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Raising Chickens

Rehoming a hen (Henrietta)

23 May 2017
Henrietta eating watermelon with her new roommate, Goldie.

Henrietta eating watermelon with her new roommate, Goldie.

When you get new hens, you don’t know if they will get along together. You hope there won’t be a problem hen in the flock You have to give it some time as they become acquainted and the pecking order is established. When we bought two hens from one backyard flock, and two hens from another, we thought we’d made good choices. We considered breeds and age. All the hens were under a year old and all fairly good sized and known for egg production.

One speckled Sussex was quite striking. She had real spirit. When she scratched in the dirt, dust flew, and when food was brought to the flock, she was the first one to grab it. What became intolerable, was her constant picking on Zelda, the Easter egger and Marigold, the buff Orpington. She wouldn’t allow them to eat or drink. Their combs were covered with scabs as Marigold was taking bites out of them whenever they wandered too close.

One morning my friend across town called to tell me a fox had killed one of her two hens. She had had people for dinner and had been distracted when cleaning up. When she’d gone out at twilight to lock her hens up for the night, the hen was dead. She said she usually locked the two girls up in the late afternoon when the fox was in hiding. “Do you have a hen I could put with my lonely solitary one?” As a matter of fact, I did.

I am hoping that Henrietta, with a huge run with lots of room to peck and scratch, will be a good companion for a young sex-link. And, so far it has been ideal. They’re good friends and there is no other hen (to be “odd man out”) for Marigold to pick on. I’m hoping I’ve found Henrietta’s ideal home. I’ve learned that if there is a problem hen, sometime it is better to rehome her. A different environment and different companions might be just the thing for a problem hen.

Adding new hens

9 May 2017

Adding new hens to a flock is not easy!

Henrietta the Speckled Sussex hen.

Henrietta the Speckled Sussex hen.

What an experience we’re having trying to create (integrate) a small flock of four young hens. I bought two hens from a gal who had hand-raised six chicks. She advertised them as “10-month-old hens”. One, a speckled Sussex was quite striking and the other, a barred rock a nice looking, healthy hen. I DO like barred rocks. They are great layers. The previous owner wanted them to stay together as they were very bonded.

I paid $25 each for them. I think this was a fair price in our county.

We brought the two hens home and put them in in their new pen. They were a happy pair, scratching in the dirt, dust bathing, and laying in their new nest boxes.

On the Monday of the next week, we bought two pretty hens, also 10 months old. This was from a lady who had a chicken-and-egg farm in the south side of the county. The young hens were beautiful and I bought a Buff Orpington and a black Easter Egger. They were a bit smaller than the first hens I had bought and appeared less mature.

We put Team #2, the Buff Orpington and the Easter Egger, on the roost after dark. In the morning, all hell was breaking loose and “hell” and bullying has continued for 30 days. In the past week, there are times during the day when things seem quiet. But there was a time that Team #2 was being dragged from the nest boxes. We put a ladder in the coop for Team #2 to climb up on so their heads wouldn’t get bloodied. That has helped, they have a place to get away.

Though I know they are establishing their “pecking order”, this behavior is difficult to watch.

I wish that I had gotten 4 pullets from the same place, all the same age. It would have saved me much angst. The downside of having a hencam is, I can see all the “goings on” as the hens adjust. Not pleasant to watch.

Fox or Raccoon kills hens

4 March 2017
Sweetpea and Daisy have a blooming rosebush in their outdoor coop.

Sweetpea and Ginger have a blooming rosebush in their outdoor coop.

Due to human error, our hens, Sweetpea and Ginger, were killed by a raccoon or fox.

We’d let the girls out in the garden for a little sunshine and free-ranging. The wind came up and blew down a large pine tree. The door to the henhouse blew shut. We were busy assessing damage all afternoon. Twilight came and from the house, the coop door appeared shut. Little did we remember our hens were let out that afternoon.

In the morning we found them dead.

Hens, Sweetpea and Ginger were killed by a raccoon or fox.

Hens, Sweetpea and Ginger were killed by a raccoon or fox. It appears as if a fox or raccoon killed them in the night.




I am sick about this. I had nurtured Sweetpea after a dog attack and she was eight years old. That is old for a hen. Ginger was four years old and had been given to me by a neighbor. A sweet and gentle Buff Orpington.

These hens died as a result of “human error”. I will be getting 3-4 pullets soon. I will think twice before letting them out as I know bad things can happen. I feel awful!











Hatchery Chicks or Breeder Chicks for Your Backyard

3 February 2016
Six hens raised from hatchery stock.

Here are our six hens. All raised from hatchery stock.

Adding chicks to your backyard flock is no easy task. First you need to decide on the breeds you want. Then you need to decide whether to get hatchery chicks or breeder chicks for your backyard.

Seven years ago, I bought six hatchery chicks from a farm supply store. All looked healthy but all but one developed “egg-making” problems during the first five years of life. The Silver-laced Wyandotte (SLW) and the Golden-laced Wyandotte (GLW) both laid eggs with thin shells. They also had “personality problems” and were problem chicks. The Buff Orpington (BO) had a problem with eggs breaking inside her. The Rhode Island Red (RIR) just plain old laid down and died at 1 1/2 years. The Easter Egger (EE) had egg peritonitis.

The two I got as replacements came from a local farm and have been much healthier. no egg-laying problems at all. I’d like to get my three new pullets also farm raised or from a breeder but I’ll have to wait until they have the breeds I want. I am determined to not get hatchery chicks. I don’t need hens to lay huge eggs every day of the week. It means more to me that they are healthy and and live longer. Perhaps breeder chicks are best for your backyard flock.

Perusing “Backyard Chickens forum” I found this advice and I’d like to pass it on to you:

Answer from Speckled Hen (moderator):

“Take it from someone who has had 10 or 11 hatchery hens, plus one daughter of a hatchery hen, die of EYP and/or internal laying: Get better stock. None of my good quality breeder stock has died from this malfunction, not one, at least so far. That tells you something. And I mean quality stock, not just someone who bought hatchery stock and is propagating it and calling themselves a breeder.
Hatcheries do not breed for longevity. I mean, why would they? Add that to the fact that chicken hens are the only animal on the planet that suffer from spontaneous ovarian tumors just like human women and it’s a wonder any live past the age of two.

None of my BBS Ameraucanas have died from it. The oldest is going on 5 now. None of my Delawares have died from it. They are over 3 now. None of my breeder Orps have died from it, only one hatchery Buff Orp hen did. In fact, none of my breeder type Orps, both BBS and Buff, have had any egg issues whatsoever. These all came from really good breeders. It’s not the actual breed, but the quality of the stock, from my experience.

The further you get from the first generation hatchery stock, the better, IMO. Even mixed breed chickens may be better than “purebred” hatchery hens. I haven’t had any trouble out of my crosses except one, though I’m watching one right now who may have an issue.  No hen is immune, of course, but your chances are better away from the common hatchery stock.”

This make sense to me. I’m going to start looking for a breeder here on the Central Coast. Not just one who raises hatchery chicks and then sells them at a later age but one who actually hatches them. Know of one on the Central Coast? Let me know by leaving a comment. I will be grateful and so will others.

Hatchery hens on roost.

Six good breeds going to roost in the evening. These beautiful hens were raised from hatchery stock.