Broody/Baby Watch – the One With the Feathered Toes 

This will be the last “broody watch” post, as there are no more babies to be had. Pavelle’s wee little ones were getting restless so I went and candled the remaining two eggs. You could see something watery sloshing around inside each. Rotten yolks. Yuck! Rather than risk them breaking overnight, we chucked them and moved Pavelle and the babies to their new nest on the floor. Which, happily, Pavelle accepted. Hopefully, the overnight sleep will help her to feel at home there with the little ones. It has food, water and shelter. All the things a momma and her babies need.

And now to the title of this post – the One with the Feathered Toes.

One of Pavelle’s babies had feathered feet. For those of you who do not know, my little Pavelle is a Pavlovskaya hen, or partial Pavlovskaya.

The Pavlovskaya hen is Russia’s most ancient chicken breed. Its origins are lost in the murky depths of history, but by the time Russians began to take stock of their native chicken breeds in the late 1800s Pavlovskaya hens were already virtually extinct. Many centuries ago this breed emerged in the town of Pavlovo, a small enclave of peasants and craftsmen about 200 miles east of Moscow. The town was known for a number of unique agricultural specialties including the breeding of fighting geese, canaries, and the cultivation of lemons. Some poultry historians believe that the Pavlovkskaya hens are the foundational breed that gave rise to more recently developed crested breeds like the Polish, Barthuhners, and Brabanters.

~ Greenfire Farms – Pavlovskaya

Pavlovskaya’s have feathered feet and the very originals had five toes, it is said.  Somewhere in the recent attempts to bring them back from extinction, the fifth toe has vanished from some blood lines.

Pavelle came to me as an egg from a breeder who had a pair of what she was told were Pavlovs, but she believed them to be not-quite pure because they lacked the feathered feet.  Pavelle also has no feathers on her toesies.

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw this:

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Little tufts of yellow feathers on the ankles of this wee little chick!

It means that, whatever else she is, my little Pavelle is definitely in some part Pavlovskaya, and so is this wee little babe who looks nothing like her momma in every other way.

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You can even see some feathering on her legs, too.
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Although, even close up, it looks like she’s just got wood chips stuck to her.
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I’m cute little Pavlovskaya/RiR/Comet cross, aren’t I?

Totally adorable!!! I can’t wait to see how she grows into those feathered feet!

Broody/Baby Watch – Breakfast with Momma 

Proof that Pavelle and the Mini-Me look alike.   On the left… Abby, with wee little Pavelle sitting in front.  On the right… Pavelle and Mini-Me.

The two remaining Easter Eggs have not done anything. I tell myself that today is Day 21 and official Hatch Day, so they could still do something, but there aren’t even pips, and Pavelle has pushed them to the back of the nest. I’m thinking these three might be it, but I’m willing to give it another day just in case.

Broody/Baby Watch – Pavelle’s Lock Down 

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…

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I found this little Easter Egger chick this morning, on Day 20.  It is a bright yellow with brown/black on the top of it’s head, with puffy little EE cheeks.

I found this

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I know I am a cutie 🙂

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.

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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.

 

When Motherhood Grows On You

Well, Ashley’s babies turned the infamous “6 Weeks” on Sunday.   In terms of the flock, they are now old enough to fend for themselves and Ashley can start considering loosening the apron strings and return to doing Hen Things.

There are two ironies in that statement.  The first being Ashley’s babies have been, in a matter of speaking, fending for themselves all along. Not one, but two nights spent out of doors huddling together under the barn for warmth and shelter.  Having a momma who invariably failed to keep the other chickens from chasing them, whose survival method amounted to “let’s just hide in the cat carrier a little longer, and the big hens will go away.”

Second irony –  now that they’re old enough to NOT need her, Ashley is suddenly stepping up her game as a Momma.  She’s more protective, attentive, is STILL letting them try to fit under her wings at night (it looks ridiculous!), searches for them if they get separated from her or each other… all the things she wasn’t doing a few short weeks ago.

Not a ‘natural born mother’ like Abby or Claire, but still, it’s somehow managed to grow on her.  And she, in turn, has managed to raise her four wee babes up to be young chickens in training.  Six weeks old!  I honestly did NOT think, given their rocky start with her, that they would make it this far.

Here they are (above) back on November 20th.  This is the first time they spent the night up top of the beds rather than in the cat carrier.  I’m sure it was getting cramped for the five of them anyway,but at this point, they were still using it as a shelter from the Big Hens in the day time.

However, after a few days, I removed it because it became clear that they weren’t using it to sleep in at night and were ready to join the rest of the flock.

