Winter Storm Stella 

At the beginning of this week, the east coast of the United States braced for the biggest snow storm of the year.  Winter Storm Stella.   It was compared, pretty much, to the Blizzard of 1993, I remember, because I was just turning 18 and preparing to spend Spring Break in Florida with my favorite aunt, who just happens to share the same birthday as mine.  I spent part of it being snowed in and the other part stuck at the airport with my grandfather, hoping my flight wouldn’t be cancelled.

It was.  He wound up getting me a new flight, so I could spend my 18th birthday with my Birthday Aunt.   I miss my grandpa.

Flash forward 24 years and here we are – Winter Storm Stella.

I feel like we were well prepared.  I bought extra chicken feed, wood chips and we had half a bale of straw.  Given that our coop is actually inside a retired dairy barn, they had plenty of buffering against the wind (which was considerable at times) and the most part, the chickens had all they needed.

This is the view of things Tuesday Morning, BEFORE it really got bad outside.  Snow had maybe only been falling a few hours.

Yikes! I know, right?

 

Our friendly neighborhood turkeys? Spent most of Tuesday hiding in the lilac bush. They have a roost in their owner’s barn, but that really didn’t seem to matter.  They did some wandering, looking for food in Mom’s bird feeders, and kept returning to the shelter of the lilac bush until the day started to turn into evening, and then they switched to the evergreen bushes on the other side of the house.

For a while there on Tuesday, I was afraid we were going to have to bring them into the garage overnight, but during a lull in the wind, they left us, flying off towards their own farm, and we did not see them again for the rest of the storm.

My chickens, spent the same two days safe and warm in their coops.  They got extra BOSS, warm spaghetti, and other good things to keep them happy… although, I did have to explain to Abby what was going on.  You see?  Abby is the boss and everyone knows it.  So when I showed up LATE on Tuesday morning, and didn’t let them outside, she started to scold me.  So I had to pick her up, carry her to the door and let her see the wind and the snow and after she’d seen enough, and was satisfied that I wasn’t just slacking my duties as a Chicken Mom, she stopped scolding and told the others to be calm about it, too.

Abby is a really good hen.  Smart.  I don’t know what she told them, but it worked and there really weren’t too many incidences to speak of. They even kept laying eggs, which I was concerned about, given the circumstances.

Here’s what it all looked like this morning, after 2 days of snow and wind and more snow.

And here are the chickens, safe and sound after being cooped up for two whole days.

I normally given them the option,but the way the wind was blowing, opening the door would have been a very bad idea. Very bad. So they were very pleased to see the light of day, feel the sun on their feathers and the wind in their feathers.

 

 

Snow Birds

I’m needing to post pictures of chickens doing Chicken Things today, and since the temperature decided to warm up and the wind isn’t blowing, they decided to oblige me.

I give you…the snow birds.

Chicks!

So here’s an update on all the chicks.   Abby’s and Ashley’s both.

So, I’ll start with Abby’s chicks.  Most of her eggs hatched yesterday, a day early.

Five of them hatched yesterday, and Abby held on to the other egg until mid morning and then she moved off the nest to eat and drink.  When she does that, I know the egg won’t hatch, so I removed it.

Of the five remaining babies, one of them passed sometime this afternoon.  I found it when I came back from grocery shopping.  Sad because it was the cutest one (IHMO) and the one I liked the looks of the best.

I am very disappointed about the little yellow-ish colored one. He was different looking from the others.

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Pip!

Okay, so Pip isn’t one of Abby’s new Littles, but he washer very first Little.  He spent most of yesterday going in and out of the coop, pacing and just seemed to be hanging out. He and Abby have a special bond. I have often observed that even though most people don’t give chickens credit for ‘family ties’ in the way we humans think of family, Pip and Abby seem to have it.  He has ‘helped’ watch after her other hatches, being the protective big brother to Pavel, Hershey and the Boys all summer.  He is respectful of her.  In my mind, he was pacing the coop yesterday because he could hear the change in her soft buck-bucks and hear the peeps of the babies,and he knew that his Momma was having her babies.

Today is a different story and he was outside helping Papa Dots watch over the flock!  But yesterday he was waiting to be a big brother again. Pip, btw, will be 1 year old on the 29th. Happy Birthday, Baby Boy!

