I’ve talked a lot about mother hens here on this blog. Go figure, huh? We seem to always have baby chicks being hatched. This spring/summer especially has been a boom of broody hens. More than I’ve even mentioned, to be honest.
Pavelle, Rapunzel, Ashley, Tweety, Claire, Ashley (again), Eugenie, and Pavelle again. Ashley got put in Broody Jail twice after her escapades in raising babies last year. Poor Claire spent 6 weeks being broody because her first set of eggs didn’t hatch (some died, some were duds).
It’s Claire, along with her daughter from last year’s hatch, Eugenie, who are the subject of today’s post.
You see, when Claire lost the first set of eggs, I decided to give her new, because Claire is a proven good mother and I felt sorry for her losing her babies she worked so hard for. Eugenie had started to go broody the day or two before and I was deciding what to do with her when I gave Claire her new eggs.
For whatever reason, I gave both of them four eggs each, for a total of eight chicks if they all hatched.
Last Wednesday night, the first chick began break out of his shell under Claire. He was STILL breaking out of it Thursday morning when I returned to the coop to find Eugenie had two fluffy little chicks under her, and Claire had one more pipping.
By Friday morning, we had a total of four chicks, one dead EE (still in eggs) and two duds. ( and one which had been broken by Pavelle the week prior, because she decided she needed to go broody again,too, and needed to use Claire’s nest to do it.)
So… four babies, two mother hens.
I tried to put them in separate areas of the coop, but as has been the theme this year, the mommas’ both rejected my cat carriers in favor of the floor under the nesting boxes – – AND they decided to co-raise their four chicks together.
The first couple of days were rough all the way around. Both hens were in extreme broody momma mode and in addition to chasing other chickens away from their wee little ones, Claire would lunge at Eugenie and chase her off, too. Undaunted, Eugenie would com back, but had too much respect for her mother to chase back.
The other hens started laying eggs outside because it was too much drama to try and lay in the coop.
But as the weekend and the early part of this week progressed, mothers and babies fell into a rhythm that worked of all of them.
I’ve been amazed, watching them navigate a very confusing social situation. Once the initial ‘turf wars’ were over and Claire accepted that Eugenie wasn’t going to give up her rights to her babies, they ironed out a system of rearing. Co-parenting at it’s finest.
It began in the coop, with one mother sitting on some of the chicks while the other taught one or two to scratch and dig. Then they would swap.
They babies usually sleep under Claire at night, while Eugenie sleeps in the nest above them.
Claire took the first brave chick outdoors at three days old, while Eugenie mothered the other three in the coop.
When all four babies were in the coop playing and eating, Claire would teach while Eugenie stood guard against threats (or perceived threats) from other hens.
After a few days, Claire got all four of them outside. Eugenie followed and they took turns showing the babies how to dig in the dirt to find yummies.
When they go outside, one mother (usually Claire) leads them down the ramp and the other (usually Eugenie) follows behind the stragglers, ensuring that no baby is left behind.
The little yellow/cinnamon colored one likes to sit on both her/his mothers’ backs, which I read somewhere is a sign of love and affection. Of belonging to that hen. I guess that means the babies really do belong to both of them, no matter who they hatched under.
I’m not sure if I will ever let two hens hatch out at the same exact time again, but I have no regrets about letting Claire and her daughter raise these ones together. It’s working for them, strange as it may seem to us.
While I was away having my surgery and recuperating, Pavelle finally decided to go back to Hen Things and leave her little not-so-littles to their own devices.
I have not seen them much since my surgery because I was still really, really sore. But now that I’m able to look at them and take pictures of them. I have plenty, because I want to take a stab at Hen or Roo.
First, here are the group shots, because they hang around a LOT together.
Now here are the individual pics:
A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking rooster for this little one, but after a week+ of growth and not seeing them… I’m seeing more of a little pullet in Feather Butt’s mannerisms now. Also, her comb is smaller than Mini-Pav’s (which you will see soon) and reminds me more of Pavelle as a young hen.
Yeah, I am thinking Mini-Pav is a little roo. What do you all think?
The EE part of Eggy’s heritage is going to be hard to tell. Right now, Eggy has little-to-no comb. No wattles. No cheeks.
She reminds me a lot of Padme at that age, which is why I’m hoping she is a little girl. But then again, I thought LUKE was a little Leia for a while, too.
