Broody/Baby Watch – Breakfast with Momma 

Proof that Pavelle and the Mini-Me look alike.   On the left… Abby, with wee little Pavelle sitting in front.  On the right… Pavelle and Mini-Me.

The two remaining Easter Eggs have not done anything. I tell myself that today is Day 21 and official Hatch Day, so they could still do something, but there aren’t even pips, and Pavelle has pushed them to the back of the nest. I’m thinking these three might be it, but I’m willing to give it another day just in case.

Broody/Baby Watch – Pavelle’s Lock Down 

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…

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I found this little Easter Egger chick this morning, on Day 20.  It is a bright yellow with brown/black on the top of it’s head, with puffy little EE cheeks.

I found this

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I know I am a cutie 🙂

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.

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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.

 

Broody Watch – Candling Pavel’s Eggs 

Today marked the end of the first week for Pavelle and her eggs.   With the exception of Abby’s first-time hatch, I have been candling once a week leading up to Lock Down, to give me a better idea of how many chicks to anticipate.   Nothing was more disappointing than finding out Ava’s egg was infertile and that Pip was destined to be a singleton chick. (Of course, he has made up for it by being a good big brother to Abby’s subsequent hatches, so there is that.)

In preparation for Little Dude’s 4-H eggs, I have made a first time attempt at photographing the eggs as we candled them.

It’s only a week out and it’s kind of difficult at this point to accurately predict.  Also, the darker the egg shell, the harder it is to really tell what’s going on in there.

Luckily for Pavelle, her eggs are white-shelled and came out fairly clear.  You can see signs of development in all three eggs, which is promising.

Padme’s Easter Egger greens, however, are difficult.  I had a hard time with them when we gave some to Abby, too.   #1 and #3 are dark, with an outline.  This is how Abby’s EE eggs were, the ones that hatched.  I didn’t see much in the way of veins or anything with those very dark ones, but I got babies out of them.  I’m going to say, for now, that they have babies.  #2 — appears to be clear and empty.  I don’t see anything at all going on in there.  I’m going to wait until next Tuesday to level a final verdict on it.

But for now, I’m predicting five chicks.

Broody Girls

It’s spring, and after a long and snowy winter, in which the hens spent more time in the coop than outdoors.  The weather is warming up, the grass is growing.  Flowers, weeds and bugs are everywhere.  Life is good if you’re a chicken.

A couple of weeks ago, several of my hens started exhibiting signs of being broody.   Hanging out in the nests longer, or later in the day.  Puffed up feathers and growling or yelling while they are in the nest.  Growling and yelling at other hens when they are off the nest.

This kind of thing happens every spring.  Hens thinking that maybe they want to go brood on some eggs and raise some babies.  Its a natural, hormonal instinct for chickens, albeit one that the hatcheries have tried to breed out of their birds because egg/meat production is more profitable than hens sitting on eggs.   But if you’re a back yard chicken owner, homesteader, or farmer who wants a self-sustaining flock, a broody hen might be what you’re looking for.

My first year as a chicken owner, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know if I wanted broody hens.  Most the websites and blogs who talk about broodies talk about how to broody break them, because most people want eggs.   And I had Abby, who went broody less than two months after laying her first egg.   I broke her the first time, but decided when she did it again a month later, that it wasn’t worth trying to break her again, and just gave her eggs.

Watching Abby raise her chick – the rooster now known on this blog as Pip – was all it took.  I was bitten hard by the bug, and now wait with anticipation for the sign of broodies I can give eggs to.  There is something of wonder about watching a mother hen raise her Littles, seeing them explore the world at her side.  Learn and grow, and become a part of the flock.

I also like seeing the way genetics plays out in the 2nd Gen chicks.  I have a small group of ‘barnyard mix’ hens and two mix roosters who are all very unique in their looks and personalities.

So… anyway… I had five hens who started to act like they might go broody.  Penelope, Claire, Julia, Rapunzel and Pavelle.

Penelope an Julia really didn’t do anything.  They did that last year, too.  Walked around bucky for a week or so and then just stopped.   I don’t expect this year to be different.

