The chicks that were hatched at my school last spring have grown into full sized birds now. The hens are even laying eggs so we are finally getting a return for all our investment.
One of the boys at my school was telling me that their hen was also laying eggs. He was very excited. He said they saved the first egg that was laid. That is a sweet thought but not very practical.
I didn’t tell him this.
I remember the first egg laid by our hens. It was a green egg and appeared shortly after a chemical fire near our house that required us to evacuate for the evening. At first I wasn’t sure if the green egg was a result of the fumes from the fire. Then I remembered that some breeds of hens lay green eggs. I was very relieved.
Anyway, the birds from the school are quite adventurous. Beekeeper Brian looked out the kitchen window to see them on top of the coop.
This is would not be a big problem except that several times I have found one of them in the yard next door. Fortunately they always manage to find their way back.
I looked out the window last week and discovered one of the chickens on top of the shed.
This was a new trick so I snapped a picture from the back patio. Then I cautiously walked to the coop to try to coax the bird down on the correct side of the fence.
Fortunately I was successful.
Later in the week I discovered the same bird in the yard next door. She was enjoying the lush, green grass.
I thought about retrieving her but that meant walking all the way around the front of the house and through the neighbor’s gate.Or I could jump the fence.
I decided to go inside and pretend I didn’t see anything.
I told Beekeeper Brian we had a wandering chicken. He assured me she would return at nightfall. He also suggested I clip her wings when she did.
Sure enough, when I went to close up the chickens, there she was. I clipped her wings, much to her dismay. When I left, she was trying to fly up to the top of the nest boxes to roost. She has remained on the ground in her chicken yard since then.
Our soon-to-be neighbors stopped by last week to see if they could leave a child’s playhouse in the yard between our houses. They would have to temporarily take down the fence (the infamous privacy fence, that is) to move it into the back yard and planned to do that after they officially moved in.
That was no problem.
They also brought their chickens and wondered if we could keep them with our flock until they could build a chicken coop. This was also no problem.
They were already in a cage so we simply moved the cage into the back yard and planned to put the chickens into the coop after dark. We’ve discovered that chickens loose all their memories at night so when they woke up they would think they had always lived in our coop. The only drawback to this plan was the dachshunds. They were fascinated by the new chickens and while they could not actually get to them, their barking was very stressful for the birds.
So we moved the cage into the chicken yard behind the shed. It was much calmer for the chickens.
Now those of you with chicken experience may have noticed that the darker bird is actually a rooster. Our neighbor assured me it was a friendly rooster and indeed it was – until it came time to clip wings.
Wing clipping is an event at which I have only been the holder of the chicken. Rachel or Beekeeper Brian always wielded the scissors.
Since Rachel moved to college and Brian was at work, it was up to Chicken Wrangler Sara to expand her wing clipping experience and do the holding and the clipping.
It was harder than I expected.
I clipped the hen first and she pooped on me. Fortunately this was a day I did not have to go to work and had time to clean up properly.
The rooster, on the other hand, bit my arm. Actually, it was kind of a pinch since I’m not sure chicken have teeth.
In any event, it was somewhat painful, but I survived.
After the chicken scratch last week and the rooster bite this week, I’m going to ask for combat pay.
The next morning I discovered the hen roosting on the privacy fence. Obviously, I had not clipped enough off her wings.
That night, while she was roosting in a tree, the more experienced wing clipper Beekeeper Brian grabbed her and did a better job.
Now everyone, including the guests, go into the coop at night.
I looked out the kitchen window last evening and saw a rooster about 5 feet off the ground on top of the quail cage in the middle of the chicken yard.
This would not be a problem if he could get back down to the ground on the right side of the fence (the one with the chickens, not the dogs). However, we have learned that chickens (and roosters) are not particularly coordinated.
I headed out to the chicken yard to make sure he was safe.
Later, we decided if the rooster could make it to the top of the quail cage must be time to clip wings. While this sounds horribly painful for the birds, it is actually more like clipping fingernails.
The hardest part is catching the birds.
Since the sun was setting, the chickens headed for the coop. They are creatures of habit and every evening they go to bed in the coop, and every night I shut the door to keep non-chickens out.
Since the birds were contained, Beekeeper Brian decided to go into the coop and clip wings. He started with the smaller game birds which made the most racket I ever heard.
I was afraid the neighbors would think we were killing them. Eventually all the wings were clipped and no chicken died, though from all the noise I’m sure the neighbors did wonder.
Wing clipping prevents the birds from flying over the fence where Bella (the dachshund) could “play” with them. At the same time, wing clipping also makes it very difficult for them to fly up to their roosts in the coop.
I believe at least one of the birds held a grudge against us.
When I went to collect eggs the next morning, she pecked at my hand. I’ve gotten used to that and it doesn’t really hurt – especially when compared with bee stings.
So I got the eggs and the chicken immediately went to the roost in front of the nest box and started squawking very loudly. I swear she was saying “Thief, Thief!!!!.”
If you spend enough time around chickens, you learn to speak their language.
That evening when I went to close up the coop, one of the birds sounded very raspy. I told Beekeeper Brian it was probably the one who had fussed at me. She’d squawked so loud she made herself hoarse.
Without missing a beat, Brian replied, “Well how is she supposed to lay eggs if she is a horse?”