This was, also, the odd point at which Ashley started actually mothering them.  It’s like she suddenly realized that “omg! my babies are growing up!  I have so little time with them!  MUST DO MOMMA THINGS!”

And “do Momma Things” she certainly has!   She’s even navigating the waters of sharing the coop with Abby and her wee little chicks without turf wars.  It’s been interesting to watch her transition from a hen I wasn’t sure should be a mother into a pretty okay protector.   She’s still teaching them foraging, how to seek safety and stuff like that. She’s just much more attentive about it now than she was back in October.

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Ashley, Max, Dalmies #1 & #2, and Felicia huddling in the cold this morning.

I’m not sure where this leaves me in my previous assessment of her mothering skills.   Has her failings as a mother hen been because she is a young hen, not high up in the pecking order and certainly not confident enough to peck at the hens who chased or otherwise went after her babies?  She’s gotten better in the last two weeks. Is that because she’s also maturing right along side her babies?   Will she be the same way with another set of babies, should she go broody again?   Or should I continue to be leery of letting her have eggs?

Certainly humans learn and mature as parents right alongside our children. No one denies us the right to have them based on ‘first time parenting mistakes.’  Is this something I should give the chickened -the benefit of the doubt?

(Ideally, it’s a moot issue unless she goes broody again.  Which is possible.  Abby’s on her 4th broody and Claire keeps thinking about it,but I keep taking eggs away from her.  It’s too cold now for little little chicks.)

Chicks!

So here’s an update on all the chicks.   Abby’s and Ashley’s both.

So, I’ll start with Abby’s chicks.  Most of her eggs hatched yesterday, a day early.

Five of them hatched yesterday, and Abby held on to the other egg until mid morning and then she moved off the nest to eat and drink.  When she does that, I know the egg won’t hatch, so I removed it.

Of the five remaining babies, one of them passed sometime this afternoon.  I found it when I came back from grocery shopping.  Sad because it was the cutest one (IHMO) and the one I liked the looks of the best.

I am very disappointed about the little yellow-ish colored one. He was different looking from the others.

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Pip!

Okay, so Pip isn’t one of Abby’s new Littles, but he washer very first Little.  He spent most of yesterday going in and out of the coop, pacing and just seemed to be hanging out. He and Abby have a special bond. I have often observed that even though most people don’t give chickens credit for ‘family ties’ in the way we humans think of family, Pip and Abby seem to have it.  He has ‘helped’ watch after her other hatches, being the protective big brother to Pavel, Hershey and the Boys all summer.  He is respectful of her.  In my mind, he was pacing the coop yesterday because he could hear the change in her soft buck-bucks and hear the peeps of the babies,and he knew that his Momma was having her babies.

Today is a different story and he was outside helping Papa Dots watch over the flock!  But yesterday he was waiting to be a big brother again. Pip, btw, will be 1 year old on the 29th. Happy Birthday, Baby Boy!

Now… Ashley’s babies… some of whom could either be Pip’s little siblings or offspring depending on which hens mated with which rooster… are going to be four weeks old this Sunday.

They are STILL here. They are, however, very difficult to ‘pen down’ to get pictures of. Ashley has kind of reared them to be wild.   I walk out to watch them and they run as far away from me as they can.

I did manage to scoop them up and get some comparative pictures tonight, so we can see how they are, and make some early guesses on Hen or Roo.

First up here is Miracle Max.  Max is the biggest.  No longer yellow, he is mostly white, reminding me a lot of Eugenie.  He (I’m guessing Roo) has a big comb, which is already slightly pinkish and the beginnings of jowly wattles.

This one is is Dalmie #1.   She has a black spot on her back and a little higher up on her shoulders, otherwise all white. Smaller comb and almost non-existent wattles. She’s slim in body and has slightly more slender legs.

In case you can’t guess, I’m betting on a little henny with this one.

This is the Dalmie #2.  He has a big comb and the start of jowly wattles, but his comb isn’t as pink as Max’s.   He’s mostly white, but with a strip of black in his tail and a splotch of up in his hackle feathers.

I included a picture of his feet. Both of the Dalmie’s have slightly grey legs.  It’s like a combination of the Golden Comet yellow with the grey of the Australorp.   I’m willing to bet anything that the Dalmies are white Australorp crosses.

 

This is Felicia, aka the Cinnamon Bun.  I promised a friend I would name one Bye Felicia… and this is the one we chose to bear that name… and I can’t decide if Felicia is really Felicia…. or Felipe.   Smaller comb, but bigger than Dalmie #1’s.  Slightly noticeable jowls… but not quite.

