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.
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.
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. 🙂
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…
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:
Stacey is still laying eggs. I’ve seen her.
She’s lost weight, and while she’s not starving, she’s a considerable size smaller than her same-breed, same-age flock mates.
She’s obsessive about this. Like OCD obsessive.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.