An Early Christmas Gift…

… for my birds.

Yesterday DH, the kids and I finished up the last of our Christmas shopping.  After wrapping and packaging up gift baskets for teachers and the bus driver, we headed down to the barn to collect the last of the eggs for the day, count heads and lock up the chickens for the night.

I was apprehensive because while we were busy, this was happening in the barn yard:

Abby took Pip waaaay outside the run today, and let him explore the weeds in the barnyard.
Abby took Pip waaaay outside the run today, and let him explore the weeds in the barnyard.

As you can see, the snow from Saturday didn’t last long. We still had a small powdering yesterday morning but by afternoon it was mostly a memory.  Abby decided to show Pip the secret treasures a weed patch can hold.  Personally, I think that he’d be better off looking in the spring, when there are actually bugs to find.  But what do I know?

So, I was apprehensive, because while I was snapping this picture, Little Dude spotted a bigger, darker figure flying overhead, looking for God only knows what, and Pip is just small enough to snatch if the big flying shadow hungry enough.

It must not have been, because Pip was in the coop with his Momma, Papa and Aunties when we went down to lock them up.

DH came with us, and we gave the chickens an early Christmas present… a new roost for their coop.

A little back-story here, but before Thanksgiving, Dad and I clipped their wings so that we could lock them in the run on the days we go away and can’t watch them.  I think I’ve mentioned in other posts that, some days the barn yard and pasture aren’t enough for them and these chickens cross the road to come looking for… I’m not sure what.  Me?  Little Dude??  Bugs???  Greener grass????

And while it’s less of a problem on days when someone is here to see them safely back across the road, on holidays where we might be gone it’s a huge problem.  (The fence is in the planning stages now.  Yay!)

But a more interesting problem, however, has risen inside the coop as a result of the wing-clip.

My girls can no longer roost in the rafters.  They’ve been trying, because they like it up there. and I guess (I’ve read anyway) that the ones who roost highest up have some kind of social status in the flock.  But mostly, there’s about five or six hens who really liked roosting up in the rafters.

Since Thanksgiving, they’ve all been trying to reach that Nirvana … to sad/pathetic/sometimes hilarious results.   Little Dude and I have watched several go crashing into the side of the coop time and again.  There’s also been some domestic squabbles about who’s sitting in which spot on top of the laying beds (there’s a shelf on top where they sleep sometimes).  All this because some of the girls can’t jump up to the rafters.

So after a few nights of this, I asked DH to build them a perch they could use, halfway between the beds and the rafters.  I figure if they had a shorter distance to go up, some of them could make it into the rafters and some might stay on the roost.

I placed Dots, Madison and Maicey on the perch myself, but while I snapped pictures and helped with clean up, Penelope, Henrietta and a couple of the others made it up there themselves.  By the time we left, Henrietta had found her way back into the rafters and the Promised Land.  Even Dots had snuggled into a squat on the perch and closed his eyes.  He usually sits in the corner on the top shelf of the beds.

Over all, I’d say it was a successful project.

Pip’s Second Week-aversary!

Happy 2nd Week-aversary, Little Pipsqueak!!!

Pip's getting big, and very active!
Pip’s getting big, and very active!

Pip has been venturing outside into the run, learning to fly, and growing up very fast, right before our eyes.  If you look closely at the pics below, you can see that his wee little comb is already starting to look… well, BIG for a 2-week old chick.  Makes me think Pip will definitely be a boy.

I also don’t think he will be very red at all.  I think… more a buffy color?  Look at these wings!

Pip, the Cute and Fluffy

After the sadness of yesterday’s post, I thought I should have something to lift people’s spirits.

So… Pip, the Cute and Fluffy. Basically… all the pictures I’ve taken of Pip this week.  I’m starting to be of the opinion that Pip may wind up being a buff yellow color with some red feathers.  He/she is NOT all red, like his bio-mom.


The on-going drama in the Life of Pip, thus far, has been if Pip will go outside into the run with his Momma.

