Whoever would have thought that common chickens could be so laughable and entertaining?!
I have four “flocks” that make up the total flock.
Friends from church gave us 3 Seabright Bantams – one rooster and two hens. They are beautifully colored chickens with copper feathers with black highlights. If I ever need 1/2 of an egg for a recipe, the bantam’s eggs are the perfect size. I normally get one or two of their eggs each day.
David fried one for breakfast and said it made one bite! They have gotten a LITTLE larger as the hens have grown.
I have named the Seabright rooster Screech – can you guess why?
He crows frequently and he screeches when he does so. Dan calls him Peanut because of his small size. It is hilarious to watch him chase down the larger black and red hens and try to top them (breed them)! He is fast and can chase them down, catch them and get on top of them and remain on top by pecking and holding onto their neck feathers. Sadly, that is all he can do – he is too small to get the job done!
The next “flock” is a group of 4 large black hens another friend from church gave me.
One of the black hens is somewhat mean and she chases the newer red hens away from the food bowl. I have put another bowl farther away from where she eats so the three new red hens can eat in peace.
The black hens lay very large beige eggs. I get one or two from this group each day, so a couple of them are slackers (why my friend gave them to me I think).
Several months ago I bought five red hens for $10 each.
I lost three of them in the first couple of months. They always disappeared during the day when they were roaming about looking for bugs, so I suspect a fox or a bobcat snagged them when they were digging in the compost pile along the bluff. A chicken hawk could also have been the culprit. Too bad the critter didn’t snatch a black hen that was not laying every day!
The two remaining red hens give me an egg every day, and they are really pretty brown eggs.
Both of these hens discovered a space behind plants in a large pot in a flower bed in the corner near the front door. Occasionally I will find both of them crowded into the small space. You can see them in this photo and both have laid an egg. Normally one will wait for the other to finish, and sometimes I guess the second one just can’t wait and will work her way in with the first hen.
This egg laying business can take quite a bit of time.
Sometimes a hen will sit on the nest for up to an hour. When the egg is finally ready to be laid, the hen will suddenly stand up with her feet wide apart, tail raised, bottom feathers spread out, and back feathers upright.
As her vent, a slit below her tail feathers, opens a little, she will lower her bottom, and her vent will widen rapidly. The moist egg will pop out and the hen will stand high above the egg and rest, beak open and panting after the heavy work for a couple of minutes. Once the hen jumps up it only takes about 30 seconds for her to finally lay the egg.
I have actually seen one egg being laid and Dan saw one being popped out yesterday. We watched the hen afterwards, and she was frozen there, beak open and panting for a bit. I’m sure it is even harder than normal for them to lay an egg with the heat we are having.
I always know when another egg has been laid – the hen will cackle loudly for several minutes. The hens are not using their nest boxes in the chicken roost now, but have chosen to lay their eggs on Dan’s work bench in the car port, which is right outside our game room windows. The loud cackle is easily heard in the house!
Last month I bought three more of the red hens. One of them is now giving an occasional egg. Most days I get at least four eggs, and sometimes six. There is nothing like a fresh egg from a chicken that is allowed to range about unfettered and eat all the bugs it can catch. We do supplement with a high protein food.
Grasshoppers are everywhere when driving about the farm in the Polaris!
Speaking of amazing – you will rarely find a single grasshopper in our yard and side yards where the chickens range! I don’t know if the grasshoppers know the chickens are there, or if the chickens snatch them up as soon as the grasshoppers cross into the yard.
I love to watch the chickens chase the unlucky grasshopper that makes its way into the yard.
Those chickens must LOVE grasshoppers, because they will chase after one until they finally run it down! It may be a zigzag pattern about the yard as they dart back and forth as the grasshopper flies from one spot to another. Once a hen catches a grasshopper, the chase is REALLY on! Now the hen with the grasshopper hanging out of her mouth is the target – everyone wants a bite of the grasshopper! It is amazing how clear they have kept the yard of the grasshoppers. When we drive down into the bottom or pecan orchard, there are lots of them.
Have you ever seen a chicken snake? Seen one actually swallow a whole egg?
They can be quite long – 5′ – 6′ and have differently colored markings. Luckily, they are not aggressive or poisonous. We hate to kill them as they also help keep down the mice and rat populations, but when they are eating my eggs, I don’t have a choice.
My granddaughter, Casey, found this snake in a flower pot near the front door when she went to gather eggs for me. this chicken snake was terrorizing the hens! Her dad took the video and waited on the snake to vacate the pot before dispatching him. The snake in the pot may be one reason some of the hens have found a different nesting spot.
We have had so many chicken snakes this year.
We have killed seven so far – five in the hen house, one in the flower pot where the red hens like to lay their eggs, and one on Dan’s work bench. The work bench is now the favorite spot for the hens. They found a small space at the back of the workbench and have begun laying their eggs on top of a bag of red shop rags!
I always know when one has just finished laying her egg, as she will stand on the edge of the workbench and cackle for several minutes.
Chickens are also little thieves!
We love to sit on a bench in the shade under the large oak trees when the weather is cooler. We often have a snack when sitting there. Invariably one of the hens will jump up and steal the cracker or french fry out of our fingers when we aren’t paying attention!
There is nothing quite like a fresh farm egg from a free-range chicken that has not been caged!
In my opinion large egg producers use misleading language when describing their eggs. Did you know that cage-free is not the same as free range? “Cage-free” chickens are typically housed in large buildings, crowded with thousands of other chickens. The yolk is much brighter and darker and the eggs from free-range chickens have more flavor. I use the fresh eggs for the homemade muffins I bake for all of our guests, and I have noticed the batter even has a richer color.
Do you grow your chickens for eggs, for meat, or both?
If you are thinking about raising chickens in your back yard, do a little research in order to save yourself a lot of time, money and headache.
Amelia Quinn has a wonderful website with a lot of really good information on raising chickens, along with interesting facts about chickens. Did you know chickens purr? It sounds like a soft, gentle murmur. I love hearing my hens purr as they settle in at night. I especially enjoyed Amelia’s post on Understanding Chicken Communication: Sounds Explained.
What kind of snake have you seen this summer? Was it a friendly or unfriendly? Share your story or photos with us.