Posts Tagged ‘raising pullets’

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Missing Miss Boo Boo

January 11, 2012

On December 30, after I got home from tending errands in town, Ralphie and I went into the backyard to play ball. It was then that I noticed my pet turkey, Miss Boo Boo, lying oddly still in the chicken pasture. When I opened the gate, only one hen greeted me. I ignored the absence of thirteen other clucking hens at the gate and rushed over to Miss Boo Boo. She was belly up. Dead.

A foot away lay a gathering of small feathers. I walked the large pasture, suspicious that coyotes had been here, dreading each step that I took. Sure enough, there were seven different feather clusters and one body—all young layers. Four of the older hens were inside the coop, one was wandering around, and another hen was hiding behind the running pen beneath the eucalyptus foliage. She had a scuffed back, yet she laid an egg the next day. There hasn’t been an egg in the henhouse since. At three years old, hens produce only occasionally.

Miss Boo Boo didn’t have a mark on her. She must have fallen while trying to escape the violent massacre and suffocated from the weight of her large chest, or simply died of terror. I miss her most of all. She followed me around the pasture like a puppy. When I made a certain sound, she would fluff up her white feathers and mimic my call. She honked a friendly hello when she heard me working on the other side of the hedge in the perennial garden. Always wanting to be at my side, before she was heavy and slow, Miss Boo Boo followed me from inside the pasture fence as I walked along the driveway.

Two weeks have passed and I still miss the two Black Australorp beauties, the three fast-running Buttercups, and their amble egg supply. I miss the friendly cooing of two cute little Silkie Bantams—they were adorable. I miss the loud squawks after laying an egg, and the cackling, clucking of young hens.

Mostly, I miss the sociable fondness of a three-year-old turkey named Miss Boo Boo.

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Pullets

June 8, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I moved the pullets* from the cow trough (in the garage) to the chicken coop. The pullets are growing rapidly but they’re not large or old enough to defend themselves against the hens. Without a shielding mother, hens will peck at a younger flock. For now, segregation is necessary. Therefore, each morning we play musical chairs. Both flocks sing (not all that well) while I rotate them. Until sundown, when rotation takes place in reverse, the hens free range with access to the coop for egg lying while the pullets play in the running pen. Twice daily, the music stops and everybody’s happy in their prospective stations.

Soon the pullets will know the coop and running pen as home base. There they will find a small supply of organic feed, water, and little nesting boxes to lay eggs next spring. As the pullets familiarize themselves with the new surroundings, routine patterns will fall into place. When the hens are nearby, free ranging, the pullets can observe scavenger skills and dust-bowl baths. Although these behaviors come naturally, like humans, even pullets can learn from peers.

Soon, when I open the hatch at twilight, the pullets will learn to go into the coop. Right now, I have to chase them. I’m glad there’s no hidden camera. Scurrying after seven pullets, dodging poop, bumping my head on the perching bar, and nearly landing on my face as I reach out to grasp one is a shoe-in for America’s Funniest Home Videos.

This flock is different from the breeds I’ve had before. The Buttercups are nervous around humans and are the first to take flight if I get near them. They’re small, active and quick, white egg layers that don’t do well in confinement.

The Australorp is from Australia. Known for their high brown-egg production and sweet temperament, they’re also good meat birds. I have yet to hear a peep out of these quite, black beauties which make them suitable for town folk concerned about annoying their neighbors.

The Silkie bantams are from Japan. They’re so cute, calm and friendly you want to cuddle them. They’re feathers are fur-like, slick and fluffy. Silkies stay small and produce mini, ornamental eggs. With their motherly instincts, they make great brooders** and loving mothers. Children adore them.

*Pullet:  A female chicken less than one year old.

**Brooders or broody:  The desire of a hen to sit and hatch eggs.

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