On April 11, 2015, I became a first time chicken momma to seventeen little yellow rooster chicks, and their three little brown&yellow sisters. It’s been five years since then, and a lot has happened. I’ve seen chickens come and go, added a lot of different breeds, and watched mother hens hatch out lots of babies.
We still have one of the original flock, our beloved Double Dots, who celebrated his first birthday without his sister this year. She would have enjoyed the day. It was warm, with sunshine and new green grass. Dots enjoyed but for her.
He is starting to show his age. His crow sounds like that of a little old man. The feathers around his face seem more white (gray hair, chicken style?) than they used to be. But he still walks around the coop/run/pasture with an air of purpose band and determination.
On May 5th, the handful of Rhode Island Reds we have left from our second round flock will also turn five.
Happy birthday (belated and early) to all my birds!
It’s been a stressful week.
I’ve suspected for a while that someone (or more than one some one) has been picking on my Silkie rooster, Frost.
Frost is a timid little guy, smaller than my other roosters and a bit of a loner. Lately, he’s been hanging out a lot by himself. I’ve wondered at it, but with my new, full time job, I haven’t had a lot of time to sit and observe what’s going on. However, with Covid-19 shutting down basically every thing, I find myself on an every other day work schedule and time to watch them.
I still couldn’t pinpoint who was picking on him, but you know how it goes… Sometimes when one does to, more if them will, too.
Frost started hiding in the duck house and I’d have to put him in at night.
And then last night, I found him there, huddled in the corner and caked with mud … and blood. Looked like he’d been mud wrestling with a bear, and lost.
I brought him inside, tucked him away in a nest and began doing a head count. At the same time, slowly looking at all the possible culprits.
Our youngest rooster, Barry, a little one my RiR Maicey hatched and raised at the end of them summer… also looked like he’d been mud wrestling, but won. I am pretty sure he did it.
The pictures I am about to show are NOT pretty. And they are very heart-breaking.
I had to bathe him, which is hard because he has very brittle feathers where he’s been trying to grow them back.
So it was more like him standing in the kitchen sink while I sprayed warm water over him to get out the mud and blood.
His eyes are swollen and I’ve been treating them with Vetricyn spray. You can tell it stings him when I spray it, but it’s necessary.
He is currently residing in a dog crate on our porch. Until his eyes are a little better, I can’t risk returning him to the flock.
The bully Barry’s days are numbered. It’s time we decided who of the 8 rooster we were sending to Freezer Camp anyway, but it’s been decided that it will happen sooner rather than later. There will be four of them leaving.
Possibly five if Frost doesn’t get better. I’m worried about those eyes, but I have faith in my Vetricyn.
And DH is building a smaller, enclosed coop, that I can possibly put Frost and some of the hens who’ve been over mated by over-enthusiastic younger rooster and need time to regrow feathers. He’s doing this emergency build right now, in the snow.
I love my DH. He is awesome on so many levels.
On a happier and more exciting note, tomorrow is Day 21 for my broody Columbian Wyandotte, Winnie and her seven little eggs. I am nervously awaiting the first signs of new peeps. I will talk more about that as it happens.
Occasionally when I go to the coop to be with my chickens, I have the opportunity to witness one of my hens laying their eggs. Such was the case three weeks ago when I witnessed my sweet, inquisitive Maicey laying her egg.
I had a broody hen (Briar Rose) whom I intended to give eggs to that night, so I picked up Maicey’s egg and tucked it away so it would not get mixed in with the other eggs. So I knew who that egg belonged to.
When I gave Briar her eggs, I labeled them, and Maicey’s egg became known as #1.
Number #1 turned out to be the fourth egg of five to hatch. (We are still waiting to know the fate of the fifth.)
It is a tiny little baby, with red downy feathers, a small crested-looking head and, much to my surprise when I picked it up to say “hello” … slightly feathered legs.
For those of you keeping score at home… I have three crested birds. Pavelle, the little Pavlovskaya, and her two children, Heather and Phillip.
