The weather around here is starting to really improve, as you can see from my lovely sunny pic of one of my Marans ladies. We had on and off sun and rain this week and after rain this morning and afternoon, it cleared up into a lovely, sunny evening. The chickies all love the sun so much, as do the dandelions.
Every square foot of our two-and-a-half acres looks just like that. I know most people think of them as weeds, but we both think they’re kinda pretty – when the sun comes out and they open up, they make our property look downright cheery. Besides, dandelions are edible and harmless… you can use the greens for cooking or in salads, and people make wines and cordials out of the flowers. Why must so many people hate them so? Besides, it would take massive amounts of nasty chemicals to get rid of them, so they are here to stay. As a result, all outdoor chicken pictures also contain dandelions.
Anyway, I mention the weather because it happens to correlate perfectly with a landmark event that will be happening tomorrow with the chickens. Tomorrow is their 10-week-old birthday. Tomorrow also happens to be the day that I will turn off their last heat lamp and they will spend their first night in the dark. Generally they aren’t supposed to need heat anymore after 8 weeks when they are pretty much fully feathered. At about 8 weeks, I turned off one of their two lamps. However, temps still dip into the 30s here at night sometimes (which is supposed to be OK at 8 weeks) and when I’d go to close them up at night, I generally still found most of them in a clump under the remaining heat lamp. A few would be scattered here of there on low perches, but most were still sleeping on the ground under the light at night.
That all changed two nights ago. That night, I went to close them up and found Lady B, Daisy Mae, and a Marans pullet perched (like for sleeping, not playing) up on the “highest of high” perches, as I call them. These are the perches that Lady B and Daisy Mae used as a jungle gym when they were much younger. But until that night, no one had actually slept up there. The only perches used for sleeping were the ones about 18-24 inches off the ground, near the heat lamps. These perches are at my shoulder- and face-levels, so maybe 5′ and 5’8″ or something. They’re really high.
That’s right, when I saw it, I ran back inside and grabbed my camera. Aren’t you proud of me? That night, the three of them were way up there and the others were all still under or near the light. Last night (no pic of this), I found JB and one of the unnamed Marans boys up on the same perches. Again, the others were down lower and near the light.
Ah, and then there’s tonight. Tonight I went out to close them up and I looked in the window and all 15 of them were settled down for sleeping on high perches. No one was on the ground and no one was anywhere near the light.
Scruff is up there on the “rooster perch” which actually leads to the “rooster door” which is about 6 feet off the floor and opens to the outside to a yet-to-be-installed outdoor rooster perch.
Below the Ameraucana in the first pic with Scruff, we have Lady B, Pippin Chick, a Buff Orpignton, and a Marans (but I can’t tell which one).
This is Pol Pot and another Buff.
JB and Chicken Soup were up on the highest of high perches again tonight, same as last night. And here comes the amazing one…
I have no idea how they got up there. It honestly doesn’t even seem possible, but there they are. The other chickens not featured in these pics were perching on the bars in front of the nesting boxes.
Anyway, all this coupled with the fact that it’s going to get really warm over the weekend (nearly 70 tomorrow, 74-77 Sunday, and 75-79 on Monday) means that they really don’t need that heat lamp anymore. I know they still like to bask in the heat now and again, but there is no reason to keep burning energy at this point. It should be interesting, however, because they’ve never been in the dark before and apparently they are afraid of the dark at first. I have read about this a lot. Cori, the woman who took the other half of my hatchery order just took her chicks’ light away a few days ago. Read her post about it here. She’s had a bit of trouble getting them to go into the dark coop to sleep at night. So, it might be a challenge to get my chickies to accept the dark as well. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Spirit of a Boy, all the Hormones of a Man
That heading was my tribute to Randy Travis, though I know most people won’t get that. Anyway, it turns out that JB likes to do everything early. First he got bigger and more feathers earlier than everyone else. Then he started growing combs and wattles earlier than everyone else. Then he started crowing at 8 weeks old, which is far earlier than most roosters in general (so I’ve learned on BYC). At 9 weeks, his crow went from two kinda pathetic syllables that sounded more like he was choking than crowing – “RRRRRTT! RRrrwww…” – to four distinctive, crowing syllables. He is now doing a “COCK!! doodledo… COCK doodledo….” (the doodle-do part is much quieter and quicker than the first syllable). He’s just missing the “a” from “cock-a-doodle-do” to have a classic, grown-up crow. And then there’s the latest news from today.
