Rescue Chickens – What are they and why should you have them

Backyard chickens are becoming more popular, and if you have the yard space they are a very rewarding fun pets to have. I have had chickens for about 4 years, and in April we got our first rescue chickens. Most people understand what a rescue pet is if it is a dog or cat but are less sure about what a rescue chicken is.

This is a clip from a podcast we did. I have just included the chicken part here

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Rachel’s Egg-cellent Market Day

Rachel and her friend Thomas had an egg stall at the kids market day. They each had 7 boxes and were very equitable and alternated sales.
Ollie also made some biscuits to sell. Caleb ran around and was the ‘support’ team. Although next time I think I will make some things with him to sell too.

They sold out on all their eggs and had a good time. They will definitely be doing the one near Valentines day in February

These are the little labels she designed and made for her egg boxes
Kids market day Eggs

I took some photos of her and Caleb with 2 of our chickens so she could show that the eggs were not just from the shop and that she is the chicken ‘farmer’
Kids Market day

At the market – when we arrived she was a little nervous
Kids Market Day

Egg Table

Other tables
Kids Craft Market

Photo from the Photographer that was there on the day Akaroo

I can’t kill a chicken

Yesterday I went out to collect eggs and saw poor Lily lying like this is in the bottom run of the chicken coop. They free range all day so this is just for chicks that need separating and an entrance to the coop for laying eggs in the nesting box and sleeping at night.

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I at first thought she was dead. But she was still breathing. I am not cut out for squeamish stuff. I am embarrassed to say I could not even turn her over. The neighbour who has birds helped me turn her. But she kept throwing her head back and flopping over. Her comb was all bluish and she looked very out of it. I read that in chicken breeds like Lily they can have a heart attack and their comb goes blue, so I knew she was dying. She did not have feathers on her tummy as she was so fat that she would waddle a little and then sit down, so she spend a lot of time resting on her underbelly.

She is the last if the church fete disaster chickens. Disaster in that the eggs laying females we were lead to believe they were turned out to be mostly male and all broiler meat birds. These chickens have been breed to put on weight quickly and be slaughtered in 8-12 weeks.

Lily made 8months. She was enormous weighing 6kg but we promised the kids that that white meat birds, who they got as pets could have a good life with us as long as they lived.

But this time had drawn to a close for Lily. I could she was dying and I did not want her to suffer. I phoned The Geek and my first words were I am so sorry but I am not a chicken farmer. I can’t kill her. I made him come home from work in my panic that she could not suffer like that.I knew I could not kill her but I knew she could not stay like that. While he was on his way I spoke to Carle who suggested I bring the chicken to the farm and one of the workers would do it. I knew The Geek would not relish the idea of killing it either so this seemed a good plan.

If I had thought of it before I could have saved him a trip. But anyway he helped me load the 2 boys. Lily and Knight the rooster into the car.

Knight was now crowing all day and driving me mad so he was being re-homed on the farm.

Carle’s housekeeper and weaver were all too delighted to help me by ending Lily’s suffering and took 3kg of chicken home each.

So now we are down to 5, but 5 proper egg laying females. Let’s hope there is no more chicken drama soon .

Oh and The Geek told me to HTFU which is not nice but true. If I am going to have chickens I do at least need to be able to help them.  I will never be able to kill a chicken but I should stop being a wuss, I should have at least been able to turn Lily over and check she was okay.

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chicken news

Seeing as I am after all a chicken farmer according to my dad, I thought it was hight time you all got another exciting installment into the life and times of Pinky’s chickens.

If you remember we have the 2 fat while chickens and we had done the chicken surgery on fat Potter and managed to keep her going for another few weeks. One day I came home and noticed fresh blood on her and when we looked her neck skin was off almost right around her neck, you could just about peel her head. Very gross. Rachel always gets cross at the mention on us needing to get rid of any of the chickens. Last time Potter got hurt and we were not sure if we would fix it, she said things like “I will be so mad with Pappa if he kills Potter” and that time we managed to save her. But this time I knew we could not. I did not want her blaming me or The Geek so I made her come and look at the wound. She is squeamish and hates blood, yes this is my child who wants to be a wild life vet – I am thinking a career choice change is due in her future. She could see for herself that the wound was bad and so she was actually okay with us culling her as she was suffering.

Look away if you are squeamish. So poor Potter had to go, she weighed close on 7kg when we had weighed her a few days before. My domestic was only to delighted to come take her. I did say to the kids that this was the last chicken that someone else was eating, I knew they were fond of Potter so would not eat her but from now on we eat the birds we cull.

With Potter gone we were down to 7. But the babies are no longer babies and the “don’t name the chickens in case we eat them” did not last. The girls are girls and so useful as they will lay eggs, we have had a few small little eggs already so they are nearly at point of lay. I let Rachel and Caleb name one each. Caleb called his Paddy and Rachel called hers Jewel.

