Sunday, March 30, 2014


Coming soon to the Red Door Coop
A contained free-range space.  Is that an oxymoron?  Perhaps, but growing season will be here soon.  We believe in giving the chickens room to roam, but would like to have our vegetable garden all summer and fall.  Chickens and gardens are not good companions!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In the Nesting Boxes

Papa Hen recently placed the outdoor camera inside the coop with a view of the chickens' nesting boxes.  We get several peeks in at Lou, Bruiser, and Bill doing their egg-ly duty to Red Door Coop in the upstairs nesting boxes.  Fitz is a downstairs egg-layer so we only catch glimpses of her head before she ducks down into her favorite box.

Here, Lou checks in (down) on Bill.
 Bruiser looks gangster-ish even in her most domestic of chicken duties with a cigarette (piece of straw) hanging out of her beak.
 Bill asking Lou when the nesting box they both favor will be available.
 The one and only Fitz.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Break

With Mama Hen home on spring break the Red Door Coop hens are getting a lot more time in the yard in the afternoon.  The morning routine hasn't changed much since they all need to be near the nesting boxes for laying eggs.  Fitz is still a 6:15 a.m. layer.  The other chickens lay anytime between 8 and 11 in the morning.

The birds agreed to a photo shoot at 6:45 this morning.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Rooster From Hungary

This arrived on our doorstep yesterday afternoon.  It is a delicate and beautiful hand painted ceramic rooster from Hungary.  Our friends in Canada acquired this bird through family and passed it on to Red Door Coop.
 Thanks, Canada!

Three Dozen Eggs

The one in a traditional carton is destined for a friend.  Others will be given away this week.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March Portraits

Broody or Not?

When I got home from work on Thursday, Fitz was laying in the small dirt bath in her isolated quarters within the coop.  She did not stand and squawk and stumble about for treats and escape like she normally does.  My silent alarm sounded.  I let the other birds out into the yard and lifted Fitz into the coop.  She took a few slow steps, puffing up her body as she moved.  She labored to peck around a bit and then watched her make her way to the coop and into her favorite nesting box.  Note that she had already laid a beautiful speckled egg that morning.

One word kept flashing through my brain: Broody.  I've read a lot about chickens going broody and thought she was showing the signs.  The birds will get a hormone spike and want to lay on their eggs (or golf balls, in this case) and only rise a couple times a day for food, water, and toilet breaks.  I went to one of my favorite sources for a refresher The Chicken Chick on hens and broodiness.  That evening Fitz refused to leave the nesting box so we let her spend the night keeping her golf balls warm while Lou and Bill hung out on the roost and tough-girl Bruiser slept in the garage.

Come Friday morning, Papa Hen found a soft egg in her nesting box while she went into the coop for some food and water.  Maybe she was feeling a little under the weather because of the softie?  Then she went back to the nesting box (not before Bruiser caught Papa Hen and Fitz off guard by sneaking around and jumping on Fitz's back--apparently the feud is still alive and well!).  Papa Hen put the broody breaker techniques recommended by The Chicken Chick into place.

When I arrived home from school Friday evening, Fitz was back to her old self.  She is however, under strict supervision.  Broodiness can leave a hen in bad health since they don't eat or drink much during a spell.  Also, the other chickens will often play copycat.  We don't need 4 broody hens!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dirt Bath View

Most recently, the outdoor camera was hanging over the dirt bath.  It provided us with a lowdown view of the birds.

Taking a dirt bath.

Hanging out.


Bill showing her stuff.


After acquiring our small flock, a friend told me about Savage Chickens.  It's wonderful.

This one is a librarian favorite.  It reminds me of reading to a large group of kindergartners! 

Pig Mysteries

Thursday, March 13, 2014


The birds seem adjusted to the routine now.  Fitz spends her days in dog kennel in the coop.  Bruiser spends her nights in the garage.  In the morning and afternoon all the birds have time in the yard and coop to wander as they wish.  Here are some shots of Thursday afternoon.


This bird's got spurs.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Outdoor Camera

Santa brought an outdoor camera to Red Door Coop.  We've been using it to track any bird behavior that might give us information about the civil unrest in the coop.  While the camera hasn't taught us anything new about the birds, it has given Papa Hen and I a really good idea of what our backsides look like while we are in the coop.  I won't share any of THOSE pictures, but I will let you see a few glimpses of the birds.  Poor Bill isn't in any of the photos because she doesn't jump up onto the perches.  Fitz doesn't either, but she is in one picture in the process of being caged.  I mean isolated.

Bruiser takes a good picture, don't you think?

Here's Lou looking down at Fitz in the isolation chamber.

Here's Mama Hen gently placing Fitz into her temporary quarters.  See her wings flapping?

Did I mention that Bill has a bare red belly right now?  A new day and a new challenge!

Papa Hen and I agree that these birds are full of surprises.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Although Lou has gone after Bruiser a few times in the last week, she is getting along with all the birds.  Lou is basically Switzerland, but different.

Bill is easily influenced by Bruiser.  Maybe because they are both Black Star Chickens. Birds of a feather?

Bruiser is anti-Fitz.
Fitz is anti-Bruiser.

This is even funnier when you know our friends that the chickens are named for.

Fitz is molting.
The other chickens are not.
For this reason, we've had Fitz in isolation within the coop.  

But this evening I thought that if Fitz can get along with Bill and Lou, then maybe she and Bruiser can take turns in isolation.  So I decided to test Fitz and Bill together.  We already know that Lou and Fitz are getting along well.
As you can see, Bill and Fitz were glad to be eating spinach together.  Friends 'til the end!  

