Babies!!!

Day 19 and Briar Rose is anxiously awaiting for the hatch of her first little ones. One egg was pipped this morning before I left for work. I returned at Noon to two pips and the sounds of cheeps.

And also to Ashley sitting on them because she is still trying to borrow Briar’s nest.

So we removed Ashley and gave Briar back her babies… and then put four eggs under Ashley. I’ll talk about that later.

By 4:15 pm … still oy two pips, but they are bigger holes now and this one is almost free. There will be at least one baby by bedtime, I’m sure.

Good luck, Briar Rose and Babies!

Too Many Broodies

The Broody Bug has bitten my flock – big time!

First, there was Pavelle, who went back in March, but thanks to the cold and snow, I was able to convince her that it wasn’t time for babies.

Then, she went broody again, and as we all know now, has three week old babies.

The week Pavelle’s babies hatched, one of my Australorps went broody. All the way broody.

Briar Rose, a two year old Australorp who has never been broody before.

I gave Briar six eggs. When I candled them the first week, all six were developing nicely. Sadly, half way through the second week, one of the eggs was broken in a next squabble.

Five eggs remain, and they are due to hatch this Sunday.

Briar has been a good broody in the same tradition of Abby and the Buff Orps. She has barely left the next for anything since she started this adventure. She also tolerates me petting her (with screeches but no biting) and allows me to lift her up to count eggs and remove ones she has stolen from other nests.

I’m looking forward to seeing how she does with her babies this weekend.

And while Briar was sitting in her babies, another Australorp went broody.

Ashley.

We all remember Ashley, don’t we?

Ashley, who was a decent enough broody, but a questionable momma last time.

Ashley went hard and fast last week while I was working a full time week and no one was watching what she was doing. After the last time, I had decided that it might not be a good idea to give her eggs again, lest she lose those chicks like she did Maxie and her siblings. Last year when she went broody, I was able to put in the dog crate and break her.

This time? She wasn’t caught in time and she’s so deep in it could take a long while to break.

Also, she’s been pushing Briar off her nest in an attempt to have those babies. I have to remove her twice a day, leading to me wonder which hen will be on the nest when the first baby hatches.

I’ve been debating just giving her a handful of eggs and getting it over with, because maybe she’s matured in the last two years?

But then yesterday… This happened…

Amy, a three year old Rhode Island Red who has never been broody before.

Amy is one of the RiRs who go through the motions every spring but never follow through. She’s done it two years in a row but never actually falls broody. She spent most of mid-April walking around in “thinking about it” mode and then stopped. I assumed that was the end of it.

Silly me.

Yesterday, I found her in a box, puffed up and bucky. I guess with Briar and Ashley acting like it’s fun, she went and jumped off the deep end.

So now I have two extra Broodies. I need to come to a decision about Ashley soon, and now Amy as well.

Do I give them both eggs? Or let Ashley chill out in the dog crate for a while? Can I trust her again after last time?  Decisions, decisions.

 

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.

 

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.

R.I.P Little Ones, Where Ever You Are

ETA: We found them! They are alive!!!
Today is a bittersweet day at house.  My husband and I took a leap of faith a few weeks ago and decided to become members of the church we’ve been attending.

Today, during the church service, we and 5 others were formally recognized and welcomed by the rest of the church.    It’s the beginning of a new journey for us.

Later on this same afternoon, My Girl took and passed her driver’s test.  She is now a licensed driver, according to the great state of Pennsylvania.   It’s the beginning of a new journey in her life, too.

And, as the title of this post suggests, my coop is missing some of it’s flock members tonight.

Ashley’s babies Littles,who just this morning celebrated their 1-week birthday, are gone.  All of them.  Vanished without a trace.

It’s been raining.  And they’ve been refusing to go outside, even though Ashley has tried a couple times to coax them out.  Mostly, they’ve hung out in the coop.  And it’s been raining today.

They were in the coop this morning, when Little Dude and I went down to feed and open the door so the Big Hens could go outside.  We cleaned up, gave everyone water and food and played a little with the chicks.  Then we went to get breakfast and headed off to church.

DH and I had a bible study at 6pm, so we left Little Dude with my mom and dad.  He knows what to do to lock up and collect last minute eggs.  We got a call shortly after, from my mom.  Little Dude was panicking.  He couldn’t find them  Ashley was there, “sitting” on nothing because she is still in broody momma mode.  But the babies are gone.

While we were gone, Mom, Dad and Little Dude searched for them in the dark and in the rain.

When DH and I got home about 45 minutes later, we also searched.  Everywhere we could with flashlights.  I checked the bedding, the run, the coop, the tunnels, the bushes and the truck cab.  In the dark, in the rain.

There’s simply no sign of them at all.  😦

I’m going to look for bodies in the morning.  Just in case I missed them in the darkness.   But at this point, I have to give up hopes of finding live chicks.  They need a momma’s body heat to keep warm, and it’s been too long.

Here is the last video I took of them, taken yesterday morning.

Rest in Peace, wee little ones. Maxie, Cinnamon Bun and the Dalmies. Sweet babies taken too soon.

ETA: We found them! They are alive!!!