Chickens

Chickens can be exasperating creatures.

We moved the new chicks from the brooder coop to the main coop and I was concerned (as I always am) that some of them might not yet be able to reach the food in the hanging feeders.  So I put a couple of bowls on the floor of the coop, intending to keep them filled with feed so the new chicks would have ready access to food.

But here’s the problem (and it happens every year). Whenever I put feed in the bowls the adult birds dive on it like they’re starving and have never seen that kind of feed in their life. They won’t leave it alone until every crumb of it is gone.  Despite the fact that the exact same feed is in the hanging feeders, which they’ve been eating our of their entire lives.

Plenty of food in the hanging feeders

Plenty of food in the hanging feeders

“Hey, can you help a girl out? We’re getting hungry over here.”

Chick feeding frenzy

Chick feeding frenzy

Crashing the party, with her friends soon to join her

Crashing the party, with her friends soon to join her

So if I want to make sure the chicks get to eat, I have to stand over the bowls and chase away the adult chickens when they try to come eat the feed.  And every time I shoo away one of the big chickens, it sends the chicks into a panic and they scatter too. This usually continues until my shooing turns into cussing and kicking.  I could probably dump 50 pounds of feed onto the floor of the coop and the chickens would attack it as if they’ve never been fed in their lives.

As we like to say around here: “Chickens.”

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37 comments on “Chickens

  1. Laurie@hinterlands.me says:

    Here’s another Maine saying for you: Such goings on! 😉 Never a dull moment on the farm, is there?

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    • Bill says:

      Nope. It’s always something. I suppose I should add that being frustrated at chicken’s eating behavior is a big step up from the kind of things that used to get me frustrated at work. 🙂

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  2. Farmgirl says:

    We say it while shaking our head, “Chickens.” Love them though!

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  3. Joanna says:

    Oh yes! Mind you, we have never introduced chicks into a group with older birds. Ours are always older before introductions, but then we have the arks to put them in. Our chicks always go into the arks so that we can, as near as possible, guarantee we won’t lose the whole of our chicken population in one go, if for instance a stoat got into the chicken house. But chickens always react to something to eat as if they have never eaten anything in their lives. Ours will graze and eat all day and be so full their crops are stuffed and yet still wade into grain that is given to entice them in at nights. Makes putting them away at night easy anyway 😀

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    • Bill says:

      I had to look up stoat. Don’t believe I’ve ever heard that before. I’ve spotted a strange creature around here lately. It looks like a mink, but much larger, and it is jet black. Does that sound familiar to you?

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      • Joanna says:

        That sounds more like a ferret than a stoat. I did a little hunting around and now I am confused as to whether they are weasels or stoats. I always thought stoats were the smallest of the weasel family, but apparently there are least weasels too, which are smaller than stoats, so I am now not sure if the animal that hen keepers are worried about are stoats or weasels. What I do know is that the animal in question is quite small but absolutely ferocious when it gets going – the breed seems to get bloodlust and so can decimate a hen house. They also get in through quite small holes.

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Stoat, Weasel, Mink, Badger and Otter are all in the same family (Mustela). In winter coat, weasel is also called Ermine.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoat http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustela
        Bill, might what you have seen have been an Otter? Definitely bigger – somewhere between the size of a Muskrat and a Beaver. A few years back, there was one in the pond at the farm; who only stayed until he’d fished it out and then was gone again. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_river_otter

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  4. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, chickens are definitely not on my list to ever raise. I know they produce eggs that I like a lot and I do like fried, baked, barbecued chicken but I’ll trade some vegetables for those things. My experience is that they are a royal pain to raise and just about any predator, even those in the sky, like chicken. It’s a wonder chickens ever survived without the help of mankind. Well, I’m sure chickens, like turkeys, looked much different in the wild than the domesticated ones. I know those prairie chickens are pretty wily as are the wild turkeys. Domestication of birds has bred out the natural survival instincts of the wild.

    Have a great chicken raising day.

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    • Bill says:

      We enjoy raising chickens, but you’re right. They can be a pain. It seems that everything alive wants to eat them. And sometimes they just fall over and die for no good reason. But they do reliably produce delicious eggs and they do good work generating compost, eating bugs, and tilling/fertilizing the soil. Like you, I wonder how they managed to survive in the wild.

