Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Girls

So, you've followed along for Parts One, Two, and Three of the Poultry Palace's building.  

Now, you probably want to see who gets to live in such nice digs.  Right?

I was in such a hurry to have chickens that were laying eggs that I scoured the internet for options.  I thought I would buy birds from the local hatchery, but apparently they don't have any chicks after July.  Something about colder weather and little birds not mixing.  Go figure...

So then I searched on Craigs List.  And searched.  And talked to locals.  And posted on Facebook.  

And then I hit gold.  A guy had listed 300 (!) laying hens for sale.  I didn't want near that many, but after talking to the man, I found out that I could buy the 14 I was looking for.  He assured me they were all in good health and that they were all laying.  So, we packed up the car with the dog carrier and drove two hours to get our girls.

When we arrived, we could see why Animal Control was taking the birds.  The conditions were deplorable.  I did not see any feed or water.  It was a barren piece of land with an abandoned, old garage on the property.  And, 230 chickens were shoved into the garage.  It was crazy!!

We looked at the chickens, and though it wasn't the best circumstances, we knew we wanted some birds, and felt that we were rescuing some of them.

We packed up 14 of them and headed back home.  

After about a week, we noticed that the girls seemed to be doing a lot of preening (bird term for itching and taking care of their feathers).  After doing some internet research, and doing a few very personal checks of our chickens' skin,  we realized our girls were infested with lice.  Ewww!

Since we're going the natural route with our critters, we decided that we would try a Poultry Day Spa in order to get rid of the itchy wee beasties.  So, each chicken was treated to a luxurious 3 pool dip.  10 minutes in a vinegar/water bath, 10 minutes in a Dawn/water bath, then about 5 minutes in a rinse bath.  I would have some FABULOUS pictures, however I was elbow deep in dipping chickens and couldn't stop to take pictures.  Crazy thing?  The girls seemed to like the warm baths.  They'd make a low, deep purr while in the water.  After they were done being deloused, one of the kids would dry them and hold them close for a few minutes in the warmed coop.  The girls didn't like this part too much.  A chicken cannot regulate her own body temperature, and relies on her feathers to trap air to be warmed, and therefore warm her body.  
Wet feathers = cold, cranky hens! 

After dispensing with the wee beasties, we thought eggs would be pouring out of the coop.  We waited with baited breath for our first egg to appear.  It seemed to be taking forever.
So long, in fact, that we lovingly named the birds, "The Freeloaders."

After several different evolutions of nesting boxes, and trying several different things in terms of roost bar locations, etc. we realized that we may have bought old chickens who were past their laying days.  The girls were just not laying eggs.  We gave them grace due to the stress of being contained in an over crowded garage, and for the stress of being moved, and for the stress of the Poultry Spa, and for the Fall molt.  But, after a while, we became discouraged. 

The Freeloaders seemed pretty happy with their cushy digs, fresh water, breakfast in bed, and all the kitchen scraps they could scarf.  They didn't seem to be in any rush to give us an egg. 

Then, one day... An egg!!

While we are grateful for any eggs we receive, most of our girls still don't lay.  We get 1-4 eggs a day, usually only one.  That could be due to the age of some of the hens, time of year, short daylight length, etc.  We've decided to let them continue being Freeloaders through the winter.  We've culled a few from the flock, and will do so again after the days are long enough that everyone should be laying.  So far, culling is definitely the worst part of owning farm animals.  Feed and other costs are too high for us to raise chickens as pets.  To quote Dave Ramsey, "You don't work, you don't get paid." 

For now, we will enjoy the fresh (DELICIOUS!!) eggs we are receiving and watching the antics of silly birds. 

They are the cooky-est, funniest, most entertaining animals I have ever owned!

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