So, what do we think readers? Wanna play a nail-biting game of Hen or Roo with the babies? They are 7 1/2 weeks now.
Every since I watched Abby hatch and raise her wee little Pipsqueak, I have been in love with the process of hens raising chicks. They learn so much more from their mothers and it’s nicer having them with the flock rather than needing to be in the brooder box.
It seemed to go well at first. We snuck the three who hatched from the incubator down to Rapunzel in the middle of the night and slipped them under her. She snuggled in and seemed content to sit on them.
They all seemed really happy together for the first week and I had a lovely set of Week 1 photos to show off… and then at about the week-and-a-half mark, that all changed.
Rapunzel, who had by this time, been broody for 5 weeks already while we waited for the special order eggs to come, decided that she wanted to take her broody outdoors and see the sunshine. They’d already been moving about the coop under her supervision and that didn’t seem like an unreasonable request.
However, at some point in time, she had begun pecking at the feet of some of the little ones. I noticed the first one on Friday night. Little ‘Cutie’ – one of the little gray ones we couldn’t identify – had bloody and swollen feet and as I watched, Rapunzel kept pecking at them. I removed the chick for the day, treated the feet with Vetricin and Scarlex Oil, and put her back under Rapunzel at night. By Saturday morning, a second chick – the Grumpy one -was also sporting bloody tootsies. I removed BOTH chicks, treated them again, and put them in the broody.
I spent a good part of that Saturday observing Rapunzel with the other chicks. She would sit on them, warming them, with no problems at all. Then, she would get up, go to scratch in the dirt, call for them to come see what she had found, and then forcefully pecked the feet of the first chicks to approach. She got Rocky (Little Dude’s Barred Rock) and the light Brahma chick a couple of times while I observed.
Sunday, Cutie and Grumpy were walking better and healing up some, so I risk putting them back with their family. Rapunzel accepted them under her, but during the day, the scene of ‘call them over and then peck’ repeated. She would target Cutie, Grumpy and now Rocky, who now had a wound forming on one foot. Now and again, she would go after the little Brahma, too, possibly because of his feathered feet.
She only did this when they were out playing and eating. If they were under her, she was a happy momma, bucking softly and talking to them.
I had the sinking suspicion that she would slowly work her way through all the chicks, pecking and maiming all their feet. So, in order to save them, I took them all away from her.
These pictures, below, are the last pictures of them as a happy family, before the blood bath began.
It was heart breaking to them away. You see? She wanted them. She wanted to sit on them and nurture them. She paced the coop for days, talking them through the walls even though she couldn’t see them and when she figured out where the brooder was in relation to the coop, she jumped up on the roost to peer over at them, making screeching noises at me to “get away and give me my babies back!”
They, in turn, called out for her, alarmed and upset and NOT happy in the brooder. Who can blame them? She was momma and it was a strange box with a red light.
Every morning, I put her in with them, thinking maybe she would forget about their toes (which were healing nicely) and that just maybe I would give them back to her.
Each time, she went to them, calling and bucking softly, sitting with them and letting them gather under her, and they’d be fine for about 10-15 minutes. Then she would get up, go to explore the brooder and scratch to show them things… call to them to come look… and yes, you guessed it – attack their toes again. Cutie, Grumpy, Rocky… then anyone else.
This happened thee days in a row.
I gave up trying to let her try.
I don’t know why she did it. She certainly acted like she wanted them. But I couldn’t let her ruin their feet. As it is, poor little Cutie has one toes that is now broken and misshapen. He/she can walk on it, but it will never be the same.
So I stopped letting her in to see them. This was still heart breaking. She would alternate between returning to the coop to look for them and following Pavelle and her chicks around like a forgotten nanny.
In the meantime, I had another dilemma to deal with. How to raise these chicks so that the flock -who had just started to get to know them – didn’t forget them? I want a seamless integration and with the last re-design of the coop, we can no longer split it down the middle.
During a string of hot days, hot enough that 2 week old chicks wouldn’t need a brooder lamp, we had the idea. DH built a little playpen for them. On the hot days, I can take them outdoors, for a couple hours at least, with water and food.
They get the sunlight, grass and bugs their one-time momma tried to introduce them to, and the other chickens get to socialize with them.
The first two days we used it, Rapunzel went to them and attempted to talk and call to them through the chicken wire. Only half the chicks would respond to her. They were starting to forget ‘momma’ even if momma was not ready to forget them.