Phillip, who is Pavelle and Pip’s offspring, is the only rooster I have right now capable of siring a crested (or in this case, partially crested) chick. He is, himself, a barnyard mix of Pavlovskaya, Rhode Island Red and Golden Comet, which would make this little chick 2-parts RiR, Comet and Pavlov. With feathered legs like its Auntie Heather.
I’m excited. I really am. Not only is Maicey one of our favorite hens, but this is also Pip’s grand-baby. You all know how much I love(d) and miss my little Pipsqueak. And Phillip acts so much like his papa. I’m so excited!
There is one more egg we’re waiting on to hatch. I’ll let you all know how it goes in the morning.
Several weeks ago, I told you all about Claire and Eugenie, a mother-daughter duo who had decided to go broody and hatch eggs at the same time and how, after hatching, they endeavored to co-parent their four chicks. It was awkward at first, but as the weeks have progressed, we (the humans and the other chickens) have gotten used to the little collective of Six. Little Dude even nicknamed them Baby Land.
The chicks of Baby Land are five weeks old this week. They’ve had lots of teaching, lots of supervision, lots of protection.
Over the last couple of days, however, o e of their Mommas has started making the transition from Momma to Hen.
Eugenie, the daughter of the mother-daughter duo, has decided that three weeks of broody and five weeks of mothering is enough, and that, since her own mother is still willing to watch all four of the children, she can go back to doing Hen Things.
I first noticed her dirt bathing away from her chicks the other day. And other last couple days, she has not been hanging out with the collective in the pasture. Not did she sleep with them on the roosts last night.
She laid an egg this morning, too.
Claire is still going strong, though, for now, and will probably stick with the Littles for another week, at least.
She did, however, give me a very harried look last night, when instead of splitting the chicks with her daughter, she had four confused little ones trying to tuck up underneath her wings. I think she wound up sitting on one of them!
Time is running short for these Littles, though. Pretty soon, they will be all on their own.
I’ve talked a lot about mother hens here on this blog. Go figure, huh? We seem to always have baby chicks being hatched. This spring/summer especially has been a boom of broody hens. More than I’ve even mentioned, to be honest.
Pavelle, Rapunzel, Ashley, Tweety, Claire, Ashley (again), Eugenie, and Pavelle again. Ashley got put in Broody Jail twice after her escapades in raising babies last year. Poor Claire spent 6 weeks being broody because her first set of eggs didn’t hatch (some died, some were duds).
It’s Claire, along with her daughter from last year’s hatch, Eugenie, who are the subject of today’s post.
You see, when Claire lost the first set of eggs, I decided to give her new, because Claire is a proven good mother and I felt sorry for her losing her babies she worked so hard for. Eugenie had started to go broody the day or two before and I was deciding what to do with her when I gave Claire her new eggs.
For whatever reason, I gave both of them four eggs each, for a total of eight chicks if they all hatched.
Last Wednesday night, the first chick began break out of his shell under Claire. He was STILL breaking out of it Thursday morning when I returned to the coop to find Eugenie had two fluffy little chicks under her, and Claire had one more pipping.
By Friday morning, we had a total of four chicks, one dead EE (still in eggs) and two duds. ( and one which had been broken by Pavelle the week prior, because she decided she needed to go broody again,too, and needed to use Claire’s nest to do it.)
So… four babies, two mother hens.
I tried to put them in separate areas of the coop, but as has been the theme this year, the mommas’ both rejected my cat carriers in favor of the floor under the nesting boxes – – AND they decided to co-raise their four chicks together.
The first couple of days were rough all the way around. Both hens were in extreme broody momma mode and in addition to chasing other chickens away from their wee little ones, Claire would lunge at Eugenie and chase her off, too. Undaunted, Eugenie would com back, but had too much respect for her mother to chase back.
The other hens started laying eggs outside because it was too much drama to try and lay in the coop.
