Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chicken Education

You know when you read books on chickens and the experts say not to buy them off craigslist or just any Joe Schmoe.  Yah... don't.

We went ahead and bought 8 chickens from an ad on craigslist.  At the time we thought we'd just work them and then stew pot them but now their work in the garden areas is done and my DH likes the 4 or 5 eggs we get a day from them (Or used to- more coming on that.) so we made a new home for them and won't butcher them until our chicks are laying.  But they are... well... they're not well behaved toward each other.

I believe they were cramped and bored and not managed well at their previous home.  They are very cannibalistic!  The 6 hens are missing massive amounts of feather everywhere  (they were like that when we picked them up) and the tiniest hen (lowest in the pecking order) is always trying to hide and get away from the others.  Today I went out to find her with her neck and most of her body through the fence barrier in the barn.  (A couple times she has made it through)  She was trying to hide but of course the others knew where she was and just kept pecking on her.  I pulled her out from the fence twice but she just would return to the same position and when I pulled her from the area and put her down on the other side of the pen (safe from the others) she immediately found something to hide behind.  Then when I pulled her from hiding I noticed a large puncture on her back under her wing.  Not a bloody peck but an actual puncture.  That's it!  She is now being housed alone in the brooder until we decide what to do.  Well, until we do what needs to be done.  She is going to have to be butchered.  I don't trust her with my chicks and I don't trust my chickens with her. 

I think it would be most compassionate to put her out of her misery.  I'd rather do the deed quickly then have her be pecked to death in the hen house. (This wound may heal but they'll just keep on her and she'll get another.) I'd be happy to keep her alone but I've read that chickens don't like to be alone so looks like we are butchering sooner than later. The rest of the flock seems fine with her gone. I'm watching the next one on the pecking order closely.  Hrummph!

Next issue:  Since we moved the chickens from the chicken tractor to the barn we have only gotten one egg for two days and finally today... a whopping TWO eggs.  I've started leaving the light on during the day to lighten the barn and keeping the big door wide open and have moved the nesting boxes around and filled them with nesting material (like in the tractor) instead of dry grass. I also threw a lot of cracked corn out in their yard to encourage them to hang out in the yard instead of in the barn. I'm hoping this gets us back to our 4 or 5 eggs daily.  If it doesn't I'll have to do more research or more butchering.

My baby chicks... the only problem with them is they haven't figured out to go inside the tractor house at night by themselves yet.   We have to pick them up and put them in.  I hope they figure it out on their own soon! My little one, Samantha, the one the bigs pecked on is doing fine even with her bald head. I do hope her feathers come back.

Ahhh.... the joys of continuing education in chicken raising!

Anyone got any input for me and my chickens?

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