Happy Birthday Rhodies!

My Rhode Island Red hens turned five years old today. Next to Double Dots, they are my oldest birds.

My Girl decided that her favorite chicken needed a little ‘present’ for her birthday, and so yes, Maicey is wearing a pretty necklace. (Don’t worry, we took it off after her photoshoot.)

There was also some left over fajitas from our Cinco de Mayo dinner, that Maicey generous shared with the flock.

Tough Chicken Times

When you first get chickens, life is all cute fuzzy chicks making equally cute peeping noises and yeah, there are some messes to clean up, but overall, it’s still cuteness overload.   And then get bigger… and the messes get bigger… and then they get older… and the cuteness wears off… well, unless you’re our Maicey girl, who is pretty sure she’s cute 24-7, even five years out.  She tells me so every day.   She’s that confident.

If you have chickens, I’m pretty sure you have a girl like Maicey, too.  So you understand.  There’s always that one who knows.

But this isn’t really a post about how cute Maicey thinks she is.

This is actually a follow-up to Frost’s injuries, the report of another injury, and some sadness.  It’s been a tough chicken week here in our coop.

Last post, I think I mentioned that DH was building Frost a tiny bachelor pad, big enough for 2-3 birds, to spend some time in while we waited for the weekend to come and bullies to be gone.

Here is the enclosed coop. They had some issues the first night. One of them refused to go inside to sleep, and as it was supposed to be cold overnight, I worried I would return in the morning to a chicken-sickle.

I am pleased to report that I did not. In fact, over the course of the last few days, they seem to fairly happy, if a little bored at times. It is a much smaller area than they are used to.

The hens I chose to go with him were three who have been over-mated by our younger, more exuberant roosters. The Winter Boys of whom the Bully Barry was one. My thought was that, they could stay there, getting some much needed rest from over mating, until the hen-to-rooster ratio was adjusted.

Today, this morning in fact, they were liberated. (More on that later.)

In the meantime, while I was fussing with Frost and wrestling with the weight of who should be the four roosters to leave the flock… two over bits of heartache occurred.

You may remember from the post about the new coop floors, I mentioned that my Columbian Wyandotte named Winnie, was broody. We had given her seven eggs. These eggs were ‘special’ because they are HUGE, like so big they don’t fit in a a jumbo egg carton and look rather cartoonish compared to the other normal-sized eggs. I wanted to see what came out of them, to try and decide who was laying those eggs.

Saturday should have been hatch-day. I say should have been, because it came and went and nothing hatched. I let it go until Wednesday, just in case. Still, no babies. We had candled them at the end of the first week, and there had been life. But still, no babies.

Wednesday, I removed them from under her, and returned her to the coop. I found that only one of the eggs had pipped and tried to hatch, but failed and became shrink-wrapped. The dead chick was fluffed out, a grayish color. I have one blue/gray cochin and four blue/gray Rocks… so the coloring kind of narrows it down. However, a couple days ago, I removed one of HUGE eggs from Frost’s outdoor coop. He had two of the Blue/Gray Rocks and a mixed hen with him. So that narrows things down. I’m thinking of the Rocks at this point.

Of the other six eggs, two were duds, and the others had dead chicks at various stages of development.

Winnie spent very little time off the nest, so I don’t know why they did not hatch. We did have a bit of a cold snap in between Week 2 and Week 3. A belated return of ‘winter’ and cold enough to freeze water in their dishes. But I had not considered that the eggs wouldn’t be safe under her. They seemed warm enough when I removed them.

I just don’t know.

For now, no one is in the broody place, but my little cochin has decided she thinks she is broody again. I am torn between trying eggs again or just getting her chicks from Tractor Supply. If I give her eggs, it has to be today, because today, or rather this morning, we still had all eight roosters to fertilize the heck out of them. (More on that later. Yes, I keep saying that.)

I also have an Australorp who is being broody, too.

I should put one of them into the broody breaker, aka the dog crate. But as it happens, the dog crate is currently being used in it’s other role… than of med-crate.

This would be why my dog crate cannot be used as a broody breaker.

Thursday morning, I went down to feed the chickens, clean the coop, you know, my usual routine. I had a bowl of apples and pears which had gone soft and mushy, and no one in the house was going to eat. I like to roll them out into the pasture so the chickens can chase after them. It’s fun to watch.

