Five years ago this week, I was on the verge of becoming a new chicken Mom. I didn’t realize it at the time. Or I did. You see, we had ordered twenty-five Rhode Island Red chicks as a straight run from our local Tractor Supply. But chick-fever is a real thing and our baby RiRs would not be there until May. Every trip to Tractor Supply included hovering over the metal bins of peeping chicks and talking to them. Calling them ‘babies!’ and wishing I could bring some home.
Then, in the second week of April, after a day spent flying kites with our kids, somehow, we decided to just go to Tractor Supply and get chicks now.
We came back with twenty sex-linked chicks in a box. Seventeen little yellow roosters and three brown/yellow baby pullets. We didn’t know that at the time. My Dude, who is no longer little, picked them because they were cute. Who knew they’d be boys?
While they grew up quickly in our brooder box and I just as quickly researched chickens, breeds and other things, my wonderful DH built our coop out of raw materials my father had lying around the barn. Every year since, it has undergone minor changes. When the RiRs finally arrived, we kept them in the brooder until they fairly out grew it and then spent and agonizing week trying to integrate without a bloody massacre occurring.
And with Gold Boy and his rowdy crew, we certainly almost had a bloody massacre.
The following year we added 18 new pullets, and split the coop in two, and then removed the divide once they intergrated. I’ve since discovered easier ways of intergration… and letting hens raise babies inside the coop with the flock rather than buying chicks and risk fighting.
One year we added new perches and removed some unused nesting boxes.
And this year … After five years, we have given the coop new floors. It was time. They’re wooden and five years of water and deep bedding, the first winter with the ducks… the floors had been patched and patched again. It was just time.
Normally, I clean the deep bedding twice a year. In the Spring and in the Autumn. So we counted this as the Spring clean-out. My Dude and I took out eight wheelbarrow loads of bedding, which went on the garden beds. It will need tilled under and will set until next month when I’m ready to plant.
The others hung out outside, and the roosters (we have eight right now, until I decide which four are going to Freezer Camp) sounded the alarm at any unusual noises coming from the coop.
And there it is – a brand new floor made out of recycled pallet boards and happy chickens.
Yesterday, Pavelle’s wee little chicks celebrated their One Week-aversary. They are living happily in a cat carrier under the laying beds, with their food in the corner in front of them and a place to go for shelter. Pavelle being as small as she is, they have room to move around freely in there. She brings them out in the morning and afternoons, teaches them to dig and scratch in the deep litter bedding and is slowly introducing them to the other chickens.
Feather Butt and Mini-Pav do not have the pronounced foreheads that their mother had as a chick. A reminder that they are cross-breeds and not pure anything. Pavelle likely has some Polish in with her Pavlovskaya … and Pip, of course, the Rhode Island Red and sexlink genetics. So maybe they won’t have crests and funny hair-dos like their momma. Or maybe they will? Who knows at this point?
I give you – the Babies!
The weather has been up and down, and Pavelle has yet to decide if she wants to take them outside. I’ve seen her bring them to the door and peek out, but has not attempted to lead them any further.
ETA: Okay, I wrote that part up there *points up* and then went to the barn to let everyone and THIS happened, just to prove me wrong…
Feather Butt was the one balking. I finally stopped the video and went to put Mini-Pav and Egger Baby back inside because it became so obvious that Pavelle was not able to convince Feather Butt that it was, in fact, safe. But there you have it… it’s a good bet that she will get them outside sooner rather than later. To be fair, there is only so much she can teach them inside the coop. The big wide world awaits!
Today marks Day 14 for Little Dude’s 4-H hatching project.We’ll be candling again tonight and on Saturday. Sunday-Tuesday are Lockdown Days. The incubator has been an interesting experience in frustration and balance. Finding and KEEPING the right temperature and humidity both. I personally like giving the eggs to broody hens.
Yesterday was Day 19 for Pavelle and her sweet baby eggs and that means Lock Down.
For those of you who do not know about hatching eggs, a chicken egg takes twenty-one days to hatch. The last three days, Days 19-21, are what people who use incubators call ‘lock down days’ because under no circumstances are you supposed to open the incubator on those days, until the last chick has hatched. This is because in those last three days, the babies do the most growing in preparation to come out of their shells.
When I let my hens sit on eggs, I make sure not to mess with them during those days, so they can do their own thing.
Yesterday, I went to check for eggs and discovered that Pavelle had a brown egg sticking out from under her. She frequently steals other hens eggs from neighboring nests. She had TWO brown eggs, actually… but was also missing one of her her six eggs. I didn’t see signs of eaten shell, but one of the brown eggs I had retrieved from under her had yolk on it, so I assumed the worst.
I know what happened to it now, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But first…
I found this
Pavelle actually had a total of three chicks under her this morning when I left the coop – two of her Pavlov-mix babies and one Easter Egger. There are two EE remaining. Given this is Day 20, and hatch day is technically tomorrow, I won’t worry too much about the other eggs until Wednesday or Thursday.
I set her up with some food and water, in the nest with her to discourage other hens from trying to sit with her in the nest (because that is another reason she keeps getting other hen eggs. They are trying to ‘share’ the nest with her.)
Hopefully, at least one of the other eggs will hatch. The one is EE#2 and we all know I have been iffy about the contents of that one.
This morning when I removed the broken eggs shells from under her, I discovered the missing Pavelle-egg. It apparently tried to hatch YESTERDAY on Day 19, and died. I found it half-buried in the bedding under Pavelle and the live chicks. 😦
I’m used to having them hatch on Day 20 or 21. Day 19 might be a little too early?
I will report back tomorrow with (hopefully) the last chicks and pics of all of them. Pavelle is a bite-y momma, so it’s hard to get pics of them right now.
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…
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:
Stacey is still laying eggs. I’ve seen her.
She’s lost weight, and while she’s not starving, she’s a considerable size smaller than her same-breed, same-age flock mates.
She’s obsessive about this. Like OCD obsessive.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.