11 March 2011

Egg-citing Developments

Well, folks, there is news coming out of the hen house these days and I am co-opting Mr. Fuzzy's computer to tell you about it! (My computer remains at the e-doctors after two weeks. It is expected to eventually recover life as a franken-machine.)

A while back the automatic coop door began to act up and I only recently got all the necessary bits together to contact the manufacturer and ask for a replacement. I needed to 1: determine it wasn't a battery issue, 2: remember during business hours, and 3: not feel likely to loose my cool on the phone. I finally got all three to coincide and called the other day. To my great delight the owner answered my call, looked me up, explained the cause of the problem, and queued me up to get a free replacement door. I was off the phone in under five minutes. Turns out the metal in the gears can't take sub-zero temps and bent due to cold-induced brittleness. I should have a new door with a better mechanism from ChickenDoors.com within 2 weeks.

In the meantime I'm manually closing the door and checking nightly for wayward egg-stealing dinosaur-mammal hybrids (also known as possums) in the coop. We have had one in-coop sighting but no real problems thus far. The cats and dogs do a good job of keeping 'coons and possums away from the birds.

Last weekend we had two hens go broody. Bett and Salvadora are both sitting on their nests. Bett, a Dominique, is utterly determined to hatch some eggs while Sal is quickly lured away by the production of treats. She'll do anything for a peanut. Therefore, Bett is sitting on some real eggs (including Sal's hybrid chick) and will be allowed to hatch them naturally. Madame Plays-At-Incubating is sitting on golf balls and will have seven Partridge Rock babies stuck under her bottom in about two weeks. We're going to experiment with raising chicks in with the flock instead of in a separate brooding coop. We'll see how it goes.

Finally, I have decided that instead of diminishing the number of roosters to balance the flock's sex ratios (currently 1.5 hens per rooster) I will be adding a large number of hens to bring the ratio up to 8:1.

Why? Well, I learned a second-hand lesson on rooster utility this winter and I decided it was a lesson sufficient to not do the usual thing. A friend had several young roosters from his spring hatch and a single mature rooster, which was quickly challenged and bested. All but the best individual of the young roosters went to new homes or the "freezer coop." All was fine for a few months until Mr. Rooster was picked up by a hawk. The hens fell into disarray, abandoned their coop, and were being picked off by the hawks for want of a protector. (That's where my Number Three went.)

With six roosters on patrol the girls are well informed of every possible danger by land or air whether out foraging or sitting on the nest to lay an egg. These roosters grew up together and get along without significant arguments. I would hate to unnecessarily disturb a good system so they will be allowed to live a natural life so long as they are able protectors and willing to work cooperatively.

Those of you who know the crew are aware of our 7th rooster, Guido. He is not accounted for in my calculations as he is the bottom chicken, thoroughly hen-pecked, barred by the girls from mating and by the boys from taking on any real man-chicken duties. I suppose they just can't imagine a one-pound rooster as anything but window dressing. As he's too small to even flavor a pot of soup (much less add meat to it!) he's allowed to stay on as a pet. He earns his keep with cute. Yesterday he followed me on a circuit of the house begging for a treat. A half-feathered banty roo doing the chicken mating dance for his human is a painfully funny thing so, yeah, he got a great big pile of private "woodpecker food."

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