Claire is STILL puffing up while she’s on a nest and sometimes while she is off it.  Given that she actually DID go broody last spring, I’m watching her closely.  She might.  And she was a good momma, so I would have no qualms about giving her eggs.

Rapunzel went HARD. Rapunzel is a Buff Orpington and Orpingtons are known to be goody broodies.  Rapunzel spent the least time ‘going through the motions’ and after a couple of “well, maybe” days, she hopped in a nest and committed to sitting on ceramic eggs.   She is very dedicated to them, and I’m going to let her stick with the ceramic eggs because I have special plan for her.  Little Dude is going to be doing an Embryology project for 4-H, which means we will be hatching eggs in an incubator and documenting every step of the way.   I have eggs coming from My Pet Chicken, because Little Dude wanted Barred Rocks.  So we have 4 Barred Rock eggs and 6 “assorted” eggs, which could be any breeds, coming later this week.  I’ve decided that I will be giving Rapunzel the chicks that hatch from those eggs.  Hopefully, she will accept them as her own.  Otherwise, I will have to put them in the brooder and raise them separate of the rest of the flock.

In the meantime, Pavelle is sitting on six eggs.  Three are hers, and three came from Padme, the little Easter Egger hen.  They are the smallest eggs I have, even though Pavelle is very impressive when she is puffed up and screaming at you, she is still a small hen.  Any of the babies she raised will be bigger than her at 6 weeks of age.

If anyone else goes broody in the between time – I’m looking at you, Claire – I will probably share the wealth, rather than give more eggs.  Claire, for example, could take on some of the 4-H babies, so Rapunzel, who is a new mother, doesn’t have to raise a potential ten babies on her own.  But that is a big IF that has a lot of variables.  IF Claire or anyone else goes broody in the next 3-4 weeks.  IF the incubation is successful and all the eggs hatch.  I’ve never used an incubator before and I’m borrowing one from DH’s aunt for the project.  So many variables.

In the last picture, you can see that Pavelle and ‘Punzel are in a prime location. Pavelle will steal eggs from the nests around her, and I constantly have to check underneath her for extras. Which is funny because one time, she had three extras and they were sticking out because she is so small they don’t all fit!

 


Pavelle

Rapunzel

My Boys 

Okay, so… last week, my hens decided it would be fun to do their dirt bathing in the ashes left over from the burn pile.   They came out of it covered in soot.  All the white hens were gray, all the  Sexlinks and RiRs were various shades “muddy” or “moldy.”  (I don’t know how to describe it.  They look bad.)  And even though it has rained the last few days, they still look filthy.  If I didn’t have so many of them, I’d be tempted to give baths.

But since the girls are unfit for pictures, we will have to make due with pictures of my boys.

Currently, there are four of them.

My handsome Double Dots, as you all know. He’s a golden sexlink, also called a Golden Comet.   I’ve talked about him before.  A lot.  Dots is the father of Pip….

… who was our first-hatch chick, and the oldest of the “2nd generation” flock.

They have an odd sort of relationship.   Pip has a lot of respect for his papa, which is probably good because he grew up alone, with no same-aged hatch mates to back him up when he stepped out of line. Dots and the Aunties (the others hens) put him in his place a lot from the age of 9-weeks to 1 year.

Now the Aunties kind of like and he and Dots work together to protect the flock.  They don’t fight, that I’ve seen anyway.  Dots does chase Pip, if he catches him mating or whatever, but it’s usually only a few feet and then he stops.   They tolerate each other on the roosts at night.

And they BOTH take Felix to task.

Felix (who used to be Felicia, but clearly is NOT a hen) is gen 3 for this rooster dynasty, as I believe he is Pip’s son, born of one of the Buff Orpingtons.  I only guess Buff Orp for the mama because he really isn’t red like the RiR-cross chicks.

image Let’s look at Dani (the red rooster show here), in comparison. This is a younger picture, but he was a deep deep red by the time he went to freezer camp.

Felix started out as a cinnamon colored chick, looked butter scotchy as a teen, and while his reds are coming out (Pip’s mother was RiR), he doesn’t have the same depth or shade of red as Dani.

