Chicken Spotlight: Dragon

DSC05215

Dragon is a Russian Orloff hen.  She is extremely tame, and likes to eat cheese.  She is high up in the pecking order, and is in charge of the younger birds.  After her last molt, her feathers came in lighter, and her color pattern is beautiful.

 DSC05974

For more pictures of Dragon: http://www.bigthingscoop.com/the-coop/dragons-gallery/

Big Thing

 


What to Do If Your Pet Chicken Dissapears

 

DSC01544

 



Don’t immediately worry if your chicken doesn’t come back to the coop one night.


Are you an expert on chicken colors?  Click on the green flag to start the quiz.


Last night, a chicken named Panther didn’t come back to the coop.  Maybe she was scared of the neighbors’ fireworks, which were being set off right next to the coop.  Or else she got eaten by an owl.  We searched all over and couldn’t find her–there are a lot of places that chickens can hide in.   All the others were in the coop asleep.  It was dark outside, so it was hard to look for her. Eventually, after a lot of worrying, we locked the coop and decided that Panther had either been eaten by a predator or was hiding somewhere.

DSC06070


 The chicken could be hiding somewhere.


The next morning, she still hadn’t come back. She didn’t even show up for the chickens’ favorite treat, which is scratch. There were no feathers anywhere, or signs that a chicken had gotten eaten.

Then we looked at the chickens eating scratch next to the coop, and Panther was eating scratch with them. She looked perfectly fine. She was covered in dirt, though, which makes me think that she was either in the chickens’ favorite dust bath all night, or else hiding somewhere dirty.   Sometimes, chickens decide not to go back to the coop for no apparent reason.

DSC01493


 Chickens can decide not to come back to the coop for no apparent reason.


Or sometimes, chickens go broody and hide their nest somewhere where you can’t find it.  When they do that, you can only hope that a predator can’t find the nest either.  The nest can be so well-hidden that you don’t find it until you step on it.  When that happens, the smell of broken rotting eggs can be enough to keep you from going by the nest.  The hens don’t seem to mind.

DSC02871


If you can’t find your chicken, the bird may be broody.


If the chicken can’t get back to the coop for some reason, it may roost in a tree.  Or else, the bird might have gotten trapped somewhere, like a storage shed.  Then, when you open the door to the building, the chicken will come running out.  One time a pullet got trapped under a cardboard box in her pen.  Anything can happen.  So if your bird goes missing, and you can’t find any feathers, don’t worry.  Your chicken will probably come back within the next few days.

DSC04716

 


 Panther, the chicken who came back.


BigThingsCoop

–BigThingsCooop


Why Chickens Dustbathe

DSC01503


Chickens dustbathe to keep their feathers clean.


Chickens dustbathe mainly to clean their feathers.  Yes, dust sounds dirty, but it is the way chickens keep themselves clean.  Birds that don’t have access to a dust bath can get mites–dustbathing helps to prevent your chicken from getting infested.

Even if you supply your chickens with a nice sandy dust bath, they’ll prefer to dig their own.  Our chickens dug one several feet deep under a tree.  The dirt there stays dry all year because the tree keeps off the rain.  Also, chickens prefer a dry dirt dust bath to one made of sand.  They generally want their dust bath under the cover of a tree or roof–it makes them feel safer.

Chickens dustbathe by sitting down in a patch of dirt, digging a hole, and then rolling around in it while ruffling their feathers.  They like to dust bathe for a long time–sometimes for over an hour!  Mother hens teach their chicks to dustbathe when they are extremely young.  Dustbathing is an important part of a chicken’s life.

Below: How chickens dustbathe–demonstrated by Flinty, an Auracana hen.DSC01457 DSC01463

DSC01453 DSC01464


How to Show Chickens Successfully

DSC01531


Even the best bird won’t always win.


Showing chickens is exciting.  When people first start, they imagine themselves–and their birds–winning big prizes.  But in reality, this doesn’t always happen.  If you’re really showing your chicken just for the sake of being at the show, winning should be just as fun as losing.  But sometimes it’s not.  Imagine that you’ve had a really bad day, and your prize bird has not placed in any classes.  You’ve been planning for this show for months.  To top it all off, it’s a cold rainy day.  Accept it as a bad show and don’t feel glum.  There’s always another show.  People always say that they don’t care if they win.  I don’t believe a word of it.  It’s better just to acknowledge that you want to win and make it your goal than doing nothing and pretending you don’t want to and then getting all jealous when other people win.  But don’t get into the mindset where you must win at all costs.  Don’t criticize others to make yourself feel better.  This is not a good place to be.

DSC01122


 A big part of showing is learning to lose.


Showing is a game.  Even if your bird is the best in the class (you think), the judge won’t always think so.  If you do badly after preparing your bird and getting ready for the show, you’ve done your best.  There’s nothing you can do about it.  Accept your loss.  Someone else also put a lot of work in and they happened to do better than you.  Congratulate them and try to do better next time.

Sometimes the quality at a show is just so high that the class placing becomes what the judge likes best.  Sometimes the judge wants to give everyone a ribbon, but there are more birds than ribbons in the class.

Sometimes people win after putting in absolutely no work.  They just get lucky.  Maybe they’re borrowing a winning bird.  Maybe they have a really good coach to teach them showmanship.  Accept that too.  I’m sure this will happen to you sometime.

