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?
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.