Our chickens have been spending time in the “goat pen” (time to move on and call it the chicken pen, I guess!) because with the arrival of spring they have rediscovered their urge to range onto the neighbour’s property. It’s a very large pen with varied terrain and flora so I don’t feel too bad for them, and I’m glad it’s been working. But maybe because they are “shut up” I found myself thinking about what they have to eat these days. We’ve never been that great about giving the chickens our scraps – they pick and choose and then whatever is left lies around on the ground (until a toddler comes to pick it up). The best is a compost they are free to scratch about in; I’m planning to create a compost pile in the pen this spring so they can do that.
I read about somebody chucking their veggie scraps in the blender and chopping them up for their chickens so I thought I’d try that. It was very popular! Every day, or other day, I blend a collection of vegetable and fruit scraps for the chickens. Sometimes they get a little yogurt in there, or a splash of apple cider vinegar, or a little garlic. It’s almost like cooking for chickens, and it’s kind of fun. I often don’t put salt in things I cook (a habit from when Little R was a baby) so occasional leftovers go in as well. Some ground up egg shells too if I’m not giving the chicks any. I think, on the whole, it’s best for them to find their own food, and I won’t coddle them in this way once it warms up and things start to grow, but for now they get these little treats and I’m happy seeing kitchen scraps so heartily enjoyed.
Yesterday Little R helped me garnish their mash with a shake of turmeric and a sprinkling of mung bean and lentil sprouts. Lucky chickens.
Dinner is served!
As Little R would say “Queen Anne is a mummy!” Queen Anne is our Silver Laced Wyandotte hen (silver laced – Queen Anne’s Lace, in case you are wondering about her name.) Her brood hatched out last Tuesday/Wednesday. Six out of seven eggs. I’m not sure why but I had been preparing myself for it not to work. When I went in to check on her and heard the tell-tale peeping I was quite excited. Nature! It works!
It’s quite different having a mother hen with chicks than buying chicks on their own. Of course, I’m a little bit more familiar with chickens this time round, but you do worry less since it’s her job to look after them – keep them warm, protect them from danger, find them food. I opened the door to her broody box and gave her access to the outside and she took them all out. It was sunny but certainly way colder than I could have imagined comfortable for chicks, but they were fine, and she stayed out with them for hours. (Guess it helps she was scratching around in front of a south-facing wall, a pretty good micro climate.)
We couldn’t find any chick starter crumbs because I guess these little ones are two early, so we’ve been somewhat cavalier in offering various alternatives; some ground up grower pellets, millet, rice and such. I would have worried much more about this last year but since they have a mother who is busily foraging for them, and showing them to do the same, I feel more confident that they will be alright. And I give them some boiled egg sometimes too.
Queen Anne is an excellent mother. It’s amazing to think it’s all instinct. She will let me handle the chicks but isn’t happy about it, and I’m fairly confident she would defend her brood from a predator, without worrying that she’s going to tear me to shreds! Little R and I were in checking her every day while she was incubating the eggs so that may have helped her feel a bit used to us.
I love watching the chicks with their mother. It really is quite a different beginning than life in a box. It might be a bit harder to hold and play with the chicks when they have a mother, but I think it is made up for by being able to watch them following and learning from Queen Anne. They aren’t even a week old yet,so I suppose I should wait to expound on the ease of raising chicks this way. I know there are various tragedies the could befall these chicks….but I guess I’m trying to remind myself again that nature works, and we’ll just have to see how it goes.
Little R’s Easter Basket included:
A jar of bubble mixture and a wand.
Dried mango and dried cranberries, thanks for my mother for the idea of dried fruit as treats.
A felt easter egg with a tiny chick inside. I made this egg yesterday, quite last-minute, following these instructions. I wasn’t quite happy with the way I cut the opening but it was really easy and fun to make and I will definitely be making a bunch for nest year! (I might even do some now.) I think I will probably make a straight slit and experiment with a ribbon tied around the egg. And an egg like this could hide all sorts of surprises.
A bird’s nest with three tiny little chocolate eggs inside. Little R’s first candy. It took her a while to figure out they were for eating and then she was somewhat alarmingly keen. I knew that would happen. But the eggs just looked so perfect in the nest. It reminded me of when I was a kid and found one on the sidewalk. I took it home and nestled it inside a plush jewellery box under a bright lamp, convinced it was a real egg and might hatch…
“Bird eggs in there!”
A pair of bunny slippers for my little nephew. Just in time, I hope, for Easter. The yarn I had to use was a chocolate-brown so I decided to make the eyes in a confectionary yellow and blue style. I’m not convinced that these with fit, or stay on, but it’s more of a notional gift anyway.
I have knitted some non-bunny slippers in a similar style and was going to just make up some ears, but then I found this pattern and decided to go with it. I used 4.5mm needles and worsted yarn, and the design is fairly stretchy so they do look as though they could accommodate a range of sizes. They also look like they would be quite happy nestled in an Easter Basket.
I always try to have Little R outside as much as possible. But it’s never long enough for her. No matter how we try to bring her in, we generally end up carrying her inside kicking and screaming. She has never, ever, asked to go in. In fact, I think I was saying “She could stay out all day…” when I thought maybe I should plan a longer time out, and make a little thing out of it. I’ve been interested in those Forest Kindergartens and I thought I could try making sustained outdoor time a bit more of a routine for us. As I said, Little R is already totally comfortable outside for hours and happily follows the chickens or cat around and when there is a limit to how long we stay out it is always us adults – either because of things that need doing, meals that need making, plans/schedules or actually, I confess, just being bored! (an issue in the winter) So in a way, it is almost more about me committing to more outdoor time. (Ah yes, so often when we think of what we want for our children we come back to ourselves…) Fortunately it is now the season of outdoor work and there is much to be done, so I knew I could keep busy for a few hours.
We started out the morning with a good walk. Back home we tended to the chickens, rambled about and had a snack. Then I set to work building a fire pit and making a fire. I had planned to boil some water for tea but I couldn’t find our camping pots, or a grate for cooking. In the end, hot chocolate was offered and delivered to us from the house. Not quite fitting into my “everything outdoors” plan but let it never be said of me that I don’t know a good idea when I hear it. Or that I would turn down hot chocolate. Anyway, we’ll get ourselves sorted with an outdoor cooking set-up for next time. Exercise, fresh air, happy and independent child; it was pretty good! I wanted to be out for 4 hours, including lunch and heading in for nap at 1, but we came in shortly after 3 hours, again because of the lack of cooking possibilities and the need to make some lunch. Still, I’d call it a success and a promising start.
Queen Anne, our Silver Laced Wyandotte hen, is broody. After a few days we decided to let her have some eggs to sit on. We moved her from the hen-house last night and this afternoon we gave her a clutch of eggs. (Blue/green eggs courtesy of a friend.)
Here she is, shortly after egg-handover. In a few moments she pulled all the eggs in, where they will be warm and cozy. And now we wait and see. 21 days, if she proves a committed mother.