Now… Ashley’s babies… some of whom could either be Pip’s little siblings or offspring depending on which hens mated with which rooster… are going to be four weeks old this Sunday.

They are STILL here. They are, however, very difficult to ‘pen down’ to get pictures of. Ashley has kind of reared them to be wild.   I walk out to watch them and they run as far away from me as they can.

I did manage to scoop them up and get some comparative pictures tonight, so we can see how they are, and make some early guesses on Hen or Roo.

First up here is Miracle Max.  Max is the biggest.  No longer yellow, he is mostly white, reminding me a lot of Eugenie.  He (I’m guessing Roo) has a big comb, which is already slightly pinkish and the beginnings of jowly wattles.

This one is is Dalmie #1.   She has a black spot on her back and a little higher up on her shoulders, otherwise all white. Smaller comb and almost non-existent wattles. She’s slim in body and has slightly more slender legs.

In case you can’t guess, I’m betting on a little henny with this one.

This is the Dalmie #2.  He has a big comb and the start of jowly wattles, but his comb isn’t as pink as Max’s.   He’s mostly white, but with a strip of black in his tail and a splotch of up in his hackle feathers.

I included a picture of his feet. Both of the Dalmie’s have slightly grey legs.  It’s like a combination of the Golden Comet yellow with the grey of the Australorp.   I’m willing to bet anything that the Dalmies are white Australorp crosses.

 

This is Felicia, aka the Cinnamon Bun.  I promised a friend I would name one Bye Felicia… and this is the one we chose to bear that name… and I can’t decide if Felicia is really Felicia…. or Felipe.   Smaller comb, but bigger than Dalmie #1’s.  Slightly noticeable jowls… but not quite.

This chick also is one of the bolder of the four, and I’ve seen him/her butt chests with Max.  That’s usually a sign of a boy, except that I’ve seen hens do it, too, even at that age.

Felicia is my Question Mark.  Hen, Roo… this chick is going to keep me guessing.

And while you all are guessing … here’s a video I took this morning of the four of them, plus Ashley, playing  a rousing game of “It’s mine! It’s mine!” with something they foraged out of the grass.

 

One of these days, I need to write down my thoughts on the different types of chicken parenting I have observed this year. Abby, Claire and Ashley each have exhibited vastly different styles of chick raising. Abby is a helicopter mom, always close to her chicks, always near by. Vicious if you threaten them. She isn’t afraid to lay into the hen or rooster who get close to her babies. She barely trusts me with them. Claire is an overseer, who leads her babies outside,demonstrates skills and watches them practice til they learn. She lets them roam, but guards the space she’s designated as theirs. No one goes in or out without her leave. Ashley is very hands off and scatter brained. Her babies follow her, learn from watching, but she often just wanders off and leaves them alone while she forages elsewhere. They freak out, cry and cry until she returns. Vastly different from my other mother hens.

Yes, that is a post for another day,when I have more time to collect and present my thoughts. 🙂

 

On this November Day

I have a lot of things to update on today.

I’ll start with Abby.  I reported earlier that she had gone broody while I was fussing over Ashley’s impending hatch date. I decided to order her some Easter Egger eggs to hatch, and they came from My Pet Chicken last Friday.

They shipped quickly, but got sent to the wrong post office, and almost went back to Harrisburg for re-distribution before I caught up with them. It would have taken another week to get them back, almost. Instead, I went to the post office they had been sent to, the next town over, and got them myself. Because there was no way I was making Abby stay on the fake egg longer than she needed to.

Yesterday marked Day 7. Next Friday, I will candle them and see how they are doing. Hopefully, they all will be okay, despite their weird shipping ordeals and the late fall conditions.

Now, onto sadder news…

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Stacey is STILL pacing.

It’s been months since I first reported the oddity of Pacing Stacey.  The situation has not changed.  I’ve tried quarantining her, putting her in a smaller cage so hopefully she won’t pace (she did anyway).  I’ve tried watching and frequently removing her from the coop.  I’ve asked on-line for advice.  And last week, I asked a vet.

The vet was astounded and said she has never heard of that before.  She is a chicken owner, too.  We tossed possibilities around and then she said that IF I brought Stacey in, the most they could do was prescribe antibiotics and hope for the best.  I told her I was thinking about euthanizing Stacey.  She understood, but added that if I decided to keep her over the winter, to let me know how things progress.

