If it’s not one thing with these chickens, it’s another. And this is shaping up to be a busy week for my little flock of 40.
I’ll start with this little piece of precious fluff. Because, really, doesn’t that face just make you want to saw “awwwww!”
A few weeks ago, I had two broody hens. Claire, one of my veteran broody’s from last year, and Tweety, my small Buff Orpington and a new broody. I gave them each 3 eggs. Claire, some barred rocks, and Tweety, some Buff Brahma’s.
And then a week after I gave them their eggs, went into the hospital for my surgery and have been limited to light duty. Somewhere in there, no one candled the eggs to see what was going on. Today is Hatch Day, and it is nail biting all the way around because I don’t know if any of the eggs (except this one, obviously) will hatch. None of Claire’s eggs have hatched yet, but yesterday, Tweety was blessed with this sweet little Brahma.
No other eggs have hatched, but neither hen seems ready to give up the nest, so I won’t let myself worry until Saturday morning.
HOWEVER, the addition of a new little baby has brought out a different Worry, one which will have to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
Rapunzel tried to attack Tweety’s baby, in a similar fashion to what she did with her own. She forced her way into Tweety’s nest and began going after the baby, lunging at it even when it was under Tweety.
Both the kids and I removed her and she went back to try again.
The last time, we put her in the Broody Jail, and there she is going to stay until DH comes home this weekend. After that… well, I can’t have a hen who will attack and harm babies. If she was just doing this to her pwn babies, we wouldn’t give her eggs. But attacking other hens’ babies is an entirely different thing. It means no babies are safe.
And right now, I have Claire and Tweety to worry about… plus Pavelle thinks she wants to go broody again is in a pre-broody stage right now. And Eugenie (Claire’s little snowball from last summer) is 98% definitely broody now, and will be worse by the time Rapunzel gets out of the Broody Jail this weekend.
(I was planing on putting Eugenie into broody jail tonight, after we integrate the Brooder Bunch, but now that’s not going to happen and it’s all Rapunzel’s fault.)
But Rapunzel will not be released back into the flock. I’ve made the decision that DH needs to send her to Freezer Camp. I can’t rehome her, because if anyone else tries to have chicks around her, or gives her eggs (Buff Orpington’s are supposed to be good broody mommas, after all) then she will do the same thing to them. I couldn’t ethically do that to some innocent person, so Freezer Camp is the only viable option.
Bella (formerly Goth Chick) and Winnie (formerly CW)
Rachel (theBrahma), with Cutie and Roxie (formerly Rocky)
Chipmunk inside the coop, checking things out.
Winnie meeting Dots. He was nice to her and offered her food.
The babies in the brooder are 6 weeks old, and mostly feathered out. The Brahma,whom we have decided might be a hen are calling Rachel, Cutie and Grumpy and the only hold outs, but they have enough feathers to be okay. They don’t sleep under the brooder lamp anymore anyway, and also, they are all getting HUGE.
What you see in the above pictures represents their last day in the brooder box. It’s raining, so they didn’t go outside. But tonight, after everyone is sleeping, the kids and I will sneak them into the coop and put them on roosts. When they way up Friday morning, they will be a part of the flock. As you can see,Dots already likes Winnie. He was very kind to her.
I think it will go well. All of the nice days, the babies got to be int heir playpen and the rest of the flock got to see them and know they were there. It will be an adjustment, but it should work out fine. .
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.
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!
Yesterday was Day 19 for Pavelle and her sweet baby eggs and that means Lock Down.
For those of you who do not know about hatching eggs, a chicken egg takes twenty-one days to hatch. The last three days, Days 19-21, are what people who use incubators call ‘lock down days’ because under no circumstances are you supposed to open the incubator on those days, until the last chick has hatched. This is because in those last three days, the babies do the most growing in preparation to come out of their shells.
When I let my hens sit on eggs, I make sure not to mess with them during those days, so they can do their own thing.
Yesterday, I went to check for eggs and discovered that Pavelle had a brown egg sticking out from under her. She frequently steals other hens eggs from neighboring nests. She had TWO brown eggs, actually… but was also missing one of her her six eggs. I didn’t see signs of eaten shell, but one of the brown eggs I had retrieved from under her had yolk on it, so I assumed the worst.
I know what happened to it now, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But first…
I found this
Pavelle actually had a total of three chicks under her this morning when I left the coop – two of her Pavlov-mix babies and one Easter Egger. There are two EE remaining. Given this is Day 20, and hatch day is technically tomorrow, I won’t worry too much about the other eggs until Wednesday or Thursday.
I set her up with some food and water, in the nest with her to discourage other hens from trying to sit with her in the nest (because that is another reason she keeps getting other hen eggs. They are trying to ‘share’ the nest with her.)
Hopefully, at least one of the other eggs will hatch. The one is EE#2 and we all know I have been iffy about the contents of that one.
This morning when I removed the broken eggs shells from under her, I discovered the missing Pavelle-egg. It apparently tried to hatch YESTERDAY on Day 19, and died. I found it half-buried in the bedding under Pavelle and the live chicks. 😦
I’m used to having them hatch on Day 20 or 21. Day 19 might be a little too early?
I will report back tomorrow with (hopefully) the last chicks and pics of all of them. Pavelle is a bite-y momma, so it’s hard to get pics of them right now.