I tried – once – to put her in with them outdoors… to the same, sad and heart wrenching conclusion as the other times.
It just isn’t meant to be.
I don’t know if 5 weeks broody was too much for her brain, or if she still thought they needed to be eggs, or if 7 was too many chicks for a new mother hen to take on. Or if broody hormones made her insane. I. Don’t. Know. Sometimes, the only answer is that ‘some hens don’t make good mothers.’
Which is sad, because as a Buff Orpington, she made a wonderful broody. She went quickly, stayed with the same next, was dedicated to her eggs.
But I don’t think I can risk giving her babies again. I could let her hatch and I could raise, maybe, but she couldn’t be trusted not to ruin their feet again. Could she?
As of the writing of this post, Rapunzel has gotten over the ‘baby thing’ entirely and gone back to Hen Things. She is pissed that Pip is gone. He was her chosen boyfriend and Luke does nothing for her.
I need to get more pictures of Grumpy, Cutie, the light Brahma and Rocky. It’s harder in the brooder because they are quick and scared.
Chipmunk, Goth Chick and CW are all feathered out enough to start flying and they have been, as you can see from the pictures, coming out of the brooder to explore the world. These three adventurers are bonding with myself and Little Dude because they sit out there and talk to us while we do morning chores. Chipmunk is especially friendly.
By next week, they will be old enough to withstand 75-80 degree temps, so they should be outdoors, in their playpen, a little more often. Unless it rains. I have been bringing Pavelle’s chicks to say hello to them, in the hopes that they can be ‘cousins’ once I try to integrate. Eggy is terrified of them. That will be fun.
My Pet Chicken finally gave me an updated version of which breeds we have.
Chipmunk – still a Partridge Welsummer. Also, accorrding to this site, a little pullet. Because she still has her ‘mascara’ on her eyes.
CW – still a Columbian Wyandotte. Gender unknown.
Rocky – still a barred Plymouth Rock. Gender also unknown.
The little Brahma is still a little Brahma. Little Dude calls him/her ‘Rap’ and I don’t know why.
Goth Chick, the all black one, is no longer (or never was) a Svart Hona. Instead, according to the breeders, Goth Chick is one of My Pet Chicken’s ‘Mad Scientist’ chicks. They are calling them ‘customed crosses’ and did not tell me what when into the making of this chick. Possibly Svart Hona, possible Cemani? Possible God knows what? Supposedly, if it is a hen, it could lay green eggs.
Cutie and Grumpy are both different flavors of Rocks. One is a Silver Penciled Rock and the other is a light Barred Plymouth Rock…. so essentially, the same as Rocky only gray and white, not black and white. They both have barring on the wings now. I think they will look very similar, to be honest.
I’m going to end this post with some random pics from this week. We had a deer visit the pasture, and half the chickens were terrified. Pavelle chased it because it was too close to her babies. It was amusing.
And that’s about it for this week. I am having surgery on Monday, the 26th, so if there aren’t updates for a while, this would be why. When I return, I promise pictures of the Brooder Babies, who should be more feathered out by then.
Eggy, or the Egger Baby, is the last of Pavelle’s chicks.
He/she is the egg-child of Padme the Easter Egger and … well, I thought Pip, but now I’m not too sure about that.
So… what is it about Eggy that makes me suspect Pip might not be the father?
In short… color and personality.
Eggy here is a bright buff yellow, with only small EE cheeks.
So… mostly yellow chick with a yellow and black/brown momma. Two potential fathers.
One rooster had an all yellow momma and a white papa?
The other rooster had a red momma and a white papa?
Going off looks alone, I’d have to guess Felix is Eggy’s baby daddy.
And then, there is personality. Eggy is high strung, flighty, hard to catch, does not really relax in my hands like the other two do.
This describes Padme, yes, and could be an Easter Egger trait. But it always describes Felix. A lot.
Pip, not so much. He didn’t like me pick up but when I did, he settled in because he trusted me.
Feather Butt trusts me. Mini-Pav mostly trusts me. Eggy is a frantic spaz.
So, based off personality, is this Pip’s chick? I don’t think so, but anything is possible.
Here is a recent shot of Momma and babies (and a fake egg that was in the nest with them). They are 5 weeks old now and practically as big as she is!
They are also almost fully feathered out.
