Thursday, December 19, 2013

#1 Let Me Introduce You to the Zen House Chicken Flock

My name is Susanne and I live on a small farm in NW Missouri with my husband, John.  We decided it would be a good idea to start raising chickens so we would have our own farm fresh eggs and we would know where they came from.  We started out last March with 6 cute little peep peeps, 3 Rhode Island Reds and 3 Black Sex-Link pullets (and yes, they actually were all pullets, yea).  We brooded them in our back bedroom, first in a large tote, which they grew out of surprisingly quickly, and then in a dog crate.

As they started to grow and moved into their dog crate, we began naming them. After all, they really aren't farm animals, they are really pets with benefits.  These are chickens that will die of old age (hopefully).  We made a list of names and started the process of trying to distinguish the red ones from each other and the black ones from each other.  As they grew, they began having ever so slight distinguishing features making the naming process easier.   One day one of the red peep peeps jumped up on her perch, looked at me and I swear I heard her clear as day, "Hi!  My name is Gretchen."  Well OK then, so what if that wasn't one of the names on the list, if that what she says her name is, then by golly, it is.  So, one down.  The other two RIR's are Rachel (named after one of my co-workers who really wanted a chicken named after her) and Penny (yes, as in Henny Penny).  The Black Sex-Links are Ivy, Raven, and Ebony.

In May, we moved them to their big girl coop.  We left them inside for about a week so they would understand that this is where they live and where they sleep.  They had to stay in a little longer because we got 4 inches of snow in the middle of May. Really!?

Finally it was time for them to venture out, but, what's that?  They would not come out of their coop.  They would stand in the doorway and look out, but they were too afraid to venture forth.  Finally, someone got brave and started down the ladder.  Then out they all came.

Gretchen and Ebony are the two friendliest girls.  They like to jump up on our shoulders, or in Gretchen's case, stand on the top of our head and go for a ride.  They come and talk to us as we clean their coop in the morning bock bocking about everything that has happened so far that day.

They live in their Zen House coop with Buddhist prayer flags hanging from their enclosure.  They spend most of their time in a 12 x 12 yard, well protected from predators (the neighbor's dog CoCo and from hawks).  During the warm months, we let them go out about an hour or so before sundown to free range; having fun scratching in the grass and finding the bugs we stir up for them.  We keep constant watch while they are out foraging; they are never left alone.

Now that it is December, it has gotten much colder.  I think the lowest it has gotten is 0 degrees F.  They are not fond of the cold and they certainly are not fans of snow.  The first day it snowed Ebony was on her way out the door and did a quick turn around as soon as she saw the snow.  No one ventured out that day.  The next day I had more of the snow swept away so most of the ground was visible.

Finally they were ready to emerge.  Oh, they were so happy.  Penny spent a good 45 minutes taking an extensive dust bath and preening her feathers.  The others joined in after they were done pecking around their yard.  I'm sure I heard them say, "Oh dirt, I love you!"

They have been having a lovely time being outside this week.  The temperatures have been in the 40's and 50's.  I told them to embrace this weather while they have it as we are getting all kinds of weather advisories popping up on our phones; freezing rain and snow for the weekend.  How fun!  Not.

Stay tuned to see what happens this weekend to the girls of the Zen House.

Namaste and Aho

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