Saturday, September 5, 2009

Our Feathered Guests

The Station Fire displaced animals as well as people. We opened up our little chicken coop to take in some hens that normally reside in the evacuated area of NW Altadena. Including our hens, last week we housed 18 chickens -- almost triple our normal number.

In general things went well. From our standpoint, there really was little additional work in caring for the extra chickens. Got extra eggs (and extra poop) for a little extra food and water. Not bad.

We did, however, learn about a thing called the pecking order. There is definitely a hierarchy among hens and they sort our their ranking by pecking each other. When we put the two flocks together, the natural pecking order of our flock (and the guest flock) was disrupted. Dominant hens pecked at the heads of those who are beneath them to the point of plucking feathers and opening skin. There's a wonderful article on chicken pecking order here.

I talked to my dad (an old chicken and everything else farmer) about the pecking. He recommended mixing hot red pepper in Karo syrup and spreading it on the heads of the chickens getting pecked. The theory is that the pecking will stop once the bird gets a load of pepper. A quick Internet search turned up lots of home remedies for pecking mostly involving spreading some horrible substance over the head and neck of the chicken getting pecked. In commercial flocks they trim the chickens' beaks to prevent pecking.

All guests have safely returned to their home roost. The situation here is back to normal.


The Mt. Wilson cam today is pointed east and shows a pretty healthy fire still burning.

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