Co-Parenting, Chicken Style

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.

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Here is the happy, if unorthodox, little family of six.

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.

Hatchings, Integrations, Broodies and Hard Decisions

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.

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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.

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. .

 

 

 

The Brooder Bunch at 5 Weeks

Well, the Brooder Bunch, aka the 7 babies we hatched for Little Dude’s 4-H project, are five weeks old this week and heading closer to the 6 week mark, where had their mother not so violent to them, they might have been set loose to fend for themselves as young member of the flock.

As mentioned in the last post about them, I have been letting them outside in their playpen on nice days to get the flock used to them.  I intend to let them loose after they all hit 6 weeks old and see how the flock receives them.  Right now, there is moderate curiosity, but no meanness.  And no one seems to have noticed that Cutie and Grumpy are definitely boys.   I think that it will help that Pavelle’s chicks are around the same size and running around.  I think it will go well.

I have pictures of them all to share now.  Feel free to click on them for bigger images.

Chipmunk,the partridge Welsummer.  She is one of the three who are more fully feathered out.   She is friendly and sweet, and very curious about everything.

Goth Chick, the little all-black Mad Scientist chick. I am assuming this chick is a hen, due to the smallness of the comb and lack of wattles.    She is another of the ones who feathered out quickly, loves to fly and is shy, but not skittish.

CW, the Columbian Wyandotte.  I know nothing about Wyandottes, but I’m hoping this beauty is a hen, but over the last week, ‘she’ has started to grow wattles and a comb.  They are small, but noticeable in all that white fluffy.   CW is the biggest of the seven brooder babies.

Rocky, our little Barred Rock.  Another breed I’m not familiar with, but if I had to guess,  Rocky looks like a little henny.   Rocky is shy, but friendly.  (S)he is one of one slower feathering ones, and has only just started to fill out.

Cutie, one of other Rocks. Either a Light Barred or Silver Penciled.  They both look really close in coloring, at this point.  Cutie is a rooster.  I’ve known that since he was two or three weeks old.  The comb and wattles just confirm it.

He is one of the ones who was pecked by Rapunzel.  His feet healed, but for a while, he had a deformed, maimed toe.  It was gnarled and black.  Last week, the little dead toes fell off, just at the knuckle, leaving Cutie with a little nub.

Grumpy, the other other Rock.  Again, either Light Barred Rock or Silver-Penciled.   I honestly don’t know which is which.  Also a rooster.  His toes are better, too, but they weren’t as badly damaged as Cutie’s.

Grumpy and Cutie are both aloof and standoffish.  Not flighty, but not accessible.  I don’t know if that has anything to do with Rapunzel pecking them, or just a rooster thing.  They like to hang out together and butt chests.  Rooster things.

Cutie likes to wait til the other chicks get the treats, too.  watching my older roosters, I know that is a trait I admire in Double Dots.

The Light Brahma, whom Little Dude calls “Rap” and I call Brahma.   This chick is supposed to be a Light Brahma, but as the feathers come in, they are all black.  I’m guessing Dark Brahma now, but since the poor little thing is only now getting feathers, I wont really know.  No signs of a comb or wattles yet.  I am hoping for a hen, but IF this actually is a Light Brahma, then it might be a rooster.  The pictures I’ve been looking at suggest that the Light Brahma males have more black in their coloring. 

However rough their start, these chicks are doing very well, and I can’t wait to see how they grow up.

Pavelle’s Littles on their Own

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:

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Feather Butt, who still has tiny tufts of feathers on his/her legs.  Also, LOOK!   FF is growing CHEEKS!  Like Pavelle’s fluffy cheeks!

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.

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Mini-Pav is looking a lot like a little roo.

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The comb is much, much more pronounced than his momma’s ever was at that age.

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And here he(she) is standing tall and at attention while the others scurry off because I scared them?  Also – wattles!!!!!

Yeah, I am thinking Mini-Pav is a little roo. What do you all think?

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Eggy, the little part EE part Felix-spawn

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.

 

 

And This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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.

So, when Rapunzel went broody right after Pavelle did, I jumped at the chance to let her raise Little Dude’s 4-H chicks.  We even let her hatch some of them by hand. 

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.

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The babies in their new playpen.   When I let them out on nice, warm days, the hens and Dots come other and say their hellos and then leave them alone, for the most part.   Notice Rapunzel there on the left?

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

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.

Pavelle’s wee babies are growing up now.

Feather Butt

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?