Category Archives: chickens

The Littles

It’s about time for an update on our flock integration! We have taken to calling our segregated flock “The Bigs” and “The Littles,” and it just stuck. While they aren’t best of friends yet, I am happy to report we have made major progress. Go Team Littles!


The Littles


The Bigs


The Littles again – are you seeing the theme here?

When we last left off, Katniss & Primrose were being bullied by Pepper and, more tragically, were really bad at being chickens. Perching and scratching and basic chicken life-skills seemed to be daunting to them. We were told our Lavender Orpington pullets had been free-ranged on 10 acres. In retrospect, what breeder of expensive chickens lets them run so free? I’m pretty certain they never spent a day outside until they met us, and I was convinced they were permanently stunted.

The little hidey-holes I built them (Pepper demonstrates above) proved to be the solution we needed. Instead of getting cornered in the run when being bullied, they miraculously became adept at jumping on top of the boxes where Pepper leaves them alone (mostly). They still spend a lot of time hanging out on top of those boxes, but little-tiny bit by little-tiny bit, Pepper is less interested in bullying them and they get braver.

After the Littles moved outside, Pepper spent the first few long days we were away at work in solitary confinement inside the coop. We would arrive home to a happy little flock of three. Lenora and The Littles would be together, eating and acting like regular chickens. And as soon as Pepper was freed, she would chase Katniss & Prim up onto their box. Sad, but soon they were more confident and Pepper no longer needed to be separated. Baby steps.

They have started hitting important milestones like going up the ladder and going down the ladder. I can’t tell you how much we love chickens we don’t have to put to bed or wake up in the morning. However, they have been putting themselves to bed in the nesting boxes, which has caused some confusion for all parties.


Pepper laid an egg in the hidey-hole because her favorite nesting box was occupied. Pepper has never laid an egg anywhere but the nesting boxes before.

Other new chicken-like behaviors: running, jumping, scratching, eating scratch from a human hand, and just today I found them dust-bathing. Now, if only they could start spending time as a foursome before our flock grows again.

I leave you with my favorite chicken shot from recent days:


Levi & Lenora

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chickens before they’re hatched

I’ve mentioned the trouble we had acquiring chicks this year, so we cast a wide net for our options. We bought the lavender pullets, but we needed a couple more hens. Specifically we wanted Salmon Faverolles. They are, as you can clearly see, the most adorable chickens on the planet with their lovely beards and feathered feet. Levi tells me faverolles are the “three french hens” mentioned in the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” so they go way back.


Photo borrowed from the Faverolles Fanciers of America

Unfortunately my attempts to source day-old faverolles chicks were extremely frustrating and I learned a lot about the genetic stock available at big commercial hatcheries. This led me to the Backyard Chickens forums (Those BYC people know everything about chickens. I’m serious!) where many people recommended a breeder in Oregon who sold hatching eggs. There was a waiting list for eggs, which we signed up for. I ordered an incubator, which was back-ordered but arrived just in the nick of time. The eggs arrived, full of hope and potential, packed into shredded paper and wrapped in bubble wrap.

We installed them in our new Brinsea incubator, where they will spend the next 21 days growing into happy, healthy baby faverolles, hopefully. The Brinsea Mini Advance is the smartest incubator we could buy. It turns the eggs. It controls temperature and humidity. You can even set it for a daily cooling period to mimic a broody mother hen who gets up to go eat and drink. Hopefully it can help eliminate a lot of rookie mistakes. Plus it’s a clear dome so you can see everything that’s happening inside. The incubator holds seven eggs, so that’s how many we bought.

We placed the incubator near Krista’s favorite gnome, who can watch over the eggs and read them stories.

We might hatch anywhere from zero to seven chicks. I’m trying not to, well, count them before they’re hatched but it’s difficult not to be hopeful. And yes, I do feel like we’re kind of crazy for doing this, but now that it’s happening, it feels like the most reasonable and exciting thing. So, stay tuned for future incubator updates: from candling to countdown!

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21 days

Today’s Jar Lunch will be up this afternoon, but meanwhile I have an important announcement:

We have so much to tell you about this next week! If your question is, “Does this officially make you crazy chicken ladies?” the answer is “yep”.

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Flock Integration: Can’t we all just get along?

Poor little Katniss and Primrose. They’re beautiful, certainly, but sometimes that’s not enough. They seem to be inadequate at being chickens. They aren’t comfortable with basic chicken skills like “scratching and pecking at the same time” and “perching on a stick.” There are certain chicken behaviors that I believe(d) to be inherent to “chicken-ness” but these two are continually teaching me that in fact not all chickens have survival instincts.

But we’re fed up with having chickens in our house and I started to have nightmares about them starting to lay while they still lived in the brooder, so they got booted out to the coop. We’ve been nervous about flock integration. The “pecking order” is a very real thing, in that chickens actually peck each other to establish a social hierarchy, sometimes injuring or killing each other. It turns out that our concerns were not unfounded.

Lenora, queen of the roost, could not care less about the little chickens. She’s got a really busy calendar and so much to do. She can’t be bothered with some little newbies and simply ignores them 99% of the time.

But Pepper is another story. My theory is that Pepper is second in the pecking order, and she has more to lose with the integration of new birds. She definitely doesn’t want to play second fiddle to younger, smaller, dumber birds. Or maybe she just can’t respect them in their inferior chicken-ness. I’m no chicken sociologist, but either way, this is the face of our bully bird.

She chases them and tries to peck them; they cry desperately and run. No one has drawn blood yet, so we’ve been trying to stay out of it and let them work it out themselves. It’s painful to watch, though. I want them to cuddle up and sing Kumbaya, you know? Until we get there, we’ve been free-ranging a lot to distract Pepper, and Krista built some hideouts for the Littles to escape to.


Unfortunately the Littles don’t seem to be smart enough to hide inside the boxes yet, but they learned to stand on top when Pepper gets aggressive — which is progress! Two days ago they flapped and squawked and tried to fly through the fence when she came at them. Keep your fingers crossed for some peace in the hen house soon.

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preserved lemons

If you drop enough hints, sometimes your wife might do something extra sweet like start a couple batches of preserved lemons for you. She used this Food in Jars post for the method.

After they finish, I just have to figure out how to eat them!

And a bonus chicken shot for good measure and because apparently the weather forecast isn’t favorable for some time to come.

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weekend chickens

We’ve had some actual, bona fide sunshine here in Olympia this week. Fingers crossed it keeps up. This, of course, means chicken photos.

Leave it to Levi to accidentally behead or precious squirrel. At least no real animals were hurt.

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chicken check-in

We still have the chickens separated for the sake of quarantine.

Katniss & Primrose are still inseparable.

And they are growing like weeds.

Unfortunately, the weather has been mostly terrible so they have been pretty cooped-up. They need a lot of practice exploring the world, because they have a lot to learn about it. It’s so strange to have babies in the house again. They are getting braver and testing their wings little by little. We have read that we need to quarantine them for 30 days, but I’m not sure how easy it will be to keep them separated for so long. We are anxious to see how Pepper & Lenora treat the little ones, and to get these ladies out of the brooder and into the world.

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