This chick also is one of the bolder of the four, and I’ve seen him/her butt chests with Max.  That’s usually a sign of a boy, except that I’ve seen hens do it, too, even at that age.

Felicia is my Question Mark.  Hen, Roo… this chick is going to keep me guessing.

And while you all are guessing … here’s a video I took this morning of the four of them, plus Ashley, playing  a rousing game of “It’s mine! It’s mine!” with something they foraged out of the grass.

 

One of these days, I need to write down my thoughts on the different types of chicken parenting I have observed this year. Abby, Claire and Ashley each have exhibited vastly different styles of chick raising. Abby is a helicopter mom, always close to her chicks, always near by. Vicious if you threaten them. She isn’t afraid to lay into the hen or rooster who get close to her babies. She barely trusts me with them. Claire is an overseer, who leads her babies outside,demonstrates skills and watches them practice til they learn. She lets them roam, but guards the space she’s designated as theirs. No one goes in or out without her leave. Ashley is very hands off and scatter brained. Her babies follow her, learn from watching, but she often just wanders off and leaves them alone while she forages elsewhere. They freak out, cry and cry until she returns. Vastly different from my other mother hens.

Yes, that is a post for another day,when I have more time to collect and present my thoughts. 🙂

 

Four Feather Babies

Well, Ashley pushed the last egg out of her next this morning, walked around and made an attempt to convince her babies to follow her outside.  They did not.

Assuming she was telling me that the last egg was not going to hatch, I removed it from the coop and got her and the four remaining babies some food and water.

The other egg, the one she was trying to ‘help’ the other day… also died.  I figured it would if it couldn’t get out on its own.

So Ashley has four little wee feather babies.

Here’s a video of them from yesterday.

I’ve removed them from the laying bed they were in and into the cat carrier.  It’s a little snug for a bigger hen like an Australorp, but still a safe place for the Wee Ones to be.

 

Miracle Max


So this feather baby is the only one who has a name right now.  

Miracle Max.  Or Maxie. If it’s a girl. 

My poor little miracle baby somehow managed to wander outside while Ashley was sitting on the last unhatched egg.  And got cold.  So cold that he/she was in deaths door when I found him this evening.  

I scooped him up and cupped him in my hands for warm, carried him inside and tucked him under Ashley.  He was breathing, but weak and chilled.  I figured that his only hope was body heat and the company of his siblings.  

I was right.  By lock up time, Max was up and around, playing with his siblings and eating chick starter.  

Truly a miracle baby.  

(Name courtesy of The Princess Bride.)  

First Look at the Babies

Yesterday, Ashley the Australorp became a mother.

This is the first little one I saw.  You can’t tell, but it has black spots on it’s back.
And peeking out from behind, a little yellow one with no black on it.  (Possible Buff Orp)
A 3rd with a cinnamon red color.  Possible RiR, Possible sexlink/comet.  Really could be the sexlink because the RiRs tend to be darker.  And look!  You can see the black spots on the first chick!

I wound up with a fourth chick as of last night, also yellow with black spots.  Two more eggs to account for, but today is the actual hatch date, so it could take a day or two for them to hatch.

In the meantime, here’s a video of yesterday’s four, being cute:

 

And Ashley being the cross-momma because I was messing with her babies:

I’m headed down there right now to feed and check on the current baby situation.  Here’s hoping for more chicks and momma who wants to be the momma. *crosses fingers*

Milestones

In all the upheaval of babies hatching, babies dying, my aunt and uncle coming to visit and Little Dude’s 4-H projects, I forgot to post Dani and Eugenie’s Week-aversary post.  Now, here it is time for another one!

Dani and Eugenie, week 6
Week 6, standing next to a 19-week old Australorp. The Australorps are getting HUGE, btw!
Week 7.

Dani and Eugenie are now mostly on their own.  I catch them hanging out sometimes with their momma, sometimes with big brother Pip, and sometimes with their papa Dots.

Last week, they even stayed inside the coop to ‘help’ auntie Abby teach the new wee ones how to scratch in the wood shavings.  From a respectable distance, of course!

The rest of the flock seems to have no real problems with them.  They share time at the water dish and while they still don’t get first dibs at the treat dish anymore, they aren’t being ostracized for trying, either.

Usually I find them snuggled together at night, although sometimes Dani likes to perch in the rafters above everyone and Eugenie would rather perch near one of the adult roosters at night.  Sometimes Pip, but mostly Dots, so I often see them both sleeping with their papa.

