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Pullet Hens | www.myfoododyssey,com

Our beautiful girls have finally arrived. It feels like a monumental step in our self-sufficiency journey and I’m very, very excited. We decided to buy twelve chickens to start. We had the space so we thought, why not? Chickens are sociable creatures and love company. They will also keep each other warm in the cold Lithuanian winters.

Arūnas had constructed a lovely home for our girls out of spare parts from our house renovation project. The walls are made from doors and internal wall panels. The door into the coup is an old wardrobe door and the roof uses the old roof tiles from the house. There are four sizeable nesting boxes and a number of roosting perches. Borrowing from a number of designs I’ve seen online, we included a small opening at the back to check for eggs without disturbing the chickens.

Chicken Run | www.myfoododyssey.com

Our neighbours recommended a mix of Lohmann Brown and Barred Holland chickens. Both are good layers and are suited to Lithuanian winters. General advice was to buy pullets – chickens of about 12-20 weeks old who had not yet laid their first egg. Chickens generally start to lay at about 20-25 weeks.

I feel like I’ve been waiting for my chickens forever and the thoughts of having to wait a further 1-2 months before seeing my first egg didn’t appeal to me. As such, we elected to buy four hens that have just started to lay and eight pullets which will come on lay in the coming months.

Chicken Run | www.myfoododyssey.com

We got up very early yesterday morning to head to Rietavas, home to one of Lithuania’s largest outdoor markets. The market has everything, from livestock to fresh produce, dairy, smoked meats, spices, shrubbery and trees and on to car parts, clothes, handbags and a huge bric-a-brac section. Whatever you want you can find it in Rietavas.

We headed straight to the livestock section to get first pick of the birds on offer. There was a number of sellers, all with similar breeds at similar stages and at similar prices. We spoke to one lady who repeatedly petted her birds as she talked us through their history. Her obvious love for her chickens led us to believe that they had been well cared for and that these were the ones for us.

Chicken Run | www.myfoododyssey.com

We chose our twelve girls – four pullet Lohmann Browns, four pullet Barred Holland and four young Lohmann Brown hens that had just started laying. The chickens were carefully placed in sacks, which we were advised was safe and perfectly comfortable for the chickens for the hour-long journey home. After a cursory look around the remaining stalls we headed home, anxious to get our girls settled into their new run.

Chickens | www.myfoododyssey.com

While the chickens seemed to take to their new surroundings straight away, the dog was more than a little discommoded. From the moment Arūnas lifted the sacks from the car he was on the attack. He tried to grab at one of the bags – Arūnas had to lift them practically over his head to keep him away. Once the girls began to emerge from the sacks he went completely crazy, running all around the run trying to find a way to get in. He found a weak spot in the fencing and tried to bite his way though.

Chickens | www.myfoododyssey.com

He was rewarded with a few hours tied to his chain. We very rarely tie him up, so I think he understood the gravity of his actions and he quickly calmed down. When we let him off the chain later in the day he had a quick sniff around the run and then went off about his business. We will leave the chickens in the run for about a week before we let them out around the garden. Hopefully the dog will be well used to them by then and cause them no trouble. The neighbours’ hens are in the garden all the time and he never goes near them, so I’m confident that our girls will be safe.

Chickens in nesting box | www.myfoododyssey,com

I’ve been checking regularly for eggs, but so far have found none. I suspect the girls might need a few days to settle down after the stresses of the market, travelling and their new home. I await with great anticipation that first little pullet egg, fried or poached to perfection and perhaps with some crispy bacon on the side. Maybe I’ll find one in time for tea – fingers crossed!

PS: I’m an absolute newbie when it comes to chickens, so if you have any advice I’d be more than happy to hear it!

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29 Comments Post a comment
  1. Good luck, June – they look like they’re settling in well. We never kept our own hens but when we were small, Dáithí and I were dispatched once a week with a large basket to our neighbours who had a veritable aviary of farm birds – hens, bantams, ducks, guinea fowl, pheasants and turkeys. It was a noisy yard! We only ever got hens’ eggs but we got to hold baby chicks of all kinds as well as ducklings, which were so cute. Those neighbours are long dead but Mam still has a good supply of fresh local eggs. There’s no comparison in taste between eggs straight from the hen and those from the shop.

    Like

    March 26, 2014
    • You’re right, Lyn – there’s just no comparison in the taste. It’s a great experience for kids to see chicks and eggs and begin to understand where both life and food comes from. If we get the hang of the chickens we might try breeding some chicks. I’d also like a few ducks but not sure how I might do that without a pond.

