an egg to appear; and it would then disappear, immediately.

Moving the birds into winter quarters solved the crow access problem (for now); and the evil guineas solved that part of the problem by dying or disappearing. Current flock includes both, and no problems - so far.

But I'm now very fussy about getting the eggs picked up daily; no later than 2PM.

Robj98168 said...

Tsk. Poor Chickens

Unknown said...

Interesting about the chickens cracking the eggs. Ours occasionally crack an egg accidentally and mostly ignore it so I find a soupy mess of squashed egg. And we do feed our shells back to the chickens so I've always wondered why they don't go "oh look! I found some eggshell!". The only time they've done it on purpose is when their waterer gets tipped over in the summer and they're extremely thirsty. Then they'll crack it and drink it for the water. This has happened only twice in the past 4 years of chicken keeping. Now I pay close attention to the waterers.

But, as to other minor neglect... I'm the same way. Sometimes the chickens don't get out as early as they should and sometimes their house doesn't get scraped and re-bedded as quickly as it needs to. This is not a good thing but they don't seem to suffer unduly. Especially since half their house they sleep in and half has an open wire floor so if they are particularly offended by the smell they can hang out in the clean part until I come to free them. But seriously, I do try to keep things clean. Aerosolized fecal matter is very bad for their lungs. Unfortunately their house needs some major rebuilding at the moment, the new birds need the wheels put on their house and a million other things need to be done unrelated to chickens. I anticipate that everyone will have their houses finished in the next two weeks.

Issa said...

I get the eggs every day, so that, as Greenpa said, they don't get the idea that they're food. But everything else - cleaning, what time they get let out - is pretty slack.

As far as turning garbage into food, though, nothing beats pigs! Pigs will eat almost anything coming out of the kitchen - fruit rinds, veggie scraps, egg shells, the water you boiled stuff in, old leftovers, stale bread, the dinner you burnt, meat bones, you name it. The only thing mine won't eat is hot peppers. I call them nature's miracle animal. You give them trash and they give you bacon. :-)

Brad K. said...


I find they like gourds and pumpkins, and watermelon rinds as well.

. . and aren't you keeping the dandelions for table greens?