Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Serenity Now

It's been nearly two weeks since we introduced Midge and Madge, a pair of Buff Orpingtons, to our Second Street Chicken Ranch flock and relative peace has finally settled in.  This newly acquired, "peaceful, easy feeling," hasn't come without a price.  We've had bloodshed, a lot of feathers flying and in the end, a flock reduction.

Yes, we have sent Henny and Penny packing.  Our Barred Rock Bullies have gone to "the farm."

Fortunately for them this farm is not "THE farm" (you know, the one with the ax) and I am happy to say that they now live with about 20 other hens and one beautiful Rhode Island Red rooster.  Flock integration is a bit different when there are many hens and lots of room to roam, but my girls still lived up to their reputation. 

Penny, who had become quite the aggressor, immediately picked a fight with a Banty hen (yeah, she's a true bully, picking on someone smaller!).  But that feisty little hen quickly gave it right back to her.  When the Banty straddled Penny, Mr. Roo had to step in and end the battle. 

Next up, Henny the Horrible.  She decided to start right at the top of the pecking order and took after said Roo.  With claws and beak she went for Roo, who I believe found it somewhat amusing.  He quickly tired of her squawking and flapping and had her pinned down in about five seconds flat. What a shock this was to her -- and even a bigger one when he then proceeded to have his way with her!  If a hen can look astonished - she clearly was.  Finally, someone put her in her place. 

Meanwhile back at the Ranch, Midge and Madge are now venturing out of the coop and sitting on the outside roosts.  They are slowly mixing in with Helen, Flame and Harriet.  We occasionally hear a dust up, but at night everyone is roosting inside, snuggled up in a nice neat row.  Ahhh, serenity...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Upstairs Downstairs

The Second Street Chicken Ranch now has two flocks; not the desired outcome of flock integration.  Albeit a temporary situation, the new girls, Midge and Madge, have retreated to the serenity of the Penthouse coop while the "Street Level Girls," are literally camping out in the pen below.  

This separation pretty much happened on its own (and out of necessity to stay alive).  The new girls refuse to leave the safety of the coop and my girls had little interest in going in.  The first few days this worked, but that too was only a temporary situation. 

Come evening, "Henny the Horrible" and a few of her thugs would strut up the ladder and take back the coop. I was holding out hope that things would resolve peacefully when I discovered Henny and Flame on the roost right next to Midge and Madge (and no blood shed).  Well now, things are looking up!

Little did I know that the real perpetrator was lurking below and just happened to be the lowest in our flock's pecking order.  Let me introduce "Penny the Punisher."  She's got an ax to grind and wants to see heads roll.  It's all about someone else being on the bottom rung now! 

Whereas the Henny and Helen would "attack" if the new girls were in their sight, Penny went looking for them...right up the ladder and into the coop.  Relentless,with an iron-beaked grip on Madge's waddle, time and time again. Bloody hell. 

I tried to stay out of it. I really did.  But I just couldn't let the new girls suffer the punishment Penny was doling out.  The summer "screen door" was put on the coop - creating a peaceful environment for the new girls and two flocks were formed.

Now Henny is ticked because she has to sleep outside and Penny is still attempting to attack through the wire mesh door. 

But I did say this was a temporary situation.  After some soul searching I have decided that Henny and Penny are ready to find a new home.  That might be in someone else's flock (a large, free ranging flock would probably be best) or it might be in a crock pot.  If you want a pair of good laying Barred Rocks, let me know - they are yours for the taking -- just make sure your current flock knows a few kickboxing moves.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Coup de Coop

Let me just say up front, flock integration is not for the light hearted.  Anyone watch the Bad Girls Club on the Oxygen channel?  Yeah, completely trashy, bad-girl drama (makes treadmill time at the gym fly by!).   Yup, that's what we have going on at the Second Street Chicken Ranch -- just substitute "chixs" for girls.

The two Blondie's arrived yesterday afternoon and my plan was to slip them into the coop after dark, once my girls had retired for the evening.  Well, it had been a long day and I was tired, so after a little meet and greet between cage wires, I decided to do a more formal introduction.

I carefully placed the larger Buff Orpington on the roost outside...she stayed put and looked around curiously. So far so good.  The second Blondie, the smaller of the two, was a bit more excited and she flapped her way down into the pen.  Talk about being blindsided; in a flash Henny the Dominatrix, pulled a beak full of feathers from the little Orpie. Ouch! Next she did her best wrestling move off the ropes to flattened the new girl and pin her down.  Yikes!  Big Blondie stood stock still on the roost - can you blame her?