Things I know:

  1. Stacey is still laying eggs.  I’ve seen her.
  2. She’s lost weight, and while she’s not starving, she’s a considerable size smaller than her same-breed, same-age flock mates.
  3. She’s obsessive about this.  Like OCD obsessive.
  4. The other hens are getting annoyed with her and have started pecking her when she gets close to them.

I don’t see how #4 is going to change over the winter.  They will in closer quarters when they are trying to decide if they want to venture into the cold white and most of the older girls are molting.  They are cranky.  Stacey is annoying.  It’s a BAD combination.

Thus, I’ve decided the only course of action, after months of trying to figure this out, is to put us all out of her misery.  Euthanize.  Freezer Camp.  Whatever you want to call it.

I feel bad.  I wish I knew something else I could do to take this away from her.  Make her normal and happy again.  Since I cannot, I must do what’s right for the rest of the flock.

Freezer Camp has been scheduled for tomorrow.  Stacey isn’t the only one to go.  We will be saying good-bye to the Boys of Summer.  Dani, Esther, Snickers, Sumi and Taller.

There was a lot of debate in the last few weeks about keeping one of Abby’s boys.

Esther was the only Easter Egger.  But with Abby sitting on six EE eggs, chances of getting another EE roo are good, too.

Sumi and Taller, the Sulmtaler Brothers are a rare breed. I tried to sell them online, but no one wanted them.  Then I missed the animal swamp because of my daughter’s cross country meet. Apparently, there was someone there with same-age female Sulmtalers.  DH said I could keep one to breed with if I got a hen.

I didn’t get the hen because I missed the swap.

I might have kept Sumi anyway, except I accidentally terrified him a week and ago.  It’s a short story.  The temperatured drops so that it was switching between sleet and regular rain.  He and Esther were hiding under the ramp.  I tried to get them both into the coop, wearing my winter hoodie.  He’s afraid of me now… like total full on freak out afraid.  He flies into a tizzy if I get near him and runs away.

Snickers is a big beautiful beastie, all chocolate brown and fluff.  But he’s also a bit untamed and wild. Not mean, just untouchable.

However, Dani is at 22 weeks and the rest of the Boys are at 16 weeks.

And, as noted, most the older girls are molting and cranky.  Dots is molting and cranky.

I have one little momma and four wee ones.

And one broody sitting on six eggs,with two weeks to go.

I found blood on the window ledge today where someone was scrapping with someone else.

It’s time thin the flock.  It’s time for Freezer Camp.  So the Boys of Summer will be joining Stacey on her journey tomorrow.

I’m REALLY going to miss them.  We’ve been having crowing concerts the last few mornings and afternoons.  Little roosters have such personality and do such amusing things.  Not to mention being beautiful.  Even Dani, who’s looks I wasn’t impressed with at first, has grown into a handsome, handsome mutt.  He’s tall like his papa and brother, and looks like bulkier.  Also, if we kept him, I think he’s more dominant than Pip.  Pip is definitely NOT an alpha.  Dani is.

Here is a good video of Snickers and some of the boys. I took a few more yesterday and the day before, I’ll most them to my Instagram later. There will be available here… or via the sidebar on this page.

Not many pictures of Stacey. All she really does anymore is pace. It’s sad.

Miracle Max’s Greatest Miracle Yet – A special Week-a-Versary

So last night, I reported that Ashley’s chicks had vanished and were not in the coop, unable to be found and I was certain they were dead.

This morning, I went to the coop with a heavy heart, intending to feed and let the bigger chickens outside, go about my routine and then search for little yellow bodies in the wet grass.  I was met by Dots and his sons crowing in unison, and the sound of Ashley buck-bucking because she still thought she was mother hen.  I felt sorry for her because she didn’t realize she had lost her wee ones.

Outside, I heard chirping, but I thought it was wild birds enjoying the sunshine after yesterday’s rain.

So I filled the food dish to take outside and opened up the barn doors — and nearly dropped it when saw three little chicks on the steps.  Miracle Max, one of the little spotted Dalmation babies, and the peachy-red one I’m calling Cinnamon Bun.

 

 

Ashley reunited with the first three babies.