And since we’ve established that Pip+Australorp gives me the Dalmies (Pongo and Perdie),that really only leaves my two Buff Orpingtons as potential mommas.

Felix has yet to find a place in the flock that suits him.  Both Dots and Pip chase him if goes after the ladies and tries to mate. Part of that is because Dots naturally assumes all the ladies are his, and part because the ladies don’t want to mate with Felix.  He chases, pulls neck feathers and is awkward. The girls run, squawk, and scream until Dots or Pip (or both) go after him.  In other words, he’s where Pip was last summer.  Poor boy.

Some of the bolder hens peck at him, especially at bed time, and I have cleaned and fixed up minor comb injuries as the result of their pecking.

Sadly, he kind of brings it on himself and I don’t know what to tell the poor kid.  Not that he’d 1) listen or 2) understand me, him being a chicken and all.  So he’s just going to muddle his way through this on his own.

At least until his fate is decided.

A friend of mine named him Felicia, and I think she would prefer I keep him around so she can see him the next time she visits.  I have talked to her about it and she has been trying to find a place for him somewhere near her (in Indiana)but let’s face it.  With the threat of avian flu, it’s not likely too many people will want a rooster from an unknown flock out of state.  Even a mostly tame one.

However, I’m included to keep him and see how it goes.  If he can find a balance with his papa and grandpapa (Pip and Dots respectively), and my hens don’t start getting over mated, then by all means… he could stay.  We’re talking about adding more babies later this spring anyway.  (More on that later.)

But there is this little (not so little) guy to consider.

Luke, formerly Leia. Who started crowing not to long ago and hasn’t stopped since.

I mentioned previously that Luke and his sister, Padme, where scared of going outside.   Padme has gotten over it.  She is finally starting to realize that she is a hen and should be outside doing Hen Things.

Luke?  He’s not too sure about this concept of outside hen things.  He will stay inside, sit on the roost and crow for her (or someone else) to join him.  He has a loud, bold as brass little “Ooo-oo-Oooo!” (Because it’s not quite an Rrr-r-Rrr yet.)  and sometime she does come back.   Sometimes he gives up and goes outside to find her.

What’s interesting to me is that Dots allows Luke to do his Ooo-oo-Ooo.

Last spring when little Black Jack was learning to crow (at 9 weeks, not 20 like Luke), Dots assumed it was a threat to his dominance and went on the offensive. I had to rehome little Jack just to keep him safe and ensure a peaceful integration.

But Luke,having been hatched by Abby, raised as a winter baby (like Pip), is not a stranger. He and Dots both crow for me every morning when I go to let them outside.  He crows for me (or, for his sister, or for whomever…) when he is in the coop… and sometimes when he is outside.  He crows more than Pip does.  And definitely more than Felix does.

I wonder if my scaredy little EE isn’t going to turn out to be more dominant of the 3 younger roosters?

Or if Dots just hasn’t noticed because he has been more focused on keeping Felix and Pip in their places?

I am hoping that things stay peaceful.   Again, we are talking about adding more chicks this year… Little Dude wants to hatch Barred Rocks for 4-H.  So if things stay peaceful, and the hens aren’t getting overmated… well, I’d like to keep all four of them as see how it goes

This past Fall, we sent Dani, plus Abby’s four young rooster (my Boys of Summer) to the Freezer Camp. I kept for a long while, hoping that someone would buy or otherwise take the Sumtaler’s off my hands.  But in the meantime, Dots and Pip got very spoiled by having a lot of ‘extra eyes’ watching over the girls.  There were roosters with hens everywhere.  So Dots could spend time with his favorite ladies and forget that he ‘had to chase Pip’ and yet, there was back up in case of unforeseen danger.

I have noticed since their departure from the flock, that Dots and Pip seemed to have their “hands” full with the ladies.  Both of them in the coop while most the hens were outside. Who’s looking after the ladies?

So I think that one or two more roosters won’t hurt, provided they all get along and don’t hurt the hens.  Currently, Felix spends a lot of time outside with the hens.  He is trying to impress them.  A couple of them will squat for him to mate with now.  Most of them still find him annoying.  But again, they thought the same things about Pip last year.