The rest of the flock does not shun or push them away, like they did with Pip. I think that because they already ‘did this’ with Pip as a baby, they know what to expect and don’t care as much that there are little ones running around with them.

a Mystery Bin Girl, age 20 weeks

Our spring time pullets are all going to be 20 weeks this week.  This means they are reached their sexual maturity.  I am not sure how many of them are laying, but we’re currently getting between 12-14 eggs a day.  Some of them are quite small, while others are clearly the work of the older girls.  Once again, I wish for a video camera to see who is coming and going from the nests.

And lastly…

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Abby’s Easter Egger baby
Look at those wings!

 

Chickens are my happy place, and they keep dying

I feel like a horrible chicken caretaker/mama/owner/person.

In the last week and a half, I’ve lost three baby chicks.  The first last Sunday, was the egg I found half broken and half still alive.  The second, Thursday morning, the last to hatch and our much-hoped for 2nd Easter Egger.

The third, this morning’s tale of woe.

One of Abby’s seven remaining babies somehow spent the night outside.  ALL night.

Please don’t ask me how, because I’ll be honest with you, she has been keeping them close to her and inside the coop.  I hadn’t realized he or any of them had gone outside at all, or else I would have have looked for him last night and he would probably still be alive.

But that’s jumping the gun.  Here’s what I DO know.

Last night, we counted heads and locked up, as usual.  Little Dude counted the heads of all the older ones.  28, including Abby.  Her little chicks were tucked up in under her for the night, except three who had their heads sticking out from in under her.

I went outside to lock up the coop door and get the treat dish.

This was at 8:30-:8:45ish.  They usually start going inside about 8-8:20, so this gives everyone time to find a spot on the roosts and tuck in.

I must have walked past the spot where I found the baby (a Chocolate Orp), two or three times but in the shadows, I didn’t notice it.

This morning when I went to let them out, I realized Abby only had six babies trailing after her.  NOT the right head count.  I freaked, especially after we had found poor little Stevie crsuhed in the wood shavings last month.

Then I went outside, thinking maybe he got brave and went out with the big girls.

That’s when I saw three of our pullets walking near (not touching) something brownish and fluffy on the steps near the waterer.  He was tucked up like he was sleeping and I swooped in to pick him up.  He was breathing, but gasping and his poor little body was limpish and cold.

He must have slept their all night, getting colder and colder as the night air leeched any remaining sun-warmth from the concrete steps.

I both marveled that he wasn’t injured visibly and that nothing had eaten him outright. He would have made any predator a good snack.

I tried to get Abby to stop trying to teach the others to scratch long enough to sit on him and get him warm, but she was in Busy!Momma mode and didn’t seemed to take much notice of the limp, gasping bundle in my hand, so I took him quickly with me to wake up My Girl (Little Dude was headed to Hershey, PA with his grandparents today so I was on my own), and together she and I got our med-brooder set up under a heat lamp.  I had her take the Vitamin B solution I used when Baby was doing poorly back in March because I am out of Sav-a-Chick electrolytes (the irony, I almost bought some this weekend), and told her to put some in a little dish of water.  My hope was to get him warm enough to drink and eat and beyond reason, pull through to go back to his momma.

While I waited for her to get a small dish for the  water, I dabbed some by finger into his mouth and laid him in the med-brooder, and went about the regular chores because the coop still needed cleaned and the chickens still needed fed.

About that time I heard a weird sound, like a cry, and I went to check on him and saw him attempting to move around.  Breathing heavy.  He thrashed a bit, rolled over and got stuck on his back.

And then, suddenly, the thrashing stopped and his legs stiffened up.  His breathing ceased.

My Girl arrived just then with the water.

She says she blamed herself for not coming quick enough with the vitamin water.

I could say the same for not seeing him in the shadows last night at lock up.  What kind of caretaker does that?

I’m a little too shell-shocked to be sad.  More like stunned and emotionally worn from losing so many so fast.

My chickens have been my happy place for the last year and three months, since we brought the first box of twenty (seventeen little golden roosters and three sweet little hens) home to live with us.  They’ve given me joy in times when the rest of my life was raining down sorrow.  Amusement whether I needed a laugh or not.  Smiles because how can you not smile at a happy chicken doing their thing?  They’ve given me something to focus on when I needed it the most.

More than a hobby, or livestock, or pets.

They don’t hate or judge or make demands on me that I can’t meet.  The only thing they ask for is love, a clean coop, fresh water, food… and treats.

I feel like I failed these three dead chicks.  I know I couldn’t have done much to help any of them, but I feel like should have been able to.