I reunited them, got them food and water, and went to send my DH and My Girl a text message so they would know the good news.

When I returned to the task of feeding the chickens, I found this…

The fourth baby, a little Dalmie.

He was standing on the steps with Pavel, cheeping and looking a little lost. I scooped him up and happily brought him to his mother and siblings.

All four babies together.

 

I truly named Miracle Max correctly.  I did not, could not hope for this ending to last night’s horror story.  But there they are… all four babies, safe and sound.

I’m going to be observing Ashley.  I know it’s hard taking multiple chicks outside for the first time.  Abby had a difficult time with her six summer babies.  They couldn’t negotiate the ramp, she couldn’t herd them all together.  I found her several times sleeping with them on the steps.  But it was raining last night and Ashley might erred on the side of ‘get out of the rain’ and didn’t realize her babies had not followed.  Then it got dark in the coop and she tucked in for the night, got broody tranked and didn’t realize.  This morning, she was flipping out buck-bucking.  If they get a little bigger, they can do the ramp on their own without too much help.

But if she can’t take care of them, they might have to go to the brooder box for the next  few weeks and Ashley may go on the “No Eggs Ever” list.

We’ll just have to see how the next couple of days go.

R.I.P Little Ones, Where Ever You Are

ETA: We found them! They are alive!!!
Today is a bittersweet day at house.  My husband and I took a leap of faith a few weeks ago and decided to become members of the church we’ve been attending.

Today, during the church service, we and 5 others were formally recognized and welcomed by the rest of the church.    It’s the beginning of a new journey for us.

Later on this same afternoon, My Girl took and passed her driver’s test.  She is now a licensed driver, according to the great state of Pennsylvania.   It’s the beginning of a new journey in her life, too.

And, as the title of this post suggests, my coop is missing some of it’s flock members tonight.

Ashley’s babies Littles,who just this morning celebrated their 1-week birthday, are gone.  All of them.  Vanished without a trace.

It’s been raining.  And they’ve been refusing to go outside, even though Ashley has tried a couple times to coax them out.  Mostly, they’ve hung out in the coop.  And it’s been raining today.

They were in the coop this morning, when Little Dude and I went down to feed and open the door so the Big Hens could go outside.  We cleaned up, gave everyone water and food and played a little with the chicks.  Then we went to get breakfast and headed off to church.

DH and I had a bible study at 6pm, so we left Little Dude with my mom and dad.  He knows what to do to lock up and collect last minute eggs.  We got a call shortly after, from my mom.  Little Dude was panicking.  He couldn’t find them  Ashley was there, “sitting” on nothing because she is still in broody momma mode.  But the babies are gone.

While we were gone, Mom, Dad and Little Dude searched for them in the dark and in the rain.

When DH and I got home about 45 minutes later, we also searched.  Everywhere we could with flashlights.  I checked the bedding, the run, the coop, the tunnels, the bushes and the truck cab.  In the dark, in the rain.

There’s simply no sign of them at all.  😦

I’m going to look for bodies in the morning.  Just in case I missed them in the darkness.   But at this point, I have to give up hopes of finding live chicks.  They need a momma’s body heat to keep warm, and it’s been too long.

Here is the last video I took of them, taken yesterday morning.

Rest in Peace, wee little ones. Maxie, Cinnamon Bun and the Dalmies. Sweet babies taken too soon.

ETA: We found them! They are alive!!!

First Look at the Babies

Yesterday, Ashley the Australorp became a mother.

This is the first little one I saw.  You can’t tell, but it has black spots on it’s back.
And peeking out from behind, a little yellow one with no black on it.  (Possible Buff Orp)
A 3rd with a cinnamon red color.  Possible RiR, Possible sexlink/comet.  Really could be the sexlink because the RiRs tend to be darker.  And look!  You can see the black spots on the first chick!

I wound up with a fourth chick as of last night, also yellow with black spots.  Two more eggs to account for, but today is the actual hatch date, so it could take a day or two for them to hatch.

In the meantime, here’s a video of yesterday’s four, being cute:

 

And Ashley being the cross-momma because I was messing with her babies:

I’m headed down there right now to feed and check on the current baby situation.  Here’s hoping for more chicks and momma who wants to be the momma. *crosses fingers*

It’s October, Already?

