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.

Chicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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Pip!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Miracle Max’s Greatest Miracle Yet – A special Week-a-Versary

So last night, I reported that Ashley’s chicks had vanished and were not in the coop, unable to be found and I was certain they were dead.

This morning, I went to the coop with a heavy heart, intending to feed and let the bigger chickens outside, go about my routine and then search for little yellow bodies in the wet grass.  I was met by Dots and his sons crowing in unison, and the sound of Ashley buck-bucking because she still thought she was mother hen.  I felt sorry for her because she didn’t realize she had lost her wee ones.

Outside, I heard chirping, but I thought it was wild birds enjoying the sunshine after yesterday’s rain.

So I filled the food dish to take outside and opened up the barn doors — and nearly dropped it when saw three little chicks on the steps.  Miracle Max, one of the little spotted Dalmation babies, and the peachy-red one I’m calling Cinnamon Bun.

 

 

Ashley reunited with the first three babies.

I reunited them, got them food and water, and went to send my DH and My Girl a text message so they would know the good news.

When I returned to the task of feeding the chickens, I found this…

The fourth baby, a little Dalmie.

He was standing on the steps with Pavel, cheeping and looking a little lost. I scooped him up and happily brought him to his mother and siblings.

All four babies together.

 

I truly named Miracle Max correctly.  I did not, could not hope for this ending to last night’s horror story.  But there they are… all four babies, safe and sound.

I’m going to be observing Ashley.  I know it’s hard taking multiple chicks outside for the first time.  Abby had a difficult time with her six summer babies.  They couldn’t negotiate the ramp, she couldn’t herd them all together.  I found her several times sleeping with them on the steps.  But it was raining last night and Ashley might erred on the side of ‘get out of the rain’ and didn’t realize her babies had not followed.  Then it got dark in the coop and she tucked in for the night, got broody tranked and didn’t realize.  This morning, she was flipping out buck-bucking.  If they get a little bigger, they can do the ramp on their own without too much help.

But if she can’t take care of them, they might have to go to the brooder box for the next  few weeks and Ashley may go on the “No Eggs Ever” list.

We’ll just have to see how the next couple of days go.

R.I.P Little Ones, Where Ever You Are

ETA: We found them! They are alive!!!
Today is a bittersweet day at house.  My husband and I took a leap of faith a few weeks ago and decided to become members of the church we’ve been attending.

Today, during the church service, we and 5 others were formally recognized and welcomed by the rest of the church.    It’s the beginning of a new journey for us.

Later on this same afternoon, My Girl took and passed her driver’s test.  She is now a licensed driver, according to the great state of Pennsylvania.   It’s the beginning of a new journey in her life, too.

And, as the title of this post suggests, my coop is missing some of it’s flock members tonight.

Ashley’s babies Littles,who just this morning celebrated their 1-week birthday, are gone.  All of them.  Vanished without a trace.

It’s been raining.  And they’ve been refusing to go outside, even though Ashley has tried a couple times to coax them out.  Mostly, they’ve hung out in the coop.  And it’s been raining today.

They were in the coop this morning, when Little Dude and I went down to feed and open the door so the Big Hens could go outside.  We cleaned up, gave everyone water and food and played a little with the chicks.  Then we went to get breakfast and headed off to church.

DH and I had a bible study at 6pm, so we left Little Dude with my mom and dad.  He knows what to do to lock up and collect last minute eggs.  We got a call shortly after, from my mom.  Little Dude was panicking.  He couldn’t find them  Ashley was there, “sitting” on nothing because she is still in broody momma mode.  But the babies are gone.

While we were gone, Mom, Dad and Little Dude searched for them in the dark and in the rain.

When DH and I got home about 45 minutes later, we also searched.  Everywhere we could with flashlights.  I checked the bedding, the run, the coop, the tunnels, the bushes and the truck cab.  In the dark, in the rain.

There’s simply no sign of them at all.  😦

I’m going to look for bodies in the morning.  Just in case I missed them in the darkness.   But at this point, I have to give up hopes of finding live chicks.  They need a momma’s body heat to keep warm, and it’s been too long.

Here is the last video I took of them, taken yesterday morning.

Rest in Peace, wee little ones. Maxie, Cinnamon Bun and the Dalmies. Sweet babies taken too soon.

ETA: We found them! They are alive!!!

Four Feather Babies

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

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

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

So Ashley has four little wee feather babies.

Here’s a video of them from yesterday.

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

 

Miracle Max


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

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

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

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

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

Truly a miracle baby.  

(Name courtesy of The Princess Bride.)  

First Look at the Babies

Yesterday, Ashley the Australorp became a mother.

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

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

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

 

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

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

Hatching Day Came Early

So, last night I was worried that Ashley being off the nest would cause the unhatched babies to die.  

This morning, I have three peeping babies, two working on hatching and one still remaining.  

One of the two partially hatched eggs looking like Ashley was trying to help it.  The shell is picked off on one side but not the membrane.  The baby was breathing but not broken free.  I’ve read that unless you know what you’re doing and very careful, ‘helping’ is not something we humans should do.  We risk shrink-wrapping the chick in the membrane so I’m not sure I should try and help it along or leave and see it gets out on it’s own or with help from Momma. 

The troubling thing is that Ashley was once again off the eggs.  When I found her, she was in the next nest with the egg she was ‘helping’ while the three chicks were sitting confused with the other eggs.  I put her back, but I am worried that she isn’t going to be reliable as a mother hen.  She can’t just leave the babies while they are trying to hatch and keep warm.  

No pictures as of yet.  The three babies I saw were yellow/white and one of them had a black spot on the back of its head.  

Broody Hen on Lockdown 

Well, today is Day 19 of Ashley’s quest to become a momma. 

And it may be her last.  


This morning I went down to feed the chickens and let them outside, like usual.  I set up the cat carrier above in the coop, with fresh bedding and placed in a spot in the underneath where it wasn’t in direct line of the wind/etc.  

Ashley was on her nest.  Today is Day 19.  If she were an incubator, it would be lockdown.  No touching, no opening the incubator.  Maximum warmth. 

I came down tonight to find Ashley on another nest and the eggs cold.  Not cold cold, but cold enough to cause me alarm.  

Today’s temperatures were in the 40’s and 50’s with rain and wind.  

It looks like Ashley got off the nest to eat/drink and someone else got in her nest. There was an extra egg.  

But I have no clue when the other hen got off the nest or how long it had been since they were left alone. 

I wasn’t home more of the day, so there’s no way of knowing for sure.

I removed the extra egg and put Ashley back in her nest.  If nothing hatches on Monday I will likely put her in the broody breaker.  

😞

Broody Watch For Ashley, Week 2

Ashley’s Eggs 🙂

  

Just a brief update on Ashley and her eggs.  Here they are as of this morning. 

A friend and I candled them Friday night and it looks like all six are developing.  I’ve never had a hatch where all the eggs were fertile and growing, so that’s exciting.  🙂 

I can candle again this Friday but after that, she’s on her own.  Friday is Day 18, and next Monday is hatch day.  

Ashley is doing well.  She doesn’t nest hop anymore.  I rarely see her outside but I know she is going out and getting food. 

And she lets me pet her and lift her up to check the eggs.  Of course, I also give her oatmeal and little treats with her breakfast on the days she doesn’t go outside on her own.