Friday, March 23, 2012

Flock Update

Little Miss No Name, with her new tuft of tail feathers and the beginnings of shoulder feathers.
My focus lately has been on getting seeds in flats, and knocking out a few work projects, but as time ticks forward, the flock changes little by little.

Thelma, one of the Australorps, has started laying. I was standing outside putting potting soil in flats (it's been unseasonably warm here) and could hear a hen scratching away in the nesting box. I looked over and could see that Mabel and Violet, my two daily-layers, were both in the yard, and the only hen missing was Thelma. She was making a general fuss about being in the coop, and true to form, was being a bit of a drama queen about all of it. Finally, yesterday, she produced a small brown egg.

Oreo, the Silver Laced Wyandotte Bantam, is normally fairly standoffish and not particularly interested in me, but lately, she's been my little shadow when I'm outside. As I was filling flats, she was hanging out next to me thinking about scratching in the tray of soil. That wasn't working, so I went in and got some raw oatmeal, and set out a little bowl for her. She made happy little sounds as she ate. I don't know what's gotten into her. She hasn't laid an egg for a week or more (she's an older hen), but she seems to feel fine otherwise.

Mabel has been channeling her inner-raptor. She and Violet, um, split (literally) a mouse the other day. I'm not sure who caught it, but they both wanted it and played out a grisly spectacle in front of M the other day. Mutual of Omaha in the backyard. When we picked Mabel out, she'd been isolated from the big flock because they were pulling her tail feathers out and picking on her. She seems to have outgrown her passive ways. The other day, our big fluffy cat, MuShu, who terrorizes dogs and thinks he's the king of the house, was rolling happily in the dust. Mabel spied him, sped toward him, and pecked him. He jumped straight in the air, then slunk off in the most undignified way.

Violet, having celebrated her first birthday (hatchday?) appears to be moulting. This is something chickens do once a year, and they slow or stop laying during a moult. A good layer will generally lose a lot of feathers quickly, and resume laying quickly. Poor layers don't lose a lot of feathers, and they are slow to lay eggs again. She's lost feathers around her neck (looks like she's been plucked). Next she'll probably lose from her saddle, breast and body, then from the wings and finally from the tail. Right now her body feathers have taken on a dingy, brown edge to them. Hopefully, she'll be done moulting in 4-6 weeks.

Pearl, Clover, and Louise are pretty much status quo. Pearl lays the occasional egg, Clover, the little old lady of the bunch, hasn't laid in awhile, and Louise is the only hen who hasn't laid yet. They have all been happily enjoying the warm weather, dusting themselves under the spruce and nibbling at weed and grass shoots that are appearing.

Inside, the Norwegian Jaerhons (Lotte and Inga) have gotten quite big. I could probably introduce them to the big hens, but don't want to leave Little Miss No Name all by herself. She's been getting bigger, starting to get her shoulder feathers and little tail feathers, but not quite big enough to run with the big girls yet. She's very happy to have mastered the art of hopping and flying enough to roost with the Jaerhons on their little perch in the bathtub. We have gone through many name possibilities for her, but no one seems able to agree. I think the latest choices were Dandelion and Princess Layer.

So that's the latest on the girls. Speaking of... I better get out and let them out of the coop. They're probably wondering where I am this morning, tapping their scaly toes impatiently at the coop door. We are ALL glad spring seems to be here.


  1. I've been reading through your archives, and your chicken stories make me smile every time! You flesh out their personalities really well -- to the point where I wonder if (once I get chickens) I'll be able to process them into roast chicken dinners. This bodes trouble.

  2. We had a rooster that we thought we might process, since we can't have a rooster. That idea didn't last long. The kids were pretty horrified... He went to live out in the country! Thanks for the kind thoughts -- I always feel a little silly writing so much about chickens, but they make me laugh all the time.