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!
We had new baby chicks hatched this week, from Monday – Wednesday, but I haven’t posted pictures yet. Why not? Because there was a mix up at My Pet Chicken in the labeling of the eggs and until this afternoon, we didn’t know what kind of chicks we actually had! And there are still two unaccounted-for chicks. The good people at My Pet Chicken have reached out to the breeder to discover what they might be… with help from pictures I provided of the chicks and their eggs.
I have that lovely maternity box we made for the broodies out of a repurposed cabinet. I put her in it. She and the chicks spent one night in there and then Rapunzel decided to move them outside, into a corner on the floor. After fighting with her for two days, I gave up and have decided that she’s going to raise them her way, whether I like it or not.
Pavelle also rejected the cat carrier, btw, and has her babies sleeping in one of the laying boxes at night.
This kind of ‘immersion rearing’ kind of baffles me because Abby, Claire and Ashley ALL wanted to hide their chicks away from everyone, so they welcomed the special areas I made for them.
These two broody mommas? Want nothing to do with it.
So instead… I put out a bigger feeder for the chick feeder, a second waterer and put some straw down so Rapunzel could make a nicer nest of her own design… and took this video of Pavelle’s little Feather Butt meeting his/her little ‘cousins’ for the first time.
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. 🙂
Proof that Pavelle and the Mini-Me look alike. On the left… Abby, with wee little Pavelle sitting in front. On the right… Pavelle and Mini-Me.
The two remaining Easter Eggs have not done anything. I tell myself that today is Day 21 and official Hatch Day, so they could still do something, but there aren’t even pips, and Pavelle has pushed them to the back of the nest. I’m thinking these three might be it, but I’m willing to give it another day just in case.
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!
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.
Spring is beginning to look like a reality here in northern Pennsylvana. The snow from our mid-March blowout is starting to melt, the grass is turning green, there were robins in the front yard… and the chickens had gone from 5-9 eggs a day (January/Feb) to 18-22 eggs a day. My average for the month is 17.something per day. I have few who stagger, so it’s highly possible every one is laying.
The next thing you know *cough*it’s already happened*cough* someone will go broody.
I have this vision in my head of the ultimate chicken coop. Sadly, I have a limited space to work with in the barn. My own allotted chicken space and that’s it. Unless I convince DH to build a second coop, we’re pretty much working with that same space. But I’m constantly trying work in changes and tweaks that might result in something closer to the ideal of my imagination.
We’ve been remodeling the house, and last spring, we did the kitchen, tearing out all the old cabinetry that has been there for close to 40 years.
This full sized until had an old dual oven in the empty spaces. Today, I gotto looking at it and realized that it would make a good ‘maternity suite.’ Kind of like last year’s ideas to put them under the laying beds, or the cat carrier idea (which worked, although it was cramped due to height constraints.)
But this? Could be ideal because could remove the doors, hang curtains for privacy and it was was wide inside to put both a decent sized nest AND a feeder/waterer.
After getting permission from Dad (whose cabinet it is) and asking DH to cut it down, this is what we came up with:
And… as luck seems to have it, I might actually have a broody hen.
This is Maicey. She is My Girl’s favorite hen out of all the others. Maicey has never gone broody before, but it sure looks like it. I’m going to give her a couple of days to see is she sticks with it and give her some of the barnyard mix. I’ve saved out one of Abby’s and Hershey’s (I was there when they laid them luckily) and hopefully some of Pavelle’s. I don’t buy specialty eggs (from breeders or hatchery) for new broodies. Too much of a chance they will be like Ashley, or mean to the babies.
If she stays broody, Maicey will be the first to try out the new broody accommodations.