Hatchings, Integrations, Broodies and Hard Decisions

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.

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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.

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. .

 

 

 

A Dreary Weekend Report

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.

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See?  Weeds!

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.

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.

Broody Girls

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!

 


Pavelle

Rapunzel

Rooster Mani Pedis 

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.

img_2095I 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.

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Clipped and rounded down.  🙂

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.

 

Maicey Update 1 

It’s Sunday and Maicey has been in the med cage since Friday afternoon, being treated for her wound – most likely a spur injury – with Scarlex oil , vitamin B and lots of rest away from the Boys.

It looks like her wound is healing nicely.

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This is how it looks this morning.  It appears to losing nicely and even though I haven’t treated it since last night, I was able to touch it without her showing signs of distress.

Compared to what it looked like Friday, I’m calling it good and on the mend.

As of last night, Maicey was back to acting like herself and not the scared little rabbit I described in the last post.   She spent most of her exercise time trying to get back into the coop with the rest of the flock, as well as trying to fly into the rafters.

Because, let’s face it, chickens are social animals and she’s been kept away from her family.   Even if it is for her own good.  Which it is, because if we put her back with them before she is better healed, she could get re-injured.

As a compromise, I’ve decided to start letting her out into the tunnels during the day time.  They were built, as you may recall, to help last spring’s brooder babies to integrate with the big ones.   We had them split on the other half of the coop, and the tunnels gave them a place to go outside in a safe an protected environment until the Integration.

Mostly, now they are a place the chickens rarely go.  A change of pace or a place to explore with curiosity.

But for Maicey, they could provide her with more space to walk in, a pace to dig and dirt bathe, green stuff to eat … and yes, access to her friends while she heals.

The curious thing is, her flock mates have kept her company today. A lot. I’ve been down to check on them several times this afternoon and there have been chickens in the run communing with her all morning.

Also, Dots got his mani-pedi today, too.  I’ll post something about that later.  🙂

 

 

How Did I Miss This?

Aka, the post in which I admit I’m not as observant as I’d like. 

A few posts ago, back in March, I posted that I had a possible broody hen.  Our little Maicey spent more than a week debating whether or not to commit to sitting on eggs, but in the end, did not.  

One of my constant readers, however, noted in the video I posted that Maicey was limping.  

I confirmed, yes she was, but I couldn’t find an injury and after a couple days of pretending to go broody, the limp had stopped.  

Flash forward to this week.  A couple of things have been happening. 

1) Both Felix and Luke has been ‘feeling their oats’ as we say.  That is, they are hormonal young cockerels trying to steal a couple hens away from big papa Dots or big brother Pip.  

2) Luke has become fixated on Maicey, much like Pip did Riley last year.  

3) There has been a noticeable change in Maicey’s behavior.  She’s not a shy hen normally, but is now skittish, running away from all the roosters, even Dots, hiding in corners, and squeaking like a scared rabbit whenever they approach.  This is not like her at all.

I thought over-mating, and have been debating that I can’t keep all four, and which two should be the ones to leave.  

I decided to put Maicey in the dog crate I use for medical separation or broody breaking, to give her a break from the elbows and hoping that, in her absence, Luke would find someone else to fixate on.  

Later on, yesterday, I took outside for supervised exercise, and just sat watching her and watching the others.  She sat on my lap for a while.  Luke came over and made a play for her attention and I told him to go away. 

He did, and she eventually got down off my lap in her own and went to forage.  

I watched her for a long time.  And then, I noticed her limping again.  She hasn’t done it for a while, but when Dots approached and tried to wing dance for her, she squeaked and ran, well limped away.  

So I go over, pick her up, and purely by chance, my hand brushed the underside of her fluff, down by the start of her legs.  

There was something hard and dried on.  I parted the fluff, and see – much to my horror- a huge gash in her side, just above her leg.  

I’ll post a picture in a minute, but let me warn you, it’s NOT pretty.  

I have been asking myself HOW did I miss that??? Never mind how it happened – we think a rooster spur injury, and are planning for Dots and Pip to get mani-pedis soon – but literally HOW DID I NOT SEE this big an injury on a chicken I handle every day?  How?  I can’t even – I don’t have words to describe the guilt I feel over missing it. 

I immediately took her into the house, plopped her in a sink of warm water and try to clean up around it so I can see.  

There is caked on dirt and other stuff, and something that looks like an advanced stage fungal infection.  All likely.  

It smells gross, it looks grosser.  

She stood rather still and took most of my efforts at cleaning rather well.  Maicey is good girl.  I kept telling her how sorry I was and how good she was being.  She really was.  Anyone else would have pecked me, scratched or tried to get away.  

I kept up until I hit a point where the deepest dirt was.  When I touched her there, she cried they squeaky rabbit cry, and tried to get out of the sink. 

A little cleaner, but that is where it hurts her the most. 😓


 My poor Maicey Grace!!! 

My inquires on Facebook yielded the possibility that this is a spur related injury.  

I’m treating with Scarlex Oil spray, vitamin B (orally) and if she continues to have pain, I can add penicillin and baby aspirin.  

She is going to be in the dog crate for a couple of days, but I will also be taking her out for supervised exercise, so I can ensure her safety.  

And yes, the boys with spurs are getting mani-pedis soon.  

I’ve also begun checking the other hens for injuries, now that I know where to look.  So far, this is just her.  

My poor Maicey after her bath/torture.

I’m still upset over not seeing this.  How do you just not see that big an injury on an animal you see and hold every day?  Maicey is one of the favs.  My lap hen who likes to sit in my lap and get petted.  How did it go undetected this long, especially when I checked her over back in March?  

I’ll keep everyone updated on her status, and how it heals.  

And also the Boys and their mani-pedis.  

Three White Hens

Because one of my readers asked for pictures of the Dalmies, I present to you…. three mostly white little hennies.

Perdie, who, as you see, got the most gray from her adventures in the ash pile.  I got pictures of her investigating the nests and it apparently upset her routine, so she went back outside.

Pongo, who is slightly bigger than Perdie in build and has a bit more fluff in the trunk.

Pongo is also the more friendly of the two.  Granted, Ashley raised them all to “hide because it’s safer” … but I can pet Pongo and Maxie.  Perdie doesn’t really want me near her at all.  She is very skittish, as is their hatch-brother, Felix.

Genetics… Pongo and Perdie are most likely Pip’s children, with Australorp mothers.  They act a lot like my Australorps, and also the Orpingtons.  Those two breeds are cousins of sorts, so I guess that makes sense.

They are the most dramatic when it comes to laying eggs.  Often, they will go into several nests in search of the right one, announcing their displeasure at the rejected ones and complaining if their preferred is empty – for a very long time before settling on one.  Or faking the Egg Song in an attempt to get someone out of the nest they want.

I’ve noticed the same behavior in the Orps and Lorps, where as my sexlinks (Abby and the Mystery Bin Girls) are very no-nonsense about it.

Maxie, on the other hand….

… she is a straight to business type of girl.  More like Abby and the Mystery Bin Girls who jump into any available nest, lay their eggs and move on.  Like I said, no-nonsense.

Given that Maxie is a mini-me of Dots, I’m guessing her egg donor was one of the sexlinks.  She’s pretty and friendly, a little smaller than her sisters.  Another indicator that she is a sexlink.  Possible straight-on second generation if we assume Dots as the father.

Maxie was one of the few who avoided the ash pile altogether, so she isn’t even the least bit gray.  Which makes her very smart, in my opinion.

Anyway… that’s the girls.  🙂