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.

Jolene

This is Jolene.

  She is a two year old Rhode Island Red hen, and also Little Dude’s favorite hen in all the coop.  She was the first of the Rhodies to let him pick her up and respond to his affections.  

She’s sick.   

I’m not sure how evident it is from the pictures, but her abdomen is swollen like an over full balloon.  I’ve spent the last week treating her – or trying to treat her – for being egg bound.  Warm baths in epson salts, a soft next, dark room away from her flock in the comfort of our porch.  Liquid calcium drench.

I even stuck my finger up her vent looking for an egg.  I didn’t find one, though.  

She stopped eating when I separated her from the flock, so after two days of nothing happening, I put back with her flock.  She eats, forages, but walking at a slower pace. The swelling has not gone away.  Her walking is getting slower and more difficult.  She can’t jump up on to the roosts at night now.  

She hasn’t passed an egg or yolks.  I haven’t seen her poop in days.  

I’ve looked up the symptoms and everything I’ve read says this is not good.   

In the meantime, she’s slowly suffering, and we’re suffering right along with her as we’re watching her do it.   

Little Dude has not wanted to lose ‘his chicken.’  He wanted me to ‘wait and see.’  He’s asked me in that tentative way that proves he is thinking things through “are you sure she just won’t get better with time?”  

Last night, I told him he needed to say good-bye, because this afternoon, Dad and I were going to do the right thing and cull her.  I don’t want to wait it out until she either dies or her abdomen bursts from the pressure of whatever is making her swell.  

I don’t want to come down one morning to let them out, or in the afternoon to collect eggs and find that she keeled over and the rest of the flock decided to cannibalize her. Because chickens are opportunistic little onmivores.  

So we hugged and snuggled her and said our good-byes last night.  Told her what a good girl she was and how sorry we were.  Told her that Becky and Ava, Madison and Dottie and poor little Riley were waiting for her on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, in a pasture of fresh grass and fat juicy bugs.  That there was a patch of dirt, warm from the sun, waiting for her to stretch out in.  

She laid her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes, as if to let me know that she understood.  I hope she does.  

Today is going to be a rough day.  

The Flock Update

Well, I promised an actual flock update, because I haven’t given one in a while.

There’s not much to say about the old ones.  They hate the nasty Cold White and some of them are still in various stages of molt.

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Like Amy,who waited until the week of Christmas to drop all her feathers at once.  You can’t see it from this picture,but her entire underside is BARE NAKED.  It happened over night.  She is currently in the prickly ‘porcupine’ stage.

Is this normal molting?  I envisioned them losing their feathers in October/November…not January! And yet, aside from Amy, I know I have at least four more hens who are in the midst of a slow molt.  Does it always take this long?  I’m so glad we haven’t have negative temperatures, because they would freeze!  Especially Amy!  I mean, look at her!

I’ve been feeding them Feather Fixer  mixed in with their regular food, because I heard it helps them molt quicker/get over it faster.  Whatever.  I don’t think its working. Or else it is working and they would be molting until June without it???  Again, is this normal for it so long???

Seriously,because I feel so bad for the poor cranky things!

Now…since it is cold and windy today, and the flock all opted to stay inside and bug me while I attempted to clean their beds and fill the feeding tubes, I did manage to get pictures of Ashley’s Babies.  They are eleven weeks old. as of yesterday.

The tricky part is that all the white ones – Max and the Dalmies – kind of remind me of Eugenie at that age.  She was big,had a slightly pink face, which stood because she is white, and I wasn’t sure at first if she was a henny or a slow-developing roo.  Keep that in mind as you look at the white chicks.  Feel free to click the pics to make them bigger.

Miracle Max

Max looked like a boy when he/she was little,but now I see inklings of a little hen.

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Max on the right.  Dalmie # 1 on the left. A behind view.

Dalmie #1

I think this is the same one I named Dalmie #1 in previous pics. Not sure.

Dalmie #2

Dalmie #2.

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Dalmie #2 (center) with Felicia and Pip

A gentle reminder that as per Twiglet’s comments on prior posts, we think Pip is the father of the Dalmies.

