For weeks, Will has been pestering me about getting more animals. Goats, pigs, ducks, horses, cows, you name it, he wants it. I firmly put my foot down – “Not until after I’m back from Regina in June. You can’t be a single parent, AND start rehearsals, AND run a homestead all by yourself. No more animals.”
Then we bought three more hens.
Because as Will pointed out, looking after six chickens is just as easy as looking after three. Which, to be honest, it really is.
A couple of weekends ago, I drove out to Blackstrap Lake, and bought three hens from a guy who was downsizing his flock. When I brought them home, there was a brief, but fairly violent scuffle, in which the new pecking order was worked out, and then they settled very quickly into a happy little flock (Ginger broke a nail, and I just couldn’t get it to stop bleeding. Eventually dipped her nail in cornstarch, and then bought styptic powder for future broken nails). In addition to Ginger, who is a Basque hen, and the two Barred Rocks (little Barred Rock and big Barred Rock), we added an Austrolorp and two Easter Eggers.
That day, I discovered a secret nest in the barn with seven brown eggs. It belonged to one of the Barred Rocks, the little Barred Rock I think. I decided to start converting the grain shed into a coop, so that I could get them all set up in a proper coop with proper nesting boxes. The girls were very excited and very curious. It was impossible to keep them out as I tried to clean out the old grain and rat poop (yes, I wore a mask the whole time).
Nesting boxes made from an old table I found, and shakes and siding from the building we demolished. I used the air stapler – what fun!
Feeding station. There’ll be one more in the middle once I move them from the barn.
They’re helping. Seriously.
The next morning, Will went to the barn to give them water and found the big Barred Rock hen sitting on the floor with her pals around her. She was nearly dead. He brought her back to the house, and she died in my hands about five minutes later. Poor dear. I have no idea what happened. She was fine the day before, scratching around the yard and foraging with the others. Her crop was full. My only guess is that she either ate something stupid, like an old nail or a staple, or she ate some rat poison. I had been finding empty old packets of rat poison as I cleaned out the grain shed, and I found some in the barn, too. There was nothing I could’ve done. It would be impossible to clean the barn or shed well enough to get rid of rat poison if there was still some around. None of the other girls in the flock have shown any signs of sickness, so thankfully, whatever did her in didn’t spread to the rest. Moving to the country, I have reconciled with the fact that from time to time, I’m going to lose animals. It’s not easy, but I’ve accepted that it’s going to happen.
That night, Ginger and the little Barred Rock slept together in big Barred Rock’s usual nesting spot. The next night, they were back on the roost. I think they were mourning. Or am I anthropomorphiz-ing?
Anyway, now there are five. Work continues on the grain shed. I’ve got to make a very secure run, and I’m not a carpenter, so it takes me a really long time to make anything since I make it, then realize what I should’ve done, take it all apart and rebuild it. Sometimes two or three times.
Attempt No. 1 – wobbly
Attempt No. 2 – sturdier
Third and final attempt – sturdiest! Hurrah!
Yesterday, I discovered ANOTHER secret nest in the barn containing eleven pale green eggs.
One of the stalls in the barn has about a foot of manure and straw in it that we haven’t mucked out yet. I knew one of the Easter Eggers had been flying over the walls and scratching around in there, but today I went it to take a good look at the feed trough, and sure enough, she had made a lovely little nesting spot in some old hay in the feed trough. Eleven eggs. Sneaky little chicken. On a positive note, that means Ginger or the little Barred Rock are laying since I’ve been getting three brown eggs a day, and I thought they were all from the new girls!