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.
I’ve talked a lot about mother hens here on this blog. Go figure, huh? We seem to always have baby chicks being hatched. This spring/summer especially has been a boom of broody hens. More than I’ve even mentioned, to be honest.
Pavelle, Rapunzel, Ashley, Tweety, Claire, Ashley (again), Eugenie, and Pavelle again. Ashley got put in Broody Jail twice after her escapades in raising babies last year. Poor Claire spent 6 weeks being broody because her first set of eggs didn’t hatch (some died, some were duds).
It’s Claire, along with her daughter from last year’s hatch, Eugenie, who are the subject of today’s post.
You see, when Claire lost the first set of eggs, I decided to give her new, because Claire is a proven good mother and I felt sorry for her losing her babies she worked so hard for. Eugenie had started to go broody the day or two before and I was deciding what to do with her when I gave Claire her new eggs.
For whatever reason, I gave both of them four eggs each, for a total of eight chicks if they all hatched.
Last Wednesday night, the first chick began break out of his shell under Claire. He was STILL breaking out of it Thursday morning when I returned to the coop to find Eugenie had two fluffy little chicks under her, and Claire had one more pipping.
By Friday morning, we had a total of four chicks, one dead EE (still in eggs) and two duds. ( and one which had been broken by Pavelle the week prior, because she decided she needed to go broody again,too, and needed to use Claire’s nest to do it.)
So… four babies, two mother hens.
I tried to put them in separate areas of the coop, but as has been the theme this year, the mommas’ both rejected my cat carriers in favor of the floor under the nesting boxes – – AND they decided to co-raise their four chicks together.
The first couple of days were rough all the way around. Both hens were in extreme broody momma mode and in addition to chasing other chickens away from their wee little ones, Claire would lunge at Eugenie and chase her off, too. Undaunted, Eugenie would com back, but had too much respect for her mother to chase back.
The other hens started laying eggs outside because it was too much drama to try and lay in the coop.
But as the weekend and the early part of this week progressed, mothers and babies fell into a rhythm that worked of all of them.
I’ve been amazed, watching them navigate a very confusing social situation. Once the initial ‘turf wars’ were over and Claire accepted that Eugenie wasn’t going to give up her rights to her babies, they ironed out a system of rearing. Co-parenting at it’s finest.
It began in the coop, with one mother sitting on some of the chicks while the other taught one or two to scratch and dig. Then they would swap.
They babies usually sleep under Claire at night, while Eugenie sleeps in the nest above them.
Claire took the first brave chick outdoors at three days old, while Eugenie mothered the other three in the coop.
When all four babies were in the coop playing and eating, Claire would teach while Eugenie stood guard against threats (or perceived threats) from other hens.
After a few days, Claire got all four of them outside. Eugenie followed and they took turns showing the babies how to dig in the dirt to find yummies.
When they go outside, one mother (usually Claire) leads them down the ramp and the other (usually Eugenie) follows behind the stragglers, ensuring that no baby is left behind.
The little yellow/cinnamon colored one likes to sit on both her/his mothers’ backs, which I read somewhere is a sign of love and affection. Of belonging to that hen. I guess that means the babies really do belong to both of them, no matter who they hatched under.
I’m not sure if I will ever let two hens hatch out at the same exact time again, but I have no regrets about letting Claire and her daughter raise these ones together. It’s working for them, strange as it may seem to us.
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. 🙂
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!
It’s Sunday and Maicey has been in the med cage since Friday afternoon, being treated for her wound – most likely a spur injury – with Scarlex oil , vitamin B and lots of rest away from the Boys.
It looks like her wound is healing nicely.
Compared to what it looked like Friday, I’m calling it good and on the mend.
As of last night, Maicey was back to acting like herself and not the scared little rabbit I described in the last post. She spent most of her exercise time trying to get back into the coop with the rest of the flock, as well as trying to fly into the rafters.
Because, let’s face it, chickens are social animals and she’s been kept away from her family. Even if it is for her own good. Which it is, because if we put her back with them before she is better healed, she could get re-injured.
As a compromise, I’ve decided to start letting her out into the tunnelsduring the day time. They were built, as you may recall, to help last spring’s brooder babies to integrate with the big ones. We had them split on the other half of the coop, and the tunnels gave them a place to go outside in a safe an protected environment until the Integration.
Mostly, now they are a place the chickens rarely go. A change of pace or a place to explore with curiosity.
But for Maicey, they could provide her with more space to walk in, a pace to dig and dirt bathe, green stuff to eat … and yes, access to her friends while she heals.
The curious thing is, her flock mates have kept her company today. A lot. I’ve been down to check on them several times this afternoon and there have been chickens in the run communing with her all morning.
Also, Dots got his mani-pedi today, too. I’ll post something about that later. 🙂