But as the weekend and the early part of this week progressed, mothers and babies fell into a rhythm that worked of all of them.
I’ve been amazed, watching them navigate a very confusing social situation. Once the initial ‘turf wars’ were over and Claire accepted that Eugenie wasn’t going to give up her rights to her babies, they ironed out a system of rearing. Co-parenting at it’s finest.
It began in the coop, with one mother sitting on some of the chicks while the other taught one or two to scratch and dig. Then they would swap.
They babies usually sleep under Claire at night, while Eugenie sleeps in the nest above them.
Claire took the first brave chick outdoors at three days old, while Eugenie mothered the other three in the coop.
When all four babies were in the coop playing and eating, Claire would teach while Eugenie stood guard against threats (or perceived threats) from other hens.
After a few days, Claire got all four of them outside. Eugenie followed and they took turns showing the babies how to dig in the dirt to find yummies.
When they go outside, one mother (usually Claire) leads them down the ramp and the other (usually Eugenie) follows behind the stragglers, ensuring that no baby is left behind.
The little yellow/cinnamon colored one likes to sit on both her/his mothers’ backs, which I read somewhere is a sign of love and affection. Of belonging to that hen. I guess that means the babies really do belong to both of them, no matter who they hatched under.
I’m not sure if I will ever let two hens hatch out at the same exact time again, but I have no regrets about letting Claire and her daughter raise these ones together. It’s working for them, strange as it may seem to us.
As mentioned in the last post about them, I have been letting them outside in their playpen on nice days to get the flock used to them. I intend to let them loose after they all hit 6 weeks old and see how the flock receives them. Right now, there is moderate curiosity, but no meanness. And no one seems to have noticed that Cutie and Grumpy are definitely boys. I think that it will help that Pavelle’s chicks are around the same size and running around. I think it will go well.
I have pictures of them all to share now. Feel free to click on them for bigger images.
Chipmunk,the partridge Welsummer. She is one of the three who are more fully feathered out. She is friendly and sweet, and very curious about everything.
Goth Chick, the little all-black Mad Scientist chick. I am assuming this chick is a hen, due to the smallness of the comb and lack of wattles. She is another of the ones who feathered out quickly, loves to fly and is shy, but not skittish.
CW, the Columbian Wyandotte. I know nothing about Wyandottes, but I’m hoping this beauty is a hen, but over the last week, ‘she’ has started to grow wattles and a comb. They are small, but noticeable in all that white fluffy. CW is the biggest of the seven brooder babies.
Rocky, our little Barred Rock. Another breed I’m not familiar with, but if I had to guess, Rocky looks like a little henny. Rocky is shy, but friendly. (S)he is one of one slower feathering ones, and has only just started to fill out.
Cutie, one of other Rocks. Either a Light Barred or Silver Penciled. They both look really close in coloring, at this point. Cutie is a rooster. I’ve known that since he was two or three weeks old. The comb and wattles just confirm it.
He is one of the ones who was pecked by Rapunzel. His feet healed, but for a while, he had a deformed, maimed toe. It was gnarled and black. Last week, the little dead toes fell off, just at the knuckle, leaving Cutie with a little nub.
Grumpy, the other other Rock. Again, either Light Barred Rock or Silver-Penciled. I honestly don’t know which is which. Also a rooster. His toes are better, too, but they weren’t as badly damaged as Cutie’s.
Grumpy and Cutie are both aloof and standoffish. Not flighty, but not accessible. I don’t know if that has anything to do with Rapunzel pecking them, or just a rooster thing. They like to hang out together and butt chests. Rooster things.
Cutie likes to wait til the other chicks get the treats, too. watching my older roosters, I know that is a trait I admire in Double Dots.
Every since I watched Abby hatch and raise her wee little Pipsqueak, I have been in love with the process of hens raising chicks. They learn so much more from their mothers and it’s nicer having them with the flock rather than needing to be in the brooder box.