I’m honestly not sure where August and September when. One minute, I’m helping Little Dude with his 4-H projects and the next minute, school is starting, then both my children had their sport seasons start AND the garden started booming.

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These pictures are from last week.  The green beans are still flowering and still producing.   The carrots are doing well, too.  I’ve been slowly harvesting them, cutting into cubes and freezing for soups and stuff over the winter.

The cabbages did well.  I harvested, and discovered that if I left the plant in the ground rather than did the roots up, they will start growing a new head.  I don’t think any of them will be big enough to harvest before frost, but the chickens might enjoy them?

I had decent luck with the broccoli, too.  I need to check them again, but I suspect they will slow down eventually.

I’m waiting to harvest the potatoes and sweet potato. Also, the brussel sprouts, which I’m not sure what to do with.  I’ll probably Youtube “how to harvest brussells sprouts” soon.

Over all, I’m very proud of my experimental garden.  I’m already planning for next year.

Dad’s tomatoes, though… those things were the best.  So far, we’ve done over 30 quarts of whole tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, home made ketchup (first time ever), salsa, chili and home made tomato soup (also a first time ever).  The soup and ketchup were my idea and I can just say — yum!!!

 

And, of course, since this is my ‘chicken blog’ I have to talk about the chickens.  🙂

I have a lot of videos and kooky pics up on my Instagram.

The older ladies and Dots are all in various stages of molting.  Some of them look rougher than others.  Some of them (Abby, for example) barely looking like they’ve lost any feathers at all.  But the over abundance of feathers everywhere is a testament that they are molting.

When does this end?  Winter is fast approaching and I’m looking at my semi-balding birds and thinking “they will freeze!”  And “I can’t knit so so no chicken sweaters!”  Especially not for 30+ birds.

Actually, I am NOT an advocate of chicken sweaters.  They are bad for our birds.  Cute, but bad.  Just say no. Okay?

All the babies are getting bigger.

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Dani and Eugenie.

 

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Pavel or… Pavelle … or who, I have been assured by someone on Instagram is, in fact, a pretty little girl.  🙂  She’s sweet and intelligent and loves to ride on my shoulder and ‘talk’ to me.

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“Esther” who is NOT a girl, but a handsome little cockerel.  I’m torn between renaming him Eddie or simply shortening Esther to Es.

I’m in the process of negotiating with my DH to let me keep him, along with Dots and Pip.  We have enough hens to justify three roosters and Esther is the low boy on the totem pole.  He might fit in just fine.   Plus,I read somewhere that an Easter Egger + a brown-egg layer will produce Olive egg layers.  IF  Es were to mate and I were to hatch those babies, I could potential have olive green eggs some day?

DH is thinking about it.  He wants Easter Eggers.  Es is our only survivor.  It could happen.

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The Sulmtaler Brothers.  I call them Sumi and Taller.  I shouldn’t name them.  If I can’t sell them, they are off to Freezer Camp by the end of November.  But they’re so cute.  And Sumi crows better than Dani does!

The chocolate orps (whom I have no pictures of because they won’t hold still for me) are boy & girl.  The little roo, I call Snickers.  He’s cocky and I think he’s been trying to establish dominance over Sumi.  They’ve been squabbling.   He also tried to mate with an Australorp yesterday. I wish I’d gotten a video of that because she went off on him, claws up and everything.  All the rest of my hens are pretty docile so I’ve never seen that happen before.

The hen is Hershey.  She is sweet, but standoff-ish.  She likes her privacy.

 

 

As the instagram caption says, Stacey as has been acting weird.  She paces the coop ALL DAY.  Always.  It looks like she’s looking for a nest box, but she never gets in one.  I don’t know what’s actually going on and Google is not my friend.

This is Ashley. Aka Ashe… some of you may remember Ashe was the little Australorp who kept the injured Baby company when they were chicks.   She is going to be a momma in about 2 1/2 weeks.  🙂  It will probably be my last Broody of the year, as winter is approaching.

If it’s not molting, it’s…

… ??

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the last week or better.  But here, for you, dear readers, I’ll back track…

It’s summer, it’s hot and yucky and I have been under the assumption that my older chickens began their molt early due to the heat.  Is that a thing?  I don’t know, but they are looking ragged, and several have stopped laying.

