Warm Thoughts

Pictures from a day at the beach on Lake Michigan. A warm thought for a cold day like this.

Ordering Chicken Catalogs Beats the Winter Blues

I know it’s cold outside right now and with the recent extreme weather we’re focused on making sure our chickens survive. But, the good news is that it won’t be cold forever. Spring will come. And when it does, we need to be prepared.

Just as gardeners hunker down over the winter months and pour through seed and plant catalogs, we chicken lovers can do the same. In fact, I’d encourage it.

For one, catalogs are free. And, they’re loaded with tons of information. In fact, I keep mine all year for quick reference. Whether you’re looking for fertile eggs to hatch, day-old-chicks or supplies for your existing flock, it’s all there. In many cases, I’d say catalogs are just as valuable as books. For example, if you’re looking to add to your flock, you can read books that include breed descriptions. And, then you have to do twice the work by finding what breeders offer and when. Why not just do it all at once? Let’s face it, breeders know exactly what they’re selling and they let you know in a succinct description complete with prices and availability.

Catalogs are also a great way to spot new supplies that can make your chicken keeping easier. For instance, did you know about the new drip watering systems that claim to waste less water or the myriad of predator protection systems available? Are you in the market for a new coop or do you need some new nest boxes? It’s all there and, in many cases, is quality tested to ensure customer satisfaction.

Below are a few suggestions for catalogs you can order online. And, if you’re impatient, many can be immediately downloaded while you wait for your paper copy to arrive.
So, get ordering and start dreaming, because spring will be here before you know it!

Murray McMurray Hatchery

Mt. Healthy Hatchery

Red, our Friendly New Hampshire Hen

We have a three-year-old New Hampshire hen affectionately named “Red” since she’s so red she’s often mistaken for a Rhode Island Red. She has always been friendly, affectionate and curious. And, she loves to be with her “family.” So, it’s really no surprise what this clever chicken has come up with to visit us on HER terms. Plus, we humans are such suckers, that Red even gets special treats for this behavior.

First and foremost, Red is a backyard chicken. This, by no means, confines her. She lives in a huge fenced yard on 13 acres. She’s got plenty of room to roam. But, this is not enough for Red. Her biggest wish is to hang out by our side stoop and ravage the small garden we have planted there and then come inside our house to say “hi.”

Here’s how it works. Red flies over our backyard fence; sometimes at great peril as she’s a large chicken and her flying isn’t graceful. In fact, she’s just getting over a hurt leg from performing this trick. Then she meanders around the house to the stoop garden. There she revels in picking through all of our mulch to find the tastiest bugs. (Apparently, they taste better in the front of the house where every guest can see the mess that Red makes.) Then, she hops up on our steps and “yells” at the top of her lungs until someone notices her.

This is where we humans make a mistake that keeps this behavior going; but it’s really cute! We open the door and Red comes strolling into our mud room. (Thank goodness the floor is tiled so it’s easy to clean.) It’s hilarious to watch her since she’s very regal as she walks in with her head high and looking from side to side. Nothing deters her, not the dog or cats. She then strolls over to the dog’s crate and starts to drink from the water bowl and we give her treats. Usually it’s whatever we have on hand; bread, crackers, even cat food. After she’s done, we carry her through the garage and deposit her with her flock in her proper place; the backyard.

The human Red likes to visit best is my husband. One day he was working from home and was on the phone with a client. I heard Red at the door but couldn’t get there in time. I thought she just gave up and went to the backyard when I heard some loud squawking from outside our bedroom window. It turns out; Red heard my husband on the phone in our bedroom and decided since I had ignored her, she was going to try another tactic. And, sure enough, when my husband got off the phone, Red ran straight to the stoop door.

Thankfully, she doesn’t do this every day; although some days she does it over and over. She’s got food, water, treats and room to roam in the backyard, so this doesn’t have anything to do with basic needs. I think she likes her treats and she likes her people peeps!

Why Chickens Peck Each Other

After Little Muff's pecking, I was curious about why chickens peck each other. I'd always known this could be a problem but had never experienced it.

First, it's important to say that chicken pecking is not always bad. Chickens will peck each other as a normal and important form of communication. This pecking is gentle; in fact, the feathers are rarely disturbed. This is a way the chickens "check out" each other and establish the "pecking order" that rules how a flock functions.

If you start to find chickens with lots of feathers pulled out on the back, wings, base of tail and sides of the body, and it's not molting season, then you know you've got a problem. There can be many reasons for this type of pecking, but it's important to note that it is not considered aggressive. Self plucking because of an infestation of mites, lice or other irritants; overcrowding and overheating and a lack of protein can cause this behavior.

Also, chickens are curious and sometimes pecking accidentally draws blood. This can send chickens into a frenzy and the results can be bad.
In Little Muff's case, she was the victim of what is called aggressive pecking. This type of pecking occurs exclusively at the top of the head or comb and requires a chicken keeper to go beyond initial triage and rehabilitation. For Little Muff, she has always been at the bottom of the pecking order. She's a beautiful Ameracauna, but she gets a little spastic, and I personally think the other chickens get tired of her weird behavior.
But, before we added our red sex links and our unexpected rooster last year, we had never had aggressive behavior in our flock even with Little Muff around. And, now that our two hatched roosters have matured, things have escalated. I truly believe our new roosters ganged up on Little Muff and almost killed her.

Since Little Muff has been away from the flock for so long while healing, I don't feel like I can safely reintroduce her. She has very little protection on her head and likely will not survive any more incidents. So, she's probably getting her own coop and run and hay have a friendly chicken or two come and join her. Then, I truly think we need to remove the aggressors. This behavior will continue if left unchecked. I think we need to find new homes for our roosters, at least the two new guys. We've asked some folks if they'd like a rooster and haven't had much luck. So, it may end up that the roosters become dinner. In that case, we'll be thankful for the wonderful food. And, I think the flock will be thankful for the reprieve.

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