And when you do win, be nice about it.  You did your best and your best was better than someone else’s that day.  Enjoy it–even the most show-type birds don’t win every time.

DSC00150


Enjoy your wins–they may be few and far-between.


Showing should be about meeting a standard of excellence, and not being “better” than others.  Once you have achieved excellence through hard work, it sometimes results in a win.  Winning is fun.  It’s true.  But to be a truely successful chicken shower, you need to know how to lose.

BigThingsCoop

–BigThingsCoop


Why You Should Train Your Bird BEFORE Going in Showmanship

DSC08326


Blackie, a bantam Cochin, is my favorite hen to show.  She’s well-behaved and has won several championships and grand championships.


You should really train your bird to be picked up the correct way before going in showmanship.  Otherwise, you may find your bird perched on your arm, or worse, your head.  Handle the bird when it’s young to get the best showmanship bird.  And make sure you know the correct way to pick up a bird.  We handle our birds at home by not picking them up the way you are supposed to because they’re not used to it.  But the birds we’re planning to take in showmanship get picked up the right way in preparation for the show.

Owly with Her Friend Snowball


Bantams are ideal for showmanship.


Also, not all birds are fun to take in showmanship.  Out of our 23 birds, there are only 3 good showmanship chickens.  Bantams are ideal because they’re smaller and you don’t have to work hard to pick them up.  Also, it’s harder when a 7-pound Jersey Giant misbehaves.  The absolute worst showmanship bird is one you can’t pick up without it perching on your arm.  Everyone will be staring at you in the showmanship class as it claws you and you try to shake it off.

PorfolioFour


Not all birds are good for showmanship.


Handle your bird a lot before the show.  Make sure it is fine with being turned upside down to show the keel, having its wings stretched out, and standing calmly on the table without flying off.  If your bird likes to fly, it’s usually OK if you keep a hand on its back.  After you’ve practiced with your bird, there’s a better chance of it behaving at the show.

Tip for if you get into the round robin: the trick to winning is to show the biggest, nastiest bird you can handle and win with.  Other people will bring their huge rabbits, wild geese, and grumpy guinea pigs.  Also, know as much as you can about other peoples’ animals.  Offer to teach them how to show your bird in exchange for learning about their animal.

BigThingsCoop

–BigThingsCoop


Chickens’ Favorite Treats

DSC04394

Chickens are omnivores, and will eat almost anything—from dead mice to berries.  Our chickens’ favorite treat is pieces of cheese.  They also like grapes and scratch.  Chickens can have almost any table scrap, except chocolate or poultry.  Don’t feed your chickens raw eggs or they will develop a nasty egg-eating habit in which they crack open and eat their own eggs.  Once a chicken is an egg-eater, it is impossible to stop it.  However, cooked eggs have a different taste and can be beneficial to chickens’ diets.

DSC04399


 

Chickens are omnivores.


Chickens also like rolled oats, various cereals, and spaghetti.  If you want to, you can buy mealworms or prepackaged chicken treats.  Chickens will also eat birdseed.  Bread is also a good chicken treat.  But don’t feed too much of it.  Don’t feed your birds bread if you have ducks.  Ducks get severely fat when they eat it.

DSC00427 (2)


 Chickens will come running for treats.


Feed treats in little bits, and don’t make them as your chickens’ main diet.  Too many treats can make your chickens too fat or upset the nutrient balance in their diet.  But still, chickens really enjoy them.  A chicken will be your friend if your feed it treats.  Chickens like treats more than being petted.  Also, treats are good for teaching your chickens tricks.

DSC00787


You CAN train your chicken!


Regardless of what people say, you can train your chicken.  A really easy trick to train them is to come when called.  Come up with a sound you will use to call them.  Then find somewhere where no chickens can see you.  After that, set an extremely tasty treat on the ground in front of you and make the sound.  Repeat several times over the course of a few days. But don’t call the chickens when you don’t have a treat for them too often, or they will stop coming.  This is a great tool for getting chickens out of the neighbors’ yard without anyone noticing.

DSC00782


 Chickens LOVE treats.


–BigThingsCoop


Why You Should Lock Your Chickens in Every Night

 

DSC02226

 

Predators like to eat chickens.  And chickens are not so smart when hiding from them.  Given a choice, they may roost in trees or sit on a nest where something could eat them.  Locking all doors to the coop will keep predators out.  Ideally, the door should be closed each night and opened the next morning.  While this is time-consuming, it will prevent your flock from being eaten.

DSC06767

Broody hens will sit on their nest, regardless of if it is safe from predators.

DSC06020

The more doors your coop has, the more you will have to remember to lock.

Owly with Her Friend Snowball

Keep your chickens in a secure pen, too.

 


Chicks Year After Year

This year’s batch of chicks is larger than most: five.  Usually, to keep the coop from getting too crowded, we usually get two or three.  We do not eat our chickens, so we count on them living a long time.  Below are chicks from the past few years.  You can see how much they grow in just a short time!


Dusty and Big Spot:


Owly and Dragon the First:

DSC00059

DSC00609


Dragon, Rain and Panther (Elfy and Blackbeak are not in the photo).

photo (1)

DSC06004


DSC00557