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  5. bobraxton says:

    remembering

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  6. shoreacres says:

    No chickens here, but there are pigeons, and it appears to me as though the dynamics are the same. I could put out twenty pounds of birdseed a day, and those darlings would cruise right through it.

    On another subject: I’m listening on radio to an interview with this guy. I’ve never heard of Barry Estabrook, although I’m sure you have. He’s talking about what led to his writing of “Pig Tales” — running into some pork that tasted like nothing he’d ever eaten, then learning it was from a farm-raised heritage breed. His book on tomatoes looks pretty good, too. Once I get other things under control around here, I may buy the tomato book.

    Once the program’s over, I’ll see if I can get a link for a podcast for you. It’s a delightful interview, particularly his descriptions of pig personality.

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  7. avwalters says:

    Maybe the adult chickens are indulging in youthful fantasies. Ah to be a pampered chick again! To have food on the floor–as though there were no end to it.

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    • Bill says:

      I smile at that thought, then I remember that with their electron-sized brains it seems unlikely to me that chickens fantasize. I think it more likely that they’re too dull to realize that the food they think they must gobble up immediately, is already available to them anytime they want it in their hanging feeders. Chickens.

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  8. How about a small cage with a small door that the young ones can get in but the adults can’t. Could save a lot of angst. Beyond that I am laughing. 🙂 –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      I thought of something like that. But the fact that the little chickens are just as dimwitted as the grownup chickens makes any attempt at a logical solution problematic. Maybe the best solution is to remove the bowls and incent the little ones to learn to hop up onto the hanging feeders (a skill the more intellectually advanced among them acquired almost immediately).

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      • What about putting the feeders on boards for a bit, till the chicks are a little taller? That would keep them from scratching the tray part of the feeder full of bedding, and allow all the birds access to the same feeders. They wouldn’t have to be big boards just a bit bigger around than the feeders, so the smaller birds have something to stand on. You’re never going to convince the hens that the bowl of feed is not for them. Chicken brains are so very tiny and so very tenacious. Especially around food..

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      • My guess is that hunger would drive them to learn quickly. 🙂 Scientific American, BTW, had an article last year on how intelligent chickens actually are. (It was sure a surprise to me.) I may have mentioned it to you before. One of the points of the article was opposition to the industrial chicken farms. –Curt

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Hmm, perhaps the way to determine the difference between a meat bird and a layer?; )

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  9. barnraised says:

    “Chickens!” is going to become my new word if I keep reading your blog 🙂

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  10. Steve says:

    Somewhere, there is a chicken writing a daily blog and you are the main character in a chicken-centric comedy. “And then this guy … “

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  11. vpfarming says:

    Amen to the frustrations. But those eggs! Instant forgiveness.

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  12. I hang our feeders from the ceiling and when the smaller birds are ready to join the others I just lower one of them. The other advantages to hanging the feeders include preventing debris and poo from being kicked in, they can’t tip them over, and should rodents ever find a way to get in (knock on wood the fortress has held up so far) it keeps them from eating the feed. If you have a problem with rodents then you would just hang the feeders up high at night.
    Chickens crack me up – anytime the metal feeder gets bumped by either me or another chicken, they all come running even though they may have just walked away from it two seconds ago. Every time I walk by them (which is at least 50 times a day), they rush up to me looking for a snack – I know they call me “lunch lady”. Well, at least they are getting some exercise with all that running.
    “Chickens”…

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    • Bill says:

      It does help on our farm tours. I always let children toss some cracked corn out for the chickens and it’s always a big hit with them. When they throw out the corn all the chickens come running as if they’re starving to death. It wouldn’t be as much fun for the children if the chickens just said, “Thanks but we just ate so we’re not hungry.”

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  13. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Is there any way to keep the chicks separate for this?
    Chickens!!): Unfortunately most breeds have been developed for other things – like egg-laying and meat production – not for survival(brain power; )

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    • Bill says:

      They’re big enough now to have to learn the ways of the flock. I kept them in a brooder coop until they were ready for life with the big girls.

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  14. dilip says:

    I thing the big birds are teaching the young ones what life is all about 🙂 Might is right!

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    • Bill says:

      That’s right. Our goats do the same thing. Bully the young and the weak. When these chicks are full grown they’ll do the same thing.

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