Co-Parenting, Chicken Style

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.

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Here is the happy, if unorthodox, little family of six.

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.

Eggy

Eggy, or the Egger Baby, is the last of Pavelle’s chicks.

He/she is the egg-child of Padme the Easter Egger and … well, I thought Pip, but now I’m not too sure about that.


So… what is it about Eggy that makes me suspect Pip might not be the father?

In short… color and personality.

Eggy here is a bright buff yellow, with only small EE cheeks.

 

So… mostly yellow chick with a yellow and black/brown momma.  Two potential fathers.

One rooster had an all yellow momma and a white papa?

The other rooster had a red momma and a white papa?

Going off looks alone, I’d have to guess Felix is Eggy’s baby daddy.

And then, there is personality.  Eggy is high strung, flighty, hard to catch, does not really relax in my hands like the other two do.

This describes Padme, yes, and could be an Easter Egger trait.  But it always describes Felix.  A lot.

Pip, not so much.  He didn’t like me pick up but when I did, he settled in because he trusted me.

Feather Butt trusts me.  Mini-Pav mostly trusts me.   Eggy is a frantic spaz.

So, based off personality, is this Pip’s chick? I don’t think so, but anything is possible.


Here is a recent shot of Momma and babies (and a fake egg that was in the nest with them).  They are 5 weeks old now and practically as big as she is!

They are also almost fully feathered out.


I believe that Pavelle will be pulling away from them soon.  Going back to doing Hen Things and not Momma things.  Today she seemed to be giving them space.  Still hanging with them – or allowing them to hang with her – but not really showing them things like she has in the past.  Letting them do their own thing.

Pavelle’s wee babies are growing up now.

Meet the Newcomers

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.

Chipmunk, a Partridge Welsummer

Un-named Columbian Wyandotte

They don’t know what I am yet, but I’m cute!

Un-Named Light Brahma

Little Goth Chick, a Svart Hona

Rocky, the only Barred Rock. We were supposed to have four of them!

They don’t know what I am either, so I’m grumpy 😡

The proud adopted momma with her chicks 🐥

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.

Dashed Hopes?

I have this spot in the pasture. It’s an old water trough that’s been buried in the side of the bank for God only knows how long. I’ve been dumping black oil sun flower seeds there, in the hope that some of them will get buried in the snow, and maybe germinate. I’d love to grow them for chickens without actually growing them. As you can see, the chickens have other ideas!

It’s October, Already?

I’m honestly not sure where August and September when. One minute, I’m helping Little Dude with his 4-H projects and the next minute, school is starting, then both my children had their sport seasons start AND the garden started booming.

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These pictures are from last week.  The green beans are still flowering and still producing.   The carrots are doing well, too.  I’ve been slowly harvesting them, cutting into cubes and freezing for soups and stuff over the winter.

The cabbages did well.  I harvested, and discovered that if I left the plant in the ground rather than did the roots up, they will start growing a new head.  I don’t think any of them will be big enough to harvest before frost, but the chickens might enjoy them?

I had decent luck with the broccoli, too.  I need to check them again, but I suspect they will slow down eventually.

I’m waiting to harvest the potatoes and sweet potato. Also, the brussel sprouts, which I’m not sure what to do with.  I’ll probably Youtube “how to harvest brussells sprouts” soon.

Over all, I’m very proud of my experimental garden.  I’m already planning for next year.

Dad’s tomatoes, though… those things were the best.  So far, we’ve done over 30 quarts of whole tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, home made ketchup (first time ever), salsa, chili and home made tomato soup (also a first time ever).  The soup and ketchup were my idea and I can just say — yum!!!

 

And, of course, since this is my ‘chicken blog’ I have to talk about the chickens.  🙂

I have a lot of videos and kooky pics up on my Instagram.

The older ladies and Dots are all in various stages of molting.  Some of them look rougher than others.  Some of them (Abby, for example) barely looking like they’ve lost any feathers at all.  But the over abundance of feathers everywhere is a testament that they are molting.

When does this end?  Winter is fast approaching and I’m looking at my semi-balding birds and thinking “they will freeze!”  And “I can’t knit so so no chicken sweaters!”  Especially not for 30+ birds.

Actually, I am NOT an advocate of chicken sweaters.  They are bad for our birds.  Cute, but bad.  Just say no. Okay?

All the babies are getting bigger.

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Dani and Eugenie.

 

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Pavel or… Pavelle … or who, I have been assured by someone on Instagram is, in fact, a pretty little girl.  🙂  She’s sweet and intelligent and loves to ride on my shoulder and ‘talk’ to me.

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“Esther” who is NOT a girl, but a handsome little cockerel.  I’m torn between renaming him Eddie or simply shortening Esther to Es.