      Like

      March 27, 2014
  2. Ours took about 3 weeks to start laying – if they haven’t got much of a red comb, it will take a few weeks. We got 4 hens recently and if they survive the fox/ dog once we let them out a bit, we’ll get a few more. These 4 are dying to escape out.

    Like

    March 26, 2014
    • The wattles and combs are still quite small, so we may have to wait a while. Ours seem content enough in the run for now, but I can’t wait to let them out so they can have a good roam around the garden and find lots of tasty beasties to help make delicious eggs!

      Like

      March 26, 2014
  3. My friend who has “girls” whistled to them every time he brought food, and now they come running to his whistle. It is very fun to see them running across the yard to a whistle, and he says it’s actually very good to have them come when they are called, er whistled.

    Like

    March 25, 2014
    • What a brilliant idea! I’m not great at whistling but I could develop some sort of call or maybe even sing a little song. It would be good to be able to get them back to th run fast if there was some kind of danger.

      Like

      March 25, 2014
  4. Seems your dog just got a little bit jealous about your ‘girls’, but hopefully they’ll patch things up in no time. Oh, and since Easter is coming a small tip: those small eggs laid by young hens are hard and thus are perfect for the crack my Easter egg challenge and they usually crack other eggs

    Like

    March 24, 2014
    • Oh yeay – thanks, Asta! I had thought the eggs would be cute for painting but never thought about them being good for “crack my egg”. I’ll have to save a few for the neighbours’ little girls so they can win! The dog is much calmer today – think he’s nearly over his jealously!

      Like

      March 24, 2014
  5. Congrats on your ‘girls’! Looking forward to pictures of the first eggs – and what you do with them!

    Like

    March 24, 2014
    • Thanks Linda! I suspect the first few eggs will be pretty small, but I’ll still put them to good use! Meringues, ice cream, crème brûlée, good ole English custard, rich and sticky brownies – ooh, I can’t wait!

      Like

      March 24, 2014
      • Oh, I love meringue! I’m coming over ;)

        Like

        March 24, 2014
      • I’ll put the wine in the fridge!

        Like

        March 24, 2014
  6. Oooooooh, I LOVE black and white ones, they are my favourites :)

    I grew up in the country, and our next door neighbours, who were farmers, had chickens. We always bought our eggs from them. They had those brown hens, but one day, not sure where it came from, a black and white one was added to the flock.

    Then the most amusing thing happened: The newcomer would scale the wire fence every day (no small feat!), and deposit an egg in our rose garden. Then she’d go off home again. LOL!

    Like

    March 24, 2014
    • That’s so cute that the little renegade would only lay in your garden! I love the black and whites, too – I wanted them as much for aesthetics as anything else. Luckily they’re also good layers, so happy me!

      Like

      March 24, 2014
      • What about getting in some Bantams? So cute :) Then you can pretend to be serving your guests quail eggs!

        Like

        March 24, 2014
      • I think our girls will be laying tiny eggs for quite a while yet – at least two months from when they start laying. When we run out of tinies I might consider a few bantams! I’d love some quails, but apparently they’re feisty little things and a bit too much trouble.

        Like

        March 24, 2014
  7. Congrats!! We got peeps last year to raise and later eat. We (and by we, I mean the in-laws living in the village) already had some laying hens. Our little one was obsessed with visiting them all and collecting eggs. I was sad that they had such poor living conditions. They had a pretty mean cage. it gave them just enough room to stand and stick their heads out of a hole to get food and water. :( it must have been uncomfortable for them… when they stuck out their heads out for food, the edge of the cage wore off the feathers on their necks. . It made me cringe to look at it. Here in Serbia, there is little thought for the comfort of animals. :( I think your chickens will be much happier and lay lots of eggs! I am sure the dog will do fine with them. he seems quite smart.

    Like

    March 24, 2014
    • Thanks Tea! I would hate to see chickens treated like that. Most of our neighbours have chickens and all are free range with safe and spacious (but not fancy) coups to come home to at night. It would break my heart to see chickens ill-treated. The eggs just wouldn’t be the same either, with all that stress. Here’s to happy hens!

      Like

      March 24, 2014
  8. Delighted you got your hens…. you are going to love them! Fingers and toes crossed for that first egg… enjoy it :)

    Like

    March 24, 2014
    • Thanks Margaret! I’m really so excited – like a child at Christmas! I don’t want to disturb them too much but I’ve read that the first eggs most likely won’t be in the nesting boxes, so think it might be time to go in and explore!

      Like

      March 24, 2014
      • They will always find new places to hide their eggs! They keep you guessing…

        Like

        March 24, 2014

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