So we’re going to try it.  See how things go, and decide from there if the dynamics need to change or the flock needs thinning.

And now, because I can… here’s Luke making funny faces at the camera:

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Luke Crows

The little Easter Egger formerly known as Leia… was voted on and is now Luke.

The Easter Egger Curse

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’d know that DH and I have been on a quest for some time now in regards to Easter Eggers.   That is to say, we want them and they are eluding us.

All the EEs we have attempted to let Miss Abby brood have either died (infertile eggs, broken eggs, died after hatch, etc), disappeared (the two missing ones from this last hatch) or been a rooster (Esther).

I had boldly declared that these last two – whom I preemptively named Leia and Padme in honor of Little Dude’s Star Wars fixation – were being kept no matter what they turned out to be.  Boy,girl, hen, roo. Did not matter.  I was keeping them.

I am keeping them.  Both them.

Even though Leia decided to CROW at me this morning at breakfast time, crushing my hopes that she was just a tall henny.  But no.

My Leia is not Leia.   He is… TBD.  I guess we’re going to vote on a new name tonight at dinner.  Options are Luke, Han, Chewie, or (possibly) Anakin.   But no Darth Anything… I will NOT be raising little Sith Lords.

 

 

The Scaredy Babies

Abby’s little ‘egger babies’ (as I have affectionately called her Easter Egger chicks since they hatched in November) are babies no longer.  Sort of.

They are approaching 17 weeks now and, of all our chicks, are a bit antisocial and – dare I say it – scaredy cats.  Scaredy birds even.

What are they afraid of?  I’m not really sure.   The first and most logical answer is Double Dots and The Big Hens.  Because when they were little chicks, Momma taught them that The Big Hens were to be respected at a safe distance.  And Dots, while not necessarily mean, is big.  And BIG = Scary in little eyes.

Yeah, that makes sense.

But there is also the niggling memory of the two other Easter Egger babies.  The ones who vanished on the day Abby took her four little ones on their first outing into the Run.  She had been missing the outdoors and it was a nice, not cold, not rainy or snowy day and she went out, expecting her Littles to follow her.  I had taken a picture of them contemplating the door, but thought they wouldn’t go because they were afraid.  You could hear it in their voices.  Later, at lock up, I made the discovery that two of the babies were not there with Abby.  And the next day, I made an even worse discovery – blood droplets on the ramp of the run.  They had gone out.  And there had been Trouble.

No bodies.  No other signs of struggle.  But Abigail, the ever constant helicopter momma, kept her two remaining chicks close to her side and safe inside the coop for the rest of the winter.  Unlike Pip, her first winter baby, these two rarely saw the light of day unless it came through the coop window.  And then it got snowy and no one went out anyway.

Regardless, it’s almost spring now, and things are turning green, and Abby is off doing Hen Things and no longer mothering chicks.  So no one has told the Easter Eggers that it’s safe to go outside now.  Oh sure, they see everyone else rushing outside when I open the door to the run.  But do they follow?

Nope.

In fact, the only time these two go outdoors is when I pick their little butts up and carry them outside.  And when I do, they only stay outside if too many Big Hens are blocking their route back into the coop.  Because, it turns out that despite being almost as big as the rest of the flock now, they are still terrified of the Big Hens.

I have no real feelf or whether they are hens or roos.  I suspect hens, as there is a decided lack of saddle feathers, so I have been calling them Leia (the dark one) and Padme (the lighter one).  Because Little Dude wanted Star Wars names and I didn’t want to name them Darth Maul and Darth Vader.

However, more recently, my friendly little Leia has started to concern.  In rare video footage of them – gasp – outside, you can see Leia showing more of a rooster-like stance.

 

As the caption suggests, I can’t really tell.  Leia has roo-like qualities in this picture.  At 17 weeks, still no signs of saddle feathers, but she’s still taller and more upright than little Padme?  Could I have a little Luke or Chewbacca on my hands?

The Flock Update

Well, I promised an actual flock update, because I haven’t given one in a while.