Felicia 

So… I’m betting anything that Felicia is really Felix.  If this chick starts laying eggs in the spring, I will be so surprised.

Well, that’s the scoop on Ashley’s Babies.   If you’re up for a game of “Henny or Roo?”  Feel free to take your best guesses in the comments.

ETA:  If anyone is interested in comparing these chicks to Dani and Eugenie at roughly the same age…

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Eugenie,of course, is the white one!

 

And now… here’s a special treat… Abby’s baby Easter Eggers.  The will be 8 weeks on Thursday.

These chicks don’t have names.  I’m trying not to name them until I know what they are.  That, and Little Dude wants to name them after Sith Lords.  And I don’t want an Easter Egger named Darth Maul.  *sigh*

The darker chick is smaller, really skittish and mouthy. Based on behavior alone, I think she’s a hen.  She is curious about me, but afraid to come close.  She likes treats and will eat out of my hand and then yell at me for more when I walk away.

The yellow/buff-ish one is bigger and less skittish, but standoffish.  Like a little rooster-in-training.  He also likes treats but doesn’t demand them, like his sibling.

Now… these chicks are staying.  When the other 2 vanished without a trace, I told DH that under no circumstances were we sending either of these to Freezer Camp if they were roosters.   Why?  Because he told me I could keep Esther if I really, really wanted, but I flip flopped, and then he said “well, you do have Abby’s 6 eggs.”  So I aired on the side of Abby having potentially 6 new EE chicks.

This is why you don’t count your chicks before they hatch, people.  Pavel hasn’t forgiven me for sending her favorite brother to Freezer Camp… and Abby only has two chicks.

So…unless the little yellow/buff one has major dominance issues with Dots and Pip, these chicks are here to stay.  No matter what.

I’ll end this post by pointing out anew section of the blog I’ve just started working on.  Meet The Chickens, a series of bio pages for my flock so that when I say  Dots, Abby, Jolene, Wilda… you know who I mean.  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but for various reasons, I just haven’t.  Mostly because I have over 30 birds at any given time and it’s hard to pinpoint their personalities at a glance.  Look for me to do a page or two a month, highlight each bird. Hopefully by the end of 2017, I’ll have gotten them all on there.   Right now, it’s just Dots.  🙂

The Week-Aversary Picspam

Because I missed most of the Little’s Week-aversary pics, and because today is Pip’s 16th week…here’s the pics I promised I’d get today.

 

16 Weeks and going strong!  Aren't I handsome?
16 Weeks and going strong! Aren’t I handsome?

Yes, Pip… you are handsome.  Just like your papa, even though he’s white and yellow and you’re red and white.

Pip showed his first signs of leaving ‘awkward adolescence’ behind and heading into ‘horny teenager’ stage this morning.  He tried to mate with his ‘Auntie Riley.’  Riley turned around and bit him and then chased him back into the coop, where he retired to the window sill to sulk and figure out where he went wrong.

He needs to observe Dots more and learn how papa woos the ladies.

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Mystery Bin Chicks… Peanut and Matilda.

 

Peanut and Matilda representing the Mystery Bin Girls this week.  Peanut is still my diva.

 

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Black Australorp chicks, week 2

I’m pretty sure the one on the right is Ash, the chick we brought up to keep Baby company when she was in Chick Containment.

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Buff Orpingtons, Week 2

The little chick on the right is my poor injured chick, Baby, who has a fully recovery. She’s still smaller than everyone else, but I love it when I can say they are no different the rest of the flock. 🙂

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I don’t know if you can see this in the picture…but their eyes are BLUE!!!  I never knew that before.

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And just because… here is Little Dude sitting with his favorite hen, Jolene.

 

The Brooder Box

And in a surprise twist, DH finished the brooder box last night!!!!

It looks like an entirely different brooder.  There are four different perches on the left side, while the right is where the heat lamp, food & water will go. It’s like a little chick condo now!

Here’s Pip, trying out the perches. Actually… Pip did NOT know what to do about this. He’s never seen the inside of that box before in his life.

