Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hens and Hornworms

A few surprising things I've learned about chickens from keeping six in the backyard:

1) Chickens really do flock together. The hens take turns being adventurous and taking off to explore various corners of the backyard, but it's never very long before the rest of them catch up.

2) They will eat anything particularly if they can peck it into small pieces. Until I learned better, this included the foam insulation sealing various holes in the house exterior. I also learned that hens have no problem pecking four-inch long tomato hornworms into bite-sized green chunks.

Action shot at the start of the hornworm feast - the race to get the worms is on!

3) Hens never stop talking. When we are home, I'll let them out to free-range the mosquitoes in the backyard, and it's nice to be reassured from their calls and coos that they have not run off.

4) Chicken feathers are soft! I guess I had never really thought about it before. It feels really nice to pet them. "Yellow" is still the easiest one to catch and hold for long periods of time, but the others calm down as soon as they realize that they have been caught.

5) Hens are astoundingly hard to photograph. They never seem to stand still, and it's almost impossible to sneak up on them unnoticed. I will have to research this further, or set up a chicken observation blind.

Who cares about posing for close-ups when there's worms to be pecked?

According to the chicken-raising book I have and the all-knowing Internet, the hens are supposed to start laying sometime next month. I'm awestruck at how fast these animals can go from being fresh out of the egg to making new eggs - it's incredible. I suppose I shouldn't count my eggs before they are laid (or chickens before they are hatched?), but I'm really quite excited about fresh eggs!


  1. a comment/question unrelated to chickens; however, related to i have to worry if my vegetable plants are monoecious or dioecious? my ancho chile plant is not producing any chiles (yet)...its got flowers but no fruit. maybe i just have wait longer...

    Gardening is an act of patience....and I probably should have paid more attention in botany class.

  2. Peppers are self-pollinating. I learned a trick to shake the stems to try to get the pepper pollen to move around. Also, we put Epsom salts around the base of the peppers for added magnesium, which may kickstart the peppers' overall vigor. I should write a post on monoecious vs. dioecious - thanks for the idea.

  3. exciting news - i have an ancho chili! And more on the way!

    Silly me, I just had to wait longer. Damn this gardening.