When we brought our chicks home, I thought at first Penelope (Australorp) would be the chicken in charge because she seemed a little bossy. But it was Daisy (another Australorp) who was leading the flock by the time we were ready to move them from brooder to coop. I’d say Daisy takes her job very seriously and holds the leadership role with little challenge. Every now and then one of the Barred Rocks will try her patience, but in all seriousness: I don’t think “The Bards” are interested in being in charge. They just like to stir up trouble.
Australorps Penelope (likes to be pet and thinks she’s Mr. Gordon’s girlfriend); Maxine (drama queen with Rockette dreams); and quiet Zorro (she could actually give Daisy a run for her money because she’s so big – but I don’t think she has any interest) have not challenged Daisy either. They seem to mind with little complaint. Although, it’s clear that Daisy is not in favor of Penelope’s crush on Mr. Gordon. But she just glares at her while Penelope tries to work her chickeny whiles on Mr. Gordon. (I’m only a little jealous.)
This post is by Daisy (I’ve taken some liberties) and me as we reflect on our Chicken Chores. I hope you enjoy!
Daisy – Chicken Chores
It’s a lot of work watching over this flock. There is no such thing as a day off. Early on, I realized that one of us had to step up and take responsibility for keeping the others in line. I gave it some thought, but in the end, I knew I was the only chicken among us who would take the job seriously.
My sister Australorps were fairly well-behaved at the beginning.
But those Barred Rocks? Mur-AWK! Not so much. A rowdy rag-tag bunch, those chickens, if there ever was one.
I’ve had to watch over everyone since the beginning, keeping a close eye on those humans who popped their goofy faces over the side of the brooder from the first day.
But, we’ve been out in our coop and run for about six weeks now. It’s going pretty well. We have a well-established routine. It took a few nights to get the hang of where we were supposed to be, but I like order. Like I said: routine.
It’s not all, peck-peck-peck, scratch-scratch-scratch. The humans have proved themselves to be useful.
I particularly like the “watermelon” days, but I detest the heat. I would like some cooler weather.
Here’s we are enjoying some juicy fruit. (The watermelon IS my favorite – it’s even better than grapes.)
But even in these joyous fruit-filled moments, I need to make sure those humans aren’t bugging my flock all the time with that camera.
The male human gets a little “handsy” with us chickens so I have to be vigilant and keep my eye on him.
Of course Penelope actually likes him. She just hops right up there on his lap. And bats her big eyes.
I don’t know what kind of favors she’s trying to earn.
When they bring us something new, it’s up to me, Daisy, to determine if it’s appropriate for us.
I need to make sure everyone is kept safe and out of trouble. This is my sacred Head of the Pecking Order job.
Right now I’m not-so-much about this wading pool, so I let us a long and loud mmmmmmrrrrrrrrrrau! Now the flock knows that I am not in favor of this latest addition to the run. (Tracy’s note: After Daisy’s vocalization, the others tended to wander away. Except for the….wait for it…)
Those danged Barred Rocks!
I told you: nothing but trouble from the beginning. They never listen to me. (Until I make them.)
There they go, balancing on the edge and poking at the ice cubes. It was a trap, I just know it. One of The Bards actually slipped from her perch and almost fell in. Her foot plunged right into the water. Even after this reckless behavior, a couple of them were right back at it.
So this heat wave… none of us likes this.
We alternate between the shade under the coop and heading back inside. The humans put a tarp over the roof of the run, and that helped. But, it’s still hot weather.
When we’re in the coop, it’s not unusual for me to sit as sentry at the door. From this vantage point, I can see what’s going on in the run, and what’s happening across the yard.
My work is never done. I am tireless.
At night the work really begins. I spend about 20-30 minutes getting everyone rounded up and heading into the coop. The first three nights outside the brooder, no one was really sure what to do. The humans were picking us up and putting us into the coop.
I do NOT like to be picked up.
But it’s different now. I took over for the humans. They were doing it wrong anyway. I am the chicken in charge and I tell everyone when it’s time to go in.
Sometimes I have to chase one or two of the Barred Rocks around the run because they are naughty and won’t go in. It’s not unusual for one to slip back out the door and I have to start all over.
They think it’s funny.
I do not.
Once we get inside, there’s a little shuffling for the prime places on the roost. A few still like to sleep in the pine shavings. I think a couple of my charges aren’t really aware of what a brooder box is for. They think it’s a motel room.
But, with the breeze coming through and the dusk slipping over the yard, it’s a quiet end to the day. I am tired and we will all rest.
The work will begin again tomorrow.
Tracy – Chicken Chores
Quite honestly, my 6:00am chores are often the best part of my day.