One of the apples rolled far enough that they lost interest, so I walked down to get it and roll it again, in a different direction. As I was walking back towards the barn, I looked out towards the side of the barn, and noticed a hen out there in the weeds. They’re not supposed to be over there, but occasionally one will fly over.

So seeing one out there made me take a second look and I realized that she was laying on the ground. Not walking around.

My heart sank, because there is a leg trap there in those brambles. It’s not my choice. Dad put it there because we’re having a problem with several types of pests who like our gardens and also like our chickens. They are the teeth-less traps, but can still do damage.

I open the gate and walk over and see, much to my horror, that yes, her leg is caught in the trap. And much to my… relief… that she is still alive. She had to have spent the ight out there, and being a gray chicken (one of the Blue/gray Rocks), I would have missed her at lock up in the shadows.

So I rushed back to the house to get Dad, because I really don’t know the first thing about opening those traps, and also woke up my Dude. They came down and we got her freed. She could barely walk, and as you can see from the above picture, her foot is swollen.

But the leg is NOT broken, which I feared because of how brittle bird bones can be.

I got her cleaned up and sprayed the wound with Vetericyn and then Scarlex oil. I also bought a pack of Save-a-Chick probiotics to add to her water. I am hoping that helps boost her immune system while she heals.

We’ve been checking on her, spraying her foot/ankle with both sprays and letting her walk around in the barn (a no-no during normal times ,but she’s forgiven for now) for the last three days. She is walking better, but the foot is still swollen. It’s not hot, so I don’t think infected, but I don’t know what to make of the fact that it’s still swollen.

However, she is putting pressure on it okay, walking mostly normally and doing little hops over things like a normal bird. We’re resolved to keep her separated over the weekend. I’d like to see that swelling go down, but if she is getting along okay, I’m not sure what else to do.

And lastly… the ‘more on that later’…

We sent four of our eight roosters to Freezer Camp today.

Barry the Bully was always going to go, but I had wrestled with the others.

We had, of course, Double Dots, Philip (aka Leapy), Rocky, John, Frost, and the last two Pavelle babies, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

Other than Tweedle Dum… all of these roosters are ones I like. And some of them we’ve had for a very long time. But four needed to go, so we had some hard decisions to make. It’s not always as easy as getting rid of the mean ones, because sometimes, there’s only just one mean one. And I frequently have too many roosters.

In the end, we kept Double Dots, Rocky, John and Frost.

Which, by default, makes Dots head rooster again until of the other three realizes they might be tougher than him. No clue who it’s going to be, except it won’t be Frost. He’s too timid.

So it’s a quieter, calmer place in the coop this morning. When I finally do return the little injured Gray Girl (whom we’ve officially named Peggy), there won’t be as many boys trying to mate her.

I hate posts like this. I hate hate having bad chicken days, or bad chicken weeks. But when you have chickens, either as pets or livestock, or like mine a mixture of both, tough days/weeks happen. It comes with having animals.

Here is hoping for a better week coming up.

Frost and Snow

Going to start off with an update on my Silkie boy, Frost. Or Frosty the Snow Chicken, as I call him.

Yesterday, his poor eyes kept closing up and I feared that he was going to lose one or both of them if the Vetricyn didn’t have the chance to work. Got up this morning and they were both stuck shut again.

Or still. It’s hard to tell.

I gave him 2 sprays in/on each eye. One to help open them and one to help heal.

I am please to report that he’s managed to keep them open all day. Is eating fine and is giving me an acceptable amount of rooster attitude.

Those are good signs. ❤️

Frost, in his cage on our porch.
Giving me the accepted amount of attitude for a boy in a cage.

I’m betting he’s missing the coop and his flockmates right about now. Maybe not the bully rooster, but everyone else.

But then… He doesn’t know about this…

The chickens were NOT impressed. In fact, they were kind of the opposite of impressed.

Also, watching them navigate the ramp was funny.

Chicken Anniversary, Bullies and Chicks

On April 11, 2015, I became a first time chicken momma to seventeen little yellow rooster chicks, and their three little brown&yellow sisters. It’s been five years since then, and a lot has happened. I’ve seen chickens come and go, added a lot of different breeds, and watched mother hens hatch out lots of babies.

We still have one of the original flock, our beloved Double Dots, who celebrated his first birthday without his sister this year. She would have enjoyed the day. It was warm, with sunshine and new green grass. Dots enjoyed but for her.