There’s not much to say about the old ones.  They hate the nasty Cold White and some of them are still in various stages of molt.

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Like Amy,who waited until the week of Christmas to drop all her feathers at once.  You can’t see it from this picture,but her entire underside is BARE NAKED.  It happened over night.  She is currently in the prickly ‘porcupine’ stage.

Is this normal molting?  I envisioned them losing their feathers in October/November…not January! And yet, aside from Amy, I know I have at least four more hens who are in the midst of a slow molt.  Does it always take this long?  I’m so glad we haven’t have negative temperatures, because they would freeze!  Especially Amy!  I mean, look at her!

I’ve been feeding them Feather Fixer  mixed in with their regular food, because I heard it helps them molt quicker/get over it faster.  Whatever.  I don’t think its working. Or else it is working and they would be molting until June without it???  Again, is this normal for it so long???

Seriously,because I feel so bad for the poor cranky things!

Now…since it is cold and windy today, and the flock all opted to stay inside and bug me while I attempted to clean their beds and fill the feeding tubes, I did manage to get pictures of Ashley’s Babies.  They are eleven weeks old. as of yesterday.

The tricky part is that all the white ones – Max and the Dalmies – kind of remind me of Eugenie at that age.  She was big,had a slightly pink face, which stood because she is white, and I wasn’t sure at first if she was a henny or a slow-developing roo.  Keep that in mind as you look at the white chicks.  Feel free to click the pics to make them bigger.

Miracle Max

Max looked like a boy when he/she was little,but now I see inklings of a little hen.

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Max on the right.  Dalmie # 1 on the left. A behind view.

Dalmie #1

I think this is the same one I named Dalmie #1 in previous pics. Not sure.

Dalmie #2

Dalmie #2.

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Dalmie #2 (center) with Felicia and Pip

A gentle reminder that as per Twiglet’s comments on prior posts, we think Pip is the father of the Dalmies.

Felicia 

So… I’m betting anything that Felicia is really Felix.  If this chick starts laying eggs in the spring, I will be so surprised.

Well, that’s the scoop on Ashley’s Babies.   If you’re up for a game of “Henny or Roo?”  Feel free to take your best guesses in the comments.

ETA:  If anyone is interested in comparing these chicks to Dani and Eugenie at roughly the same age…

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Eugenie,of course, is the white one!

 

And now… here’s a special treat… Abby’s baby Easter Eggers.  The will be 8 weeks on Thursday.

These chicks don’t have names.  I’m trying not to name them until I know what they are.  That, and Little Dude wants to name them after Sith Lords.  And I don’t want an Easter Egger named Darth Maul.  *sigh*

The darker chick is smaller, really skittish and mouthy. Based on behavior alone, I think she’s a hen.  She is curious about me, but afraid to come close.  She likes treats and will eat out of my hand and then yell at me for more when I walk away.

The yellow/buff-ish one is bigger and less skittish, but standoffish.  Like a little rooster-in-training.  He also likes treats but doesn’t demand them, like his sibling.

Now… these chicks are staying.  When the other 2 vanished without a trace, I told DH that under no circumstances were we sending either of these to Freezer Camp if they were roosters.   Why?  Because he told me I could keep Esther if I really, really wanted, but I flip flopped, and then he said “well, you do have Abby’s 6 eggs.”  So I aired on the side of Abby having potentially 6 new EE chicks.

This is why you don’t count your chicks before they hatch, people.  Pavel hasn’t forgiven me for sending her favorite brother to Freezer Camp… and Abby only has two chicks.

So…unless the little yellow/buff one has major dominance issues with Dots and Pip, these chicks are here to stay.  No matter what.

I’ll end this post by pointing out anew section of the blog I’ve just started working on.  Meet The Chickens, a series of bio pages for my flock so that when I say  Dots, Abby, Jolene, Wilda… you know who I mean.  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but for various reasons, I just haven’t.  Mostly because I have over 30 birds at any given time and it’s hard to pinpoint their personalities at a glance.  Look for me to do a page or two a month, highlight each bird. Hopefully by the end of 2017, I’ll have gotten them all on there.   Right now, it’s just Dots.  🙂