Thursday, 17 April 2014

The ladies

We have had our 4 bantams for about 2 months now.  I love these quirky ladies and their very different personalities. 

They are free range in a large enclosure (if that makes sense) with a shed that holds the nesting boxes (that they don't use) and the roosts.  The two bigger bantams Betty and Roseanna sleep in there at night, but for some reason the two younger ones Clementine (white) and Sunday (grey) choose to roost in one of the peach trees, same branch every single night.  Even with all the rain we have had they won't go in the coop.

Betty and Roseanna are bossy and there is most definitely a pecking order so I wonder if this has something to do with it.  I'm worried though once the cold weather comes if they will be ok on their branch.   With Autumn here now and the leaves falling their lovely peach tree is now looking a little bare.

They are fussier eaters than I thought they would be when it comes to kitchen scraps, but after a bit of online reading I see that this is often the case with free range chickens who have access to lots of grass, weeds and bugs.  They get a good mix of grains, pellets and corn and love bread and apples, but not the skins.

I have also weeded a large patch that they spend their days dust bathing in and they get quite territorial about their spots.  Or if Betty wants a certain spot she goes and gives whoever is laying there a good peck until they move, bossy cow.

Roseanna is the champion egg layer.  And hides in the asparagus patch to lay her eggs.  They have never used the nesting boxes.  I was thinking about using the golf ball trick, have you tried it and does it work?

They always lay their eggs in the afternoon, I always thought they did this in the morning.........maybe I've seen this too many times in movies!

Chicken/bantam lovers and owners - I have some questions that I would love answered.

Are my two girls ok sleeping outside on their branch at night?
Any ideas on how to get them into the coop?
What type of coop (roosting) do you have?
How often do you feed your chooks, Mr H thinks I overfeed them?
Do you recommend any tried and well liked foods?
Any hints/tips you would like to share?


  1. I have three chickens, they're almost the same age as yours. Mine live in a coop with an enclosed run. I don't have room for them to free-range much. I think it's okay for them to sleep in the tree but it would make them more vulnerable to predators, I think. I know there are bobcats here, which could climb to grab a chicken. I feed mine "grower mash," or dry feed meant for chicks and pullets. I will switch them to "layer mash" around 18 weeks. We use Purina chicken feeds. We give them some food scraps from inside too. My kids have been feeding them popcorn, which is funny. My husband grew up with chickens and knows a lot but it's all new to me. :)

  2. We have had our three girls since December.
    They are let out first thing in the morning, then they go back in by themselves each night around six. I guess cause their food and water is in the little home they are happy to go in each night. They yard is not fully fenced, so I cannot leave them out. Pav (the white Leghorn) has a habit of coming into the house. She is the social one.

  3. Of course being outside they could get attacked at night. If you know where they are sleeping, why don't you just wait until after they have settled in for the night on the branch and grab them and put them in the coop. If they are sleeping, they shouldn't put up much of a fight.
    I don't think you have to worry about over feeding them. All of the chickens I know are free fed - their grain is out all of the time. Especially since yours have so much room to roam and be active, they aren't going to stand there and gorge themselves on grain (like my Corgis would!).

  4. It's funny how each little chicken has their own personality.
    As to the perching arrangements, make sure they have adequate space each on the perch, also maybe have a couple of perches at different levels. The dominant two will get the top perch and the others on the lower one.
    Our five make their own way into the shed as it gets dark and all roost on the one piece of timber.
    Maybe you could try of an evening just before it gets dark to throw some grain in the shed and close the door behind them. They should quickly get into the routine and make their own way in.

  5. We have 5 chooks and while they aren't bantams I thought I'd try answer some of your questions from our experience.
    "Are my two girls ok sleeping outside on their branch at night?" I'd worry about predators (cats) and would probably put them into the coop after they settle for the night. But I guess in nature they'd just roost in trees so I guess it's up to you :)
    "Any ideas on how to get them into the coop?" Once they are sleepy you can just move them and they won't put up a fuss.
    "What type of coop (roosting) do you have?" We made a coop and it has one wide roosting bar inside. You want it to be about a minimum of 5cm wide so that their feathers cover their feet for warmth.
    "How often do you feed your chooks, Mr H thinks I overfeed them?" We just let them free feed with a self-closing feeder that opens when they stand on the platform. We also give them treats and usually give them some oats or poultry wheat (available at Pak & Save) when I'm cooking dinner. The wheat is good in winter as they store it in their crops and it begins to germinate and generate heat overnight (supposedly).
    "Do you recommend any tried and well liked foods?" We tried a few but our girls are so fussy and spoilt that they definitely prefer one in particular but I can't remember the brand (just where to get it). I'd recommend experimenting. Ours do not like the pellets and prefer the scratch type - the one they like has molasses in it too. We still have leftover pellets from trying them on that one, and we mix some of that in to use it up.
    "Any hints/tips you would like to share?" Enjoy them! Check them for mites every now and again and make sure to provide a dry spot to dust-bathe even when it's raining - we didn't last winter and they got mites. Try them out with different treats for your own entertainment - our chickens ADORE Greek yoghurt mixed with oats, they go mad for it. They also love ... um ... chicken. Or when I pour the chicken juices left over from roasting a chicken onto bread, they love that too.

    1. Oh my goodness Jen, thank you so much for all the info. I'm really learning as I go. Will try the Greek yoghurt treat for sure. They love their dust baths which is always funny to watch. All four of them are up the tree at night now. Our cat isn't bothered with them and the chickens aren't fussed over the cat either, our cat is more interested in stalking the Guinea pig cage. We are going to change their coop and then I will try moving them as you suggested at night when they are sleeping. Thanks again for the tips, they are really helpful xo


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