An Unsure Future

This is just a brief, no pics update on the status of our coop.

Yesterday morning, I moved Dots’ med cage to sit next to the coop, so he could be seen but not touched. After observing him ‘talking’ to the girls, I decided to leave him there for the day. It would help if they could see him.

When I returned home from work, I gave him his daily supervised visit. There was some chasing, but not bad.

Last night, after spending an hour before lockup with the flock, Dots went up to the rooster to sit next to his sister, Abby, and Maicey. I was hesitant to give him because him sitting next to the hens rather than being afraid of them is preferable. So I kept watching.

As everyone found their way to the roost, Philip eventually joined them, choosing to sit in the same general area as Dots. In the jostling for positions, he wound up with one hen between them. I watched, nervous, to see what would happen. Philip reached over the hen twice to try and pull Dots’ hackle feathers (but never actually did) and finally settled in to sleep. Dots settled in, nestled between Abby and Maicey, and that was where I found him this morning.

I did some more observing this morning, and other than a mild altercation with Sylvester, I saw nothing to be concerned with. Philip did not see the need to attack.

On the issue of Dots’ eye, it is healing. It looks better. He’s been waking up with it shut due to watering, but the Vetericyn spray opens it up and it remains open all day.

His status is the coop is still up in the air. Sylvester is still trying to secure his bid for 2IC. Based on this morning’s bought of chasing, he still views Dots as a threat to that.

I don’t. Dots has been making submissive rooster noises, noises I associate with hens and younger boys. If Sylvester and Philip come that same conclusion, maybe life will go back to a new normal.

If they don’t, we need to keep Plan B on the table.

I hate Plan B.

However, if we go for it, the other summer roosters are ready for Freezer Camp. Or the Pressure Cooker. This bunch in particular is very rowdy and there is too much chaos in my coop. I suspect getting ride of them would help settle things for the boys left to protect the flock, because their hands would suddenly be full of hens in need of protection.

Could Dots be included in the boys going with Plan B? I don’t know. I want to see how he is received in the next couple of days. If the new head rooster and 2IC can accept then, maybe not?

I will admit ( and this is hard) that my orginal plan was to remove Dots this spring to make way for new blood. By “original” of course, I mean back when we first decided to keep him in the first place. So… About three years ago, before we knew he was going to be such a loveable rooster. I’ve flip flopped about it since then.

However, watching this dominance struggle reminded me that he won’t live forever and that, if the Boys don’t think he can still do his job, maybe they know more than I do. Them being actual roosters and all.

At this point, however, I don’t particularly want to cull him after spending a week trying to heal his injuries. It seems inhumane to have gone through those motions. If they can accept him as a ‘regular joe’ then maybe I could still hold off to spring?

I do have a short list of older hens I’d like to cull, to make room for new chicks. It has been four years. We do need fresh genetics.

It’s just always a hard call to make.

I welcome insights, if you have them.

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.

The Most Heartbreaking Thing

I went down to our coop this morning to do usually morning thing. Feed the chickens, let them out, make sure the dropping boards are clean and the nests are free of poop.

I was surprised however, to see our main rooster, Double Dots, already outside, alone and walking funny. Hunched up. Covered in blood.

At first I think that maybe we forgot to close the coop last night and am suddenly terrified that bloody rooster = dead chickens.

But no, the coop is closed

Dots got locked out. All night, on a night where it was less than 19-degrees (farenheit), with a wicked wind blowing from the north.

There are so many things going on in my head.

1. Was Dots attacked in the night by predator?

2. Why was he outside?

You see? Dot is usually the first rooster in the coop, and he usually dictates who goes inside first.

However, we have a handful of young Roo-lings who were too young in September /October to send to Freezer Camp… and Dots is almost 4 years old. Could it be that he was outside when everyone was inside because there is a dominance war going on? Could someone else be stepping up to wrestle the role of Main Rooster from our Dots?

Dots was injured, his eye and comb pretty beat up. I have him in the dog crate that doubles as a hospital ward / broody breaker. I checked him over, there are no body injuries, just his eye and comb. Cleaned him up with warm water and sprayed his comb Scarlex oil and his eye with Vetericyn spray.

Called Tractor Supply to see if they had eye gel, and learned that green tea works for eye injuries too.

He will need to be separated from his flock until I can be sure his eye will get better. He will need care and patience and a lot of prayers.

I’m trying to practical. If his eye does not get better, he’s not much use to his flock. But this is our Double Dots we’re talking about. If I have to cull, I will be heart broken beyond words.

And .. that leads me to the other thought on my heart

3. Double Dots is one tough roosters. He survived all night, injured and alone. He deserves to pull through this.

Pictures below are heartbreaking.

Chickens In Sweaters

Every winter, this image or one similar to it shows up on my Facebook feed.  Inevitably, someone will tag me in it because they know I have chickens and that I love my chickens.

Now, I will tell you that because I love my chickens, I will never, never, never ever put a sweater on them.

They look cute, yes, but in reality, they are very bad for chickens.

First of all, chickens do not need sweaters to keep warm.  They have their own downy fluff and feathers to hep regulate their body temperature and keep them warm in the winter.

(Which by the way, is also why they don’t need a heated coop, either. )

Secondly, sweaters trap moisture and dirt inside, and provide an excellent home for parasites such as lice and mites.  Lice and mites are very bad for our chickens.

Third, sweaters can break pin feathers.  Pin feathers are the delicate, vein filled feathers on your chickens.   If broken, they will bleed.  If you don’t catch it and stop the bleeding, your chicken can actually die(worst case).

In the winter, when most well-meaning, but ill-informed people think chickens need sweaters, chickens are molting, and those pin feathers are very prominent with the growth of new sweaters.

Which leads to the Fourth… sweaters on chickens will actually impede the growth of new feathers.

Fifth… sweaters leaves chickens vulnerable to predator attacks (because a hawk or bigger bird can grab up a sweater and carry off your favorite bird) and accidental mating injuries (think talons caught in the knitting).  Not to mention getting caught on chicken wire and branches and stuff around your coop and foraging areas.

Lastly, sweaters prevent your chickens from dust bathing and preening, which is how they keep clean.

Please educate yourselves about this issue and say “No” to the custom of chicken sweaters. 

The Autumn Chicken Report

Or is it the Late Autumn Chicken Report?  Because winter is almost here people.   As reported in my last post, the chickens are in various stages of molt.  They look pathetic, although some of the earlier molters are almost feathered back.

Hopefully, the others will hurry up and NOT still be half naked by the time the snow starts sticking.

October (or rather the end of October) meant the return of Halloween, jack o’lanterns and pumpkin seeds.  I’ve always been jealous of pictures and videos of peoples’chickens pecking holes in pumpkins left out for them.  Mine do not do that. They ignore whole pumpkins like the plague and even broken up ones, they would just eat the seeds and not the pulp.

This year, however, they were more than interested in our post-Halloween offerings and devoured not only the pumpkin seeds and guts shown above, but six medium sized jack o’lanterns over the course of the first week of November.

I am glad they enjoyed it,  because in the next couple of weeks, I was tasked with the painful process of deciding which of them Summer Boys stayed and which ones were sent off to Freezer Camp.  If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I have a general weakness for roosters.   Between their beautiful plumage and strong, unique personalities, how could I not fall in love with the little buggers?  But every year, we hatch an average of 5-8 roosters and I’m only allowed to keep a minimum of three, depending on the size of my hen-to-rooster ratio.

This year, including Dots and Luke (saved from last year), we had a grand total of eights roosters.  DH said I could keep three this year, if one of them was Phillip, the smaller rooster hatched out of one of Pavelle’s little white eggs.   He is about half of Dot’s size and not likely to get much bigger.

So while the chickens were blissfully enjoying the pumpkin treats, I was looking at my roosters, talking to them, interacting with them, and trying to decide who should stay and help Dots keep his flock safe.

This is NEVER an easy decision for me, and the last time I had to do it, a mistake was made.   

I will probably never forgive myself for allowing DH to take Pip that day instead of Luke.  I miss him.  Everyday, I miss that little guy.   He was our first chick ever and worked well his father and mother in taking care of the flock.

Phillip (or Leapy as I call him sometimes), is Pip’s son from Pavelle and reminds me a lot of him, personality wise.

So, before I go into who got tickets to Freezer Camp, let me introduce to the Summer Babies.

Of these, the roosters were Philip, Gus, Cutie, Sylvester, Apache and A.J.

I have also thought at times that Darcy could really be a Mr. Darcy, but that one is either a late bloomer or a big hen.   So we aired on the side of ‘big hen’ and kept Darcy, for now.  She will winter over that will us time to see if she is really a he.  Or not.

This year, I decided to rectify the mistake of keeping Luke,making him first on the list for Freezer Camp.

We would be keeping Dots (as usual because it’s dumb to get rid of a good rooster, and I learned that the hard way with Pip) and Philip… so I had a spot for one more keeper.

The candidates I was deciding from were Cutie ( a light barred rock from Little Dude’s incubator project) and Sylvester, the only hatched buff brahma.  Of the Summer Boys those two were my favorites.   Cutie because he was so incredibly beautiful and Sylvester because he was raised by my Tweety girl and has always been friendly.

Like last time, I simply couldn’t decide right up til the end.  What it came down to was which one could I pick up without too much hassle.  Cutie always fights me until I got him in my arms.  But then he would settle in.   But he would still fight me.  So on Freezer Camp day, I made the decision in favor of keeping Sylvaster and letting Cutie go.

I hope that it doesn’t turn out like the Luke vs Pip decision.   I really don’t.   I couldn’t take that again.

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Incidentally, it really wasn’t “freezer camp” this year.  We decided to can them instead and got 9 jars, 8 pints and 1 quart of meat out of them.   They will be used to make soups and stews and maybe to grind up for chicken salad.   

 

The last thing we needed to do was give little Not Cocoa a better name.   She is part Easter Egger (because Luke is her papa) and part Rhode Island Red.   We called her Not Cocoa because we named Cocoa first and she is… not Cocoa.

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How hard is it to come up with a good name for me?  I’m adorable!

 

So we’ve been debating it a while, and finally, on Thanksgiving, we came up with a suitable name… Nutmeg.

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Lastly, I’ll leave you all with a picture of Double Dots and his ladies enjoying their Thanksgiving morning breakfast of oatmeal mixed with scratch grain, BOSS, meal worms and cranberries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Co-parenting, Sort Of

This is just a brief update on the fate of Claire and the chicks of Baby Land.

The last time, I mentioned that Eugenie had gone back to Hen Things when the babies were 5 weeks old.

They are now 7 1/2 weeks old and Claire has yet to go back to Hen Things. She does wander away from them or them from her… occasionally. But for the most part, they are together. Just without Eugenie.

Not that you would notice a difference, because more recently, Pavelle and her baby AJ have been hanging out with them.

The older chicks treat AJ very well, and Claire seems to tolerate Pavelle so long as her babies don’t get pecked.

And then there was one…

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.