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!

The Flock Update

Well, I promised an actual flock update, because I haven’t given one in a while.

There’s not much to say about the old ones.  They hate the nasty Cold White and some of them are still in various stages of molt.

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Like Amy,who waited until the week of Christmas to drop all her feathers at once.  You can’t see it from this picture,but her entire underside is BARE NAKED.  It happened over night.  She is currently in the prickly ‘porcupine’ stage.

Is this normal molting?  I envisioned them losing their feathers in October/November…not January! And yet, aside from Amy, I know I have at least four more hens who are in the midst of a slow molt.  Does it always take this long?  I’m so glad we haven’t have negative temperatures, because they would freeze!  Especially Amy!  I mean, look at her!

I’ve been feeding them Feather Fixer  mixed in with their regular food, because I heard it helps them molt quicker/get over it faster.  Whatever.  I don’t think its working. Or else it is working and they would be molting until June without it???  Again, is this normal for it so long???

Seriously,because I feel so bad for the poor cranky things!

Now…since it is cold and windy today, and the flock all opted to stay inside and bug me while I attempted to clean their beds and fill the feeding tubes, I did manage to get pictures of Ashley’s Babies.  They are eleven weeks old. as of yesterday.

The tricky part is that all the white ones – Max and the Dalmies – kind of remind me of Eugenie at that age.  She was big,had a slightly pink face, which stood because she is white, and I wasn’t sure at first if she was a henny or a slow-developing roo.  Keep that in mind as you look at the white chicks.  Feel free to click the pics to make them bigger.

Miracle Max

Max looked like a boy when he/she was little,but now I see inklings of a little hen.

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Max on the right.  Dalmie # 1 on the left. A behind view.

Dalmie #1

I think this is the same one I named Dalmie #1 in previous pics. Not sure.

Dalmie #2

Dalmie #2.

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Dalmie #2 (center) with Felicia and Pip

A gentle reminder that as per Twiglet’s comments on prior posts, we think Pip is the father of the Dalmies.

Felicia 

So… I’m betting anything that Felicia is really Felix.  If this chick starts laying eggs in the spring, I will be so surprised.

Well, that’s the scoop on Ashley’s Babies.   If you’re up for a game of “Henny or Roo?”  Feel free to take your best guesses in the comments.

ETA:  If anyone is interested in comparing these chicks to Dani and Eugenie at roughly the same age…

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Eugenie,of course, is the white one!

 

And now… here’s a special treat… Abby’s baby Easter Eggers.  The will be 8 weeks on Thursday.

These chicks don’t have names.  I’m trying not to name them until I know what they are.  That, and Little Dude wants to name them after Sith Lords.  And I don’t want an Easter Egger named Darth Maul.  *sigh*

The darker chick is smaller, really skittish and mouthy. Based on behavior alone, I think she’s a hen.  She is curious about me, but afraid to come close.  She likes treats and will eat out of my hand and then yell at me for more when I walk away.

The yellow/buff-ish one is bigger and less skittish, but standoffish.  Like a little rooster-in-training.  He also likes treats but doesn’t demand them, like his sibling.

Now… these chicks are staying.  When the other 2 vanished without a trace, I told DH that under no circumstances were we sending either of these to Freezer Camp if they were roosters.   Why?  Because he told me I could keep Esther if I really, really wanted, but I flip flopped, and then he said “well, you do have Abby’s 6 eggs.”  So I aired on the side of Abby having potentially 6 new EE chicks.

This is why you don’t count your chicks before they hatch, people.  Pavel hasn’t forgiven me for sending her favorite brother to Freezer Camp… and Abby only has two chicks.

So…unless the little yellow/buff one has major dominance issues with Dots and Pip, these chicks are here to stay.  No matter what.

I’ll end this post by pointing out anew section of the blog I’ve just started working on.  Meet The Chickens, a series of bio pages for my flock so that when I say  Dots, Abby, Jolene, Wilda… you know who I mean.  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but for various reasons, I just haven’t.  Mostly because I have over 30 birds at any given time and it’s hard to pinpoint their personalities at a glance.  Look for me to do a page or two a month, highlight each bird. Hopefully by the end of 2017, I’ll have gotten them all on there.   Right now, it’s just Dots.  🙂

When Motherhood Grows On You

Well, Ashley’s babies turned the infamous “6 Weeks” on Sunday.   In terms of the flock, they are now old enough to fend for themselves and Ashley can start considering loosening the apron strings and return to doing Hen Things.

There are two ironies in that statement.  The first being Ashley’s babies have been, in a matter of speaking, fending for themselves all along. Not one, but two nights spent out of doors huddling together under the barn for warmth and shelter.  Having a momma who invariably failed to keep the other chickens from chasing them, whose survival method amounted to “let’s just hide in the cat carrier a little longer, and the big hens will go away.”

Second irony –  now that they’re old enough to NOT need her, Ashley is suddenly stepping up her game as a Momma.  She’s more protective, attentive, is STILL letting them try to fit under her wings at night (it looks ridiculous!), searches for them if they get separated from her or each other… all the things she wasn’t doing a few short weeks ago.

Not a ‘natural born mother’ like Abby or Claire, but still, it’s somehow managed to grow on her.  And she, in turn, has managed to raise her four wee babes up to be young chickens in training.  Six weeks old!  I honestly did NOT think, given their rocky start with her, that they would make it this far.

Here they are (above) back on November 20th.  This is the first time they spent the night up top of the beds rather than in the cat carrier.  I’m sure it was getting cramped for the five of them anyway,but at this point, they were still using it as a shelter from the Big Hens in the day time.

However, after a few days, I removed it because it became clear that they weren’t using it to sleep in at night and were ready to join the rest of the flock.

This was, also, the odd point at which Ashley started actually mothering them.  It’s like she suddenly realized that “omg! my babies are growing up!  I have so little time with them!  MUST DO MOMMA THINGS!”

And “do Momma Things” she certainly has!   She’s even navigating the waters of sharing the coop with Abby and her wee little chicks without turf wars.  It’s been interesting to watch her transition from a hen I wasn’t sure should be a mother into a pretty okay protector.   She’s still teaching them foraging, how to seek safety and stuff like that. She’s just much more attentive about it now than she was back in October.

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Ashley, Max, Dalmies #1 & #2, and Felicia huddling in the cold this morning.

I’m not sure where this leaves me in my previous assessment of her mothering skills.   Has her failings as a mother hen been because she is a young hen, not high up in the pecking order and certainly not confident enough to peck at the hens who chased or otherwise went after her babies?  She’s gotten better in the last two weeks. Is that because she’s also maturing right along side her babies?   Will she be the same way with another set of babies, should she go broody again?   Or should I continue to be leery of letting her have eggs?

Certainly humans learn and mature as parents right alongside our children. No one denies us the right to have them based on ‘first time parenting mistakes.’  Is this something I should give the chickened -the benefit of the doubt?

(Ideally, it’s a moot issue unless she goes broody again.  Which is possible.  Abby’s on her 4th broody and Claire keeps thinking about it,but I keep taking eggs away from her.  It’s too cold now for little little chicks.)

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. 🙂

 

Picspam to Keep Me Busy

Yesterday was Day 19, aka Lockdown Day for Abby and her little clutch of blue eggs.  (Easter Eggers -Wee!)  I’m getting anxious about it.  I can’t wait to see how many hatch and what they look like. I’m hoping for different colors and hopefully… sweet little girls.

While we wait… some picspam from the pasture.

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Pavel…Pavelle…perching in the “clubhouse”tree. She really is a pretty little bird.

 

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.