Abby misses the outdoors and the feel of sunshine on her feathers.  She basically missed all the good sunny days being broody.  She missed the deaths of both her sisters.  She’s missed… everything.. to bring Pip into this world and keep him safe.

The last couple of mornings, Abby has been going outside, down the run, pecking and scratching and bucking encouragingly for Pip to join her.
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Most of those mornings go something like this:  Pip approaches the ramp, hops just barely outside the coop, cheeping and peeping loudly to his Momma.

The dialogue in my head goes like this:

“Momma! Momma! Momma!  Come back!”

“Pip!  Come out here and see what I found for us!”

“No, Momma!  It’s too cold!  I’m too little!”

“But the sun is warm!”

“But Momma, no!”

And then Abby gives up and goes back into the run with him.

This morning, Abby ran out with the others when I opened the coop doors.  She raced straight to the treat dish (I have been giving them a scoop of layer feed, scratch grains and sunflower seeds, mixed, in the treat dish), ate her fill and left Pip inside the coop cheeping and peeping frantically.

As I watched, Pip finally approached the door, hopped out on the ramp… and instead of going back inside, heistantly made his way down.

He finally stopped at the bottom.

The Post I’ve Been Dreading

I’ve been putting off writing this post because the subject is one that I have been dreading ever since we first got our babies back in April, and increasingly since about the end of September.

One of my hens was struck in the road, by a car.

It was one of my two remaining Gold sexlinks.

Now the only sexlinks I have are Abigail, Dots (our rooster) and if you count Pip (sexlink-x-RiR cross).

My heart is all kinds of broken.  And also all kinds of angry.

But not at the car/person who struck my chicken.  At myself, for not pushing harder to make a fence happen… and at both Dad and my DH, who both (at at different times) refused me the right to have a fence.

Some background on our Great Fence Debate:

When we first started talking about chickens, I wanted to fence in the inner barnyard for them.  DH was for it, but when we mentioned it to my Dad, he said “NO!” because if it was fenced off, he wouldn’t be able to drive his truck, tractor, lawn mower back there.   So, we opted to build them the little run, with the option to let them free range as they got bigger.

I asked DH’s cousin, Holly, (who lives a couple miles away on the same stretch of road) if she’d ever lost any chickens to the road.  She said no, because hers were afraid of the cars and ran away if they were close and a car drove by.

So I assumed mine would, too.  The cars and trucks that drive by are bigger, louder and noisier than my chickens. They would be afraid and run.

Right?

It wasn’t much of a problem for most all the time we’ve had the chickens.  Until June/July, they mostly stayed in the run and coop.  After we started letting them out of the run, they all stayed in the inner barnyard.  Occasionally, little groups of them would walk around to the side of the barn or out front of the barn, but they all stuck close and away from the road.

Then we did the butchering, leaving Dots alone with his sixteen hens.  They were older by now.  The girls started laying eggs.  Abby went broody (September), and Rebecca and Ava started wandering closer to the road.  They crossed it a couple times, lead other girls and sometimes Dots to join them.

Since the first time, we’ve had an on-going debate over the absence of a fence and the need for one.

If we’re not at home, I lock them in the run.  We clipped wings to keep them from flying over the run (we have some girls who still do).

I’ve suggested a chicken tractor.  DH is against it because it would mean 1) they weren’t ‘truly free range’ and 2) they wouldn’t be using the coop he worked so hard on.

Then Rebecca got killed by the predator (we think cat).    Dad finally said to me, “you know, you should fence off an an area for them.”  We talked about it and both decided that IF we could get DH to build a fence with a gate for us to drive through, we could just clip the wings occasionally and the chickens should be fine.

DH still said no, giving the same reasons as above.

Then, this past Tuesday happened.

