September 3, 2012

Happy (and hot) Labor Day Fun!

We were going to give the chickens the day off from laying eggs but since they haven't even started laying ...  We had to come up with something fun for them to do in honor of Labor Day and any future eggs they will be giving us.  Pullets (young female chickens)  start laying at sometime around 25 weeks old. Ours are ten weeks old today so they should start laying in Mid December. Daylight plays a big roll in egg production. In the winter with less sun the hens may not produce as often.  Ours may be a little slow to get started or they might be right on time. The first few rounds of laying tend to be off somewhat either in timing or size of first eggs. I will start checking egg boxes everyday the second week in December though (that seems like forever)!

We carried big slices of watermelon out to the run and watched them dive in beak first. It's amazing the mess they can make with those cute little beaks. When they peck into the watermelon it's like dozens of mini-water-cannons going off!  It sprays everywhere especially on their backs. Watermelon juice is sticky (in case you didn't know that...)

Watermelon, Yes!

Thank You!

After the little 'Paranas-with-feathers' strip the watermelon down to a thin green rind, or beyond, they're tired...of course. But first it was preening time. Then off to their little burrows in the run where they take dust baths or naps. Despite what a lot of people might think, chickens are very meticulous about their cleanliness. A dust bath might sound contradicting to that but: 

- Chickens love to take dust baths ! They dig a shallow hole, loosen up all the dirt, and proceed to get themselves absolutely as dirty as they possibly can. (Don't worry, the shake the dirt off later...) Dust baths are absolutely necessary: they prevent parasites such as mites and lice from finding a home in your chickens' feathers and legs.
If your chickens aren't free-range or their run area doesn't have a dry patch of ground where they can dig a hole, you'll need to provide them with an artificial dust bath. Place a box on the floor of their coop and fill it with 6" of a dusting powder. Ingredients: 1 part fireplace ashes, 1 part road dust, 1 part sand and 1 part  Diatomaceous Earth.

Later this afternoon (after preening, dust bathing and napping) they had their first supervised semi-free-range experience. We had a roll of fencing wire from which me made a four foot diameter (temporary) play pen. I'm sure any of our neighbors who did not know we had chickens know now. As we caught them one by one they let out the most horrendous squawk...each with a slightly different but equally ear-piercing squawk!

The Grass Near The Fence Is Best

Munching Down

Once they were all in the 'playpen' they caught on to the game and plowed down grass, scratched up bugs and actually let Harry get in the pen with them to shoot photos.  We all stayed out quite a while. They were starting to pant just a little bit (still hot here) so that was our cue to get them back to their run. Catching them to go back was a lot easier...since Harry was still in the playpen and the are was a lot smaller than the run area.

Is The Grass Greener...?

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