Archive for November, 2015
Captured on video – Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s rough molt, only on Too Many Chickens!
It has been an absolutely gorgeous Fall this year. It’s already November, but it’s been so warm, and full of my favorite sort of Autumn days. A little breezy, a little gloomy, but warmer than usual, so you can be outside without a jacket, hanging out and smelling the fallen leaves. What makes it even nicer is that I read an article saying that there has never been a time when the first week of November was warmer than average that didn’t result in a mild winter. I’m really hoping this is the case.
What’s been extra nice about it being unseasonably warm (aside from the fact that it makes up for June having been unseasonably cold this year) is that I don’t have to worry about bringing Boss Chicken inside yet. Since she is alone in her bunny hutch, when it gets really cold, I worry that without other chickens to clump with to stay warm, she might get too cold out there. When it dips below a certain temperature (and I don’t have a system for this, at some point I just decide, no, this is too cold) I bring her inside and put her in a dog crate in our storage room. It gets nice light during the day, and she’s close to all the chicken supplies. She kicks wood chips everywhere, but that’s what brooms are for. She’s also killed a number of mice that have gone into the dog crate to steal her food. Even with bum legs, she is not to be trifled with, and she’s helping keep the in-house rodent population down.
This system is breaking down this year with the addition of Spooky the cat to our menagerie. Spooky, being FIV positive, needs to be kept apart from our other cats in the main part of the house. (We’re looking into ways to peacefully integrate all the cats, but haven’t reached any that we feel confident in. There has to be no biting, and we suspect there will be biting.) Spooky will hopefully also help out with the mouse situation in that room, but my concern is that if you put a chicken in a room where there is also a cat who had been surviving on her own out in the woods, it may not go well. Spooky is a sweetheart, but I don’t know how she’ll behave around a chicken. Boss Chicken would be protected in her crate, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to get at each other (and Boss Chicken might just win that fight). On the other hand, both animals seem like they could use some company, so maybe this could actually work out. That seems a little too optimistic, though.
We have another, smaller storage room that I thought Boss Chicken could go in now, since she doesn’t get around much, and so doesn’t need much space. It gets less light though, which I think is kind of important. I could try putting her in there and seeing how it goes. I had also thought of switching out her dog crate for a big storage tub, in the interest of containing the wood chips some more, but that would leave her more open to attack from above, so she definitely could not be in the same room as Spooky. Spooky also knows how to open some doors, so she might even be able to get into the other storage room. So perhaps Boss Chicken needs more fortifications. There are a lot of ins and outs to this situation. Maybe if the winter is really mild I won’t even have to bring Boss Chicken inside at all, and I can put this decision off until next year. Who knew that collecting animals that have health problems was going to be so complicated?
We’re down to two eggs. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a couple more today, but between the molting and the shortened days, we’ve entered into the Zone of Egg Conservation. Luckily (I guess, not sure this counts as luck, really), we don’t have time during the week to have nice egg breakfasts. We save those for Saturday mornings, and then Sunday mornings we have waffles. Waffles take two eggs, our egg breakfast is usually five, though if I have to, I can get away with four. I prefer to not have to “get away” with anything, but what can you do? In the summer, we have enough eggs that I’d steam a bunch and have two as a snack every day at work. That seems like a magical time, now that we’re in a drought. I even worry in the summer that too many pile up, and I find excuses to give them away. Now, I have to think about scrimping so that the people I give eggs to will continue to get them (since it’s usually a trade arrangement, and I get something in return). This is kind of like looking for change in the sofa when you’re broke and want a candy bar or something. I have to think about who really needs the eggs, can I space out my interactions with these people so I have time to build up enough of a supply to share, and if I share, will I have enough for myself? I’m not very good at math, or planning, so this gets really tricky. If it was just eggs for us, we could get by on one egg a day coming in. That would leave us with our five for Saturday, and two for Sunday. But I have created a world for myself where I have decided to be generous, and so I have people who rely on me for the occasional egg handoff, and I don’t want to let them down. There’s a lot of goodwill built up around eggs.
Boss Chicken is always reliable with her eggs. I could usually count on her for one every other day. However, she is molting, and molting hard right now. I went out at night to check on her the other day, and all I could see in her cage was feathers, and so many, that I had a brief shock that something had gotten into her hutch and ripped her to pieces. There were that many feathers. She was fine, hanging out in the “back room” part of the hutch, but it was a scary couple of seconds. I know I won’t be able to count on her for eggs for a while. The others are touch and go. They started molting sooner than Boss Chicken, but since there is still the possibility of mites in the main coop, I really can’t predict what may happen. The average seems to be two a day, but sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s zero. Every so often, it’s three, and then we have a huge celebration in honor of the bounty. Not really, but we’re reaching that point.
I know this time of year is always coming, but I haven’t figured out a way to prepare for it yet. Stockpiling isn’t great, because I want the eggs to go to good use. When they stop coming, it’s usually pretty sudden, though I know this is the time of year for it. I’ll just have to hope for a quick molt, and a speedy return to regular production. Of course, that pretty much overlooks the presence of winter, which after last year, I’m pretending isn’t going to happen. It may just be another year of giving what eggs I have to the people I’ve promised them to, and then wearing a disguise to the grocery store to buy eggs for our home use. If I had just shut my mouth about having chickens, I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping up appearances, but here I am.