Hens

So we have guinea hens and chickens now. They are living somewhat peacefully together in a henhouse that used to be Sarah’s and my playhouse. Mom and Dad got the guineas while I was in Oregon, but I picked up the chickens last Friday. It was an ordeal.

I packed the dog carrier into the back of the green pick-up and headed over to the Mummert’s. They have a small organic farm on Trottinridge Rd and I befriended them last fall. They offered to sell me some pullets they raised from peeps this past Spring. (Pullets are young chickens.) We talked awhile and caught up. I asked lots of questions about chicken care and then we loaded a few into the dog carrier: 3 Rhode Island Reds and 1 Brahma. All females. And I drove them home.

I was by myself, so I knew I had to plan the transition from carrier to henhouse very carefully. The dog carrier is heavy and awkward, so I didn’t think I could pick the whole thing up and put it in the chicken run. (But in hindsight, that would have been the best option.) I decided that I would lock Pippa up in her kennel and then transfer the pullets one at a time into the henhouse by placing them in the roosting boxes.

Things started out OK. I got one Rhode Island Red in the house. I almost got Rhodie no. 2 in but she flew out of the box before I could close the lid. I thought “O sh*t. How am I gonna catch her.” But I decided to wait and get the other two into the henhouse before trying to catch the escapee.

As I was thinking this, Pippa comes bounding around the corner. “O SH*T!” She got out of the cage and was running toward the escaped Rhodie. I start screaming at her and running after her and swatting at her. I swear she had that damn chicken in her mouth, but I screamed and slapped her on the behind. Chicken was safe. Pippa ran off.

I turn around and another damn Rhodie is walking around on the grass. I had left the door to the dog carrier open and in all the commotion, the third Rhodie jumped out. Miraculously, Pippa wasn’t pursuing that one, so I turned my attention to the first escapee (who was almost Pippa’s lunch.) She had made her way into Pippa’s kennel (idiot) and was struttin’ around like she owned the place. I herded her into a corner and picked her up. Ok, 2 chickens safely in the hen house. The Brahma was still sitting coolly in the carrier. I put her in the henhouse.

Only one left and I was crossing my fingers that Pippa wouldn’t get her. She was strutting around under the pick-up. Pippa was jumping around and chasing after her, but not attacking her. I was finally able to grab her and put her in the house.

At this point, I stopped for a minute. I was shaking and thinking: “damn.” I pulled myself together and put out some food for the guineas and pullets. The guineas were completely oblivious and started stuffing their faces. The chickens were backed against the wall of the henhouse, traumatized. One of the Rhodies had buried its head in the straw. Oops. I guess I could have gone about this whole transition thing better.

Guineas going about their business.
Traumatized chickens huddled against the wall.
Guinea close up. They have ugly heads and they are obnoxiously loud. And dumb. I’ve been free ranging them in the yard some and they haven’t been eating bugs like they are supposed to. >:-(

But I still like them.

After a while, the chickens seemed to calm down enough to explore their new home.

This summer is going to be a farming adventure. It’s all trial and error with the fowl. And we’re also experimenting with pest control. Yesterday we discovered Colorado Potato Beetle larvae in out potato plants. We pulled them off by hand and put them in a bucket. We tried feeding them to the chickens, but they didn’t seem that interested. I’ve planted marigolds around the potatoes, so hopefully that will help. I’ve read that praying mantises and assassin bugs eat them. I saw an assassin bug over there and left it alone; hopefully it will wage war on those nasty little larvae. I’ll be on the lookout for praying mantises. If you find one, catch it for me.

:)

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