It wasn’t a good day all the way around.  Little Dude had been suffering from a toothache and I had to take him to the dentist (about a 45 min drive).  We were there ALL day.  As we were leaving, just getting on the Interstate to drive home, he says to me “Mom!  I left my glasses at the dentist!”  no place to pull over, and I suck at using my phone while driving so I couldn’t reprogram the GPS (I had never been to that dentist before, so I was using the gps on the phone to navigate).  I decided to go home, call the dentist, and go back the next day to get them.  Neither me or Little Dude had eaten since breakfast and it was almost 2pm then.

So we made it home, and as I’m pulling up to the house, I see this little pile of gold/red/white by the side of the road.

Ava.  Dead.  I screamed and cried and as soon as I was in the driveway and parked, I ran down to get her and just held her and cried.

Mom said she’d been watching and had shooed her across the road once.

Dad was in the barn.  The rest of the chickens were closer to the inner barnyard.

I don’t know what Ava was doing all by herself crossing the road.  I guess there’s no way of answering that question now.

I spent the rest of the day pretty upset. (I’m still pretty upset.  It’s like we’re not meant to have sexlinks.  If something happens to Dots, Abby and Pip, I will be broken.  Not to mention what it will do to Little Dude.)

I found pictures of Ava on my phone.  Some with her sisters.  They made me start crying.

DH asked what was wrong.  I told him nothing, I was just thinking.  He asked what?  I asked him. “what do I need to do, what do I need to sacrifice or give up or go without, to get you to fence off a safe place for my birds?  I don’t want to lose anymore.”

He joked about just buying more sexlinks.  I told him, it wouldn’t be the same.  They wouldn’t be the same birds.

He started to suggest the chicken tractor and then said no, too much work.  This was at bedtime on Tuesday night.  We were brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed.  I could see ‘his gears turning’ and I knew he was thinking now.  He went up stairs, flopped up on the bed and said that he could build a fence, but how to do a gate?  Then he said, “no, I know how to do the gates.”

Then he asked me how big of an area I was talking about.  “Just the inner barnyard and a little bit of the pasture, maybe to the tree line, where Dad planted those trees.  Not the whole pasture.”

That’s what I told him.  It’s not too unreasonable.  The barnyard, some of the pasture where they play.

He said he’d need more money for material.  He has some of it, but not all.

It’s winter now and the ground is hard, so it might not get it built til spring.

But’s he’s going to build me the fence, like I wanted before.  It will be on me to keep wings clipped enough that they won’t fly over it.  Some of them will anyway, but I’m going to assume that given a bigger area that their run, they won’t be as tempted.  Especially if we give them to the tree line.

I just have to keep the rest of them safe til spring.

My heart is still broken for Ava, but at least her death has served some purpose.

I’ll be honest here, I love all my chickens, but the Golds were special.  They were our first, and they were special.  Also, they have a nicer temperament than the Rhode Island Reds, by a long shot.

 

I feel like a failure for not keeping them safer, or not pushing DH and Dad harder for the fence I knew was necessary. I may be getting one now, but at what cost? The life of a little girl I can’t just replace. 😦

Pip is officially an only child

That is to say, I gave up the hope that the other egg would hatch.  I think I was working towards it for a couple of days now, but Abby helped me to see it in a rather blunt mother hen way.

I’ve read (because this is my first time hatching eggs, so I can’t claim to be any expert on what a chicken will do) that a mother hen will instinctively know when to abandon and egg and will, once all eggs that will hatch have hatched, start teaching her new babies all they need to know about life.

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Yesterday, Abby was up showing Pop how to ‘forage’ for the chick starter feed they’d spread all over the non-nest half of their box. Notice how she blatantly left the other egg while doing it.

This morning, I found her outside the box, scratching up a patch in the coop, and clucking like she wanted Pip to hop out of the box and join her in more advanced foraging.  Pip just kept looking up at her and cheeping back at her as if to say “are you kidding, Momma?  It’s too high! This is my home!”

So Abby gave up and hopped back in with her chick… waited a few minutes and then, while I watched, the whole process repeated.

With the same end, too. Pip does not think he is ready to leave the box yet.

The underlying message was clear, however.  The other egg, Ava’s egg, was not going to become a chick.