This evening around 7pm, I let the chickies out one more time for a little free-ranging as the sun went down. A few minutes later, I heard a terrible squawking and struggling to my right. My first thought was, “OH NO!! Predator attack!!” But, I turned to look and it wasn’t a predator at all. It was JB. He had a good grip on the head feathers of a Buff Orpington and he was trying to climb on her from behind. She, of course, was struggling with all her might to get away. After a few seconds, he gave up and went back to grazing. At first I thought my eyes were decieving me. He’s only 10 weeks old. He must have just been bullying her and it only looked like he was trying to climb on top of her, right?
I tried to put it out of my head. Then a few minutes later, I hear this cute clucking/singing near my feet to the right. I turned to look and there is JB standing right up against one of the Marans pullets. As I watched, he dropped his left wing to the ground and started to do a little dance in a circle around her, while singing to her. Now that was just weird. To my eyes untrained in chicken-things, it looked like some sort of mating dance to me. Birds in general do them… but do chickens? And, again… maybe I was just drawing conclusions from coincidental and unrelated events. But, before I put them back in their run, he did it again for a Biff Orpington – drop the wing and dance in a circle and sing.
It was all too strange and I had to go inside and look it up. Sure enough, I googled “chicken courting behavior” and immediately found multiple sites that described eactly JB’s dance – outside wing dropped to the ground, dance in a circle around the female. Pretty amazing, but that’s what he was doing. So, I checked my books for when roosters are supposed to start doing this. Nothing. Then I searched BYC about it. Everything said that they start acting like this about when the hens are ready to start laying – at 20-26 weeks! So, I started a post to ask if this is unusually early mating behavior and yes, it turns out that it is very early. Boys will be boys, I guess.
Silliest Chicken Ever
No, that is not a dead chicken at my feet. That is Pol Pot, Brian’s crazy red chicken, and she is just fine. This chicken in particular has always liked to lay down on its side, which looks very bizarre, and bask in the sun or the heat of the heat lamp. Generally this is done in the coop or on the open chicken doors, as I have shown you in the past. However, now she has taken to lying down on her side all over the place. Yesterday, I was hanging out with the chickens and my camera and I looked down, and there she was, sprawled out at my feet, looking quite dead. It’s pretty funny, really – she sometimes lifts her head a bit and nibbles at a blade of grass like she can’t be bothered to stand up to eat.
Even with all the other chickens around her, she just lies there until someone steps one her.
One that happenes, she generally suddenly leaps up and hops/flies all over the place, head bobbing. I have to admit, she is a bit crazy. Very cute, though. She also spends an inordinate amount of time pecking and scratching at my shoes. She has acres of green grass and bugs around her and she’d rather play with my shoes. Go figure.
Anyway, on that same day, she proceeded to lie down again inside the hardware cloth tunnel (more on that in a minute)…
and then again right in front of the run, with all the other chickens around:
You’d think it was her who got knocked on the head by a hawk, rather than Lady B. At least then she’d have an excuse for being so goofy…
Hardware Cloth Tunnel
This is their new favorite thing in the world. It is my roll of hardware cloth (wire mesh) that I am using the line the bottoms of the raised garden beds to keep the moles out. I have done one row of boxes and plan to work on the other row this weekend. In the meantime, the roll has been sitting in the grass where the chickens free-range, and they LOVE it. They love to go inside it and peck the grass through the wire. They love to go in one side, hop over the middle piece, and come out the other side. They love to jump on top of it and look around. Sometimes I’ll find four or five of them inside the tunnel at the same time. Pippin Chick particularly enjoys hopping on top of it. It’s so funny… it’s just like children or dogs… you can buy them toys or set up areas for them to play and they often prefer some mundane thing. I was in love with a particular wooden cooking spoon when I was a baby. And my dogs love to play with empty water or soda bottles far more than any toy you can buy them. My chickens discovered the tunnel all by themselves and they love it so much, I am thinking about using my leftover wire from the coop and garden projects to build them some sort of permanent play-structure.
OK, that’s it for now. This weekend, with all the warm, sunny weather we’re supposed to have, is going to be super-gardening weekend. So, by Sunday or Monday I should have plenty of good pics and stories for you. Peace out!