Double Dots, who is my easiest to catch loves to be held, had spots on his legs that felt like new feather coming in.  Hard, pokey new feathers.  I looked into the fluff on his legs and saw feather shafts with raised red skin around it.

Being new to chickens, and never having had any molt before, I assumed that the first adult molt made them irritated.

It turns out, as I have read in several sources, molting does NOT cause irritation.

So what do I have going on in my flock?

I have spent the last week and a half searching the internet, skulking in the Backyard Chickens forum, and the best I can come up with is mites or lice.  Or extreme picking and feather pulling.

Dots appears to have the worst of it.  His butt below his vent is awful looking, red, uber-irritated.

I diligently checked all the other chickens, young and old.  There’s a few with minor signs of the same vent irritation.  Pip has minor signs around his vent.  Not anywhere as bad as Dots.

However, given that Dots is the Head Rooster of this flock and he like to mate with his hens frequently, he could spread them?  Also, where is he getting them from?  What about Abby and Claire, my two broody hens?  Broody hens are susceptible to lice and mites because they sit and don’t go outside to dust bathe as often.

For anyone interested, Backyard Chickens has a lovely and informative guide to Mites and Lice.    Their forum is also full of good threads on what to do.  I spent a good amount of time there this week trying to figure this out, and make a plan of attack.

Ordinarily, I would have gone to The Chicken Chick or Fresh Eggs Daily first, but on this, I find myself unsure of the advice.  One of them supports natural/herbal remedies and the other says that herbs will not get rid of mites and lice.

So I’m going with Backyard Chickens on this one.

My plan of attack is a 5 Step program.

  1.  Clean the ENTIRE coop and beds.   Little Dude and I did it this morning, much to the chagrin of my little hennies who just wanted a nice bed of wood shavings and straw to lay their eggs in.
  2. Spray EVERYTHING in mite spray.   I’m using Gordon’s Goat and Sheep spray.    The inside label says you can use it goats, sheep, cattle, horses, and poultry.  It says, in reference to poultry, to spray it on the roosts, beds and walls of the coop (I did the floors, too) and even spray a fine mist of it over your birds.  (I did not do that.)
  3. Put down clean bedding.  I just did wood shavings.  See Step 5 for why.
  4. Powder Chickens.  This step is a bit controversial.  BYC and other sources list Sevin dust as a good method of killing mites and lice and other external parasites on your chickens.  It’s safe for the chickens, and like the mite spray ( step 2), you don’t have to withhold eggs.  However, Sevin dust also kills bees.  A lot of people are opposed to chemicals that kill the honey bees.  If you’re interested in knowing, you’re supposed to put the Sevin dust inside a knee high (panty hose) and tie a knot in it to create a powder puff. Then pick up you chicken, hold them tucked up in under your arm, slightly upside down, and powder their butts near the vent.  It’s best to do this at bed time, so you can just pick your chickens off the roost (as opposed to chasing them around).   Little Dude and I will be doing this tonight at lock up.
  5. Repeat Steps 1-4 in 7 days.    Repeating will kill any mites or lice that hatched after the first treatment.  This step is also the reason I only put in wood shavings and not fresh straw in the beds.  We took out 7 wheel barrow loads of bedding while cleaning the coop.  In 7 days, I don’t want to relive that.

I am super concerned about Abby and her Littles, though.  I’m not sure how the Sevin dust will effect them.  However, whatever is bugging the big chickens could kill them, so it needs to be done.

Now, the chickens were only concerned with where their straw beds went, how soon they’d return and OMG! Mommy locked us out of the coop!

And when I finally did let them back into the coop, I have 12 of them trying to lay eggs all at once.  The various renditions of the Egg Song were deafening.  Poor girls!

And then, there was this…

I don’t know what it was about, but Cinderella and Rapunzel seemed very freaked out by the straw-less beds and Pip was pretending to be Prince Charming and checked them out for safety measures.

Chickens are so weird sometimes.

 

Broody Watch 12.1 – Baby Picspam

Well, all but one of the eight remaining eggs has hatched.  It might just be time for some picspam of Abby and her Wee Ones.  🙂

And while I was there taking the last pictures, Little Dude and I got to witness the last baby Sulmtaler being born.  🙂

Still waiting on the last Easter Egg to pip and hatch. I hope it does, because that would be awesome to have 2 of them. 🙂