I did attempt to candle it once last week, and it looked like something was in there, so today when I left the coop,  took the egg with me.  It was cool, because yeah, Abby isn’t sitting on it religiously.

Ava's egg... laid the same day as the egg which became Pip.
Ava’s egg… laid the same day as the egg which became Pip.
This is what I found when I cracked it open. Obviously, I still have a lot to learn about candling brown eggs, because there wasn't anything inside except some very watery, slightly smell yolk.
This is what I found when I cracked it open. Obviously, I still have a lot to learn about candling brown eggs, because there wasn’t anything inside except some very watery, slightly smell yolk.

It was always a gamble.  At the time, I had 16 hens and 1 rooster.  Also, the days just before I collected these eggs, the rooster had a limpy leg so he spent one day in a cage to heal and one day unable to breed his hens because he kept falling off the ones he mounts.  So really, there was a good chance neither of those eggs would hatch at all.

Really?  If you look at it that way, Pip is our miracle baby.

I’ll admit it, though, I was hoping Ava’s egg had hatched, too.  After Rebecca died, I really wanted Ava’s egg to hacth and be a little girl, because Abby, Ava and Rebecca were my gold sexlink hens, and the chick would be all sex link.  They are sweet, gentle girls and even Dots is a gentle, but firm, rooster.  I was kind of hoping beyond hope that we’d get one more.  *sigh*

The next time one of our chickens go broody, I will given her more than two eggs.

And in the meantime, I will enjoy Pip.  Every day with Pip will be an adventure, so very much different from raising the others.  He won’t be raised in our brooder box under a lamp.  He’ll be raised in the coop, with his momma, papa and aunties.  He won’t grow up afraid of me cleaning the coop (ALL the others were afraid).  He doesn’t spend his time in the dark, pecking the sides of his box, like his bio-mom did.  He doesn’t spend all day cheep-cheep-cheeping in fear of the unknown.  There won’t be an unknown for him.

So yes, I will enjoy watching Pip grow up this winter.

 

Welcome, Pip

So, yesterday was a very exciting day for us, what with my broody Abby finally becoming a momma.   One of her two eggs has hatched.  The other… well, I’m waiting a couple more days, but I strongly believe nothing is going to happen with the other egg.

But while we’re waiting to see, the new little chick is finding his way into our hearts.  We’ve even given him a name, or a nickname rather.  Pip, short for Pipsqueak.

I give you Pip...
I give you Pip, the Cute and Fluffy.

 

Pip has ‘tow-head blond’ feathers with brown on his back, a yellow beak and feet.  He is very small, hence the name Pipsqueak.

Yesterday, we made it to about Noon and then Pip jumped out of the laying box and Abby jumped down with her, and basically picked out a spot under the floor to nest in, so DH moved the other egg under her and I decided that might not be safest.

So, I got a cardboard box and made them a special nest.

I started with a large box and put saw dust in one half, covered that with wood shavings, and and straw on top for the nest.
I started with a large box and put saw dust in one half, covered that with wood shavings, and and straw on top for the nest.
Then I put a log up against it for support, and placed a a small (chick sized) waterer and feeder on the other side.
Then I put a log up against it for support, and placed a a small (chick sized) waterer and feeder on the other side.
Abby seems to like it.  :-)
Abby seems to like it. 🙂

This morning, I brought Abby down a small cup of scrambled eggs because I’m not sure if she will even attempt to move from the nest until the fate of the other egg has been determined.

She shared some with Pip.

I think this is going to be the most exciting part of this adventure — watching Abby interact with Pip and teach him about the world.  She is a very loving mother and it’s cute watching them communicate.  Pip snuggles up to her and talks to her in little peeping chirps.  And he’s such a happy little baby.

Abby is a Momma

Okay, so technically, neither of the eggs we put under Abby were her own eggs, but she’s the one who has been sitting on them very diligently since November 7th.

This morning, I came down to the coop to discover that the peeping egg was no longer an egg.