He is starting to show his age. His crow sounds like that of a little old man. The feathers around his face seem more white (gray hair, chicken style?) than they used to be. But he still walks around the coop/run/pasture with an air of purpose band and determination.

On May 5th, the handful of Rhode Island Reds we have left from our second round flock will also turn five.

Happy birthday (belated and early) to all my birds!

It’s been a stressful week.

I’ve suspected for a while that someone (or more than one some one) has been picking on my Silkie rooster, Frost.

Frost. If you can’t tell, it looks like someone has been pulling his feathers.

Frost is a timid little guy, smaller than my other roosters and a bit of a loner. Lately, he’s been hanging out a lot by himself. I’ve wondered at it, but with my new, full time job, I haven’t had a lot of time to sit and observe what’s going on. However, with Covid-19 shutting down basically every thing, I find myself on an every other day work schedule and time to watch them.

I still couldn’t pinpoint who was picking on him, but you know how it goes… Sometimes when one does to, more if them will, too.

Frost started hiding in the duck house and I’d have to put him in at night.

And then last night, I found him there, huddled in the corner and caked with mud … and blood. Looked like he’d been mud wrestling with a bear, and lost.

I brought him inside, tucked him away in a nest and began doing a head count. At the same time, slowly looking at all the possible culprits.

Our youngest rooster, Barry, a little one my RiR Maicey hatched and raised at the end of them summer… also looked like he’d been mud wrestling, but won. I am pretty sure he did it.

The pictures I am about to show are NOT pretty. And they are very heart-breaking.

I had to bathe him, which is hard because he has very brittle feathers where he’s been trying to grow them back.

So it was more like him standing in the kitchen sink while I sprayed warm water over him to get out the mud and blood.

His eyes are swollen and I’ve been treating them with Vetricyn spray. You can tell it stings him when I spray it, but it’s necessary.

He is currently residing in a dog crate on our porch. Until his eyes are a little better, I can’t risk returning him to the flock.

The bully Barry’s days are numbered. It’s time we decided who of the 8 rooster we were sending to Freezer Camp anyway, but it’s been decided that it will happen sooner rather than later. There will be four of them leaving.

Possibly five if Frost doesn’t get better. I’m worried about those eyes, but I have faith in my Vetricyn.

And DH is building a smaller, enclosed coop, that I can possibly put Frost and some of the hens who’ve been over mated by over-enthusiastic younger rooster and need time to regrow feathers. He’s doing this emergency build right now, in the snow.

I love my DH. He is awesome on so many levels.

On a happier and more exciting note, tomorrow is Day 21 for my broody Columbian Wyandotte, Winnie and her seven little eggs. I am nervously awaiting the first signs of new peeps. I will talk more about that as it happens.

New Floors

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 ducks especially liked the burn pile. I’m not sure why, but I have long ago stopped trying to understand them.

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.

Of Ducks & Duck Eggs

In one of my last posts, I shared pictures of some of the newest members of my flock.  These included three Khaki Campbell ducks named Hewey, Dewey and Lewey (after Donald’s three nephews).   Hewey (the boy) and his two sisters came to me as eggs gifted to me by my friend Loretta.

They were hatched by my Light Brahma hen, Rachel, who never having been a mother before, had no idea that her babies were not normal chicks.

Rachel with her newborns. Hewey was the first one born, the biggest. He turned out to be a boy.

Rachel, and her babies, back in August after they were a couple of weeks old.  Raising ducklings has been an amusing adventure.  They are not like chicks.

For starters, my chicks all tend to stay under their mother exclusively for at a bare minimum of five days before venturing out into the wide world.  Some, occasionally, on day 1, while waiting for siblings to hatch, but not many.  It may be just my mother hens keeping them close, but not sure.  The ducklings?  As soon as they were dry and fluffy, they wanted to wander and explore, boldly running up to anyone they met and quacking a happy “Hey! Hi! Can we be friends?”

I got to witness this more than once because while Rachel was raising them, Pavelle was raising the bantams and cochins we got ( also from Loretta) and some orphaned chicks her daughter sat on but refused to raise.  (Turns out Heather is not a good momma).   There were sharing the floor, and it turns out that the ducks looked on Pavelle’s babies as new friends to explore the world with.  At least until they started getting bolder and bigger and the chicks did not grow with them.

Another big difference was the ducks… and water.  Ducks love water.  Rain, puddles, swimming pools, water tubs, you name it, ducks love it.

Chickens like to drink it, and to wade into after bugs, but not to swim in.  And my chickens do not like rain.

