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

Ashley’s Babies Have Names 

I’d like to formally introduce you to…

It’s true.  Felicia is growing more and more to look and act like a little roo-ling.  I just can’t bring myself to call him Felix, so Felicia he remains.

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Miracle Maxie

My little Miracle Max… or Maxie. Who looks scarily like a female version of Dots.

The Dalmies… so named because of their Dalmatian-esque color scheme… have been given Dalmatian worth names…  this one is Pongo, named after the father dog in 101 Dalmatians.   Pongo is mostly white,with the black spots on the back, tail and neck,but is growing up to have a slightly smokey grey color in the head and neck.

I am uncertain if Pongo is just in need of a bath or if this is a really cool color variant.  Since none of the others look dirty, I have to hope it’s the latter. 😉

Dalmie #2 is named after the female Dalmation… Perdita, or Perdie.   Like Pongo, she has black splotches on her back, neck and tail.  But rather than the smokey grey, Perdie has gold/red in her neck and chest feathers.   It’s really kind of neat!

The gold/red is the same color as my sexlinks… Abby and the Mystery Bin girls.  If we’re right in thinking that Pongo and Perdie are Pip’s babies, then this is his sexlink heritage coming out in Perdie.

Aren’t barnyard mixes interesting? You really never know what you’re going to get!

 

Busy Week

Well, last week was an extremely busy one, and not all of it was.

My aunt and uncle came to visit from Florida.  It was nice seeing them, but we were trying cram as much stuff into one visit as we could and it didn’t work out well.  Especially not with My Girl starting her first real job (as a hostess at a restaurant) and Little Dude having 4-H meetings and birthday parties.  So what honestly ended up happening was my Dad took his sister and her husband places and I ran my kids to their places and it was just wound up a crazy exhausting week.  For everyone.

In the middle of this, my former sister-in-law’s mother die.  It was sudden and not expected and my ex-sil was devastated, not to mention my niece and nephew.  Saturday was the funeral.  We all (mom, dad, my aunt and uncle, me, My Girl, and a fiend of my niece’s) pitched in to set up and run the after-funeral memorial luncheon.  It’s what families do.

Yesterday was DH’s 40th birthday.  We did a ‘cowboy’ theme, wore bandanas and cowboy hats.  It was simple, but great.

In the chicken world, we’re up to about 12-17 eggs a day now.  More of the younger girls are laying and the older ones are moving more fulling into molting. Yay, fun!

Dani and Eugenie are 8 weeks old today.

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8 weeks old!

 

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Dani, Eugenie, and their Momma

They don’t often hang out with their mother any more, but today when I was getting pictures of them, I did manage to catch a rare pic of the three of them by the waterer.   Mostly, they do their own thing now, which largely entails avoiding upsetting the older girls and hanging out together.

Sometimes, I find them both in the bushes with their big brother Pip.  I don’t know if they’re starting a club for former “Littles” or what but he tolerates them pretty well and doesn’t mind if they hang with him and his ladies.

Yes, Pip is getting his own ladies.  About 5 or 6 from what I can tell, who prefer him to Dots.  Yay, Pip! 🙂  His voice is also deepening.  He is growing up.

Pip also likes to help his mother with her new babies.  They are two weeks old now and I’ve seen Pip watching over them and teaching them how to scratch.

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Abby’s Littles, 2 weeks old

Well, here they all are…Abby’s littles one, at 2 weeks.  These are the ones who’ve survived so much just to get here.  Starting on the top row, we have Choc Orp #2, Choc Orp #1, Baby Sulmtaler #2,  (row 2) Pavel, Esther, and Baby Sulmtaler #1.  # indicates birth order.  Esther is the oldest.

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Esther, the Easter Egger baby

 

Little Dude says Esther is the easter egger’s name.  Regardless if it’s a boy or girl.  I’m hoping little girl, because I can’t keep them if they are boys.  I’m only allowed 2 roosters.  Dh’s edict.

But look at ‘Esther’s’ wings!  They are longer and more filled out than the rest of his/her siblings.

I’m beginning to see where some of what Abby did with Pip last winter was not just a winter thing, but how she is going to raise all her chicks.   She kept them all indoors for about a week (with the exception of the little choc orp who somehow got outside and stayed outdoors overnight).  Then she started encouraging them to come out.  The first handful of days, she couldn’t get them all to go back up the ramp after they’d come down it, so she would up sleeping on the steps at night with them until Little Dude and I came to lock up and then we would scoop her and her babies up and put them in the coop.

Sunday,she managed to take them in on her own before we got there.  🙂

Unlike Claire, who encouraged independence and exploration, Abby keeps her six remaining chicks close to her, secured in the weeds around the steps and in the run.  They don’t go much further than that, but she teaches them how to find things to eat by digging in the dirt and how to find shelter and shade in the weeds and tall grass.

No fence climbing or forays to the pond like Claire allowed Dani and Eugenie.

It’s amazing how different their mother styles are.

 

 

Number 5 is Alive

Does anyone remember that movie?   Just me?  Okay, well, then…

Today marks Dani and Eugenie’s 5th week-aversary.

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Claire’s Happy Little Family, week 5 🙂

Aren’t they the sweetest family, still?  Claire has truly surpassed my worries about her as a mother.  She is protective, yet lets her children have the space and independence to explore and learn on their own.   She teaches by showing once and then doing.