The broken egg shell.
The broken egg shell.
Abby and her baby.
Abby and her baby.
Isn't it cute?
Isn’t it cute?

 

The bio-mom who hatched the egg is a Rhode Island Red and the daddy is, of course, Dots.  Our gold sexlink rooster.

Snow, Thanksgiving and Eggs that say ‘Peep’

We’re still reeling a little from last Saturday’s sad, sad events.  I miss poor little Becky a lot.  You would think I wouldn’t notice, given that there are 16 other birds to look after, but I know she’s gone.  There is an empty space where one little sexlink girl should be.  😦

It snowed the other day, more than a few flurries, and it covered the ground.

As you can see, they really weren’t too happy about it.  Luckily for them, the snow was gone by mid-afternoon.  Someday, it won’t just go away. What are they gong to do then?

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Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and because it was a holiday, Little Dude and I made the birds a special breakfast of oatmeal with craisins (dehdrated cranberries).

This, we took down to them in the morning and (like the scrambled eggs)poured it over a dish of their regular feed/scratch grain mix.

I don’t give them table foods like that every day, but I figured I owed them because we were intending to lock them in the run all day because we weren’t going to be home for Thanksgiving.  We were visiting family, and when we’re going for longer periods of them, I like to keep them closer to safety.

So they got oatmeal as a holiday/I’msorryI’mlockingyou up gift.

 

We also gave them two seed cakes in a mesh bag to occupy their minds.

They weren’t sure what to make of them at first, but by the time we got home from our holiday dinner, all the of it was gone.

For reference… this is what the suet cakes looked like:

Not very big.  About the size of my fist, and I have small hands, for an adult
Not very big. About the size of my fist, and I have small hands, for an adult

 

And.. finally… if anyone is keeping track… today is Day 20 in the Adventures of Broody Abby.  Not that there is anything too adventurous about sitting in a laying box for three weeks, quietly saying buck-buck-buck.  She’s missed… well, everything. I don’t even think she knows her sister is gone.  😦

As of this morning, one of her two eggs has a crack in it that wasn’t there last night and when I bent down to get a closer look (no handling them, I just lift Abby up about a half inch) I could hear the distinct peep-peep of a little one.

I don’t see anything one way or another with the other egg.  I am handling them as little as possible.  I didn’t even candle them, so there is no knowing what will happen in the next couple of days.  It’s all very exciting!

Maybe by the next time I post, there will be babies.  🙂

 

 

R.I.P Sweet Little Girl

Today, tragedy struck our flock for the first time.

My sweet little Rebecca, or Becky as we sometimes called her, met a horrific and untimely demise some time this afternoon. I last saw her around 11 am, playing in the barnyard with her sisters. DH was moving piles of hay from the top of the barn to the barnyard so he could make room inside for his truck. The chickens LOVE hay piles. They were playing.

We went to town to pick up Little Dude’s friend Phil, and then had lunch. The boys went down to play in the barn and play with the chickens. They came back up freaking out because they couldn’t find Becky. I went down with them to count heads, so sure that she was just hiding somewhere.

She wasn’t.

I found her in the tall grass down by the little fresh water spring and swampy area where they like to roam. Something had tore up her neck, but left the body.

It was starting to get stiff, but still mostly warm.

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Rebecca was one of our sexlinks, the first little chicks we brought home in the box from Tractor Supply.  She was the smallest in size, but sassy and never ‘took any lip’ from her bigger brothers.  She had 17 of them growing up, and believe me, she held her own.  I saw her put three of the rowdy boys in their place for messing with her, even though they were bigger in size.

She loved sun bathing, perching in high places and eating apples, pumpkin and spaghetti noodles.

R.I.P, my sweet little Becky.  You will be missed.

Double Dots

Yesterday was such a beautiful autumn day, I decided to hang out with the chickens in the barnyard.

They were hanging out in the swampy area just below the immediate barnyard, as this has been their new favorite spot.

… and let loose his best crow…