I’m in the process of negotiating with my DH to let me keep him, along with Dots and Pip.  We have enough hens to justify three roosters and Esther is the low boy on the totem pole.  He might fit in just fine.   Plus,I read somewhere that an Easter Egger + a brown-egg layer will produce Olive egg layers.  IF  Es were to mate and I were to hatch those babies, I could potential have olive green eggs some day?

DH is thinking about it.  He wants Easter Eggers.  Es is our only survivor.  It could happen.

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The Sulmtaler Brothers.  I call them Sumi and Taller.  I shouldn’t name them.  If I can’t sell them, they are off to Freezer Camp by the end of November.  But they’re so cute.  And Sumi crows better than Dani does!

The chocolate orps (whom I have no pictures of because they won’t hold still for me) are boy & girl.  The little roo, I call Snickers.  He’s cocky and I think he’s been trying to establish dominance over Sumi.  They’ve been squabbling.   He also tried to mate with an Australorp yesterday. I wish I’d gotten a video of that because she went off on him, claws up and everything.  All the rest of my hens are pretty docile so I’ve never seen that happen before.

The hen is Hershey.  She is sweet, but standoff-ish.  She likes her privacy.

 

 

As the instagram caption says, Stacey as has been acting weird.  She paces the coop ALL DAY.  Always.  It looks like she’s looking for a nest box, but she never gets in one.  I don’t know what’s actually going on and Google is not my friend.

This is Ashley. Aka Ashe… some of you may remember Ashe was the little Australorp who kept the injured Baby company when they were chicks.   She is going to be a momma in about 2 1/2 weeks.  🙂  It will probably be my last Broody of the year, as winter is approaching.

Broody Watch 5.0

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.

Ouch!

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.

Broody Watch #2

After two days of trying, I finally got the video I took of Claire’s latest outing from the nest onto Youtube.

I can’t help but compare Claire’s broodiness to Abby’s, as before this, Abby was my only point of reference.

When Abby was broody, she was very ‘zoned’ or in what I call her ‘broody trance.’  She rarely got up on her own, and I had to carry her out at least once each morning and each afternoon, so she could take care of the personal matters of eating and pooping.  She wouldn’t even notice when I did it, but sit there in one spot for several minutes, softly buck-buck-bucking to herself.  When she finally snapped out of it, she’d run for the food, the water and back to her nest as quickly as she could.  Only once or twice did she do more than that.  Dirt bathing once on a sunny day.  Abby loves her dirt baths!  But no, the drive to hatch her babies (baby, in the end it was just Pip) was so strong, it eclipsed everything else.  She lost a LOT of weight, especially towards the end.  She still hasn’t gained it all back, really.  Which isn’t a bad thing.  It just means she is isn’t overweight in any way.

Claire is not so entranced yet, even into her second week of broody.  She still screams when people (or, other chickens) come into the coop to lay eggs.  When she leaves the nest, I am treated to spectacles like the video below.  She runs around, bucking loudly (not soft at ALL!) to announce to the world that she is there and they’d all better get out of her way.  At the morning treat dish (it’s not really treats.  I give them 2 scoops of feed + a 3/4 scoop of scratch to start their morning and everything else is what they can forage, and there’s 12 of them, so no one gets a lot)…. as I was saying, at the morning treat dish, she guards it closely, putting her foot in the feed if someone crowds too close.  She yells. She puffs up, flares her tail feathers and spreads her wings wide to make herself look huge and scary.

The morning I took this video – Wednesday, I think – Dots happened to be in the run when she came out.  He hasn’t seen her in a while, as he’s been preoccupied with grandstanding so the Littles roosters know he’s the Boss.  That takes up most of his time now.  So he hasn’t seen her.  Well, he tried to woo her… and… scream… yell… puffed up feathers… Claire does NOT want a man right now.  Sorry, Double Dots.

She’s got one week left of sitting on the nest before the eggs hatch.  If they hatch.  I am still hands-off.  No candling, and the only handling I do is to remove the extra eggs from her nest.  These are eggs she either steals from nearby nests or ones hens lay while Claire is outside.

“Lockdown” begins on Saturday.  That is ‘Day 18’ for the earliest two of the four eggs.  Wednesday the 11th being the day she committed to sitting for real.  When this happens, I intend to feed her scrambled eggs once a day, so she can stay on the nest as much as possible over those last three days.

I did that with Abby, too, but she really, really needed it.  She was so out of it the whole way through her broody that by the time her final three days happened, I was beginning to worry.  (Did I mention she lost waaaay too much weight?)

I’m not seeing where Claire is losing tons of weight, but, as I observed before, she isn’t as entranced as poor Abby was.  But I’m still preparing to make her scrambled eggs for the weekend.