One of Ollie's favorite activities (besides finding and eating grubs) was taking his dust bath out in his garden.
It always took forty-five minutes, and always involved the same maneuvers: fluffing up the dirt, kicking it around, rolling in it and getting it up under his feathers, then lying on one side, his wing stretched out in the sun, rolling over on the other side, stretching out the other wing, then pecking at the dirt for a while before getting out, shaking out the dirt, and walking away looking very pleased.
Lisa, at Fresh Eggs Daily, shares some great tips for giving a chicken a lovely outdoor spa!
But what about when the ground is frozen and covered with snow?
Ollie had an indoor "spa", and so will our new chicks since it'll still be cold outside when they arrive. We have a big, covered litter box that'll be just the right size for them and have ordered diatomaceous earth, play sand, and organic topsoil that we'll mix with some herbs and some dirt from Ollie's garden. Add a touch of radiant heat, and it'll be a wonderful place for the girls to relax!
When they get bigger, they'll have a kid-sized wading pool full of nice clean dirt-mixture to refresh themselves in when it's cold or rainy!
This was going to be the chicks' nighttime roost, but since it's so cozy and private, and has such a nice nesting box inside, it will serve them better as their nesting house!
Ollie happily roosted here at night, so here's Plan B:
The girls will sleep in Ollie's room, in his nighttime roost, and lay their eggs in their nesting house. It'll be right next to my desk so I'll be able to keep an eye out for signs they're getting ready to lay!
That's the plan, anyway. We'll see what they have in mind when the time comes!
When a pet rooster wears a diaper indoors, you only have to worry about those little pellets. But what about a hen? And eggs? How do you know when she's about to lay her first egg so you can get her "undressed" and direct her to the nesting box?
I put the question to the folks at Backyard Chickens, and "Azygous" filled me in!
"It's easy to tell when a hen needs to lay an egg. She will usually get very vocal (not the egg song), and she will seem to have a sense of urgency. She may act distracted and pace back and forth while she scolds and chatters. Those are usually the obvious ones. Yours may be more discrete.
"Most hens will prefer to lay at certain times of the day, and you'll get to know when that is for your hen."
Makes perfect sense! Laying an egg takes some work and some time. So here's the plan: I'll just watch them, figure out how to recognize when it is about to happen, and let them into the nesting house. Soon I'll have figured out when they normally lay and will be able to get them into their nesting area before they have to tell me, "It's time." I'm pretty easy to train, so they shouldn't have much trouble!
Here's a video from Loriel at Naturally Loriel http://www.naturallyloriel.com/about-me/
One cold, drizzly day in March 2007, my husband spirited a tiny hatchling away from a place where it had been taken to be fed alive to hawks. Nearly dead from hypothermia, the sick little chick responded to warmth and a lot of spoiling, and grew up as part of our family.
Despite Ollie's humble beginnings, his vet always called him "a real gentleman". Our youngest cat, Annie, would have called him her best friend. I just called him a love.
Ollie lived in our house, played in his garden, and went to sleep every night in his own room, cooing as he settled in on a tree branch after a snack and a long drink of water.
He clucked to music on his Fischer-Price laptop, chortled as he played "push the feather around" with the cats, and chattered as he pecked all our shoes until he had a collection of the ones we could no longer use.
When he passed away six months ago, the clucking, chuckling, chortling, and chatter went silent.
We have a big family: three dogs and three cats, all with voices and opinions. You'd think I would have my hands full and enough noise!
But it's those chicken sounds: a chick's peeping, the tap-tap-tap of a chicken running down the hallway behind me on my way to the living room, and the chortle of a contented chicken just given a meal worm ~ the sounds of chicken joy ~ that I miss and that I'm ready to bring into in our home again.
Sometime this winter, I'll be driving out to to Dog River Bantams, a breeder of Cochin Bantam chickens in Vermont, to bring home two lovely pullets, female chicks who will share our home and grow up in our lives.
You're invited to follow along as I get their home ready, bring them in, and fill our house with the sounds of chicken joy.