To celebrate the first week of The Vintage Hen and the revamped HenCam, Crooked Brook is sponsoring a t-shirt giveaway. Eleanor and Edwina would approve of this historical image of Barred Plymouth Rocks, although no doubt they would prefer to see the hen in the foreground!
This t-shirt is a high-quality, preshrunk cotton with a seamless collar and double-needle stitching throughout The image is printed on the front. Crooked Brook t-shirts are printed using Direct to Garment Printing (a digital process) using an eco-friendly, water soluble ink. Crooked Brook makes custom tees with no setup fee or minimum.
All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment on this Vintage Hen Blog and tell me what your favorite breed is. To improve your chance of winning, tell your friends about The Vintage Hen. If you post on FB, or tweet, or post on your blog, come back here and enter again (an entry for each use of social media!) The contest will close on Saturday, June 2 at 9 pm EDT. A winner will be picked using a random number generator. I’ll contact the winner and you’ll have 24 hours to get back to me with a mailing address. I’ll pass your name to Crooked Brook, and they’ll ship to you within 30 days.
The contest is open to residents of the 48 contiguous United States. No PO boxes, please.
Unlike some wild birds that you might see splashing in puddles, chickens do not, on their own, take water baths. They prefer dust baths (see the FAQ about lice to find out why dust bathing is essential to their well-being.) But, there might come a time when you want to get your chicken clean. Perhaps you’re going to a poultry show, or taking your hen to a public appearance, or maybe you’re tired of seeing a manure-crusted butt and you want to clean it off. Whatever the reason, not only is it fairly easy to give a chicken a soap-and-water bath, but it seems to be an enjoyable experience for the bird!
A large utility sink makes the chore easy, but you can use tubs of water outside as well. There are four steps: get the hen wet, get her soapy and clean, rinse her off, and finally, dry her. During all steps take care to be gentle and calm. Don’t ruffle the outer, sleek, feathers, but keep them lying smooth. The fluffy down can be swished and handled a bit more. If your hen is especially mucky, you’ll want a few changes of water, which should be warm but not hot.
One of the joys of chicken keeping is calling one’s hens and having them come running to you in that flapping, rolling, comical way that they have (like toddlers with full diapers.) Not only is it amusing to see chickens hurrying to you, but it is behavior that is essential to a well-managed poultry yard. There are many situations when it is essential to be able to have your flock hasten home, and to be easily closed up into a secure pen.
The key to teaching your chickens to come is for them to see you as the font of all good things. First, they have to have no fear of you. Always work around them in a calm and confident manner. Take the time to sit on a low stool and be amongst them. Not all chickens like to be held, but most like to be around people, after all, they are curious animals, always looking for amusement. Just wearing a shirt with a bright pattern is enough to occupy their minds! They’ll see you caring for them daily, filling their feeder and waterer. They’ll know that a compost pail means good things to rummage through in their pen. When I garden, I save unearthed grubs and buckets of weeds for them. Soon enough, your hens will always be watching out to see if you have something good for them.
But, to have them come in an excited horde when called takes a tad of training. Put something extra-special, like cracked corn or hulled sunflower seeds into a small container. Stand near the hens, shake the treats loudly and say, “here girls” (or “ladies” if that’s what you call them.) Toss a few treats at your feet. They’ll get the idea, quickly. Do this a few times. Then, you can try it a bit further away. In short order, when the hens hear you say, “here girls” they’ll come running, just as enthusiastically as mine do, as you can see in this video.
Why is it always the Speckled Sussex that get into trouble? A couple of days ago I noticed that Florence (the smallest, fastest and smartest of my three Speckled Sussex hens) had something yellow hanging from her bottom. Was it a broken egg? A prolapse? Some horrible, infected wound? I scooped her up and found this:
Florence had gotten tangled in a fly strip.
Along with keeping my barn very clean, and composting the manure, my first line of defense against barn flies are these low-tech, inexpensive and very effective sticky ribbons. I hang them up high, and, I thought, out of the way, where the hens, being fat and not exactly agile and aerodynamic, never go.
Perhaps there was a large, buzzing horsefly that was just too tempting for a curious and hungry Speckled Sussex. I’ll never know. What I do know is that it took quite a bit of careful snipping to remove the sticky strip. Florence was shorn of quite a bit of her fluffy under-feathers. I carefully clipped at her wings. A pile of feathers fell at my feet. Surprisingly, she looks no worse for her adventure.
I like to say that having chickens is like having an ocean in my backyard –it’s always busy, but somehow soothing at the same time. Obviously, I’m not the first one to think this.
I’ve kept a backyard flock for two decades and I’ve spent years researching chicken care and observing hens. I blogged about my life with chickens and what I’ve learned here for ten years. If you’re looking for advice about a specific issue, you’ll likely find the answer in an FAQ or by doing a blog archive search.
I’ve written about most of the issues that arise in backyard flocks. I’ve written FAQs to answer the most commonly asked questions. If the answer you seek isn’t in a FAQ, there’s a wealth of useful information on my website archives, which is easily searchable – simply type the topic into the box.