A couple of weeks ago, a troubling thing happened.
I was standing in the barnyard observing my flock, as I am prone to do. Pavelle had her babies outside and I wanted to get pictures. Also, as I am prone to do.
The chickens were milling around about me, as they are prone to do.
I was holding my phone, paying more attention to Pavelle and her babies than anything else, when sudden my I heard flapping of wings and felt bird feet on the back of my head. A couple of seconds later, my head rooster, Dots, goes flying over top my head and lands on the ground next to me.
He flew at my head.
It was puzzling, to say the least. Was he attacking me? Trying to perch on my shoulder or head?
Needless to say I’ve been a little (a lot) more mindful of where he is in the barnyard when I am down there now.
And then… Yesterday it happened again. I was in the barnyard with my daughter, watching the chickens. She was holding her favorite hen. Dots was behind us on the barn stairs and suddenly starts flapping his wings and launches himself at me. He did not connect this time or get as high off the ground. But my Girl witnessed it and needless to say, we were both shocked.
This is a rooster I have raised from a baby. He usuallyets me pick him up, cuddle him, let him. He comes to the sound of his name. If I sit on the steps, he has been known to come and sit on my lap.
So, I ask myself, “what is going on with my handsome man?” Have I done something? Is he jealous of my attention paid to the younger roosters? Is he confused because I have lost 96 lbs and no longer look like the Mom who raised him?
Or is this a change in hormones or temperament?
He’s three years old, though and in that time, he has never been a bad rooster. He still is letting me pick him up and carrying him. Still likes pets, neck rubs and water massages.
I just don’t know what to make of this. I hope I don’t have to make a hard decision.
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.
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.
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.
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!