Last night, as I was putting the chickens to bed, I finally had to admit that, either chickens as a species are seriously lacking in the brains department, or I just lucked out and got three really dumb birds. I don't mean to be insulting to my girls, but it's a fact.
Wanting to prove or disprove my observations, I Scroogled "intelligent chickens." The top search results were animal humane sites, all using the amazing and (well) hidden intelligence of chickens as a reason not to be mean to them. We need a reason?
There were also a few videos aiming to prove chickens are not that dumb. To me, they proved some people are not that smart. Like scientists teaching chickens to watch TV. (But what do I know? Many people like to point out that I am not a scientist.) Still, I see no evidence that chickens know left from right, much less give a hoot. The smartest thing I've seen them do is figure out I'm not going to hurt them. Other than that, I can honestly say my chickens are unburdened with an intellect.
"For each 100 pounds of ration your flock eats, you can expect 45 pounds of droppings, dried weight."
Their poop production seems to be chugging right along, however. The babes (I hope) look enormous to me now and the poop tonnage is impressive. I'm going to be selling fertilizer from my backyard pretty soon. And we still have three months to go before we see an egg! I shoulda bought bigger chickens. There are a few other things I shoulda done, too. Like I shoulda:
- Read Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens FIRST, before I bought chickens. Then I would have known to
- Start them on chick food instead of hen food.
- Planned the coop and built it right the first time. It's okay,
really, that we're on our fourth coop construction. "This is how I roll,"
as Morgan likes to say: loosely plan, execute, then discover first hand
why the experts said do it the other way. If I have to plan too much, I guess I fear I'll never take the action. I probably need therapy and some drugs.
- Bought more chickens right at the start, because adding chickens to an established flock is iffy. Although Barbara said to just turn out the lights (chickens are blind in the dark), add the new chickens, leave them all in the dark for a few hours, then turn the lights back on. Chickens are so dumb they will think those new chickens have always been there. Do you think Barbara was pulling my leg?
I also would have known some interesting tidbits about eggs, too. Things I wish I'd always known, like:
A fresh egg sinks and lays flat in a deep bowl of water. The more an egg wants to float, the older it is. If it actually floats, feed it to the dog.
An egg left out on the counter ages 7x faster than a refrigerated egg. I didn't know this. In Costa Rica, we keep our eggs on the counter. I mean, we used to: now we refrigerate them.
And how about vaccination for chickens? I'm glad you asked. Some very interesting tidbits here, like:
- "Vaccination is a biosecurity measure you may or may not need. Newly hatched chicks have a certain amount of natural immunity, and they continue to acquire new immunities as they mature." Like newly hatched people do, if given the chance.
- "Vaccinate your flock only against the diseases your birds have a reasonable risk of getting…" [Emphasis Storey's.]
- "Do not vaccinate against diseases that do not endanger your flock." [Emphasis Storey's.]
Pretty sound advice there, eh?
Next week, we are going to Annie's house to see her garden and chicken coop. I've been there before, but I need to really look at her coop. I'm only building one more chicken coop so I need to get this right. Their's is huge – they have about 64 chickens. They raise chickens and rabbits for eggs and food, and almost all their own vegetables on a 10, maybe 15,000' lot. I am so impressed with that.
Isn't it telling when a 21st century woman finds it "amazing" that a family grows all their own food? And do you think one day that will be me, growing all my own food? Yeah, that's pretty funny. I would like to have goats and honeybees one day. Once I get this whole chicken thing under my belt.
I’ve heard the dark thing about chickens before. My friends swears it’s true. The pecking order, a very serious thing. Maybe that’s all their brains have room to remember.
Another tale from Robert’s childhood. (yawn)
I learned the hard way about introducing newcomers to a flock. I had a pet Bantam rooster, Pete, when I was about 10. He was great. Followed me around, rode on my shoulder, and made me feel smart. My parents (and neighbors) grew tired of his crowing and persuaded me to let him go live with my grandfather’s chickens. Within a week the other chickens killed Pete. I never forgave my parents and grandparents.
Tip: When you start using your own eggs, you will see that they don’t peel very easily when fresh. Leave them out of the fridge for a couple days before boiling so they can dry a little.
Just as I was getting over my urge to go get chickens, you post this! Thanks! I did learn, build their house first! -t
Um, Robert, you used a chicken to make you feel smart? (Oh, that was a good one!)
Thank you for the tip on boiling/peeling. Last night I boiled a bunch of eggs to make hard-boiled eggs and some of them were hard as heck to peel. They all sank to the bottom of the pot and I felt so smart knowing they were fresh… is there no end to things we can learn????
Smart girl, Teri. Learning from my mistakes… there’s a concept.
“They” also say that if you introduce a larger number of new chickens, the older ones will feel overwhelmed and leave them alone.
Also, if you can put something to divide them for 2-3 days where they can still see each other, “they” say that the chickens will adjust when you finally let them together.
Great tips, LG, thank you! I’m thinking I should have about 7-10 chickens so if the overwhelming thing works, everyone will be fine.
They are sleeping outside tonight and they are so happy!
When you go visit Annie why not check to see if her rabbits lay chocolate eggs for Easter . . . There may be an untapped market there in CR, cuz I rmember seeing those ads featuring the Cadbury Bunny on TV here in the US.