This is Paddy Caleb’s new chicken. A Koekkoek chicken almost at point of lay

This is Jewel on her naming day

And this is Knight the Rooster. He has really become a handsome bird, but he now crows loudly in the mornings. I have spoken to most of the neighbours and they are fine with him. I bribe them with eggs. But he wakes me and this is not cool. I am also worried about the neighbours further a field. So we decided to cull him, The Geek was going to do it but we would go to the farm for Carle’s husband and house keeper to help as he had never done this before. I had arranged it all and then I chickened out. He is just too pretty and I don’t think it is bad having a Rooster he is not agressive and it might help to have our own fertilized eggs if any of the hens go broody. I have solved the crowing problem but making The Geek catch him every night and put him in a box and then he is allowed to come out after 8am in the morning. After which he does about half an hour of crowing and then he is quiet for the day.

I am not sure how long we can keep him as The Geek is getting fed up of chasing him around the garden but we will see.

Will Knight live to see another day? Stay tuned for more from Pinky’s chickens

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It is official I am a chicken farmer

It was my baby sisters wedding this weekend and my dad did a father of the bride speech and amongst other things he humorously introduced the family to my sisters new husband ( we of course have known him for years) He said I was the one that was hard to miss, and that I trained as a nurse and was now a writer and chicken farmer 😉

this is my pretty frock and the shawl I knitted

I thought since I was a chicken farmer I would introduce my flock

This is Potter (sitting) and Lilly, they are the only ones of the original chickens that we got at the church bazaar that started the chicken farming and in fact these are the ones that our friends got and not ours as all of ours turned out to be roosters.They are enormous and affectionately known in our house as The Fatties.

Potter has purple on her as she was the chicken we were saving the other day and I am pleased to say that despite the vets doom and gloom, the chicken forums predictions won out and Potter made a full recovery, the purple spray just has to grow out with her next molt

Next we got Jack Hen which you know about, she was the first of our chickens to require the Pinky and Geek vetinary clinic services when she got a prolapse and was the model for the felt chicken. She was recently broody and I tried to get eggs for her to sit on (ours are not fertilized as we have no rooster) and she was a great mommy, but The Fatties kept trying to lay in the same nesting box and crushing her eggs with their gargantuan size. After 23 days (eggs are supposed to hatch after 21 days) I took her off the nest. She can get sick if she sits for too long as they don’t eat or drink much in that time. There were 4 of the original 10 eggs left and I was going to candle them, a method of trying with a light source to see if a chick is growing, so The Geek took the eggs out in a towel and left them inside…

There is always drama, and of course Moby the delinquent dog stole them and ate them (insert puke face) so I never did get to see if the eggs had even started to form. I am not even sure they were fertilized, next time I have a better source to get eggs from if I have a broody hen and I will keep the Broody separate, so The Fatties can’t disturb her. Jack Hen does not seem too worried about the lack of babies, she spent the day eating and wandering around the garden after 21 days of hardly leaving the nest. Next time I will do better for her or whoever else goes broody.

Next we got The Babies. A friend Jo had a broody hen and she sat and hatched 3 babies but Jo could not keep more chickens in her smaller garden so she asked if I would like them. They were 6 weeks old when we got them and are now out in the main flock and doing very well. I think these two are girls

and I am guessing this is a boy, I am hoping to keep him, I want a Rooster to fertilize our own eggs but it may mean I have to get his vocal cords severed – is that mean? I say that any creature would rather be alive than in the pot and The Geek says removing a Rooster ability to crow will make it sad. So not sure what we are going to do if he is a boy. And because we did not know what sex these were and if they were male or more than 1 was a male they were destined for the pot the kids have not been allowed to name them. I am yet to see if we can actually get over the we-don’t-eat-our-chickens hurdle

Next we got a beautiful red hen. She arrived with the name Princess but that was not deemed to be enough so we call her Laya ( Princess Laya from Star Wars and she Lays eggs 😉 ) I really like her but she is very noisy – the reason she was re-homed was she was driving a friend mad with her clucking.

Then Jo contacted me, when she put her Mommy Hen back in with the other hens after she had the afore mentioned babies they were mean and pecked her severely on the head until she had to be removed for her own safety. Jo asked if I would take the Mommy as it was not safe for her in her own flock any more. Hence we got Mommy hen. I thought she might like to go in with the Babies as they were her babies and then slowly as she felt better integrate with the flock ( the babies were separate at this point) but No… more drama

Mommy does not welcome her little babies under her wings, fussing and clucking over them saying “my, how you have grown” and ” Are they treating you okay here?” No, what does she do? She rushes over and pecks them! She attacked them, my kids start screeching and getting most irate and finally we have to remove Mommy and check no babies got injured.

She then proceeded to try peck everyone else in the flock. I think where she came from obviously there was a very strong pecking order and you had to assert your dominance or die. While my ‘hippy’ flock as Jo has since named them, all love each other, accept new chickens easily and don’t pick on each other. The Fatties might be big but they are sweet natured and Laya is noisy by timid. Jack Hen is also very calm and does not pick on others.