Helen decided to tag team with Henny, and in a dust up, Big Blondie got tossed off the roost. She too lost a clump of feathers immediately.  The rest of the flock was in a complete panic trying to stay clear of the mayhem. Oy! 

I tossed in some lettuce and thankfully things settled down for a few moments. It didn't last and at one point the new girls were cornered; Helen on one side and Henny on the other.  It was brutal.  I did my best not to intervene but I finally grabbed the new girls an pitched them into the coop.  Much to my dismay,  they jumped back down and into the "ring."  I really don't see how anyone could witness a cockfight; hen pecking is brutal enough.

Well after a few more rounds of getting the s%#@ kicked out of her, the little Orpington got smart and retreated to the coop.  "What the hell," is what I could imagine big O saying...move over sister, I'm right behind you!  They stood in the doorway together, blocking the entrance.  As I went in the house, I turned to see Henny midway up the ladder.  This should be good...but the Blondes held their ground and Henny backed off. 

This morning I half expected to find two pecked to death Orpingtons in the coop.  What I did find were two blondes still in the doorway.  My girls had been shut out and shut down. Shut up!

Tonight the Blondes (who will have names soon) were still holding the fort - a coup of the coop, if you will.  Hey, they got it made - the food is in the coop along with water and cozy nest boxes. Maybe blondes aren't so dumb!  And, even under such unwelcoming circumstances, they left me a beautiful cream colored egg.

My girls, on the other hand, are grumpy and probably hungry (I set out another waterer).  They need to get it together.

It's dark now and my plan was to go out and put one or two of my "good" girls on the roost in the coop. But to my surprise,  Henny was already on the roost inside the coop, along with Flame.  I put Harriett on the roost inside and left Helen and Penny on the outside roost.  The Orpingtons were still roosted in the doorway.  This might work out after all...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Okay, the title of this post is not what you are thinking...although if things don't turn out as expected, it could be very soon.

The Second Street Chicken Ranch is taking full advantage of the City of Coeur d'Alene's recently amended chicken laws by adopting two new girls to our flock.  Tonight we will be adding a pair of blond bombshells (aka Buff Orpingtons), and bring our flock to seven.

My colleague and fellow city chicker, Ben Fairfield, has decided to disperse his flock of Orpingtons for a new and younger flock of Rhode Island Reds.  Since his girls are just over a year old and have plenty of laying potential left (and to otherwise stay their pending execution), we are making room in the coop. 

So, tonight, under the cloak of darkness (really!), we are slipping the new girls into the coop.  Tomorrow morning when everyone wakes up - Hello - new roomies!   I've done a bit of researching and I keep reading that adding new hens in the dark is one of the best ways to integrate a flock -- that, and copious treats to keep them busy.

Should be an interesting evening - I just hope they don't keep us up all night with their cackling and feathered pillow fights...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Slow Season

This has been quite the slow growing summer. Thanks to a very mild winter that lasted until the end of June, the garden has been just sluggish (in more ways than one) this year.

The tomatoes look good with lots of green fruit; but this time last year we had been picking tomatoes for at least two weeks. The squash and cucumbers are just now starting to blossom. If we are fortunate enough to have a somewhat "normal" September, the Second Street Chicken Ranch should have an abundance of tomatoes.

We have had excellent success with our lettuce and sugar snap peas.  The Tom Thumb variety of butter head lettuce is my favorite this year.  These "single serving" heads are about the size of your fist with a delicate, creamy flavor.  I wasn't sure if the snap peas were going to make it through the very cold and very wet spring; and was certain that the seeds had rotted in the ground. But, they pulled through and even though it took a while for them to get going, they have been fantastic! Large, meaty peas that are sugar sweet!  These are even sweeter when a bag of 15 or so, sell for $4 a pound in the grocery store. 

Here's a pano-view of our raised beds -- it's the first full year of using this form of bed.  Hal says I'd have more room if I took them out and used this entire area for garden, much like I did in previous years.  But, I think I'll give the raised beds another year.  I am limited in my space due to the giant maple (Max) and walnut (Wally) trees in the backyard.  This corner is the only sunny spot I have.

Speaking of Max, a few years ago I placed a single Hen-n-Chick plant in one of his crooks.  Look what I have now...a hen, pullets and chicks! These things will grow anywhere.  My super creative friend, Julene, recently posted a bit on hens and chicks on her blog, Present By Design . You can also find a link to her website in my Groovy Links section.

Below are a few recent images from the flower garden.  I'm glad to see the bees back in action.

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