I believe that Pavelle will be pulling away from them soon. Going back to doing Hen Things and not Momma things. Today she seemed to be giving them space. Still hanging with them – or allowing them to hang with her – but not really showing them things like she has in the past. Letting them do their own thing.
Since I gave Mini-Pav his/her own past, I thought it only fair to do that same with his siblings. I give you… Feather Butt.
Feather Butt, another of Pavelle’s part Pavlovskaya, part sexlink, part Rhode Island Red, possible part Polish, mixed up chicks… is the biggest of the three chicks, with a bigger mohawk than Mini-Pav, but almost non-existence wattles.
Feather Butt has grayish yellow legs with a yellow beak and comb that kind of reminds me of Pip. His/her legs still have little wisps of feathers, showing his Pavlovskaya heritage. But only little tufts. You have to be to up close to see them at the ankles and tops of his/her legs.
Feather Butt is friendly, smart and charming.
In short, since I like this chick, Feather Butt is a possible rooster. Anyone want to place bets?
I had a lovely up the chicks planned out a couple weeks ago and it got drastically changed. I need to write a longer one and that takes time.
But since I haven’t posted in a while, here’s a picture of Mini-Pav, who no longer looks much like his/her Momma.
Mini-Pav is a curious mix of Pavelle’s black and Pip’s redder coloring. With a little black Mohawk and the start of wattles.
At five weeks, he/she is shyer than his sibling, Feather Butt but calmer than Eggy.
With these chicks, I have no clue what to expect for features. Pavelle has hardly any wattles and a V comb buried in her wild crest. Mini-Pav’s and Feather Butt have funky little Mohawks and already tiny wattles.
We had new baby chicks hatched this week, from Monday – Wednesday, but I haven’t posted pictures yet. Why not? Because there was a mix up at My Pet Chicken in the labeling of the eggs and until this afternoon, we didn’t know what kind of chicks we actually had! And there are still two unaccounted-for chicks. The good people at My Pet Chicken have reached out to the breeder to discover what they might be… with help from pictures I provided of the chicks and their eggs.
I have that lovely maternity box we made for the broodies out of a repurposed cabinet. I put her in it. She and the chicks spent one night in there and then Rapunzel decided to move them outside, into a corner on the floor. After fighting with her for two days, I gave up and have decided that she’s going to raise them her way, whether I like it or not.
Pavelle also rejected the cat carrier, btw, and has her babies sleeping in one of the laying boxes at night.
This kind of ‘immersion rearing’ kind of baffles me because Abby, Claire and Ashley ALL wanted to hide their chicks away from everyone, so they welcomed the special areas I made for them.
These two broody mommas? Want nothing to do with it.
So instead… I put out a bigger feeder for the chick feeder, a second waterer and put some straw down so Rapunzel could make a nicer nest of her own design… and took this video of Pavelle’s little Feather Butt meeting his/her little ‘cousins’ for the first time.
So, it’s raining today, with little patches of sunshine here and there. The weekend was pretty much the same, but the week was pretty exciting around the barnyard and pasture.
First off… we’ve had visitors of the nasty variety. Two fat brown woodchucks who think they own the place. Dad shot one sneaking around the garden and caught the other in a trap he placed by their hole.
A couple of days later, we caught this opossum in the same trap. Which means they are sharing the holes under the barn.
The neighbor’s white turkeys also paid a visit (which I didn’t get a picture of), but the chickens are getting used to them being around.
Now, I know I have said in the past that I wasn’t going to use the Broody Breaker method anymore and just give my hens eggs. But this hen is a special case. This is Ashley – she who lost her babies 2 times in the fist week of their lives, kept leaving nest and getting too confused to go back to it, and then raised them to be neurotic weird freaks. (example, Felix… and Perdie who STILL doesn’t trust me.) So… no eggs for Ashley.
Besides which, Pavelle’s babies are two weeks old today and Rapunzel’s hatch/incubator babies are due to be hatching today. Remember? The 4-H project? So yeah… I don’t need more babies just yet. Especially not from a hen I don’t trust.
And while Ashley cooled out in Broody Jail, DH and Little Dude made another attempt to dry out the swampy areas in the middle of the chicken pasture. Last year, DH made a pond. This year, he’s spent days (and days and days) digging trenches trying to find where the underground springs run.
The chickens LOVE it because trenches mean mud, dirt, worms, bugs… stuff for them to do and see and EAT. So they really love helping DH with his trench project.
