More Co-parenting, Sort Of

This is just a brief update on the fate of Claire and the chicks of Baby Land.

The last time, I mentioned that Eugenie had gone back to Hen Things when the babies were 5 weeks old.

They are now 7 1/2 weeks old and Claire has yet to go back to Hen Things. She does wander away from them or them from her… occasionally. But for the most part, they are together. Just without Eugenie.

Not that you would notice a difference, because more recently, Pavelle and her baby AJ have been hanging out with them.

The older chicks treat AJ very well, and Claire seems to tolerate Pavelle so long as her babies don’t get pecked.

And then there was one…

Several weeks ago, I told you all about Claire and Eugenie, a mother-daughter duo who had decided to go broody and hatch eggs at the same time and how, after hatching, they endeavored to co-parent their four chicks. It was awkward at first, but as the weeks have progressed, we (the humans and the other chickens) have gotten used to the little collective of Six. Little Dude even nicknamed them Baby Land.

The chicks of Baby Land are five weeks old this week. They’ve had lots of teaching, lots of supervision, lots of protection.

Over the last couple of days, however, o e of their Mommas has started making the transition from Momma to Hen.

Eugenie, the daughter of the mother-daughter duo, has decided that three weeks of broody and five weeks of mothering is enough, and that, since her own mother is still willing to watch all four of the children, she can go back to doing Hen Things.

I first noticed her dirt bathing away from her chicks the other day. And other last couple days, she has not been hanging out with the collective in the pasture. Not did she sleep with them on the roosts last night.

She laid an egg this morning, too.

Claire is still going strong, though, for now, and will probably stick with the Littles for another week, at least.

She did, however, give me a very harried look last night, when instead of splitting the chicks with her daughter, she had four confused little ones trying to tuck up underneath her wings. I think she wound up sitting on one of them!

Time is running short for these Littles, though. Pretty soon, they will be all on their own.

Co-Parenting, Chicken Style

I’ve talked a lot about mother hens here on this blog. Go figure, huh?  We seem to always have baby chicks being hatched.  This spring/summer especially has been a boom of broody hens.  More than I’ve even mentioned, to be honest.

Pavelle, Rapunzel, Ashley, Tweety, Claire, Ashley (again), Eugenie, and Pavelle again.  Ashley got put in Broody Jail twice after her escapades in raising babies last year.   Poor Claire spent 6 weeks being broody because her first set of eggs didn’t hatch (some died, some were duds).

It’s Claire, along with her daughter from last year’s hatch, Eugenie, who are the subject of today’s post.

You see, when Claire lost the first set of eggs, I decided to give her new, because Claire is a proven good mother and I felt sorry for her losing her babies she worked so hard for.  Eugenie had started to go broody the day or two before and I was deciding what to do with her when I gave Claire her new eggs.

For whatever reason, I gave both of them four eggs each, for a total of eight chicks if they all hatched.

Last Wednesday night, the first chick began break out of his shell under Claire.  He was STILL breaking out of it Thursday morning when I returned to the coop to find Eugenie had two fluffy little chicks under her, and Claire had one more pipping.

By Friday morning, we had a total of four chicks, one dead EE (still in eggs) and two duds. ( and one which had been broken by Pavelle the week prior, because she decided she needed to go broody again,too, and needed to use Claire’s nest to do it.)

So… four babies, two mother hens.

I tried to put them in separate areas of the coop, but as has been the theme this year, the mommas’ both rejected my cat carriers in favor of the floor under the nesting boxes – – AND they decided to co-raise their four chicks together.

The first couple of days were rough all the way around. Both hens  were in extreme broody momma mode and in addition to chasing other chickens away from their wee little ones, Claire would lunge at Eugenie and chase her off, too.  Undaunted, Eugenie would com back, but had too much respect for her mother to chase back.

The other hens started laying eggs outside because it was too much drama to try and lay in the coop.

But as the weekend and the early part of this week progressed, mothers and babies fell into a rhythm that worked of all of them.

I’ve been amazed, watching them navigate a very confusing social situation.  Once the initial ‘turf wars’ were over and Claire accepted that Eugenie wasn’t going to give up her rights to her babies, they ironed out a system of rearing.  Co-parenting at it’s finest.

It began in the coop, with one mother sitting on some of the chicks while the other taught one or two to scratch and dig.  Then they would swap.

They babies usually sleep under Claire at night, while Eugenie sleeps in the nest above them.

Claire took the first brave chick outdoors at three days old, while Eugenie mothered the other three in the coop.

When all four babies were in the coop playing and eating, Claire would teach while Eugenie stood guard against threats (or perceived threats) from other hens.

After a few days, Claire got all four of them outside.  Eugenie followed and they took turns showing the babies how to dig in the dirt to find yummies.

When they go outside, one mother (usually Claire) leads them down the ramp and the other (usually Eugenie) follows behind the stragglers, ensuring that no baby is left behind.

The little yellow/cinnamon colored one likes to sit on both her/his mothers’ backs, which I read somewhere is a sign of love and affection.   Of belonging to that hen.   I guess that means the babies really do belong to both of them, no matter who they hatched under.

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

I’m not sure if I will ever let two hens hatch out at the same exact time again, but I have no regrets about letting Claire and her daughter raise these ones together. It’s working for them, strange as it may seem to us.

Eggy

Eggy, or the Egger Baby, is the last of Pavelle’s chicks.

He/she is the egg-child of Padme the Easter Egger and … well, I thought Pip, but now I’m not too sure about that.


So… what is it about Eggy that makes me suspect Pip might not be the father?

In short… color and personality.

Eggy here is a bright buff yellow, with only small EE cheeks.

 

So… mostly yellow chick with a yellow and black/brown momma.  Two potential fathers.

One rooster had an all yellow momma and a white papa?

The other rooster had a red momma and a white papa?

Going off looks alone, I’d have to guess Felix is Eggy’s baby daddy.

And then, there is personality.  Eggy is high strung, flighty, hard to catch, does not really relax in my hands like the other two do.

This describes Padme, yes, and could be an Easter Egger trait.  But it always describes Felix.  A lot.

Pip, not so much.  He didn’t like me pick up but when I did, he settled in because he trusted me.

Feather Butt trusts me.  Mini-Pav mostly trusts me.   Eggy is a frantic spaz.

So, based off personality, is this Pip’s chick? I don’t think so, but anything is possible.


Here is a recent shot of Momma and babies (and a fake egg that was in the nest with them).  They are 5 weeks old now and practically as big as she is!

They are also almost fully feathered out.


I believe that Pavelle will be pulling away from them soon.  Going back to doing Hen Things and not Momma things.  Today she seemed to be giving them space.  Still hanging with them – or allowing them to hang with her – but not really showing them things like she has in the past.  Letting them do their own thing.

Pavelle’s wee babies are growing up now.

Rainy Tuesday Update

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.

Dad wasn’t targeting the possum, because he read somewhere that they eat ticks. I don’t know if that’s true, but the DO eat eggs and young chicks, and can also kill adult chickens. I’m glad we are one possum less this week.

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.

Ashley decided to go broody, and spent most of the weekend in Broody Jail.

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.

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.  🙂

This is Feather Butt, aka The One With The Feathered Feet. If you look closely…

… I *think* Feather Butt might also have a mini-crest. It’s not as pronounced as Pavelle’s was, but it sure looks like one to me, there on the top of his/her head.

 

Happy 2nd Week-aVersary, little Pavelle-Babies!

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

Maicey Update 1 

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.

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This is how it looks this morning.  It appears to losing nicely and even though I haven’t treated it since last night, I was able to touch it without her showing signs of distress.

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 tunnels during 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.  🙂