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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rooster Madness...

Sampson is maturing in a huge, strong Rhode Island Red rooster. He doesn't have his spurs yet and his crow is still a bit sad - sounds like a teenage boy going through puberty - but he is a screamer! I thought I was so clever - I trained him to follow at my heels on the short walk from his dog crate in the converted garage to the yard in the mornings. He did it perfectly a couple of times (most likely because he hates being in the house and loves being with his hens). Brian wanted to try and he did pretty good, but a min or so after getting in the yard Brian (still in his underwear, t-shirt, and flop flops mind you) was screaming bloody murder! Sampson had turned on him in the middle of the yard before Brian could get him in the run. When I got outside Sampson was puffed up aiming for Brian again. I said his name and he calmed instantly and came to me. We figured it was a gender thing.

Two days later Sampson did the same thing to me - morning, middle of the yard. He came at me, flying and aiming his claws at me. Determined not to let him win a fight and dominance over us, I kicked him with a bit of gusto. He landed on his back and then CAME RIGHT BACK AT ME! I couldn't stop him from coming at me a few times and screamed for Brian who brought me a broom. Once he saw it he dropped his fight.

Now he is wholly unpredictable and has attacked me about ever couple of days. I handle him at least twice daily and he never gives me grief when I'm doing that, but he attacks me in the run when my back is turned or when I am dumping into the compost. I carry a branch from a Nandina bush I trimmed with tons of leaves. I use it to defend myself. It's big and soft but the size makes him hesitate when it comes to attacking me. But I am worried about those spurs. Once those come in we will really be dealing with a crazy (albeit small) beast. I wish now we'd kept Frank and eaten this guy. I do like watching the hens with a rooster - he keeps them together and is very alert all the time so that they can sort of be oblivious. But RIR roosters have a reputation of being very aggressive. Our dilemma - give him to someone else and he'll be just as bad (but probably worse). I'm afraid he might also be destined for the dinner table, but this time without the sadness I felt with the other rooster. I think Sampson's time is soon...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Slow Food Dallas Backyard Chicken Tour

Slow Food Dallas has arrange a unique tour of six chicken coops in the Dallas area on May 1st. We are excited to be one of the coops on the tour! The group meets in the morning and carpools to locations - the cost of the tour includes lunch at Smoke. Hope to meet some of you then and introduce you personally to the flock!
Details here: http://www.slowfooddallas.com/

and a REMINDER - A Peep at the Coops, a tour of coops in east Dallas happens tomorrow, with a rain date of April 25.  More info here: http://apeepatthecoops.blogspot.com/

Friday, April 16, 2010

Taj Ma-coop

The chickens outgrew their coop awhile ago. Our little coop was perfect for the first round of chickens and great for four of five hens when free ranging them but we wanted to keep a few more. We sold our first coop to a family a mile or so away and they took two of our hens (previously Frittata and Red). They have since been renamed as Chi-Chi and Chum-Chum. Two kids were very excited about their new hens. Dorothy, the new owner reports their cat has resigned itself to the chickens and both hens are laying an egg every day.

We found an ad on craigslist for a guy named Brad King (kingbj@att.net) who builds coops and playhouses and we just couldn't resist this super cute house for our hens. As fate would have it, the freak snow storm several weeks ago destroyed not only our run but also our sweet gazebo, providing the room in the backyard for the new, super deluxe coop. Brad and his family drove north from outside of Austin to deliver and install the coop.

The house was constructed in Brad's studio and flat packed on his trailer.

Our empty space (note the lack of grass thanks to the chickens).

The coops are built to order and we got a 6x9 coop. But the pieces were too large for our gate so part of the fence was removed to get it in! The first coop is in the frame on the right. 

The highest point on the coop is 9', perfect for us to walk into.

Outfitted with 5 lovely nesting boxes and easy access to the boxes from outside.

The first night the chickens refused to go inside. They just kept circling the old coop. We let them go inside the old one and I transferred each bird, one by one to the new house. Then a couple of hours later I went to check on them. 
Note the empty roosting bar at the front.

Now everyone sleeps on roosting bars. We have installed a cedar picket fence to go with the coop and allow our yard to recover from hungry hungry hens. It is doing pretty well, I'm sure months of their fertilization have helped. Here are images from today. The chandelier is from our old gazebo. A panel on the right side of the house allows for easy egg access. There is a small chicken door that stays open during the day and locks at night to keep everyone safe.
We're down to eight hens and one sassy rooster. Today was an 8 egg day!