I was very worried that if Mommy hen carried on picking on others I would have to get rid of her but thankfully the ‘hippy’ vibe of our garden seems to have mellowed her out and she is not attacking anyone any more and her head is almost totally healed.

So that is our flock and the reason my dad affectionately named me a chicken farmer

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Chicken update

We have an egg! The first egg that one of our lot ever laid. What great excitement in our house.
There have been a few more sagas since I last posted about the chickens.

Our new Jack Hen had a prolapse a few days after we got her, I was devastated. When I went to collect the egg there was blood on the egg and in the nesting box. I went to try find Jack Hen and she had blood on her bottom. I was going to show you a picture but The Geek has saved you all, he says you may be sensitive viewers.

I could not see much with her running around and Titus was niggly that day so I could not put him down and try look closer until The Geek got home and could help. He caught her and held her under his arm while I had a look and tried to clean her up.

When we did look we saw she had a prolapse, which basically means that part of her inside egg laying passage had come out when she laid the egg. We cleaned and disinfected it and I tried to push it back in. Poor Jack Hen was not happy obviously so she was fighting a bit which meant that as soon as I had it in she would tense up and wriggle in The Geek’s arms and pop it out again.

The prognosis, from all I read on the web was grim, the concensus was that once it happens once it happens again and usually you have to cull the bird. They said that other chickens can be a bit canabalistic and if their is blood they may peck at it and to remove her. I had not see the 2 fat chickens peak her at all during the day but we cleaned it and seperated her for the night in a box inside. The idea with the box was also to try limit her movement and food and try to stop her laying for a few weeks. The advice on line was to give them food rations just enough to keep them alive but to stop them laying and keep it dark and quiet. The trouble was that she would probably already have an egg ready for the next day so it might take a while to stop her laying and each time she did it would get worse.

Next morning, low and behold the prolapse had gone in by itself and she was letting us know very very voally what she thought of being in a box. By mid day I decided that she wanted to be out and it looked okay so to let her out, as she was probably going to lay anyway. Then if it prolapsed again we would box her in the dark and see if it helped. Against all odds she laid that day and NO prolapse! WhooHoo I was so happy. The thought of losing another of Caleb’s chickens was just too terrible to think about. I am happy to say that she lays about 5 out of 7 days a week and has had not repeat prolapse.

This brings me to the other 2 chickens, the big white broilers, the only ones left from the original lot. I was beginning to think that maybe they were rooster too. One has a comb a bit bigger than the other, but they are plumper like hens. It has been 5 months since we got them so we were expecting eggs or crowing soon.

Yesterday Rachel collected Jack Hen’s egg from the nesting box. Caleb was walking around the garden and shouted from the sandy patch near the braai where the chickens like to sit, that Jack Hen had laid another egg. When he brought it over I saw it was a very small egg. When chickens first start laying their first eggs are often smaller. So seems like one of the big fat girls is also laying at last. Which one I am not sure, and I do wish she would rather use the nesting box but I am not going to complain too much.

The egg

The size difference between the one Jack Hen laid that day and the mini starter egg

We are getting 3 new KoekKoeks soon and Rachel is coming around to the idea that if we don’t name chickens and she knows that the roosters will be eaten then she is okay with it. I hope this is true when the time comes

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Making a needle felted chicken

I am making us a Nature Table, I don’t really follow a Waldorf type home schooling approach but there are some things that I like and a nature table is one of them. It is just an area that they can have seasonal things and stuff they collect from nature, it can have a theme or just be random stuff, the possibilities are endless.

I decided to base our for the moment a bit on what we are doing in the garden with growing and with the chickens as the kids are involved and learning from what we are doing in this challenge.

Rachel had some wooden fruit and vegetables from her kitchen set which we put on the table on a silk which we dyed green. We added a family from her dolls house although I want to ask Ghilraen who make lovely felted figures (usually gnomes) if she will make me our family for our table. We needed a chicken so I thought it would be nice to needle felt one as I had a kit that I was keen to try.

This is how I made it.
Disclaimer: This is the second time I have needle felted anything so I just made it up as I went along. I am not sure if I did it right or if I broke some cardinal rules of felting but it worked.

I made a black and white chicken as I was making one to look like Jack Hen that is our new chicken that laying eggs. To make the black and white I took a bit of black and white fibre and layered it and then started felting. To make the ball I just kept felting around and turning it until I had a ball.

I then made another smaller ball the same way and felted it onto the bigger ball

I then took some more fibre and started making a flatter shape that I used as a tail. It was a bit big to start with but I know what to do if I want to make a peacock one day

I then felted it down and make it the curved shape like the chicken, I must admit that I did make a few trips outside to see the chicken. I did look on the internet for ideas but there were not many examples that I liked so I just kept looking at Jack Hen rather.

I was worried that it looked too much like a small bird and after a visit out to Jack Hen I decided that it needed to be a bit taller so I decided to make another ball to add on the top

I then added the comb with some red fibre

I then added a orange beak

I added some orange and red bits to the face after studying Jack Hen, I am not sure I got to totally right.

Rachel made a grass nest

This is the live model Jack Hen