Occasionally when I go to the coop to be with my chickens, I have the opportunity to witness one of my hens laying their eggs. Such was the case three weeks ago when I witnessed my sweet, inquisitive Maicey laying her egg.
I had a broody hen (Briar Rose) whom I intended to give eggs to that night, so I picked up Maicey’s egg and tucked it away so it would not get mixed in with the other eggs. So I knew who that egg belonged to.
When I gave Briar her eggs, I labeled them, and Maicey’s egg became known as #1.
Number #1 turned out to be the fourth egg of five to hatch. (We are still waiting to know the fate of the fifth.)
It is a tiny little baby, with red downy feathers, a small crested-looking head and, much to my surprise when I picked it up to say “hello” … slightly feathered legs.
For those of you keeping score at home… I have three crested birds. Pavelle, the little Pavlovskaya, and her two children, Heather and Phillip.
Phillip, who is Pavelle and Pip’s offspring, is the only rooster I have right now capable of siring a crested (or in this case, partially crested) chick. He is, himself, a barnyard mix of Pavlovskaya, Rhode Island Red and Golden Comet, which would make this little chick 2-parts RiR, Comet and Pavlov. With feathered legs like its Auntie Heather.
I’m excited. I really am. Not only is Maicey one of our favorite hens, but this is also Pip’s grand-baby. You all know how much I love(d) and miss my little Pipsqueak. And Phillip acts so much like his papa. I’m so excited!
There is one more egg we’re waiting on to hatch. I’ll let you all know how it goes in the morning.
Or is it the Late Autumn Chicken Report? Because winter is almost here people. As reported in my last post, the chickens are in various stages of molt. They look pathetic, although some of the earlier molters are almost feathered back.
Hopefully, the others will hurry up and NOT still be half naked by the time the snow starts sticking.
October (or rather the end of October) meant the return of Halloween, jack o’lanterns and pumpkin seeds. I’ve always been jealous of pictures and videos of peoples’chickens pecking holes in pumpkins left out for them. Mine do not do that. They ignore whole pumpkins like the plague and even broken up ones, they would just eat the seeds and not the pulp.
This year, however, they were more than interested in our post-Halloween offerings and devoured not only the pumpkin seeds and guts shown above, but six medium sized jack o’lanterns over the course of the first week of November.
I am glad they enjoyed it, because in the next couple of weeks, I was tasked with the painful process of deciding which of them Summer Boys stayed and which ones were sent off to Freezer Camp. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I have a general weakness for roosters. Between their beautiful plumage and strong, unique personalities, how could I not fall in love with the little buggers? But every year, we hatch an average of 5-8 roosters and I’m only allowed to keep a minimum of three, depending on the size of my hen-to-rooster ratio.
This year, including Dots and Luke (saved from last year), we had a grand total of eights roosters. DH said I could keep three this year, if one of them was Phillip, the smaller rooster hatched out of one of Pavelle’s little white eggs. He is about half of Dot’s size and not likely to get much bigger.
So while the chickens were blissfully enjoying the pumpkin treats, I was looking at my roosters, talking to them, interacting with them, and trying to decide who should stay and help Dots keep his flock safe.
I will probably never forgive myself for allowing DH to take Pip that day instead of Luke. I miss him. Everyday, I miss that little guy. He was our first chick ever and worked well his father and mother in taking care of the flock.
Phillip (or Leapy as I call him sometimes), is Pip’s son from Pavelle and reminds me a lot of him, personality wise.
So, before I go into who got tickets to Freezer Camp, let me introduce to the Summer Babies.
Of these, the roosters were Philip, Gus, Cutie, Sylvester, Apache and A.J.
I have also thought at times that Darcy could really be a Mr. Darcy, but that one is either a late bloomer or a big hen. So we aired on the side of ‘big hen’ and kept Darcy, for now. She will winter over that will us time to see if she is really a he. Or not.
This year, I decided to rectify the mistake of keeping Luke,making him first on the list for Freezer Camp.
We would be keeping Dots (as usual because it’s dumb to get rid of a good rooster, and I learned that the hard way with Pip) and Philip… so I had a spot for one more keeper.
The candidates I was deciding from were Cutie ( a light barred rock from Little Dude’s incubator project) and Sylvester, the only hatched buff brahma. Of the Summer Boys those two were my favorites. Cutie because he was so incredibly beautiful and Sylvester because he was raised by my Tweety girl and has always been friendly.
Like last time, I simply couldn’t decide right up til the end. What it came down to was which one could I pick up without too much hassle. Cutie always fights me until I got him in my arms. But then he would settle in. But he would still fight me. So on Freezer Camp day, I made the decision in favor of keeping Sylvaster and letting Cutie go.
I hope that it doesn’t turn out like the Luke vs Pip decision. I really don’t. I couldn’t take that again.
The last thing we needed to do was give little Not Cocoa a better name. She is part Easter Egger (because Luke is her papa) and part Rhode Island Red. We called her Not Cocoa because we named Cocoa first and she is… not Cocoa.
So we’ve been debating it a while, and finally, on Thanksgiving, we came up with a suitable name… Nutmeg.
Lastly, I’ll leave you all with a picture of Double Dots and his ladies enjoying their Thanksgiving morning breakfast of oatmeal mixed with scratch grain, BOSS, meal worms and cranberries.
Eggy, or the Egger Baby, is the last of Pavelle’s chicks.
He/she is the egg-child of Padme the Easter Egger and … well, I thought Pip, but now I’m not too sure about that.
So… what is it about Eggy that makes me suspect Pip might not be the father?
In short… color and personality.
Eggy here is a bright buff yellow, with only small EE cheeks.
So… mostly yellow chick with a yellow and black/brown momma. Two potential fathers.
One rooster had an all yellow momma and a white papa?
The other rooster had a red momma and a white papa?
Going off looks alone, I’d have to guess Felix is Eggy’s baby daddy.
And then, there is personality. Eggy is high strung, flighty, hard to catch, does not really relax in my hands like the other two do.
This describes Padme, yes, and could be an Easter Egger trait. But it always describes Felix. A lot.
Pip, not so much. He didn’t like me pick up but when I did, he settled in because he trusted me.
Feather Butt trusts me. Mini-Pav mostly trusts me. Eggy is a frantic spaz.
So, based off personality, is this Pip’s chick? I don’t think so, but anything is possible.
Here is a recent shot of Momma and babies (and a fake egg that was in the nest with them). They are 5 weeks old now and practically as big as she is!
They are also almost fully feathered out.
I believe that Pavelle will be pulling away from them soon. Going back to doing Hen Things and not Momma things. Today she seemed to be giving them space. Still hanging with them – or allowing them to hang with her – but not really showing them things like she has in the past. Letting them do their own thing.
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.
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.
I give you Pip…
Pip posing with his momma.
Abby and her baby.
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.
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!
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.