It’s hard to believe our little baby chicks are practically full grown! I’m afraid i’ve been remiss on posting about the design and building of our mobile pasture shelter, and i seem to have given up on my ‘chicken basics’ series….. i guess i’ve been a bit busy DOING vs POSTING about things. Sorry! Let me know if you’re keen and i will post more about the design of our pasture shelter. It’s pretty darn spiffy, and cost us maybe $30 to build as we used almost all reclaimed materials from around the farm.
I posted recently about our acquisition of 3 muscovy ducks. They’re settling in well and have definitely made an impact on the grass level in the current grazing area. (I’m grazing this section of pasture as heavily as i can get away with in hopes that the poultry will mostly kill the sod in preparation of next year’s veggie garden.) Our Leghorn rooster was attacking the ducks rather dangerously, and as he didn’t really fit into our long term plan of dual purpose poultry, he became Pocket’s dinner last night. RIP, “Lunch.” Since the cock’s removal, the flock has been more more amenable to the ducks, who although are huge are actually the same age as our pullets. Everything calm in poultry land? Why not move in a whole new flock!?
We moved the pullets (and cockerels) from their small brooder coop out to the big pasture pen one by one. Our little birds are fairly tame, though a few are a bit crazy: the leghorn (named “Space Wizard”) is totally insane and our little Speckled Sussex cockerel, “Davy Crockett” is quite adventurous and not overly keen to be held. We kept the big birds and ducks in the coop for about half the day so the younguns could get acquainted with their new surroundings and the two generations could ‘meet’ through the wire. When i finally did let the hens out, they were more interested in eating than pecking on chicks. Roosting was quite another matter and we had to step in and show the little ones how it’s done in the big coop. They finally got it and things seem mostly amicable today. There will certainly be pecking and squawking, and as much as we humans want to step in and bully the bullies right back, we have to let them establish their own community dynamic. The yard is quieter without the cock of the flock, so i can’t wait to hear the little boys begin crowing and welcome the first batch of pullet eggs to the table in the fall (at which point i will most likely butcher most of the older hens as they are lame and lay very inconsistently.)
As a note on managing a diverse flock: i am currently feeding them all the same thing: a ‘general poultry’ feed at 19% protein and supplementing the layers with oyster shell and their own egg shells. The young ones including ducks get sour milk and other high protein treats and once school starts up again they’ll all get lots of kitchen waste from our local charter school. I’m in search of a scraps supplier now for the Summer and in the future they’ll get lots of goodies from our own garden when we have one. As soon as i find a pullet egg i’ll switch everyone over to a high protein (18%) layer ration.
Watching poultry establish the pecking order can be heartbreaking…. have you ever felt you needed to step in to play moderator?