Home To Roost

You know the expression about the “chickens coming home to roost”? It’s really true. As evening approaches, chickens begin heading back toward their enclosure. And given the opportunity, they prefer to spend the night elevated off the ground. They’ll roost on pretty much anything…and we’ve seen some fairly bizarre choices (particularly rafters, and other unlikely areas we never would’ve thought a chicken could reach).

But tonight takes the cake. I went out to the barn to turn off the lights and secure the doors…and had to do a double-take when I spotted those two hens who’ve been co-brooding eleven chicks between them. Both hens, and all eleven chicks (who are now fully feathered and getting to be a pretty good size) had encamped four feet off the ground, on the narrow edge of a single roll of fencing material we’d stacked against a wall. Here is a close-up:

And here is a wider shot, showing more of the height:

How they decided on this spot, and how they arranged themselves, I’ll never know. But it kind of reminds me of a phone booth stuffing contest…

4 thoughts on “Home To Roost

  1. just a few questions for you: first of all, I hope you still intend to post on your lessons learned from the lambing incident. Secondly, I'm wondering if you do anything to prevent pregnancies in your sheep. I know Icelandic sheep may be quite different from our heat-tolerant hair sheep, but I'm trying to get a general feel for it. We recently brought home a ram. We have the mother ewe and her ewe lamb who was born in late March. The lamb is just shy of being as big as her mother already. I'm wondering if since she is so big already if we need to keep the ram and her separate until she's older or will she just not conceive until she's old enough to bare? If we should separate, when would you think its safe to breed her? I'm not sure, given that we have perpetual warm weather, if these sheep will breed even in the summer or if they'll wait for the shorter days of fall. Any advice you can give will be much appreciated.


  2. HM –

    We've never had to prevent pregnancies. Icelandics only come into season in the fall/winter, so our concern has always been “hitting the target” within that window. There was only one time we had a lamb born very late (July or August), and she was so little in the fall that we didn't have to worry about her getting bred that year. She simply didn't come into season. My sense is that your lamb won't come into season until her body is ready for pregnancy.

    But it wouldn't hurt to consult a good sheep book (like Storey's), or — better — a breeder who specializes in your breed of sheep. In my experience, breeders are real enthusiasts and welcome questions like these. They're passionate about their breed, and want to help.

    Still trying to motivate myself to write that Lessons Learned post. It mostly comes down to something I've put in a comments thread elsewhere: don't be afraid to intervene. The ewe will be hurt far worse if the lamb doesn't get out than she'll be hurt in the process of wrestling the lamb out of her.


  3. Thanks. The only people I know around here raising sheep do so for 4H projects and raise suffolk crosses. The also tend to “over medicate”… they perform a lot of what I find to be unnecessary “interventions” to seemingly improve upon God's creation. I'm skeptical to say the least. The Ag teacher at the local school said to never let a ewe get pregnant before she's 2 yrs… I just find that a tad unrealistic especially given the rate at which I've seen them grow. He also gave us other must-do's that are just not in-line with our vision.

    I worked on a big dairy farm where I did a good number of birth interventions so when our ewe wasn't getting her lamb out I did try to pull it. Her body, however, wasn't relaxing to let her hips open. She was so tight I could barely get my hand in. She appeared plenty old enough to have had several lambings so I'm guessing it was a mineral or hormone issue. I know, in humans, good health is important to have properly functioning endocrine systems that allow the body to produce enough of whatever hormone it is that tells the ligaments and tendons to loosen and get floppy allowing 10-lb babies to be born from quite small women. All I can figure on the ewe we lost was that there was a reason she was being culled from the bigger farm, perhaps was tested for something that I know nothing about. We do need to just read up on sheep more. We tended to study up on all our other enterprises while we had only 1 little cherub. I now chase 3 kids and have been reading the same book for a year now. :->

    Thanks for being so willing to share your wisdom and expertise. Its truly a blessing!


  4. it was funny to see this post and then go home last night to find three of our bantams sitting on a shelf made for holding lumber. the shelf must have been about 12 ft off the ground and 8 ft above the next step they could have used. crazy birds!


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