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.
This will probably be my last Broody Watch post for Claire. The 4th egg does not appear to be hatching, despite her insistence that she remain sitting on it. I’m giving it until tonight, but then, if it hasn’t hatched, I’ll be removing it from her nest.
The three chicks she already has are quite active and will soon be ready to explore the world around them. She can’t help them do that if she’s sitting on a dud egg.
Momma and babies enjoyed a breakfast of scrambled eggs and chick starter this morning. All three of the babies came out from under Claire to try some of the yummiest. Scrambled egg is my traditional post-hatching meal for the chicks&mama.
Traditional as in “that’s what I did with Abby, so Claire gets to do it, too.” Why mess with what works?
I don’t know if it’s evident from the video, but yesterday when I came down to find two of Claire’s chicks running around the laying boxes next to their nest, I decided to take a risk and move Claire, babies, and 4th egg into their newly fashioned maternity suite.
I added food and water, which Claire barely looked at as she settled in on top of the egg and tucked her babies under her for good measure. She’s still there this morning, so I’m going to take that as a success. 🙂
Oh, yeah… and the babies have been tentatively named.
As they were born during my Dad’s birthday week (tomorrow is his birthday), I decided preemptively to name the chicks in honor of him. The first born, the little red-head, is Dani (or if she is a he, Danny), the second born, smaller and light tow-headed yellow/white, is Eugenie (Eugene) and the third, a slightly bigger, more yellow chick, is Stevie.
Editing to Add: I just went down to the coop to see how things were faring and found that Claire had abandoned the other egg. She moved her three chicks to the nest on the right side of the ‘maternity suite’ and left her egg there. It was cold, so I removed it. As expected, it was nothing but a mass of 21-day yolk. Yuck! Tossed it in the trash. Claire, Dani, Eugenie, and Stevie are a whole family now.
On a totally non-related blog issue, I’m realizing that I need a category/tag for the ‘born on the farm’ babies like Pip and these three. Am considering calling them a “Windstone Comet Cross” because that’s our farm name, their papa is a Golden Comet and they’re a cross between him and something else. This is obviously NOT an official name, and they’re really just barnyard mutts, but their my barnyard mutts.
Or, I could call the tag “barnyard mix” too.
Thoughts? Reader preference? Do the tags even matter?
Well, as of this morning, there are three babies hiding under Claire’s considerable red fluff.
The last couple of days, Claire has been a real sweetheart compared to how she normally is. A part of the ‘broody trance’ stage, she let me pet her, feed her by hand, and lift her up to look at the eggs/babies. Now that more of them have hatched, the broody trance is giving way to ‘Mama Mode’ and Claire’s true personality is asserting itself.
That is to say, I got bit 5 times trying to get these pictures and video.
There is one last egg, the paler one I mentioned was cracked already. It’ still cracked, but the crack is bigger.
Claire shows no signed of giving up on it yet, and keeps tucking it underneath her like she’s expecting something.
As tomorrow is Day 21 for that egg and one of the other (already hatched) chicks, I’ll wait and see what she does next. They have that saying about it – Mama Knows – so if Claire is still waiting for a chick, maybe I should, too?
Then again, it’ been cracked since Monday and no signs of anything coming out, movement, or cheeping.
But I’ll let Claire make that call. If she abandons the egg in favor of caring for the Wee Ones, I’ll know.
Went into the coop for lock up and and found that my flock had grown by two.
The little red-head on the right is the chick I posted the video of in update 3.5. He/she is dry and fluffy.
The blondie on the left is still partially damp.
Of the three eggs still under Claire, the light colored one has a crack in it. It had that crack a day ago, though, so I don’t think it’s hatching. The brown one on the very left has a pip. The brown one in the middle wasn’t there earlier, and is NOT one of Claire’s eggs. So I removed it.
But yay!!! Two babies!!!! And maybe another by tomorrow!