A couple of weeks ago, a troubling thing happened.
I was standing in the barnyard observing my flock, as I am prone to do. Pavelle had her babies outside and I wanted to get pictures. Also, as I am prone to do.
The chickens were milling around about me, as they are prone to do.
I was holding my phone, paying more attention to Pavelle and her babies than anything else, when sudden my I heard flapping of wings and felt bird feet on the back of my head. A couple of seconds later, my head rooster, Dots, goes flying over top my head and lands on the ground next to me.
He flew at my head.
It was puzzling, to say the least. Was he attacking me? Trying to perch on my shoulder or head?
Needless to say I’ve been a little (a lot) more mindful of where he is in the barnyard when I am down there now.
And then… Yesterday it happened again. I was in the barnyard with my daughter, watching the chickens. She was holding her favorite hen. Dots was behind us on the barn stairs and suddenly starts flapping his wings and launches himself at me. He did not connect this time or get as high off the ground. But my Girl witnessed it and needless to say, we were both shocked.
This is a rooster I have raised from a baby. He usuallyets me pick him up, cuddle him, let him. He comes to the sound of his name. If I sit on the steps, he has been known to come and sit on my lap.
So, I ask myself, “what is going on with my handsome man?” Have I done something? Is he jealous of my attention paid to the younger roosters? Is he confused because I have lost 96 lbs and no longer look like the Mom who raised him?
Or is this a change in hormones or temperament?
He’s three years old, though and in that time, he has never been a bad rooster. He still is letting me pick him up and carrying him. Still likes pets, neck rubs and water massages.
I just don’t know what to make of this. I hope I don’t have to make a hard decision.
Three years ago today, I became the proud Chicken Momma to 20 little sexlinked chicks. Seventeen little yellow roo-lings and three sweet little hens.
Our brand new chicks.
Weren’t they cuties? Looking back on it, we are pretty sure that the little rooster napping on My Girl’s chest is no other than Double Dots himself. He still loves to be picked up and cuddled, my little lap rooster. I suspect he discovered his love of hugs on that first night.
Of those original twenty, only two remain… Double Dots and his sister, Abigail.
I’ve talked about them a lot, because no one has personality than these two, Dots is, of course, my main rooster. He’s is a fierce protector, a gentle lover of his ladies, and an all around lovable bird. Abby is the quintessential ‘mother hen’ and the boss of the flock. She let’s Dots ‘think’ he is, but really, it’s her and always has been.
Dots looking regal (with a Rhodie in the background)
I tried getting a picture of them together, but Abby kept walking off.
Or looking the other way.
There, finally! My beautiful little birds!
Here they are now, in pictures taken just this morning. For three, they are still healthy and happy, although Abby gets a little cross with the younger hens and Dots is always grumbling about the ‘little roosters’ who are helping him watch the flock.
Happy birthday, Abby and Dots! Here’s to many more!
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.
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.
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. 🙂
Because one of my readers asked for pictures of the Dalmies, I present to you…. three mostly white little hennies.
Perdie, who, as you see, got the most gray from her adventures in the ash pile. I got pictures of her investigating the nests and it apparently upset her routine, so she went back outside.
Pongo, who is slightly bigger than Perdie in build and has a bit more fluff in the trunk.
Pongo is also the more friendly of the two. Granted, Ashley raised them all to “hide because it’s safer” … but I can pet Pongo and Maxie. Perdie doesn’t really want me near her at all. She is very skittish, as is their hatch-brother, Felix.
Genetics… Pongo and Perdie are most likely Pip’s children, with Australorp mothers. They act a lot like my Australorps, and also the Orpingtons. Those two breeds are cousins of sorts, so I guess that makes sense.
They are the most dramatic when it comes to laying eggs. Often, they will go into several nests in search of the right one, announcing their displeasure at the rejected ones and complaining if their preferred is empty – for a very long time before settling on one. Or faking the Egg Song in an attempt to get someone out of the nest they want.
I’ve noticed the same behavior in the Orps and Lorps, where as my sexlinks (Abby and the Mystery Bin Girls) are very no-nonsense about it.
Maxie, on the other hand….
… she is a straight to business type of girl. More like Abby and the Mystery Bin Girls who jump into any available nest, lay their eggs and move on. Like I said, no-nonsense.
Given that Maxie is a mini-me of Dots, I’m guessing her egg donor was one of the sexlinks. She’s pretty and friendly, a little smaller than her sisters. Another indicator that she is a sexlink. Possible straight-on second generation if we assume Dots as the father.
Maxie was one of the few who avoided the ash pile altogether, so she isn’t even the least bit gray. Which makes her very smart, in my opinion.
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.
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: