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.
Three years ago today, I became the proud Chicken Momma to 20 little sexlinked chicks. Seventeen little yellow roo-lings and three sweet little hens.
Our brand new chicks.
Weren’t they cuties? Looking back on it, we are pretty sure that the little rooster napping on My Girl’s chest is no other than Double Dots himself. He still loves to be picked up and cuddled, my little lap rooster. I suspect he discovered his love of hugs on that first night.
Of those original twenty, only two remain… Double Dots and his sister, Abigail.
I’ve talked about them a lot, because no one has personality than these two, Dots is, of course, my main rooster. He’s is a fierce protector, a gentle lover of his ladies, and an all around lovable bird. Abby is the quintessential ‘mother hen’ and the boss of the flock. She let’s Dots ‘think’ he is, but really, it’s her and always has been.
Dots looking regal (with a Rhodie in the background)
I tried getting a picture of them together, but Abby kept walking off.
Or looking the other way.
There, finally! My beautiful little birds!
Here they are now, in pictures taken just this morning. For three, they are still healthy and happy, although Abby gets a little cross with the younger hens and Dots is always grumbling about the ‘little roosters’ who are helping him watch the flock.
Happy birthday, Abby and Dots! Here’s to many more!
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.
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.
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.
So we’ve been debating it a while, and finally, on Thanksgiving, we came up with a suitable name… Nutmeg.
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.
If it’s not one thing with these chickens, it’s another. And this is shaping up to be a busy week for my little flock of 40.
I’ll start with this little piece of precious fluff. Because, really, doesn’t that face just make you want to saw “awwwww!”
A few weeks ago, I had two broody hens. Claire, one of my veteran broody’s from last year, and Tweety, my small Buff Orpington and a new broody. I gave them each 3 eggs. Claire, some barred rocks, and Tweety, some Buff Brahma’s.
And then a week after I gave them their eggs, went into the hospital for my surgery and have been limited to light duty. Somewhere in there, no one candled the eggs to see what was going on. Today is Hatch Day, and it is nail biting all the way around because I don’t know if any of the eggs (except this one, obviously) will hatch. None of Claire’s eggs have hatched yet, but yesterday, Tweety was blessed with this sweet little Brahma.
No other eggs have hatched, but neither hen seems ready to give up the nest, so I won’t let myself worry until Saturday morning.
HOWEVER, the addition of a new little baby has brought out a different Worry, one which will have to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
Rapunzel tried to attack Tweety’s baby, in a similar fashion to what she did with her own. She forced her way into Tweety’s nest and began going after the baby, lunging at it even when it was under Tweety.
Both the kids and I removed her and she went back to try again.
The last time, we put her in the Broody Jail, and there she is going to stay until DH comes home this weekend. After that… well, I can’t have a hen who will attack and harm babies. If she was just doing this to her pwn babies, we wouldn’t give her eggs. But attacking other hens’ babies is an entirely different thing. It means no babies are safe.
And right now, I have Claire and Tweety to worry about… plus Pavelle thinks she wants to go broody again is in a pre-broody stage right now. And Eugenie (Claire’s little snowball from last summer) is 98% definitely broody now, and will be worse by the time Rapunzel gets out of the Broody Jail this weekend.
(I was planing on putting Eugenie into broody jail tonight, after we integrate the Brooder Bunch, but now that’s not going to happen and it’s all Rapunzel’s fault.)
But Rapunzel will not be released back into the flock. I’ve made the decision that DH needs to send her to Freezer Camp. I can’t rehome her, because if anyone else tries to have chicks around her, or gives her eggs (Buff Orpington’s are supposed to be good broody mommas, after all) then she will do the same thing to them. I couldn’t ethically do that to some innocent person, so Freezer Camp is the only viable option.
Bella (formerly Goth Chick) and Winnie (formerly CW)
Rachel (theBrahma), with Cutie and Roxie (formerly Rocky)
Chipmunk inside the coop, checking things out.
Winnie meeting Dots. He was nice to her and offered her food.
The babies in the brooder are 6 weeks old, and mostly feathered out. The Brahma,whom we have decided might be a hen are calling Rachel, Cutie and Grumpy and the only hold outs, but they have enough feathers to be okay. They don’t sleep under the brooder lamp anymore anyway, and also, they are all getting HUGE.
What you see in the above pictures represents their last day in the brooder box. It’s raining, so they didn’t go outside. But tonight, after everyone is sleeping, the kids and I will sneak them into the coop and put them on roosts. When they way up Friday morning, they will be a part of the flock. As you can see,Dots already likes Winnie. He was very kind to her.
I think it will go well. All of the nice days, the babies got to be int heir playpen and the rest of the flock got to see them and know they were there. It will be an adjustment, but it should work out fine. .
We’ve had a lot of rain the last few weeks, both actual rain and a figurative kind where everything seems to pulling down our efforts. And weeds of all kind have been growing as the result of that rain.
The above weeds took up residence in my garden plots, and nurtured by all the rain we’ve had, grew and multiplied in such a way that it look me four days to weed them out. Not four days straight, mind you, because I was doing other things all day long, too. But for at least 3 hours every day, during the time I didn’t have to be cooking, cleaning, feeding the chickens, or running to various sports functions for the kids. The Girl had her last track meet on Tuesday and Little Dude had two baseballs games. So there was a lot going on in the real outside the garden.
So… four days…
It looks nice now, but I’m better I’ll be out there once more before planting because we’re getting MORE rain and that gives everything I evicted time to grow back.
The chickens benefited from the garden efforts because I would occasionally toss them a grouping of plants where the dirt just wouldn’t shake away from the roots. (I was trying to keep good soil in the garden, after all.) The offerings yielded leaves and flowers to nibble, big fat worms, and juicy bugs. All of which were much enjoyed by the ladies and their boyfriends.
Tuesday was Day 14 for Pavelle and her Baby Eggs. We celebrated by candling them again and pissing Pavelle off to the point where every time I took away an egg, she bit me. She’s very devoted, I will give her that!
It was dark because we went later at night but here are her eggs:
Again, sorry that they aren’t as good as the first candling. It was darker. We did see bigger blobs inside the eggs and signs of movement. Even that #2 Easter Egger egg I was certain was empty last time looked like *maybe* it had something in it, depending on which way I turned it. I’m still maybe 80% sure it’s a dud, but I guess we’ll see.
Today is Day 18, and therefore tonight I will be candling for the last time before leaving Pavelle and her sweet baby eggs to their own devices. Lock Down this weekend!
Also on Tuesday, after two days of fussing with the incubator and trying to get the temps to even out somewhere between 99-100 degrees, we placed Little Dude’s 4-H eggs in to be incubated.
But not before deciding to make an ‘experiment’ of our own, and put half the eggs in the incubator and the other half under Rapunzel, to answer the question, “which does a better job, hen or incubator?” I’m betting on hen, because Rapunzel is very very dedicated and the humidity in the incubator keeps giving me fits. Who knew that there was so much that could go wrong with these things? I’m so used to just putting the eggs under the hen and letting them do the rest!
We’re going to be candling Rapunzel’s eggs and the incubator eggs today, too, because Little Dude is supposed to do it 4 times on this journey and sketch the results. Hoping to see something, but they’ve only been in four days and I don’t usually candle until Day 7.
Wish us luck, okay?
And now… onto a bit of sad chicken news.
A few weeks ago, I posted that I was keeping my Easter Egger rooster, Luke, and because I couldn’t decide what to do about Felix, we’d try a go at four roosters. My logic was that since we’d be doing these 4-H eggs, and would possibly have broody hens raising babies, the flock would be big enough to sustain that many roosters without problems. And with Pavel sitting on 6 eggs and the 4-H project having 12 eggs, that seemed like a possibility.
And then Jolene got sick, and we had to put her down.
And then Maicey got hurt. And hassled by the younger roosters who didn’t realize she was hurt and were just trying to make their presence known within the flock.
And then I started noticing that some of younger sexlink hens have started looking … abused…
AND THEN… we had a sudden drop off from 22-25 eggs a day to 14-18 eggs a day.
That’s when I came to the conclusion that my flock is NOT big enough to maintain four roosters. In all harsh reality, until all these eggs hatch and the chicks grow up (so basically middle to end of the summer), we aren’t even ready for three roosters. Someone had to go, for the physical and mental health of my flock. The trouble I was running into was WHO and in what manner.
I am a self-admitted rooster addict. I love them. I love their bright plumage and handsome faces. I love their bold as brass attitudes and the little nuances of their courtship rituals. I love the duality of a bird who will rush to defend his hens with harsh cries and sharp beak, wings beating the air like a male ape beats his chest and yet turn around and eat feed from my hand one piece at a time. The savage and the gentleman all rolled into one beautiful creature. I love their awkward first crows and every crow that follows… and a happy morning begins with a chorus of multi-voiced “Rr-r-Rr!!!” loudly proclaiming that the sun is up and so are we!
Knowing this, and reading my blog regularly, you know how much I love my roosters. How could I possibly decide?
I had four roosters:
Double Dots, the Flock Papa who has been here since the very beginning.
Pip, our first born chick and the 2IC.
Felix, Pip’s skittish and flighty son.
Luke, the Easter Egger I fought so hard to get and wanted to be a hen so this wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.
I’ll start by saying there was NO WAY ON EARTH it was going to be Double Dots on the chopping block. It ought to be, given him being the oldest, and father/grandfather to all of my Gen 2-ers. He’s too good a rooster, too well behaved, too well liked by his ladies, to just get rid of without a LOT of thought.
Someday, it will be his turn, if health and/or predators don’t get him. But that day was not this weekend.
Even still… this leaves Pip, Felix and Luke to consider.
Well… Pip and Luke to consider, because Felix? I have known for a while that I wouldn’t be keeping Felix. He’s too skittish and flightly and around me. Not mean, but not accessible. I began to worry that if we kept him, with age and hormones, would he be the one to someday turn on me in the barnyard? Could I trust him not to hurt me or Little Dude? Also, I can’t pick him up, which makes checking him for injuries and caring for him harder.
But Pip? And Luke?
I agonized and agonized over the whole thing for days, weeks even since the rain made it impossible butcher roosters.
I made lists on paper and in my head of both their pros and cons. Who was the “nicer” personality wise. Who worked best with Dots and other hens. They both brought something different to the table, each valuable in their own way. I asked Mom, Dad, DH, the Girl and Little Dude for input and preference. I agonized some more.
Yesterday, DH said he wasn’t going to take care of the roosters until today. Last night, he decided to do it then, so he could hunt turkey this morning.
While he butchered Felix, I agonized over Pip and Luke some more, and almost started crying. DH came back inside the coop and I told him “I can’t do this. You decide.”
So he walked into the coop and grabbed Pip off the roost.
I couldn’t even watch, and writing it right now is the hardest thing ever. My little Pip Chick is gone. I know I’d be feeling the same way about Dots, or even Luke given how much I’ve been invested in the little non-Sith, and I’m trying to remind myself that we needed to do this for the hens. Because we did, because they are being stressed too much, that’s not fair to them.
But Pip is gone and I want to cry.
I give you Pip…
Pip posing with his momma.
Abby and her baby.
Farewell, Baby Boy. Gramma will always love you.
And good-bye, Felix/Felicia, the little cinnamon colored chick who managed to live despite his hatch-momma’s crazy child-rearing methods.
It’s spring, and after a long and snowy winter, in which the hens spent more time in the coop than outdoors. The weather is warming up, the grass is growing. Flowers, weeds and bugs are everywhere. Life is good if you’re a chicken.
A couple of weeks ago, several of my hens started exhibiting signs of being broody. Hanging out in the nests longer, or later in the day. Puffed up feathers and growling or yelling while they are in the nest. Growling and yelling at other hens when they are off the nest.
This kind of thing happens every spring. Hens thinking that maybe they want to go brood on some eggs and raise some babies. Its a natural, hormonal instinct for chickens, albeit one that the hatcheries have tried to breed out of their birds because egg/meat production is more profitable than hens sitting on eggs. But if you’re a back yard chicken owner, homesteader, or farmer who wants a self-sustaining flock, a broody hen might be what you’re looking for.
My first year as a chicken owner, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know if I wanted broody hens. Most the websites and blogs who talk about broodies talk about how to broody break them, because most people want eggs. And I had Abby, who went broody less than two months after laying her first egg. I broke her the first time, but decided when she did it again a month later, that it wasn’t worth trying to break her again, and just gave her eggs.
Watching Abby raise her chick – the rooster now known on this blog as Pip – was all it took. I was bitten hard by the bug, and now wait with anticipation for the sign of broodies I can give eggs to. There is something of wonder about watching a mother hen raise her Littles, seeing them explore the world at her side. Learn and grow, and become a part of the flock.
I also like seeing the way genetics plays out in the 2nd Gen chicks. I have a small group of ‘barnyard mix’ hens and two mix roosters who are all very unique in their looks and personalities.
So… anyway… I had five hens who started to act like they might go broody. Penelope, Claire, Julia, Rapunzel and Pavelle.
Penelope an Julia really didn’t do anything. They did that last year, too. Walked around bucky for a week or so and then just stopped. I don’t expect this year to be different.
Claire is STILL puffing up while she’s on a nest and sometimes while she is off it. Given that she actually DID go broody last spring, I’m watching her closely. She might. And she was a good momma, so I would have no qualms about giving her eggs.
Rapunzel went HARD. Rapunzel is a Buff Orpington and Orpingtons are known to be goody broodies. Rapunzel spent the least time ‘going through the motions’ and after a couple of “well, maybe” days, she hopped in a nest and committed to sitting on ceramic eggs. She is very dedicated to them, and I’m going to let her stick with the ceramic eggs because I have special plan for her. Little Dude is going to be doing an Embryology project for 4-H, which means we will be hatching eggs in an incubator and documenting every step of the way. I have eggs coming from My Pet Chicken, because Little Dude wanted Barred Rocks. So we have 4 Barred Rock eggs and 6 “assorted” eggs, which could be any breeds, coming later this week. I’ve decided that I will be giving Rapunzel the chicks that hatch from those eggs. Hopefully, she will accept them as her own. Otherwise, I will have to put them in the brooder and raise them separate of the rest of the flock.
In the meantime, Pavelle is sitting on six eggs. Three are hers, and three came from Padme, the little Easter Egger hen. They are the smallest eggs I have, even though Pavelle is very impressive when she is puffed up and screaming at you, she is still a small hen. Any of the babies she raised will be bigger than her at 6 weeks of age.
If anyone else goes broody in the between time – I’m looking at you, Claire – I will probably share the wealth, rather than give more eggs. Claire, for example, could take on some of the 4-H babies, so Rapunzel, who is a new mother, doesn’t have to raise a potential ten babies on her own. But that is a big IF that has a lot of variables. IF Claire or anyone else goes broody in the next 3-4 weeks. IF the incubation is successful and all the eggs hatch. I’ve never used an incubator before and I’m borrowing one from DH’s aunt for the project. So many variables.
In the last picture, you can see that Pavelle and ‘Punzel are in a prime location. Pavelle will steal eggs from the nests around her, and I constantly have to check underneath her for extras. Which is funny because one time, she had three extras and they were sticking out because she is so small they don’t all fit!
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that one of my hens – a spirited and friendly little girl named Maicey – was injured, presumably by a rooster spur. We have roosters, two of which have spurs, so this is a good likelihood.
Given that Maicey’s favorite rooster is our main rooster, Double Dots, I’m going to assume that it was him. Dots is a 2 year old golden comet rooster, also known as a gold sexlink. He does have long spurs, but thankfully not overly long.
Over the last couple of days, in between treating Maicey’s wound and shuttling my son to baseball games, I have been researching the best methods of trimming or removing rooster spurs.
The first is the Baked Potato Method, in which you basically shove the spur into a hot baked potato and keep it there for two-or-so minutes.
This method is demonstrated here:
Another good method is with a pair of pliers, twisting the spur off at the base:
You may also grind them down with a dremel tool, as demonstrated here:
None of these are the method I used. Not because they aren’t all good, but because I knew it was just going to be me and my Girl doing the trimming.
Instead of full removal (baked potato or pliers methods), we went with a simple trim, with dog nail clippers and a metal nail file, and followed the basic instructions, outlined here, by the Chicken Chick, to remove 1/4 – 1/3 of the nail.
After you have decided on a method that works for you and assembled the tools you will need, you need to consider your rooster. You know him the best, after all. The videos above are all done in the day time, but a lot of people recommend going to get your rooster at night, in the dark after he has gone to roost.
Why? Because he will be easier to catch and handle when he is sleeping.
In the case of Double Dots, this is not so much of a consideration. He is quite possibly the gentlest rooster ever. I can walk out into the pasture, scoop him up in my arms and carry him around like a toddler. Pip and the other boys are a bit different, so I’ll have to figure out what works best with them.
I started by plopping Dots in the sink and washing his feet and spurs. I also took the time to examine his feet for sores or anything else. You might as well, while you have access to clean chicken feet.
As you can see, Dots just stood there like he was king of the world. He’s not even bothered that he’s not with his hens, or that he’s in the kitchen, or just had his feet washed.
He’s not causing a fuss or anything.
His spurs are not as big as some of the spur-removal videos out there, but the one is/was really sharp and pointy.
I sat in a chair, wrapped Dots in a towel, and my Girl did the clipping. She did about 1/4 of each spur, and then used the file to blunt them so they weren’t as sharp.
My Girl wanted to paint his toe nails, too, because he was just so chill about the whole thing.
I do not anticipate the same experience with Pip. He lets me pick him, but only if he’s on the window ledge or a roost. I can’t just walk up and tuck him under an arm like I can his papa.
So again… please take your rooster’s individual behavior and personality into account when you prepare for this. You know him best.
You may also want to have a styptic powder or corn starch on on hand. If you cut too far on the spur, you can cause them to bleed, kind of like a dog’s nail will if you cut past the quick.