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Hens need winter greens

25 January 2016
Two hen in flowering schrub (Calendula).

Two hens in flowering shrub (Calendula).


And, like many of us seniors, our “senior” chickens need their winter greens each day. In Cambria, where we live, we have greens growing pretty much year around. We let the hens out of their coops for a few hours during the late afternoon to pick some greens from the garden. Their favorite greens, growing in the winter is, Tendergreen Mustard Spinach (komatsuna or Japanese mustard).


Grow greens for hens and family:

Tender green Mustard Spinach is easy-to-grow. It even will grow in the winter under light snow. You’ll need to re-seed every few months to keep a constant supply. If you’d like to grow your own, for your family or your hens, see Central Coast Gardening for details on growing komatsuna.


Penelope eating greens from my hand.

A hen eats greens from my hand.



Chickens also love French sorrel which is a perennial. It stays green year-around in Cambria. Once you get this started, you’ll always have “greens for your girls”.

If you don’t have much growing in your garden now, ask your grocery if he has some loose leaves you can take to your chickens. Be sure to save salad greens for your hens. We also keep a bale of green alfalfa in their sheltered outdoor area. It keeps them busy scratching through it when fresh greens are not available.

Just like us, chickens thrive with greens in their diet and they know what’s good for them.






Happy Mother’s Day to Chicken Lovers

12 May 2012

Happy Mothers Day to those of you who have mothered and will always mother, and who understand the maternal instincts that are so apparent in hens. It is really so touching.

I took this picture off the internet last year. I’d love to give credit to whoever took it and a hearty thanks for the chuckle it gives me each time I look at it. Many thanks.


It doesn't matter what you mother, just mother. The world will be a better place.

Hens Need Their Nails Clipped

12 April 2012

Sweetpeas nails have grown too long.

Our hens needed a manicure. We have to clip the nails of our two labradoodles nearly every month. But with our hens, once a year does it. Living in the wild, chickens wear down their nails scratching in coarse dirt and even rocky soil. But our pampered hens scratch around in a run where most rocks have been removed and the soil is raked once a month to keep it clean.

The hens all needed to have their nails clipped this spring. We’ve only done this twice in their three years and it always makes me a bit nervous. Just like the dogs, if you cut a nail too short it bleeds. I took the nail clippers and some styptic powder (a blood stopper for dogs, cats, and birds) out to the coop and picked up Sweetpea who seemed to have the longest nails. Her nails were so long her toes were turning to the side.

I’m not very brave about clipping the nails of animals. I’m afraid of hurting them. Taking one toe at a time, while Don held the hens on his lap, we cut about 1/4″ off the ends of the nails on each hen. I did make one of Sweetpea’s bleed but it stopped with a little powder pressed on the blunt end of the nail and she forgave me. Sweetpea and the others were out scratching around in a few minutes.

Clip only the dark part of the nail.

These hens are relatively easy to handle. They squawk a little when we pick them up but usually settle right down when we put them on our laps. We’ve had to handle them quite a bit in their lives; giving them medicine, cutting off poop that has become hardened around their vents. We had to give Daisy a dose of mineral oil into her vent to remove a broken egg then let her soak in a warm tub. See picture here. We turn them upside down occasionally to check for problems “down south”. Chickens are no different than any other bird. Stuff goes in and stuff comes out. Feathers fall out and feathers grow in. Hormones go crazy and make them cranky and broody. Clipping their nails is just a little thing we can do occasionally to keep them healthy and is relatively easy. Chickens who are kept in cages don’t live long enough to have this pesky problem!.







Why Chicks Love Chickens

14 August 2011

Women Love Their Hens

Why is it that women love, and are dedicated to, their hens? I think I know the answer. The hens show the familiar attributes of our earliest female friends. Remember those high school girls you hung out with? They were all unique and they acted out of heart and spirit, and yes, hormones. They were glandular and unpredictable. They were wonderful!

Each of the hens in my flock has a unique personality, much like my schoolgirl friends. Take Daisy, for instance. I had a big, blond, friend, just like Daisy. She wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box but she had a big heart and enough love for the entire student body. She found it unbelievable when people were unkind. When our hen Daisy gets pecked, she squawks in disbelief then looks at the perpetrator with an expression on her face like, “What did you do that for?”

Then there’s Poppy. Poppy is the “no nonsense” matriarch of my flock. She is strong and intelligent. Not in the least gullible. She settles squabbles with a sharp peck on the cheek and the matter is finished. I had a friend like that. Wonder what happened to that “wise beyond her years” girl.

Tulip is large in beauty and “not so large” in personality. She is popular and respected through no doing of her own. Tulip sits sideways on the roost at night, taking up extra space because, she believes that, “I deserve more space, because I am me.” She is a statuesque and would be elected homecoming queen (if there was such a thing for chickens).

Sweetpea is unsure of herself. Daisy likes her, but then again, Daisy likes everyone. Sweetpea (a barred rock) is a standard kind of chicken, a hard worker (at laying eggs) and hopes that the other hens will not mistreat her and that people will like her. She is a cheerleader for others. When another hen lays an egg, she cackles loud and long, as if she herself had done the deed. Remember that girl in high school? I hope she married well and has lots of kids that love her, or, had a great career and has lots of nieces and nephews that love her.

Petunia, who now lives elsewhere, is untrusting and untrustworthy. She’s the insecure girl who has to work hard to be in the “in crowd”. She is nervous, has a sharp tongue (beak), and agitates others. As teenagers we tried to ignore this “mean girl”. As flock managers we have the option of removing “mean girls” from our environment, as we have done with Petunia.

Our deceased Rosie was the gal that was picked on and somewhat annoying because she wouldn’t stand up for herself. When I think back on my high school days, I can remember a “Rosie” or two. Why were these kids excluded? How sad and frustrating it must have been for them to want to be a part of things and just not know how to break in.

I watch the hens and understand that animals have similar desires as humans. We want to be a part of a flock, group, or a club. We want to be respected and not abused.  We want to play around with others of our kind. We want treats and sometimes to be petted. We want to snuggle up at night and be safe and secure. It’s not so difficult to see why chicken lovers find their hens entertaining and loveable. They are so like us.

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