So imagine Rachel’s surprise when it rained the first time and her babies refused to run into the coop with her to stay dry, and in fact, ran around happy as clams… or ducks in water?  I went to check on her and found her grumpily trying to sit on them because her instinct was to keep them dry and theirs was to go out and play.

As we had a very wet summer, Rachel eventually gave up trying to keep them dry and just went with it.

The other big difference I noted was that when a mother hen raises chicks, she lets them to their own devices somewhere around the 6-week mark.  Sometimes earlier, sometimes later, but usually around then.

Ducklings – according to what I’ve read – stay with their moms a little longer, around 10-weeks, or between 1.5 to 2 months.

Rachel, being a chicken, soon found her children had outgrown her, and could not, by Week 4, sit on them.  Usually, she’d one or two under her and one sitting nestled close beside and they would take turns.  And by that time, she wanted to show her ‘chicks’ how to roost on the lower roosting bars. only, her chicks weren’t chicks, they were ducklings who couldn’t figure out how to fly onto the roost.

Eventually, she gave up trying and some nights, she would snuggle on the floor with them, and other nights, she would go to the roost.  There was no rhyme or reason, just whatever she felt like.  eventually, and much too early for ducks, she returned to doing Hen Things and left motherhood behind.

The ducks were on their own, although they continued to follow her around most of the summer and into autumn.


A few random pics of them growing up.

They have been a different sort of poultry experience.  They like water, like snow, and love to make messes with their waterer.  I’ve started leaving the water outside because the coop was getting very damp.

A couple weeks ago, one of the hens (yes, apparently female ducks can be called hens still) started laying eggs.  And then the other joined in.  They don’t lay every day, but almost every day.

Today, I brought up a full dozen duck eggs.

They are white, and about the same size as my older girls’ chicken eggs. I assume that next year when they are older, they will be bigger. But they are still a good size.

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Here are two of the duck eggs with a chicken egg in the middle.  The one on the left is one of the smaller duck eggs.  The one on the right is one of the bigger ones.

And below, for anyone interested, is a comparison of Duck versus Chicken eggs.   I found it via google, here.

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I’m about to fry one up and eat it, and I’ll report back with any difference in taste.

 

An Update on Dots

Well, here’s a brief update on Double Dots.

His eye is, as you can see, doing much better. We are still treating his eye 3x daily with the Vetericyn spray and ointment. It’s helping. He can hold his eye open so much better. It also does not appear that the eyeball itself is damaged.

That all is the good news.

The bad news is that Dots appears to have PTSD now.

I’ve been giving him supervised visits with the coop and flock. I put in there with them and stay close. Watching.

Philip (aka Leapy) has chased him twice. Gone after him once. He’s run from him both times.

Sylvester, my usually friendly Brahma boy, went after him today in the coop and pulled a feather out.

And when Henrietta, who is usually Dots’ friend, came up to him to say “hi” he literally jumped on top of my shoulder to get away from her.

While sitting on the roost with me observing him, Lola (a sexlink hen) came up to sit next to him. He awkward and quiet.

He did not at all act like himself.

I’ve been visiting Google a lot. Looking up other sites to find out what can be done. I can accept that Philip (and perhaps Sylvester too) have wrestled control of the coop away from Dots. But I wish with all my heart that he can return to the flock when his eye heals without more clashes.

Google says that in most cases, the surrendered rooster will be okay so long as the new Main Rooster does not continue to harass him.

A little integration may help. I’m thinking that if his eye is looking any better by Friday, I may move the med came into the coop to ‘reintroduce’ him to the flock. If the boys can’t go back to something that looks like normal, we maybe have to go to Plan B.

However, after today, I worry about how timid he was with Lola and how afraid of Henrietta he was. It’s definitely PTSD.

And that concerns me, because if he cannot even talk to the girls, how can he live with them?

Also, Plan B… an unprecidented winter Freezer Camp. My DH hates culling in winter. We usually do fall or spring. There’s va good four months to go before we’d consider it again.

So if the Boys don’t find a new normal that includes Dots, we need Plan B.

But who do we send to Freezer Camp?

I like Sylvester. He is a big boy, but has a temperament not unlike Dots. He’s friendly and I can pick him up.

Philip is Pip’s only child. I like him too.

Dots is … Dots. But if he can’t reacclimate to hos ladies, should he be the one to go?

I hate making these decisions. They make my heart hurt.