She apparently has help because some of the pullets (who still apparently think Claire is the Patron Saint of Young Chickens) have taken it upon themselves to watch over the babies.  As Eugenie still likes to wander off on her own sometimes and often confuses her momma with other Rhode Island Reds,  I guess this is a good thing that some of the pullets have appointed themselves to watch over and give guidance.  It’s sweet of them to repay Claire’s accidental protection with intentional.

It is still very hard to get pictures of both of these chicks.  Eugenie takes any attention I pay them as an attempt at picking her up and she will run for it.  But I did manage to get these of the happy little family.

Already at 5 weeks, most of their baby down is gone.  Eugenie is still a snowball.  Dani, a warm brown with white & tan feathers mixed in.

I am curious about how the next few weeks will go.  Dani and Eugenie, by virtue of it being summer time and not the dead of winter, have an entirely different relationship with their momma than Pip did with Abby.  They wander more, explore more. There’s more to eat, do and see.  They’ve already lost most of their baby fuzz and in that regard, they are ready to be free of momma.  But at 5 weeks, Claire is still putting them in bed in the coop by 5pm.  For all the freedom she gives them, bedtime is still very strict.  I can’t tell if either of them (or both) still sleep under her.  They returned to the maternity ward after their trial of the roosts.  I guess they prefer the solitude of the nest there to the crowded perches.  If I peek under the curtain – which I did yesterday – at least one of the chicks is sitting next to Claire, not under.

I wonder if Claire will push them away and out of the nest, return to her sisters, earlier than Abby did?  It’s summer, it’s warm.  They all won’t need to huddle and cuddle for body heat.  Or will they just slowly drift apart over the course of the summer, as age and more independence asserts itself?

Will the babies notice so much?  Or will they not care?  Pip stuck close to Abby most of the winter, even to the point of sitting in the nest beside her when she began laying eggs again and “baby sitting” her egg after to make certain no one touched his potential sibling.  It was hard to explain to him that momma didn’t need his help in the slightest.

How will these chicks be?

Adventures in Egg Laying

The Mystery Bin Chicks are growing up and trying new things.  They are seventeen and a half weeks old now, and I guess that it’s time.

The last time I posted, I mentioned that Stacey has been investigating all the laying boxes and making mini nests.

I got a cool video of her digging her way into one of the nests, building the sides up really high.  She likes deep beds she can hide in.

I posted it on Instagram but I will share here, too.

She went on to lay her first egg later that day.

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Stacey’s first egg. 🙂

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Stacey’s egg (right), Rhode Island Red egg (left)

Stacey is a neurotic new layer. Every morning she jumps into every single empty laying bed, fusses and digs and then hops out.  Nest after nest until, finally, she goes into the nest she laid her first egg in and lays the egg.  I don’t know what she’s looking for and not finding in those other nests, but it’s becoming her new morning ritual.

Sadly, in her attempts to find a good place to lay, she caused trouble I did not need.

I took Abby out of her broody bed, as usual, not thinking that anything would happen.  Stacey came along right behind me and jumped into Abby’s nest. She knocked one egg out of the nest (it broke) and stepped on another.  I got her out, put her in another bed with much scolding and went straight to find Abby, interrupted her dirt bath, and plopped her back on the nest.

Now, I’m not letting Abby out every morning any more.  Maybe every other day and during times when Stacey is done laying her egg.  I’m so heartbroken over the eggs lost.  Mickey and I had just candled them (yes, I broke down and bought a candler) to see if all the other badness could be overcome.  The only upside is that the eggs lost were two I had question marked because I didn’t think they were developing. I won’t, however, be risking any more eggs in that manner.

This morning, right around the same time Stacey was doing her morning bed inspections, one of the other little girls, Candy, climbed into a nest and began rearranging.

Again, I have video on Instagram.  Here it is…ourhappy homemaker.

I checked back later and found the tiniest little egg there.

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Candy’s First Egg

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Candy’s Egg (right), Stacey’s Egg (left)

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Candy’s egg (right), Stacey’s egg (middle), Rhode Island Red egg (left)

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Candy’s Egg (right), Rhode Island Red Egg (left)

No matter how you slice it, Candy’s egg is small.  🙂

Last but not least…

Here are some random visitors to the barnyard…

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A toad who’s been visiting the run. We usually find him on the side of the gate.

Flutter by Butterfly

Flutter by Butterfly

Happy Day, Pip, you are 4 Weeks old!

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Crazy, isn’t it?  Pip is getting so big!

 

Today marked Pip’s 4-week-aversary.  He/she spent it trying to avoid me picing him up for pictures and wandering around the barn yard with Abby (momma) and the rest of the flock.

 

Right now, as I type this, Pip is exploring the side barnyard, out by the silos and wood pile… again, with the whole flock.  He still keeps close to Abby and she is still being the good Momma who shows him stuff, but I can see where she is encouraging Pip to be a little more independent.

He caught a slug by himself this morning for breakfast.  All by himself.

Our Pip is growing up!

And because yesterday was Christmas… I have Christmas morning chicken pics…

The chickens got plain spaghetti noodles and meal worms in their treat dish for Christmas… and a suet cake in the coop.  They still have the suet cake, or what’s left of it.