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{Introductions} Calypso

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This is Calypso! In the Pecking Order, she is second to Athena. She is also the first of the hens to start laying eggs and the only one who has gone broody. “Broody” means that she wants to hatch the eggs that get laid (by her or the other hens). She makes noises when the other hens get near her while she’s on the nest that make me think she might grow up into a velociraptor this year. She still makes the cackling cartoon witch sounds and the purring sounds like the rest of the hens, but she’s the only one with the Jurassic Park soundbites coming out of her. Her and Athena are probably the most chatty of the 4.

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This video originally was about 5+ minutes long. A majority of it was the recovery from laying the egg. It only took her about 1.5-2 minutes to lay the egg, and the rest of the time she just sat there with her head in the corner until she had rested up enough to go back to the rest of the flock and scratch around for their mealworm/seeds/dried veg mix. This time went faster than the last time I watched her lay her egg. That one happened right as I was moving the flock into the barn for the night and I didn’t want to disrupt her in the middle of things (the process looks hard enough without my trying to move her). I think, start to finish, that egg and recovery took almost 20 minutes.

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{Introductions} A New Beginning

This is going to be the record of mine and my dogs’ (Toki and Arya) new adventure with a flock of chickens. Here’s a quick rundown of the first two months of flock tending that we’ve made it through:

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I was in a pretty severe car accident at the end of July. I don’t remember what happened thanks to the decent amount of brain trauma I got. I was in ICU and hospital for a week, then bed ridden and in a wheelchair and out of work for about 2.5 months. About a week after I had started back at work (26 October 2014), a Silver Sebright rooster showed up on my grandparents’ front porch. We searched around for his owner to no avail. Since I am living with my parents, I asked them for permission to bring him home and they let me. I think they knew I needed something to keep me from sinking into a depression from the accident.

Since he was lost from his home, I named him Odysseus and brought him home on 29 October 2014.

Despite growing up in a rural area, I don’t have any experience with chicken other than seeing the generic white ones the neighbors had that weren’t well cared for and pecked each other raw regularly. I didn’t know chickens came in more varieties than brown and white, let alone this tiny rooster. Neither my dad nor I knew that Sebrights stay tiny and that the roosters keep an appearance similar to the hens (no hooked tail feathers), so at first we thought that he might be a cockerel (juvenile rooster). After researching some, I found out what breed he was and that he most likely was full grown. How old exactly, there’s no real way to tell. He was thin, so he might have been traveling a lot longer and further than we thought he had when looking for his owners (I assumed he might have been a pet since his nails and spurs had been rounded off). He was a little hesitant at first with me, but the more I fed and watered and handled him, the more accustomed to me he got.

He got so comfortable with me that he started to make a nightly habit of preening my hair and nesting in the hood of whatever hoodie I was wearing that night.

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Eventually, I got help fixing up an old dog pen to use as a chicken run for him and Odysseus got to meet Toki Wartooth (Not A Bumblebee), Arya Stark and Winston Zeddemore Churchill. The first few meetings were a little strained but all parties kept relatively cool within eyesight of each other.

Ten days later, on 11 November 2014, I got an early Christmas present from my mom of four Golden Laced Polish hens for Odysseus (so that he would stop treating me like I was his hen). Pebbles was not happy at all with the addition of the hens and neither would the other dogs. Odysseus, on the other hand, was thrilled to have four large, exotic ladies around to keep him warm during a sudden cold snap that had hit us that day and would last a couple days beyond that. They were the most hilariously fabulous chickens I had ever seen. I wasn’t expecting or looking for a breed of hen to get specifically, but this was a nice surprise to end up with. Thank you, Craig’s List.

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Keeping with the Greek epic theme, I named the hens Athena, Penelope, Calypso, and NausicaƤ (in order of the pecking order they had already established at the time – eventually, Penelope and Calypso switched places). I was worried at first that they wouldn’t accept Odysseus since he was a different colour and smaller than they were, but they immediately created a flock and got on famously with no problems thus far.

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Since then, we’ve been lucking out here in Colorado with the weather. Until Christmas, it had been a dry, mild winter. I appreciated this a lot since I was using an old dog pen and old dog house for the flock. We got a cover on the top of the pen to help keep chicken hawks, owls, and other wild birds out of the pen and some tin along the north side of the pen to help block some of the wind at ground level. There hasn’t been any predator problems other than Arya sneaking into the pen while I wasn’t paying attention and stirring the flock up by penning a hen down before I got her out. No injuries to anyone, but it did trigger Odysseus to go Full Rooster. He started patrolling the boundaries of the run when the dogs were out in the yard, calling his hens over to eat, warning and rounding them up when he perceived a threat, and he actually started rushing me when I would enter the pen.

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About a month after bringing the hens home, Athena and Calypso started laying eggs. Calypso would leave them in the open (so I put a cheap store bought wooden nesting box out there for her) and Athena did once but then started laying under the house where I couldn’t see until a week later when I cleaned the entire pen and coop out. I ate the first 2 we got but then they were off limits as I had to deworm the entire flock. I did continue to crack them open to try and figure out if they were being fertilized. I still can’t tell for certain, but that didn’t stop me from ordering an incubator and an egg candler from Brinsea.

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Mini Advance Fully Digital 7 Egg Incubator

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OvaScope Egg Scope Egg Candler

I am pretty excited to try hatching a few eggs because I’m very curious to see what this little Barnyard Mix will look like. I’ve also place an order of 8 chicks from My Pet Chicken. I ordered the following:

1 Australorp
3 Easter Eggers
1 Easter Egger Bantam (smaller in size, like Odysseus)
1 White Crested Blue Polish
1 Blue Laced Red Wyandotte
1 Blue Orpington

I ordered 8 because that was the minimum for my zip code. It’s not guaranteed that all will survive the shipping, but I’m hoping they all make it. They are all supposed to be hens.

I have been on the message boards for Backyard Chickens, and not only have the people there been extremely helpful with finding out the breed of Odysseus but also just any newbie questions I have. I’ve also found a group of chicken owners here in Colorado that are just great. I might be getting hatching eggs from a couple of them sometime next year! I’m hoping for hatching eggs of Ayam Cemani, Barnevelder, and Dwarf Olandsk. These might be too expensive for me to buy eggs for, but I let the breeders know my interest so we’ll see what happens next year.

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So, as the size of my flock gets bigger the coop design gets bigger. Right now, I’ve drawn out for an 8x8x6. Since expressing interested in the hatching eggs, I’ve had to rethink the size and design to about 10x12x6 feet with a divide inside the coop to make two separate coops and storage and a divided pen coming off the coop. I’ll have to talk to my mom about where she wants me to start building next year and design accordingly.

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That brings us to today! Christmas brought us some serious snow and a cold snap in from Canada. The flock have been spending most of its time in the barn huddled together in a makeshift coop with a lamp for heat. So far, everyone is doing well. Odysseus needs to have his nose cleaned morning and night because of some snot crusting around the nares, Penelope needed to come in one night to have the ice blowdried off her crest, and two eggs have been laid (one by Calypso and one maybe by Penelope because it is tiny). Right now, the sun is out and they’re back in their pen so they can run around before needing to go back into the barn.