On April 11, 2015, I became a first time chicken momma to seventeen little yellow rooster chicks, and their three little brown&yellow sisters. It’s been five years since then, and a lot has happened. I’ve seen chickens come and go, added a lot of different breeds, and watched mother hens hatch out lots of babies.
We still have one of the original flock, our beloved Double Dots, who celebrated his first birthday without his sister this year. She would have enjoyed the day. It was warm, with sunshine and new green grass. Dots enjoyed but for her.
He is starting to show his age. His crow sounds like that of a little old man. The feathers around his face seem more white (gray hair, chicken style?) than they used to be. But he still walks around the coop/run/pasture with an air of purpose band and determination.
On May 5th, the handful of Rhode Island Reds we have left from our second round flock will also turn five.
Happy birthday (belated and early) to all my birds!
It’s been a stressful week.
I’ve suspected for a while that someone (or more than one some one) has been picking on my Silkie rooster, Frost.
Frost is a timid little guy, smaller than my other roosters and a bit of a loner. Lately, he’s been hanging out a lot by himself. I’ve wondered at it, but with my new, full time job, I haven’t had a lot of time to sit and observe what’s going on. However, with Covid-19 shutting down basically every thing, I find myself on an every other day work schedule and time to watch them.
I still couldn’t pinpoint who was picking on him, but you know how it goes… Sometimes when one does to, more if them will, too.
Frost started hiding in the duck house and I’d have to put him in at night.
And then last night, I found him there, huddled in the corner and caked with mud … and blood. Looked like he’d been mud wrestling with a bear, and lost.
I brought him inside, tucked him away in a nest and began doing a head count. At the same time, slowly looking at all the possible culprits.
Our youngest rooster, Barry, a little one my RiR Maicey hatched and raised at the end of them summer… also looked like he’d been mud wrestling, but won. I am pretty sure he did it.
The pictures I am about to show are NOT pretty. And they are very heart-breaking.
I had to bathe him, which is hard because he has very brittle feathers where he’s been trying to grow them back.
So it was more like him standing in the kitchen sink while I sprayed warm water over him to get out the mud and blood.
His eyes are swollen and I’ve been treating them with Vetricyn spray. You can tell it stings him when I spray it, but it’s necessary.
He is currently residing in a dog crate on our porch. Until his eyes are a little better, I can’t risk returning him to the flock.
The bully Barry’s days are numbered. It’s time we decided who of the 8 rooster we were sending to Freezer Camp anyway, but it’s been decided that it will happen sooner rather than later. There will be four of them leaving.
Possibly five if Frost doesn’t get better. I’m worried about those eyes, but I have faith in my Vetricyn.
And DH is building a smaller, enclosed coop, that I can possibly put Frost and some of the hens who’ve been over mated by over-enthusiastic younger rooster and need time to regrow feathers. He’s doing this emergency build right now, in the snow.
I love my DH. He is awesome on so many levels.
On a happier and more exciting note, tomorrow is Day 21 for my broody Columbian Wyandotte, Winnie and her seven little eggs. I am nervously awaiting the first signs of new peeps. I will talk more about that as it happens.
Yes, the fight for dominance is over. My little ‘Leapy Man’ aka Philip has won the bid for Main Rooster. (Don’t ask why I call him Leapy, I just do. Actually, it’s Philip, but sometimes we called him Filipe and from Filipe, we evolved into Leapy.)
Philip, aka Leapy, a two-year-old Barnyard Mix with a unique heritage and a strong personality.
Philip is the bio-son of Pavelle and his egg was fertilized by Pip, who is, of course, Dots’ and Abby’s boy.
The new Second in Command, or 2IC, is Sylvester, the Buff Brahma that my Tweety Girl raised last year. He is a year-and-a-half old and although he is BIG, he is gentle.
They have been Dots’ 2nd and 3rd for a while now, so it makes sense that with him deposed, they would each move up a rank. The position of 3rd is not yet filled. It won’t really matter because once winter is over, and we cull the Summer Boys, most likely they will all go.
Would you like to meet them? My Summer Boys?
Of them, the only one I really like is LRJ. He is sweet and nice and quite handsome to look at.
Manly is shy and hard to pick up, not unlike Pip was at that age. And for being part EE, he is not a spaz like Luke and Padme were. He’s just… Skittish.
Rory is like Luke incarnate. Big, rough with the ladies, but he’s also incredibly skittish. More than Manly. He’s just a wild brute.
Branson is full of ‘small dog syndrome’ or … Little Rooster Syndrome. He’s small enough that I can hold him in one hand, but he acts like he is bigger than Sylvester. He’s the youngest and wants to mate all the girls. They don’t like him. Even his mother, Pavelle, does not like him now that he’s hit puberty.