It took Bruiser awhile to realize she was in a cage.  Then she noticed.  So did Fitz.  
Then Bruiser went back to her evening treats.
So there.  Fitz and Bruiser can take turns in isolation until their little spat comes to an end.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Green Coop

Each day we research and try new things to fix the challenge du jour.  Today was another one of those days!

The plan this morning seemed to work well.  It started with Fitz and Lou in the yard scratching about while Bill and Bruiser stayed in the coop munching on scratch and spinach.  I switched the pairs so Fitz and Lou could enjoy the coop with B & B in the yard.  Then I had no choice but to leave Fitz in the coop in the garage for the day while I was at school.  I felt terrible. but made sure she had good light and plenty of food and water.  I raced home after work to find that yes, she might have been lonely, but she laid an egg.  Wow!  I didn't see that coming.

So, the afternoon project was to cover the dog crate with green plastic fencing.  The dog crate has large gaps between its wires, wide enough for a bullying chicken to peck a molting chicken.  The task was easier than I thought.  With a pair of scissors, numerous zip ties, and carabiners, it was done in about 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, Lou and Fitz romped in the yard while the B-sisters squawked in the coop.  After switching the girls, I brought the dog crate, aka, Green Coop, into Red Door Coop.  Lou was nervous and squawky about it, but Fitz paid it no mind.

Go ahead and tell me to stop babbling and get on with the pictures.

Now Fitz will spend her days with the flock in the dog crate.  She won't be lonely and the other birds will not forget about her which will make reintegration easier when her molting comes to an end.  Most importantly, the other chickens (Bruiser, I'm looking at you) won't take advantage of Fitz's molting and aggravate her with constant pecking.  Speaking of molting, Fitz is now losing many feathers from her undersides.  

Did you notice the brown sticks leaning against the inside corner of the coop?  That was my attempt to make a little hiding place with sunflower stalks we dried from our late summer crop.  If you have sunflowers, tall ones, keep the stalks and dry them out.  They are like tree limbs--so hard they were tough to break with my knee.  We'll use them as poles for tomatoes and beans in the garden come summer.

FYI-Papa Hen is in Winnipeg this week and missing the fun at Red Door Coop.  Fun?  Maybe I should have said he is missing the adventure.  That sounds about right.  Adventure.  Anyway, we miss him.

Mail for the Birds

The chickens got another postcard today.  It's a beauty!
Thanks, Canada!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Changing of the Guard?

We've had a rough three days at Red Door Coop.  We are learning that raising chickens is not all rainbows and unicorns.  It's mostly rainbows and unicorns, believe me, but imagine a few fire-breathing dragons thrown into the mix.

From this look at the birds in the yard today, you'd never know that they are having a falling out.
The problems started on Friday morning when I witnessed Bruiser and Fitz coming to blows: wing flapping, pecking, and chasing.  Fitz is the head hen and it seemed like she was attacking Bruiser.  Unfortunately, Fitz was pecked on her comb and it started to bleed.  Chickens and blood are not a good match.  It makes them nuts!  See the small dot of blood on the nesting box?  Not good.
Since I was headed to work and Papa Hen was out of town, I needed a solution that would keep the birds safe all day and I needed it fast.  The decision I made was difficult, but it seemed to work.  I brought the new coop in the garage outside to keep Fitz separated from the others for the day.  When I got home from work I was relieved to see that she was just fine.  Then I let the birds out in the yard together to see what would happen. Within seconds, Fitz and Bruiser were at it again.  It was hard to tell who started it, but they were both in full attack mode.  After more observation time and acting as referee it was clear that Bruiser was actually instigating things.  To solve things for the evening, I put her to bed in the garage and left Fitz with Bill and Lou in the coop.

Our initial take on the situation was that Bruiser was challenging Fitz for the position of head hen.  We've been expecting this to happen for awhile.

On Saturday we kept Bruiser separate from the other chickens after reading that the bully needs time away from the flock and the flock needs time away from the bully.  We reintegrated the four birds late Saturday night while they were sleeping in hopes that when they woke up, the fight would be forgotten.  Not a chance.  But Papa Hen and I took a tough love stance and left the four birds together while we went to a birthday brunch Sunday morning.  Was this the right decision?  Not sure.  But we thought that if this was a pecking order argument, then the birds needed to work it out on their own.  After the party, the situation in the coop was much the same, tense, so the birds were sent out into the yard to get a little space from one another.

Even though the birds were moving through the yard together and mostly staying together, there was much wing flapping, strutting, and pecking going on.  I couldn't get pictures, things happened so fast and frankly, I felt weird taking photos of this behavior.  Anyway, I continued to observe the chickens in the yard, breaking things up when needed.  Fitz tended to stay near but apart from Bruiser and Bill, but Lou seemed like a friend to her.  Truth be told, Lou and Bill switched alliances every few minutes.  Here's Fitz taking a break from Bruiser by hiding out in the coop while the other birds are in the yard.
 So what to do?  Online research indicated that a molting chicken with exposed red skin can attract unwanted aggression from other birds in the flock because of the color of the skin, red.  Putting that information together with the fact that Bruiser was going after Fitz's red-skinned bare head (with Bill following), I decided to separate Fitz from the flock.  It's obvious that she is exhausted from being on guard these last few days.  She needs time to rest while we figure out what to do.  So, it is Sunday evening now and Fitz went to bed in Red Door Coop Winter Quarters.

Being new to chicken keeping, we are making stuff up as we go.  It's all about experimentation and finding what works for our chickens.  Thank you, Internet community, for all the resources and ideas.  We'll keep you posted as things progress.
Does any of this make sense?  It's been chaotic and we just want to get things at Red Door Coop back to the new normal, whatever that is.