Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Laying Hens: Generation 1.5

We sold our riding lawnmower to a couple in town today, and while I was talking with them I mentioned that I kept a flock of chickens. They immediately wanted to know if I wanted to have any more, because they were reducing their flock. Since they were free, I agreed to look at them.

I guess that several months ago they were given a hen with about ten chicks, all of unknown ancestry. Now that the chicks are a few months old, they wanted to get rid of most of them. I only wanted the pullets, since I don't feel like slaughtering a batch of roosters this winter (and I especially don't want to deal with them if they start crowing before they reach a good slaughter weight). I have no idea what breed(s) they are, but I ended up with six nice-looking little birds. One possibility was Americauna, but their "mother" lays brown eggs, not blue and green. She also looks a lot like them, so she's probably related even if not the actual mother of all of them. It will be interesting to see how they turn out. They seem to have finer frames than I remember the Rhode Island Reds having at that age, so they might end up being some combination of bantam breeds. It was getting dark when I put them in the chicken house, so I'll have to get pictures later.

My flock didn't quite know what to make of these newcomers. They all grew up together, so their social structure was established very easily. It was definitely a vivid demonstration of the "pecking order," as each of the hens seemed to have a goal of eating at least one feather from every new pullet. Hopefully the new girls won't be bald by morning.

With extra chickens in the house, they may not be able to keep the bedding as scratched up as before, so I'll have to watch out for capping. That's the nice thing about starting out with a large amount of space/bird: there's room to take advantage of these sorts of opportunities. Even with adding half again as many birds, they still have 3.5 square feet each. Once I build the new external nest box, it will make things even more roomy.

Since the new pullets are at most three months old, we'll probably start getting eggs from them in early March. This will give us a nice boost in next year's production.

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