Temperatures warmed up around here yesterday. Snow melted, and work got done outside! I miss getting to spend more time outdoors doing farmy stuff when it’s not freezing. Yesterday, I filled up on fun. The morning started with a farm shopping trip, my hired man Adam on hand. We went to the auto store and he helped me get the right new tractor battery then we picked up lumber for the horse shelter. Back at the farm, Adam laid out the plan.
You probably can’t tell much from that photo, but the shelter will include, of course, shelter plus a hay feeder and hay storage. There will be enough storage for about two weeks’ worth of hay at a time. As long as I can get someone to help me with moving the hay every two weeks with the tractor, I won’t have to worry about getting bales over there. I told him my goal of truly learning to drive the tractor this year, but we both agreed that slippery winter weather wasn’t a good time for an inexperienced tractor driver to practice. Meanwhile, he got the new tractor battery installed. The tractor hasn’t moved since September, so after starting it up, he gave it a good going over and drove it around a bit.
He checked out Glory Bee and the calf, and we trimmed the goats’ hooves. I was covered in mud by the time that was over, but the whole day was a lot of fun with doing various things like that. He showed me how he checks pregnant does, by the way. He thinks Nutmeg and Sprite will deliver within two weeks, and Fanta within a month. February goat babies!
And then, THEN! I asked him to show me how to clip chicken wings. I’ve never clipped my chickens’ wings before, and haven’t wanted to do it either. Clipping chicken wings can be a little controversial–some people are totally opposed to it, other people won’t keep chickens without it. Chickens aren’t great flyers anyway, but the ability to fly can save them from predators. Whether it’s safer (and saner) to have your chickens’ wings clipped depends on your individual situation. At Stringtown Rising, I felt it was safer to allow the chickens the ability to fly. The way I free-ranged them there, in a farm surrounded closely by woods, held more danger for them. Here, if kept in the barn yard, the chickens are pretty safe. But I can’t keep them in the barn yard–they can fly over the fence! And fly over the fence they do–to hang out constantly on my back porch, leaving little chicken nuggets of poop outside my back door. There is also a contingency that insists on roosting on the deck, making an even bigger mess outside the studio. It’s not safe–I’ve lost several chickens over the past year from those who insist on roosting on the deck. I’ve finally had it. I want the chickens roosting in the chicken house, and I want them to stay mostly in the front barn yard.
Catching the chickens took the most time. About half were easy to catch, lured into the chicken house and one of the barn stalls with a bit of feed.
The remaining chickens got real suspicious.
We finally captured the majority of them and went to work clipping. Adam showed me how it’s done. I was worried about attempting this on my own because if you cut too high on the wing feathers, you can hurt them–they’ll bleed. He uses the shorter feathers over the longer wing feathers as the guide. Here, he’s pointing the tip of the scissors at the cutting line at the base of the shorter feathers.
You can use regular house scissors–just spread the wing and cut straight across the feather line.
It doesn’t hurt the chicken as long as you don’t cut too high. It’s just like cutting fingernails.
Yikes, mutilated chicken!
Then he showed me how when the chicken puts their wing back down, it looks perfectly normal.
To hold the chickens while clipping their wings, you can put their head under your arm, which calms them.
This is Crooked Little Hen posing here, by the way. (If you’re new around here, check out The Crooked Little Hen Saves the Day and A Crooked Little Hen Love Story. The Crooked Little Hen is one of my oldest chickens, from my very first incubator hatching five years ago, and one of my most entertaining hens.)
You can also hold them down between your legs. Whichever way is most comfortable for you.
After Adam showed me how, I clipped wings, too! I decided to keep all the chickens we’d caught in the chicken house, full-time, for at least a few weeks to train them to roost there. They can slip out of the barn yard fence if they want to, so once I start letting them out to range the front barn yard, they could go back to the deck if they want to. I need to be sure they don’t want to. My perverted goose had run into the house after the feed, so he was trapped in there, too.
He was so happy! Locked up with hens!
He had to be removed for the safety and innocence of the hens.
He’s not gonna be real happy…..
Meanwhile, we sat down on the back porch to analyze the yet-uncaught chicken situation and….
….realized we’d left the cellar door standing open, which solved everything.
Most of the uncaught chickens were quickly caught after they strolled in for the feed and we shut the door after them! Ha! They were clipped and moved to their new quarters in the chicken house. I counted chickens! Or tried to! There is still a small handful of chickens running around, plus it was hard to count heads inside the chicken house while they were all moving, but I have something shy of two dozen chickens right now.