After that… I vacuumed it out again. The vinegar smell is almost gone, too. All we need to do is make sure the lamp is plugged in before I can get chicks. But… it’s done!!!! 🙂

image And randomly, here is Jolene, who is Little Dude’s favorite hen. She’s going to lay an egg. 🙂

She was one of the chicks who spent their first few weeks in our care living in the previous version of the brooder box.

She might have been more impressed with the changes.  Maybe.  Provided she even remembers.

‘All Grown Up Now’

Well, our little Pip is ‘all grown up now’ … in the sense that starting with Saturday and his (?) 9th week-aversary, Abby has finally decided to ‘cut the cord’ and let her chick become a true member of the flock so she can go back to being a hen.

Pip is too big now, anyway, to fit underneath her for cuddle-time anymore.  This is much to Pip’s disappointment.  They still sit next to each other on the roosts, but I’ve watched, as the week has progressed, and she has been spending more time with the rest of the girls, doing girl things, like sunbathing and hunting for things to eat.  Pip has been regulated to following a bit behind the flock, and spends more time now by him (?)self.  Being independent and all.

Abby and Pip, size comparison
Abby and Pip, size comparison
Abby and Pip, size comparison
Abby and Pip, size comparison

The above pictures were taken on Saturday, to show much Pip has grown. The last week-aversary pics, he was not that big, but now is half momma’s size.

Week 9's Photoshoot
Week 9’s Photoshoot
Pip... weeks 1 through 5
Pip… weeks 1 through 5
Pip, weeks 6 through 9
Pip, weeks 6 through 9

Week 9 is generally when I stop chronicling the growth of the chicks.  That’s about when I did it for both the Golds and the Reds.  However, considering Pip has no siblings, if anyone is still interesting in seeing his (?) growth, I could keep going.

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, that I keep putting a ? after any reference to Pip being a him.  A few weeks ago, I was pretty sure Pip was a baby Roo, but more recently, Pip kinda has a look like a little henny, too.  Compare the pics of Pip and Abby I posted above.

So, I guess gender could still be up in the air. We’ll just to keep waiting to see. Pip is my wild card, so to speak. A cross between the two breeds I raised last spring. There’s no telling what’s going to happen.

Abby (left corner, in the weeds) with her flock once again
Abby (left corner, in the weeds) with her flock once again
Abby sunbathing with the Maicey
Abby sunbathing with the Maicey

With all the nice, sunny weather we’ve had the last week and a half, the hens have certainly been enjoying life.  THIS is what they were doing while other chickens to the south of us have been trying to navigate the dangers of the dreaded White Stuff.

Poor chickens!  If only they knew winter is NOT over yet, no matter what the Ground Hog said.

On the plus side, with the increased sun, my eggs production has gone up from 4 eggs to a  whopping 6!!!

But the exciting thing is this…

The 'Breakfast Bunch' starring Abby, Claire, Amy and Jolene
The ‘Breakfast Bunch’ starring Abby, Claire, Amy and Jolene

YES!

The girl in the top picture is my Abigail, Pip’s loving momma… finally doing the henny thing and laying eggs once again!  Of course, she was laying in the same box Jolene likes to use… so poor Jolene was stuck looking for a place to lay and actually pitched quite a fit about it.

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EGG!   See it!!!  Right there!!!!!

(This is, ironically, the box Abby laid her very first egg in back in August… and also the same box where Pip’s egg was laid back in October.  And ALSO the box where Abby and Pip slept at night for a couple of weeks before Pip gt big enough to fly up to the roosts.  It’s a very popular laying box.)

And… this is our week since Saturday.

Happy Thursday, everyone!!!!

 

My Poor Babies

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Jolene and Sara, the only two dumb enough to venture out today.  Or smart enough- they got to eat the rice and venison!

No wind, and it’s fairly warm by comparison of a few days this week, but it was freezing rain and snow all night, so the run was all slush and ice.

Sara and Jolene were the only two crazy enough to brave it for the lyrebird treats. The rest of the flock stayed indoors today.