It seemed to go well at first. We snuck the three who hatched from the incubator down to Rapunzel in the middle of the night and slipped them under her. She snuggled in and seemed content to sit on them.
They all seemed really happy together for the first week and I had a lovely set of Week 1 photos to show off… and then at about the week-and-a-half mark, that all changed.
Rapunzel, who had by this time, been broody for 5 weeks already while we waited for the special order eggs to come, decided that she wanted to take her broody outdoors and see the sunshine. They’d already been moving about the coop under her supervision and that didn’t seem like an unreasonable request.
However, at some point in time, she had begun pecking at the feet of some of the little ones. I noticed the first one on Friday night. Little ‘Cutie’ – one of the little gray ones we couldn’t identify – had bloody and swollen feet and as I watched, Rapunzel kept pecking at them. I removed the chick for the day, treated the feet with Vetricin and Scarlex Oil, and put her back under Rapunzel at night. By Saturday morning, a second chick – the Grumpy one -was also sporting bloody tootsies. I removed BOTH chicks, treated them again, and put them in the broody.
I spent a good part of that Saturday observing Rapunzel with the other chicks. She would sit on them, warming them, with no problems at all. Then, she would get up, go to scratch in the dirt, call for them to come see what she had found, and then forcefully pecked the feet of the first chicks to approach. She got Rocky (Little Dude’s Barred Rock) and the light Brahma chick a couple of times while I observed.
Sunday, Cutie and Grumpy were walking better and healing up some, so I risk putting them back with their family. Rapunzel accepted them under her, but during the day, the scene of ‘call them over and then peck’ repeated. She would target Cutie, Grumpy and now Rocky, who now had a wound forming on one foot. Now and again, she would go after the little Brahma, too, possibly because of his feathered feet.
She only did this when they were out playing and eating. If they were under her, she was a happy momma, bucking softly and talking to them.
I had the sinking suspicion that she would slowly work her way through all the chicks, pecking and maiming all their feet. So, in order to save them, I took them all away from her.
These pictures, below, are the last pictures of them as a happy family, before the blood bath began.
It was heart breaking to them away. You see? She wanted them. She wanted to sit on them and nurture them. She paced the coop for days, talking them through the walls even though she couldn’t see them and when she figured out where the brooder was in relation to the coop, she jumped up on the roost to peer over at them, making screeching noises at me to “get away and give me my babies back!”
They, in turn, called out for her, alarmed and upset and NOT happy in the brooder. Who can blame them? She was momma and it was a strange box with a red light.
Every morning, I put her in with them, thinking maybe she would forget about their toes (which were healing nicely) and that just maybe I would give them back to her.
Each time, she went to them, calling and bucking softly, sitting with them and letting them gather under her, and they’d be fine for about 10-15 minutes. Then she would get up, go to explore the brooder and scratch to show them things… call to them to come look… and yes, you guessed it – attack their toes again. Cutie, Grumpy, Rocky… then anyone else.
This happened thee days in a row.
I gave up trying to let her try.
I don’t know why she did it. She certainly acted like she wanted them. But I couldn’t let her ruin their feet. As it is, poor little Cutie has one toes that is now broken and misshapen. He/she can walk on it, but it will never be the same.
So I stopped letting her in to see them. This was still heart breaking. She would alternate between returning to the coop to look for them and following Pavelle and her chicks around like a forgotten nanny.
In the meantime, I had another dilemma to deal with. How to raise these chicks so that the flock -who had just started to get to know them – didn’t forget them? I want a seamless integration and with the last re-design of the coop, we can no longer split it down the middle.
During a string of hot days, hot enough that 2 week old chicks wouldn’t need a brooder lamp, we had the idea. DH built a little playpen for them. On the hot days, I can take them outdoors, for a couple hours at least, with water and food.
They get the sunlight, grass and bugs their one-time momma tried to introduce them to, and the other chickens get to socialize with them.
