Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quirky Chirpy

Chirpy - 8 weeks old
It occurred to me that I hadn't written about Chirpy Easter's name or her breed, so here's the scoop.  She is what's known as an Easter Egger chicken - a mutt breed that carries a blue egg gene.  She sports blue/gray legs, and has a muff or beard of fluffy feathers below her ears and under her chin.  We're excited to see what color eggs she'll lay.  Although she is bred to carry a blue egg gene, her eggs may be green, blue or even pink.  Regardless, she's a keeper.  Her sweet, bold personality has charmed us both!

Her name came to us, thanks to a good friend of ours who works in admissions at a nearby college.  Each fall our friend reads dozens and dozens of application files from prospective students, and each year she tells me about a few of the standouts.  Several years ago she read an essay by a girl who grew up with chickens.  Her chickens were her best friends.  They listened when she had a bad day and comforted and amused her with their antics.  This girl gave her chickens fantastic names like Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt and Gloria Steinem.  In addition to all of these powerful women's names, she also had a hen named Chirpy Easter.  When my friend shared this story I laughed pretty hard and the name stuck in my brain.  So, when Eric and I decided to get an Easter Egger chick, I didn't have to think too hard about a name.  We have our very own Chirpy Easter who brightens our days!

Chirpy the bearded lady


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hi, my name is ... Eeek! Run away! Run away!

On Monday we moved the new chickens, Little Redder and Chirpy Easter, outside to live with Ray, Stella, and Winnie. The young ones are quite used to us and perched on our arms as we carried them out. I had Redder and when we got to the lowered chicken fence she lept from my arm and flew down to greet the other chickens. This was not a good idea. Chickens generally don't like other birds descending from the sky in their general direction, something about the fear of hawks and eagles. So when Little Redder landed in between the other three they made a quick showing of their disapproval by surrounding her and puffing up their feathers, standing tall, and getting ready to peck at Little Redder. This, of course, scared Redder pretty good and she made a few laps around the chicken yard with three mad hens behind her before finding shelter in the small spaces behind the rain barrel.

The title of this blog is what I suspect she was thinking as this happened.

 It took some time and effort to convince that little chicken to come out but we were eventually able to get the young ones into the fenced-off area underneath the coop that I had rigged up for them. One idea for integrating new chickens into a flock is to have them in close proximity but in separate enclosures so that they can see each other but no one gets picked on.

After a week of this separation we decided it was time to let them mingle a bit. The big chickens more or less picked up where they left off a week earlier. There was a fair amount of running and chasing and Winnie did end up with a mouthful of Little Redder's feathers. So it looks like this isn't going to be the most joyful experience for the new chickens. In theory, things should settle down once the big ones are convinced that the little ones know their place in the pecking order.

 The little ones apparently see Peggy and I as their protectors from the other chickens. I was outside doing some yard work this afternoon when I heard some visitors by the back fence - a few neighborhood girls feeding Stella and Ray some dandelion greens. Redder was a little frazzled and when I knelt down she was quick to leap into the safety of my arms. It then didn't take long for Chirpy to fly up onto my shoulders. So the girls got to pet Redder and marvel at the strange man with the chickens on him. Later as I walked back there Chirpy ran over and flew up again. It would be nice to think that she was just glad to see me but I think they'd had a rough day and just wanted to get away from the big chickens. We did end up putting them in their haven under the coop for most of the afternoon. Hopefully this procees doesn't last too long and everyone starts getting along a bit better.

Things are calmer at night. The little ones do like to sleep in the door to the coop, just under the big chickens that roost on the ledge above the door. At night the big ones are too tired to have a go at them so everyone seems pretty content. But once the sun comes up at 6:00am I'm sure it will start all over again.

A quieter moment, hopefully we will have more of these...