Well, Saturday Pip reached the 10 week mark. Seriously looking more like a pretty little hen than the baby roo she/he looked like back in week 4.
The pics are from Saturday. As you can tell, we had some snow in the a.m. but by the time afternoon rolled around it was gone.
This really has been a mild winter, which is somewhat disheartening because I was hoping the snow would be a deterrent strong enough to keep them from venturing near the road. Since we can’t build the fence for the pasture until the spring thaw, they really needed the deterrent.
In the last 2 weeks, we’ve lost two more hens to the road. One, Madison (aka Pip’s bio-mom, who laid the egg) was totally splattered by a man in a minivan. He was so sorry, and came to the house to tell us and apologize.
Yesterday, Dottie (one of the ones my son liked) got clipped by a trucker, who stopped and came to the house to ask if we wanted him to help ‘finish her off’ because she was still alive, but clearly would not live.
That sounds odd, but his heart was in the right place. His mother owns chickens and he was also very apologetic.
Since October, I’ve lost 4 hens now. 1 to a predator, and 3 to their own inability to be afraid of the road.
Spring, and my fence, cannot come soon enough.
Especially since we haven’t had enough snow to speak up in my part of the world.
Although, we did get some today, and supposedly its going to keep falling on and off all day.
Pip was not impressed. He/she went outside the coop and run to explore and came running back freaking out. I even got this video of him/her trying to find a safe place to roost, so his toes wouldn’t be cold. Poor baby!
Winter is almost over for us now, but I’m wondering if little beds of sprouts wouldn’t be a good encouragement to stay on the safe side of the road? It’s the ‘greener grass’ on our side (not that there is actually green grass right now, but you know what I mean) that is attracting them. Something new and different.
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:
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.
Dots freaking out about whatever Dh is doing.
8-foot beam on this side…
sitting on posts. Dots and Madison testing it out.
Madison found a comfy spot to sit on the new roost. She likes it.
8-foot on the other side, too.
A better picture of the beam/board it’s sitting on.
Maicey is testing this side. She spent a lot of time looking up and down and trying to decide if she could now jump across to the rafters above the windows.
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.
Today, as I watch Pip interact with the mother hen who hatched him, his actual biological mother approached the box to observe. Little Dude and I watched the scene play out with held breath, waiting to see how Madison would react to seeing a little chick in the box with Abby.
Madison watched, too, stepping closer to look into the box and, at one point, jumping up on the edge of the box in her curiosity. Pip cheeped and ate and snuggled his momma, totally unaware that anything was happening behind him.
Abby, however, was not, and although she did nothing to stop Pip from eating and playing in the outside world, was also watching. Ready to tell Pip to run for cover if the other bird decided to attack.
But Madison just took one more look, hopped up in a box and went about the very important business of laying another egg. A few other girls came in after her, and there was the usual jostling for position in the favored boxes. Madison was soon disappointed because Dottie was in her favorite box. She even tried to fake the egg song in some weird attempt to get Dottie to leave and then pushed her way into the box, leaving me no choice but to relocate poor Dottie.
Chickens are sometimes very strange creatures.
And sometimes… they inspire me.
Take Abby and little Pip, for example. They aren’t related by blood, but Abby loves her little chick very much. I can tell the way she calls to Pip, gently encouraging Pip to eat and play. Pip loves Abby. I’ve seen Pip ‘kissing’ his momma and nuzzling close to her neck and face. Sweet, heart warming interactions. It doesn’t matter to either of them that someone else laid the egg.
Abby is the momma; Pip is the baby. There is no greater bond in our coop right now than theirs.
This morning’s encounter has been on my mind a lot today. Mostly, I find myself thinking about how easy it is. Abby wanted to lay on eggs and hatch chicks. A natural animal instinct, you might say, and yeah, you’d be right. So I gave her some eggs. She laid on them for 21 days, and that’s how Pip was born. Pip is hers, not because she birthed his egg, but because she was the one who hatched him out and lets him sleep under her wing at night. She loves him. He loves her. So far, no one in the coop has complaint with this arrangement. If anyone them were to go broody, I’d give them whatever eggs were handy and no one would care which hen laid them. The babies would still get cared for.
It’s just how chickens roll.
In the human world, in this society, Abby would be ‘adopted mom’ or (given both Pip’s bio-parents live in the same flock) a ‘step-mom.’ In the human world, especially here in the United States, there is a growing mentality that no one except the bio-mom can give children love. Step mothers are told to back off, with hold affection, don’t help parent. They are expected to take care of only their kids and not help their mate with his. Because Bio-Mom (even a totally inept one) is better than step-mom.
There is a ‘Mom’s Forum’ I frequent full of posts and rants which support this method of parenting.
I don’t comment there often because I’ve long ago realized that I don’t buy into it. To me, love is love. Caring is caring. Concern and affection are concern and affection. Just because they come from a step-mom, or an adopted mom, doesn’t make them any less than love, caring, affection and concern.
Actually, it makes them a little bit more… because it’s easy to just take care of your own kids. But to love someone else’s child as your own? That takes heart.
And children, in my eyes, deserved to be loved by all the main adults in their lives. Not just the ones they share genetics with. Mom, Dad, Step-mom, step-dad, grandparents. Children deserve the love and affection, and deserve the ability to trust those adults with their lives.
Much like little Pip looking up into Abby’s dark eyes and trusting that his ‘momma’ will keep him safe and warm.
Because she is Momma and he is Pip.
(Disclaimer: Yes, I may have gotten a philosophical for a ‘chicken blog’ and yes, I realize ‘they’re just chickens’ and yes, I realize that ‘animals are not the exact same as people.’ I’m just saying… love is love.)