This is when I drink the last swig of that first blessed cup of coffee, don the LL Bean boots (a present to myself for the coop and run, I got them on sale), and head to the garage to retrieve the chicken feed and a basket to gather greens for them to pick through and eat as part of their first activity of the day.
I’m not exactly sure how it fell onto my plate, these daily chicken chores, but it’s just fine by me. I have my summer routine all set – I’m positive this will change in winter as I am not standing outside with a hose in the snow.
After getting the chicken feeder from one of the galvanized steel garbage cans from the garage, and adding some chicken feed from yet another galvanized can, it’s down to the garden. (I leave the feeder on the back of the truck to grab on my way to the chicken run.)
It’s just not safe to free-range the chickens here and their run is wood chips, so they only get the greens and grass we bring to them. I pick a half basket of grass and clover in the morning. After the grass is picked, I grab the feeder and it’s off to let the girls out of the coop.
If you want to see what it looks like when they leave the coop in the morning, enjoy this video here.
After giving the girls their hanging feeder outside, the grass clippings dashed with mealworms (they love to scratch through the grass and find them), I grab the two waterers and it’s off to wash and fill them with fresh water. One lives inside the coop and the other one hangs underneath the coop.
This scrub-a-dub in the morning is my Zen time. I can see the chickens running around inside the run, I can see the lower garden, I don’t have to do anything but focus on the task at hand. It’s one of the few moments in my life where I am truly in the present.
Chores: Clean the waterers well, fill with nice cool water, and add a bit of apple cider vinegar (benefits discussed in Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow – affiliate link) at a rate of 1 tablespoon per gallon. If you are thinking of getting chickens, new to chickens, or even have had your share of chickens, this book is worth picking up! One more note, if you use galvanized / metal waterers, do NOT put vinegar in the water. The vinegar will react with the metal and hurt your chickens. I use plastic waterers.
When everything is clean and the water is ready to go, it’s back to the coop and run. The chickens usually head right on over for the fresh water I hang underneath the coop. The other waterer I put back inside the coop so they have access to fresh water there as well.
A little chicken chit-chat and I’m off to wash up for the day. Zen time over.
As Daisy mentioned above, the weather has been brutally hot. The ONLY good thing I can say is that the humidity has been on the lower side, which helps. Typically it’s so humid here, when you add on the hot temps, it’s like living in swamp air. It’s miserable.
The chickens do not like the heat. We have been experimenting with different methods of keeping cool and hydrated. Since chickens do not sweat, they pant to help “relieve” the heat – as well as dust bathe and hold their wings out to their sides to let in a little air.
The first time I saw the panting, I was very worried. But, we did the research and learned that as long as it’s just a little panting on these hot days, and they are not lethargic, are still drinking water / eating, and have plenty of shade, that’s going to be the case from time to time. They don’t like it, I don’t like it… but we don’t control the weather. I sweat. They pant.
There are a tips for helping your chickens deal with heat (and the cold) in Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow (affiliate link). Again, that book is worth every penny!
For cool treats, a quarter of a seedless watermelon is the clear winner, but frozen fruit helps as well. This is a mix of strawberries, pineapple, peaches, and mango below. With watermelon, you might get some “runny poops,” so you don’t want to overdo it. I save it for the hottest days. Nice cool (not frozen) grapes – each grape cut into 3 pieces – is another winner and they will all but knock you down for those sweet, juicy morsels. 😉
I also introduced a shallow amount of colder water in a rubber storage bin (those pics up above) hoping that they might pop-in and cool their feet (I read that some chickens do this), but so far there was only a bit of curiosity and no takers. I wonder if the bin is too “deep.” I’ll need to find a smaller one and try that.
I also read a tip from another chicken keeper that she fills empty 2-liter plastic bottles with water, freezes them, then lays them in her run for her chickens to lay against. We have 1-liter plastic bottles and today I’m giving that a try. The chickens looked at them, then to me as if to say, and what are we supposed to do with this? Still, Mr. Gordon saw one resting near a bottle awhile ago. Maybe it was giving off a little cool air as the ice inside melted.
We check on them periodically during this heat. We try not to engage too much because we don’t want them running around. It’s a balance.
I am grateful that my “day job” allows me to work from home. I can get out there from time to time to check on them. At lunchtime, I can refresh their water.
Chicken chores are daily – like Daisy said, there is no day off. You can’t just decide not to do it. You take on the responsibility when you bring those cute little chicks home.
But I don’t mind. They are… “our flock.” Mine and Mr. Gordon’s. Mine and Daisy’s.
And this is what we do. 🙂
Chickens? Chores? Yours?
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