DH digging the Trench
Two sexlink hens helping.
Abby loves to supervise the help efforts.
Tweety, also coming to help, because she heard there were worms!
You can by the mud on her face that she helped a LOT. Right?
And lastly what post would be complete without something about Pavelle and her babies?
This past week, Pavelle decided that she didn’t like the cat carrier as a nest, so she moved her babies out of it and up into one of the laying boxes. They only sleep there at night, because the other thing they REALLY discovered this week was the great outdoors. She takes them into the tunnels, the run and even into the barnyard. They have not yet ventured into the greater chicken pasture, but still, the spend a good portion of the day outside, getting whatever yummies nature has to offer. Whatever it is, they always have full crops when I see them, so it must be good. 🙂
Yesterday, Pavelle’s wee little chicks celebrated their One Week-aversary. They are living happily in a cat carrier under the laying beds, with their food in the corner in front of them and a place to go for shelter. Pavelle being as small as she is, they have room to move around freely in there. She brings them out in the morning and afternoons, teaches them to dig and scratch in the deep litter bedding and is slowly introducing them to the other chickens.
Feather Butt and Mini-Pav do not have the pronounced foreheads that their mother had as a chick. A reminder that they are cross-breeds and not pure anything. Pavelle likely has some Polish in with her Pavlovskaya … and Pip, of course, the Rhode Island Red and sexlink genetics. So maybe they won’t have crests and funny hair-dos like their momma. Or maybe they will? Who knows at this point?
I give you – the Babies!
The weather has been up and down, and Pavelle has yet to decide if she wants to take them outside. I’ve seen her bring them to the door and peek out, but has not attempted to lead them any further.
ETA: Okay, I wrote that part up there *points up* and then went to the barn to let everyone and THIS happened, just to prove me wrong…
Feather Butt was the one balking. I finally stopped the video and went to put Mini-Pav and Egger Baby back inside because it became so obvious that Pavelle was not able to convince Feather Butt that it was, in fact, safe. But there you have it… it’s a good bet that she will get them outside sooner rather than later. To be fair, there is only so much she can teach them inside the coop. The big wide world awaits!
Today marks Day 14 for Little Dude’s 4-H hatching project.We’ll be candling again tonight and on Saturday. Sunday-Tuesday are Lockdown Days. The incubator has been an interesting experience in frustration and balance. Finding and KEEPING the right temperature and humidity both. I personally like giving the eggs to broody hens.
This will be the last “broody watch” post, as there are no more babies to be had. Pavelle’s wee little ones were getting restless so I went and candled the remaining two eggs. You could see something watery sloshing around inside each. Rotten yolks. Yuck! Rather than risk them breaking overnight, we chucked them and moved Pavelle and the babies to their new nest on the floor. Which, happily, Pavelle accepted. Hopefully, the overnight sleep will help her to feel at home there with the little ones. It has food, water and shelter. All the things a momma and her babies need.
And now to the title of this post – the One with the Feathered Toes.
One of Pavelle’s babies had feathered feet. For those of you who do not know, my little Pavelle is a Pavlovskaya hen, or partial Pavlovskaya.
The Pavlovskaya hen is Russia’s most ancient chicken breed. Its origins are lost in the murky depths of history, but by the time Russians began to take stock of their native chicken breeds in the late 1800s Pavlovskaya hens were already virtually extinct. Many centuries ago this breed emerged in the town of Pavlovo, a small enclave of peasants and craftsmen about 200 miles east of Moscow. The town was known for a number of unique agricultural specialties including the breeding of fighting geese, canaries, and the cultivation of lemons. Some poultry historians believe that the Pavlovkskaya hens are the foundational breed that gave rise to more recently developed crested breeds like the Polish, Barthuhners, and Brabanters.
Pavlovskaya’s have feathered feet and the very originals had five toes, it is said. Somewhere in the recent attempts to bring them back from extinction, the fifth toe has vanished from some blood lines.
Pavelle came to me as an egg from a breeder who had a pair of what she was told were Pavlovs, but she believed them to be not-quite pure because they lacked the feathered feet. Pavelle also has no feathers on her toesies.
So you can imagine my excitement when I saw this:
It means that, whatever else she is, my little Pavelle is definitely in some part Pavlovskaya, and so is this wee little babe who looks nothing like her momma in every other way.
Totally adorable!!! I can’t wait to see how she grows into those feathered feet!