Today, and possibly for the next several days, I’ll be trying to catch the remaining chickens. The cellar door’s open, c’mon in!
Oh my goodness, this brings back such awesome memories of my past childhood and growing up on the family farm. I do love your posts of your daily life and the normalcy that comes with living on a farm. There are good times and then the bad times which balance out our lives. You show that so uniquely and at my age of 65 years, I like being reminded that there was a wonderful balanced normalcy in my life way back in the “OLDEN DAYS.” Thank you! Spring is right around the corner playing the snooty game with us. Our temperatures are in the mid 40’s now with LOTS of saturation in the ground and MUD, lots of it that seems to creep into the big room with five active dogs who appear to believe that no snow means GO outside and be happy. Just last week we had single digit temperatures and snow. Be safe and have a great week.
On January 29, 2013 at 7:20 am
Yay for a very productive day!
Did Adam show you the “wiggle room” for the tractor battery? (That’s not a very professional term for those auto shop battery guy “experts” to use!)
Another question, will you be putting a nesting box in the chicken house? Maybe they would like to go in there more if they had a warm cozy place in there to lay their eggs.
And, congrats for learning how to clip chicken wings! Good for you! Another item to add to your growing farmer resume.
On January 29, 2013 at 8:22 am
Suzanne McMinn says:
Yes, I put some pseudo nesting boxes in there yesterday and he showed me the battery wiggle room, which isn’t much so good thing I didn’t buy one the day before.
On January 29, 2013 at 8:25 am
ibpallets (Sharon B.) says:
I clip my girls wings as well. Did you know those suckers grow back? I didn’t…..LOL
On January 29, 2013 at 8:39 am
Leck Kill Farm says:
Too funny about the cellar trapping. I employeed the same to trap my two naughty cats. They could not resist the call of the forbidden cellar.
Congrats on your wing clipping.
On January 29, 2013 at 10:20 am
Buy some dried meal worms and every day shake the container and toss some on the coop floor. By the time you finish the coop/jail time, those chickens will come running when you shake the worms, and most, if not all, will willingly go into the coop for you.
Works with my 2 dozen chickens. They only have limited time for free ranging, so I trained them with the meal worm bribery. “Wings’ down favorite treat – and the sound carries well.
On January 29, 2013 at 11:04 am
Sue, a Florida Farm Girl says:
While growing up, our chicken yard had a 6 foot fence around it so not many chickens would or could fly over it. However, there were always a few that tried, so their wings got clipped just like yours. I hadn’t thought of that in many years.
On January 29, 2013 at 11:05 am
Wow! I just thought chickens couldn’t fly on their own. I didn’t know about the wing clipping thing. I’m guessing my Grandfather clipped the wings of his chickens so that they didn’t leave his chicken yard. My grandparents had their house in the city but it was a little farm too. They had the regular backyard, then the big garden fenced off and then the chicken yard. To get to the chicken yard, you had to go through the backyard and the garden yard. I grew up loving fresh veggies, fruits and home grown eggs. He also had a gorgeous rose garden in the front. I’m missing my grandfather now. He died long ago in 1980.
On January 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm
holstein woman says:
I live in coyote country, or it sounds like it at dusk so if my chickens get out and I catch them they are in for a clipping. We put a 6 foot fence on both ends of our chicken enclosure because it is between two buildings and some of them still flew over. I clipped them immediately. I also keep my ducks trimmed because my property has a duck hunting pond on it.
I’m always amazed at what you are up to next and learning things some of us have known for years. Sorry Suzanne, I guess it is a trade off for all the things you have taught us. You’re funny and always a treat to keep up with.
On January 29, 2013 at 10:27 pm
Do you still have Mr Hyde? Loved reading his story with the crooked little hen.
On January 30, 2013 at 1:08 am
Suzanne McMinn says:
Yes, I still have Mr. Hyde and he is one of the chickens who is still out, not yet caught.
On January 30, 2013 at 6:26 am
When clipping wings of large (or even small) parrots, we wrap the bird, head and body, in a towel. Lowers possibility of being bitten.
On February 1, 2013 at 2:46 pm
Oh my goodness!! It’s true you haven’t really lived life unless you’ve tried to catch chickens that didn’t want to be caught!! Good post! :woof:
On February 4, 2013 at 8:12 am