Tough Chicken Times

When you first get chickens, life is all cute fuzzy chicks making equally cute peeping noises and yeah, there are some messes to clean up, but overall, it’s still cuteness overload.   And then get bigger… and the messes get bigger… and then they get older… and the cuteness wears off… well, unless you’re our Maicey girl, who is pretty sure she’s cute 24-7, even five years out.  She tells me so every day.   She’s that confident.

If you have chickens, I’m pretty sure you have a girl like Maicey, too.  So you understand.  There’s always that one who knows.

But this isn’t really a post about how cute Maicey thinks she is.

This is actually a follow-up to Frost’s injuries, the report of another injury, and some sadness.  It’s been a tough chicken week here in our coop.

Last post, I think I mentioned that DH was building Frost a tiny bachelor pad, big enough for 2-3 birds, to spend some time in while we waited for the weekend to come and bullies to be gone.

Here is the enclosed coop. They had some issues the first night. One of them refused to go inside to sleep, and as it was supposed to be cold overnight, I worried I would return in the morning to a chicken-sickle.

I am pleased to report that I did not. In fact, over the course of the last few days, they seem to fairly happy, if a little bored at times. It is a much smaller area than they are used to.

The hens I chose to go with him were three who have been over-mated by our younger, more exuberant roosters. The Winter Boys of whom the Bully Barry was one. My thought was that, they could stay there, getting some much needed rest from over mating, until the hen-to-rooster ratio was adjusted.

Today, this morning in fact, they were liberated. (More on that later.)

In the meantime, while I was fussing with Frost and wrestling with the weight of who should be the four roosters to leave the flock… two over bits of heartache occurred.

You may remember from the post about the new coop floors, I mentioned that my Columbian Wyandotte named Winnie, was broody. We had given her seven eggs. These eggs were ‘special’ because they are HUGE, like so big they don’t fit in a a jumbo egg carton and look rather cartoonish compared to the other normal-sized eggs. I wanted to see what came out of them, to try and decide who was laying those eggs.

Saturday should have been hatch-day. I say should have been, because it came and went and nothing hatched. I let it go until Wednesday, just in case. Still, no babies. We had candled them at the end of the first week, and there had been life. But still, no babies.

Wednesday, I removed them from under her, and returned her to the coop. I found that only one of the eggs had pipped and tried to hatch, but failed and became shrink-wrapped. The dead chick was fluffed out, a grayish color. I have one blue/gray cochin and four blue/gray Rocks… so the coloring kind of narrows it down. However, a couple days ago, I removed one of HUGE eggs from Frost’s outdoor coop. He had two of the Blue/Gray Rocks and a mixed hen with him. So that narrows things down. I’m thinking of the Rocks at this point.

Of the other six eggs, two were duds, and the others had dead chicks at various stages of development.

Winnie spent very little time off the nest, so I don’t know why they did not hatch. We did have a bit of a cold snap in between Week 2 and Week 3. A belated return of ‘winter’ and cold enough to freeze water in their dishes. But I had not considered that the eggs wouldn’t be safe under her. They seemed warm enough when I removed them.

I just don’t know.

For now, no one is in the broody place, but my little cochin has decided she thinks she is broody again. I am torn between trying eggs again or just getting her chicks from Tractor Supply. If I give her eggs, it has to be today, because today, or rather this morning, we still had all eight roosters to fertilize the heck out of them. (More on that later. Yes, I keep saying that.)

I also have an Australorp who is being broody, too.

I should put one of them into the broody breaker, aka the dog crate. But as it happens, the dog crate is currently being used in it’s other role… than of med-crate.

This would be why my dog crate cannot be used as a broody breaker.

Thursday morning, I went down to feed the chickens, clean the coop, you know, my usual routine. I had a bowl of apples and pears which had gone soft and mushy, and no one in the house was going to eat. I like to roll them out into the pasture so the chickens can chase after them. It’s fun to watch.

One of the apples rolled far enough that they lost interest, so I walked down to get it and roll it again, in a different direction. As I was walking back towards the barn, I looked out towards the side of the barn, and noticed a hen out there in the weeds. They’re not supposed to be over there, but occasionally one will fly over.

So seeing one out there made me take a second look and I realized that she was laying on the ground. Not walking around.

My heart sank, because there is a leg trap there in those brambles. It’s not my choice. Dad put it there because we’re having a problem with several types of pests who like our gardens and also like our chickens. They are the teeth-less traps, but can still do damage.

I open the gate and walk over and see, much to my horror, that yes, her leg is caught in the trap. And much to my… relief… that she is still alive. She had to have spent the ight out there, and being a gray chicken (one of the Blue/gray Rocks), I would have missed her at lock up in the shadows.

So I rushed back to the house to get Dad, because I really don’t know the first thing about opening those traps, and also woke up my Dude. They came down and we got her freed. She could barely walk, and as you can see from the above picture, her foot is swollen.

But the leg is NOT broken, which I feared because of how brittle bird bones can be.

I got her cleaned up and sprayed the wound with Vetericyn and then Scarlex oil. I also bought a pack of Save-a-Chick probiotics to add to her water. I am hoping that helps boost her immune system while she heals.

We’ve been checking on her, spraying her foot/ankle with both sprays and letting her walk around in the barn (a no-no during normal times ,but she’s forgiven for now) for the last three days. She is walking better, but the foot is still swollen. It’s not hot, so I don’t think infected, but I don’t know what to make of the fact that it’s still swollen.

However, she is putting pressure on it okay, walking mostly normally and doing little hops over things like a normal bird. We’re resolved to keep her separated over the weekend. I’d like to see that swelling go down, but if she is getting along okay, I’m not sure what else to do.

And lastly… the ‘more on that later’…

We sent four of our eight roosters to Freezer Camp today.

Barry the Bully was always going to go, but I had wrestled with the others.

We had, of course, Double Dots, Philip (aka Leapy), Rocky, John, Frost, and the last two Pavelle babies, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

Other than Tweedle Dum… all of these roosters are ones I like. And some of them we’ve had for a very long time. But four needed to go, so we had some hard decisions to make. It’s not always as easy as getting rid of the mean ones, because sometimes, there’s only just one mean one. And I frequently have too many roosters.

In the end, we kept Double Dots, Rocky, John and Frost.

Which, by default, makes Dots head rooster again until of the other three realizes they might be tougher than him. No clue who it’s going to be, except it won’t be Frost. He’s too timid.

So it’s a quieter, calmer place in the coop this morning. When I finally do return the little injured Gray Girl (whom we’ve officially named Peggy), there won’t be as many boys trying to mate her.

I hate posts like this. I hate hate having bad chicken days, or bad chicken weeks. But when you have chickens, either as pets or livestock, or like mine a mixture of both, tough days/weeks happen. It comes with having animals.

Here is hoping for a better week coming up.

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