Tillie is now officially a “hip chick!” She’s been invited to be the celebrity chicken at a lounge in the city that is a live rock venue and hangout for the trendy and cool (my teenager would cringe at how I’m describing this, but, hey, I usually hang out with three-year olds.)
Anyway, here are the facts – one of my very pretty “party girls” (as I like to call my bantam white leghorns – see, they can now live up to their name) and I will be at PA’s Lounge in Somerville, MA on Monday night, June 1st at 7:30 pm for a deviled egg cookoff. I will enter deviled eggs in the contest, will have Tillie Lays an Egg books for sale, and will protect the hen from paparazzi.
Here is the Facebook invitation, and here is a blog about the event written by one of the organizers.
I have two barns in my backyard. The “Big Barn” is visible on HenCam. It’s the barn with the Dutch doors on the other side of the fence. The Big Barn is not really that big, but it is large enough for a bunch of chickens, and soon, two mini-goats. It’s a lovely, post and beam structure, bought as a kit, and put together by the manufacturer, Country Carpenters. Instead of the standard wood floor, I had a concrete slab installed.
The other barn is a small shed. Ours was custom-built, but it is similar to the prefab buildings for sale at home centers. What makes this coop so charming are the salvaged windows. On one side there is a 100+ year old round window, framed by climbing hydrangea and roses. There are also two Queen Anne-style windows on hinges that let east, morning sunlight into the coop.
This, too, is on a slab. I like how easy the concrete floor is to clean, and that it makes it harder for predators and parasites to get in. After having chicken wire fencing that rusted, we invested in a sturdy coated mesh. It’s installed a half-foot below the ground level to deter predators (and also to keep our burrowing bunny from tunneling out.) Hawk netting covers the run. Even with these secure measures, we close the little door to the coop at night. Raccoons and fisher cats think nothing of climbing fences, ripping off hawk netting, and taking sleeping chickens. The rabbit is also latched into her hutch at night.
The barn is not insulated or heated. It really isn’t necessary unless you have silkies or frizzles. What is important is that the coop has shade and is well-ventilated. Make sure that you have windows that open, and soffits and vents in the eaves. Because the rabbit overheats easily in the summer, a special 8 x 8 foot piece of shade material is stretched over her hutch. The chickens appreciate this shade, too, as most of the yard is in full-sun.
Below is a plan of the HenCam coop. It is just the right size for our seven hens and bunny. Perhaps this will inspire you!
Every so often, we like to play a relaxed game of croquet. On Sunday,we’d earned a break after putting in the goat fencing. The chickens were busy, scratching about in the woodsy areas of the yard. But, as soon as they saw the croquet balls, they came running. Well, not all of them, just the inquisitive, interactive bantam leghorns. New croquet rules – watch where you swing the mallet.
I like to think that I have a peaceable kingdom in my backyard, but the truth is that each animal has its personality quirks, its likes and dislikes. They all know their place in the pecking order and generally, squabbles are just that – mild, outward grumpiness, a bit of huffing and puffing, and then all settles down again. However, some hold grudges.
I don’t know what Candy did to annoy Betsy. Maybe nothing. But, that little white hen has decided that the bunny is not her friend. Yesterday afternoon, when I entered the chicken run, all of the girls came over, hoping that I had something yummy for them. At the same time Candy was doing a leisurely hop-stop-hop along the fence making her way to the cool dirt of the compost area. Betsy started to head towards me, but then got a gleam in her eye, turned around abruptly and charged Candy. Then, what really astounded me, was that Betsy didn’t peck at the Candy (a quick peck is clear chicken language for “out of my way!”) but, she did something I’ve never seen a hen do before. Betsy barged into Candy – putting all of her (light) weight into her shoulder and knocking a very surprised bunny sideways. Satisfied, Betsy hurried back over to me, looking for treats.
Meanwhile, Candy shook herself, kicked out her hind legs with a shake, and then hopped about two feet away from the site of the altercation, and went in to her nothing bothers me zen-rabbit pose. A minute later, Betsy strolled by. They both ignored each other.
I wish I knew what that was all about!
Eleanor and Edwina, my Barred Rocks (they’re in the big barn, so you don’t see them on HenCam) are now six years old. That’s old for chickens. Of the two, Eleanor is looking elderly. Last year, I nursed her back to health from a mystery ailment. It’s recurred. Her butt is red. She’s limping. She’s not able to vigorously scratch in the dirt, so her toenails are growing too long. She rests a lot. Here you can see her favoring one foot.
The foot isn’t injured – her limping is a sign of internal discomfort.
I’ll keep a close eye on her. Being observant is an animal keeper’s best tool. I know what a healthy, bright-eyed chicken looks like. I know the color of her comb, and how she relates to her flock mates. Eleanor, despite the limp, doesn’t have the scared look of an animal in pain. She’s still eating and getting around. She’s old. She has issues. I can relate.