This ^^^ would be why my coop has so much chaos. Because of these Summer Boys. I suspect LRJ might make a good 3rd of I decide to keep him. It’s a tough call.
So how’s Dots, you ask?
He’s doing well. His eye has healed and it seems as though the new head roosters have decided that he isn’t a threat to their positions. He hangs out mostly in the coop, for now, which is probably good for him because he doesn’t like the winter cold anyway.
He doesn’t crow in the mornings anymore. He used to lead the chorus of ‘good morning! good morning!’ and now, I never hear his crow in the morning. My Girl did say that he was in the coop crowing for the ladies with him this afternoon when she went down, I’m encouraged to know that he is. at least, no longer afraid of the hens. He’s also not afraid of the younger Summer Boys.
Now, if you’d like, I’ll show up pics of some of the other new, summer additions to the flock. I didn’t update all summer and we have quite a few new faces.
Here’s a few more from around the barnyard…
And lastly, DH adopted three beef calves… please meet, Sampson, Delilah and Sheila.
Or is it the Late Autumn Chicken Report? Because winter is almost here people. As reported in my last post, the chickens are in various stages of molt. They look pathetic, although some of the earlier molters are almost feathered back.
Hopefully, the others will hurry up and NOT still be half naked by the time the snow starts sticking.
October (or rather the end of October) meant the return of Halloween, jack o’lanterns and pumpkin seeds. I’ve always been jealous of pictures and videos of peoples’chickens pecking holes in pumpkins left out for them. Mine do not do that. They ignore whole pumpkins like the plague and even broken up ones, they would just eat the seeds and not the pulp.
This year, however, they were more than interested in our post-Halloween offerings and devoured not only the pumpkin seeds and guts shown above, but six medium sized jack o’lanterns over the course of the first week of November.
I am glad they enjoyed it, because in the next couple of weeks, I was tasked with the painful process of deciding which of them Summer Boys stayed and which ones were sent off to Freezer Camp. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I have a general weakness for roosters. Between their beautiful plumage and strong, unique personalities, how could I not fall in love with the little buggers? But every year, we hatch an average of 5-8 roosters and I’m only allowed to keep a minimum of three, depending on the size of my hen-to-rooster ratio.
This year, including Dots and Luke (saved from last year), we had a grand total of eights roosters. DH said I could keep three this year, if one of them was Phillip, the smaller rooster hatched out of one of Pavelle’s little white eggs. He is about half of Dot’s size and not likely to get much bigger.
So while the chickens were blissfully enjoying the pumpkin treats, I was looking at my roosters, talking to them, interacting with them, and trying to decide who should stay and help Dots keep his flock safe.
I will probably never forgive myself for allowing DH to take Pip that day instead of Luke. I miss him. Everyday, I miss that little guy. He was our first chick ever and worked well his father and mother in taking care of the flock.
Phillip (or Leapy as I call him sometimes), is Pip’s son from Pavelle and reminds me a lot of him, personality wise.
So, before I go into who got tickets to Freezer Camp, let me introduce to the Summer Babies.
Of these, the roosters were Philip, Gus, Cutie, Sylvester, Apache and A.J.
I have also thought at times that Darcy could really be a Mr. Darcy, but that one is either a late bloomer or a big hen. So we aired on the side of ‘big hen’ and kept Darcy, for now. She will winter over that will us time to see if she is really a he. Or not.
This year, I decided to rectify the mistake of keeping Luke,making him first on the list for Freezer Camp.
We would be keeping Dots (as usual because it’s dumb to get rid of a good rooster, and I learned that the hard way with Pip) and Philip… so I had a spot for one more keeper.
The candidates I was deciding from were Cutie ( a light barred rock from Little Dude’s incubator project) and Sylvester, the only hatched buff brahma. Of the Summer Boys those two were my favorites. Cutie because he was so incredibly beautiful and Sylvester because he was raised by my Tweety girl and has always been friendly.
Like last time, I simply couldn’t decide right up til the end. What it came down to was which one could I pick up without too much hassle. Cutie always fights me until I got him in my arms. But then he would settle in. But he would still fight me. So on Freezer Camp day, I made the decision in favor of keeping Sylvaster and letting Cutie go.
I hope that it doesn’t turn out like the Luke vs Pip decision. I really don’t. I couldn’t take that again.
The last thing we needed to do was give little Not Cocoa a better name. She is part Easter Egger (because Luke is her papa) and part Rhode Island Red. We called her Not Cocoa because we named Cocoa first and she is… not Cocoa.
So we’ve been debating it a while, and finally, on Thanksgiving, we came up with a suitable name… Nutmeg.
Lastly, I’ll leave you all with a picture of Double Dots and his ladies enjoying their Thanksgiving morning breakfast of oatmeal mixed with scratch grain, BOSS, meal worms and cranberries.
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. .
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.
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.
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.