The first two days we used it, Rapunzel went to them and attempted to talk and call to them through the chicken wire. Only half the chicks would respond to her. They were starting to forget ‘momma’ even if momma was not ready to forget them.
I tried – once – to put her in with them outdoors… to the same, sad and heart wrenching conclusion as the other times.
It just isn’t meant to be.
I don’t know if 5 weeks broody was too much for her brain, or if she still thought they needed to be eggs, or if 7 was too many chicks for a new mother hen to take on. Or if broody hormones made her insane. I. Don’t. Know. Sometimes, the only answer is that ‘some hens don’t make good mothers.’
Which is sad, because as a Buff Orpington, she made a wonderful broody. She went quickly, stayed with the same next, was dedicated to her eggs.
But I don’t think I can risk giving her babies again. I could let her hatch and I could raise, maybe, but she couldn’t be trusted not to ruin their feet again. Could she?
As of the writing of this post, Rapunzel has gotten over the ‘baby thing’ entirely and gone back to Hen Things. She is pissed that Pip is gone. He was her chosen boyfriend and Luke does nothing for her.
I need to get more pictures of Grumpy, Cutie, the light Brahma and Rocky. It’s harder in the brooder because they are quick and scared.
Chipmunk, Goth Chick and CW are all feathered out enough to start flying and they have been, as you can see from the pictures, coming out of the brooder to explore the world. These three adventurers are bonding with myself and Little Dude because they sit out there and talk to us while we do morning chores. Chipmunk is especially friendly.
By next week, they will be old enough to withstand 75-80 degree temps, so they should be outdoors, in their playpen, a little more often. Unless it rains. I have been bringing Pavelle’s chicks to say hello to them, in the hopes that they can be ‘cousins’ once I try to integrate. Eggy is terrified of them. That will be fun.
My Pet Chicken finally gave me an updated version of which breeds we have.
Chipmunk – still a Partridge Welsummer. Also, accorrding to this site, a little pullet. Because she still has her ‘mascara’ on her eyes.
CW – still a Columbian Wyandotte. Gender unknown.
Rocky – still a barred Plymouth Rock. Gender also unknown.
The little Brahma is still a little Brahma. Little Dude calls him/her ‘Rap’ and I don’t know why.
Goth Chick, the all black one, is no longer (or never was) a Svart Hona. Instead, according to the breeders, Goth Chick is one of My Pet Chicken’s ‘Mad Scientist’ chicks. They are calling them ‘customed crosses’ and did not tell me what when into the making of this chick. Possibly Svart Hona, possible Cemani? Possible God knows what? Supposedly, if it is a hen, it could lay green eggs.
Cutie and Grumpy are both different flavors of Rocks. One is a Silver Penciled Rock and the other is a light Barred Plymouth Rock…. so essentially, the same as Rocky only gray and white, not black and white. They both have barring on the wings now. I think they will look very similar, to be honest.
I’m going to end this post with some random pics from this week. We had a deer visit the pasture, and half the chickens were terrified. Pavelle chased it because it was too close to her babies. It was amusing.
And that’s about it for this week. I am having surgery on Monday, the 26th, so if there aren’t updates for a while, this would be why. When I return, I promise pictures of the Brooder Babies, who should be more feathered out by then.
Since I gave Mini-Pav his/her own past, I thought it only fair to do that same with his siblings. I give you… Feather Butt.
Feather Butt, another of Pavelle’s part Pavlovskaya, part sexlink, part Rhode Island Red, possible part Polish, mixed up chicks… is the biggest of the three chicks, with a bigger mohawk than Mini-Pav, but almost non-existence wattles.
Feather Butt has grayish yellow legs with a yellow beak and comb that kind of reminds me of Pip. His/her legs still have little wisps of feathers, showing his Pavlovskaya heritage. But only little tufts. You have to be to up close to see them at the ankles and tops of his/her legs.
Feather Butt is friendly, smart and charming.
In short, since I like this chick, Feather Butt is a possible rooster. Anyone want to place bets?