If it’s not one thing with these chickens, it’s another. And this is shaping up to be a busy week for my little flock of 40.
I’ll start with this little piece of precious fluff. Because, really, doesn’t that face just make you want to saw “awwwww!”
A few weeks ago, I had two broody hens. Claire, one of my veteran broody’s from last year, and Tweety, my small Buff Orpington and a new broody. I gave them each 3 eggs. Claire, some barred rocks, and Tweety, some Buff Brahma’s.
And then a week after I gave them their eggs, went into the hospital for my surgery and have been limited to light duty. Somewhere in there, no one candled the eggs to see what was going on. Today is Hatch Day, and it is nail biting all the way around because I don’t know if any of the eggs (except this one, obviously) will hatch. None of Claire’s eggs have hatched yet, but yesterday, Tweety was blessed with this sweet little Brahma.
No other eggs have hatched, but neither hen seems ready to give up the nest, so I won’t let myself worry until Saturday morning.
HOWEVER, the addition of a new little baby has brought out a different Worry, one which will have to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
Rapunzel tried to attack Tweety’s baby, in a similar fashion to what she did with her own. She forced her way into Tweety’s nest and began going after the baby, lunging at it even when it was under Tweety.
Both the kids and I removed her and she went back to try again.
The last time, we put her in the Broody Jail, and there she is going to stay until DH comes home this weekend. After that… well, I can’t have a hen who will attack and harm babies. If she was just doing this to her pwn babies, we wouldn’t give her eggs. But attacking other hens’ babies is an entirely different thing. It means no babies are safe.
And right now, I have Claire and Tweety to worry about… plus Pavelle thinks she wants to go broody again is in a pre-broody stage right now. And Eugenie (Claire’s little snowball from last summer) is 98% definitely broody now, and will be worse by the time Rapunzel gets out of the Broody Jail this weekend.
(I was planing on putting Eugenie into broody jail tonight, after we integrate the Brooder Bunch, but now that’s not going to happen and it’s all Rapunzel’s fault.)
But Rapunzel will not be released back into the flock. I’ve made the decision that DH needs to send her to Freezer Camp. I can’t rehome her, because if anyone else tries to have chicks around her, or gives her eggs (Buff Orpington’s are supposed to be good broody mommas, after all) then she will do the same thing to them. I couldn’t ethically do that to some innocent person, so Freezer Camp is the only viable option.
Bella (formerly Goth Chick) and Winnie (formerly CW)
Rachel (theBrahma), with Cutie and Roxie (formerly Rocky)
Chipmunk inside the coop, checking things out.
Winnie meeting Dots. He was nice to her and offered her food.
The babies in the brooder are 6 weeks old, and mostly feathered out. The Brahma,whom we have decided might be a hen are calling Rachel, Cutie and Grumpy and the only hold outs, but they have enough feathers to be okay. They don’t sleep under the brooder lamp anymore anyway, and also, they are all getting HUGE.
What you see in the above pictures represents their last day in the brooder box. It’s raining, so they didn’t go outside. But tonight, after everyone is sleeping, the kids and I will sneak them into the coop and put them on roosts. When they way up Friday morning, they will be a part of the flock. As you can see,Dots already likes Winnie. He was very kind to her.
I think it will go well. All of the nice days, the babies got to be int heir playpen and the rest of the flock got to see them and know they were there. It will be an adjustment, but it should work out fine. .
As mentioned in the last post about them, I have been letting them outside in their playpen on nice days to get the flock used to them. I intend to let them loose after they all hit 6 weeks old and see how the flock receives them. Right now, there is moderate curiosity, but no meanness. And no one seems to have noticed that Cutie and Grumpy are definitely boys. I think that it will help that Pavelle’s chicks are around the same size and running around. I think it will go well.
I have pictures of them all to share now. Feel free to click on them for bigger images.
Chipmunk,the partridge Welsummer. She is one of the three who are more fully feathered out. She is friendly and sweet, and very curious about everything.
Goth Chick, the little all-black Mad Scientist chick. I am assuming this chick is a hen, due to the smallness of the comb and lack of wattles. She is another of the ones who feathered out quickly, loves to fly and is shy, but not skittish.
CW, the Columbian Wyandotte. I know nothing about Wyandottes, but I’m hoping this beauty is a hen, but over the last week, ‘she’ has started to grow wattles and a comb. They are small, but noticeable in all that white fluffy. CW is the biggest of the seven brooder babies.
Rocky, our little Barred Rock. Another breed I’m not familiar with, but if I had to guess, Rocky looks like a little henny. Rocky is shy, but friendly. (S)he is one of one slower feathering ones, and has only just started to fill out.
Cutie, one of other Rocks. Either a Light Barred or Silver Penciled. They both look really close in coloring, at this point. Cutie is a rooster. I’ve known that since he was two or three weeks old. The comb and wattles just confirm it.
He is one of the ones who was pecked by Rapunzel. His feet healed, but for a while, he had a deformed, maimed toe. It was gnarled and black. Last week, the little dead toes fell off, just at the knuckle, leaving Cutie with a little nub.
Grumpy, the other other Rock. Again, either Light Barred Rock or Silver-Penciled. I honestly don’t know which is which. Also a rooster. His toes are better, too, but they weren’t as badly damaged as Cutie’s.
Grumpy and Cutie are both aloof and standoffish. Not flighty, but not accessible. I don’t know if that has anything to do with Rapunzel pecking them, or just a rooster thing. They like to hang out together and butt chests. Rooster things.
Cutie likes to wait til the other chicks get the treats, too. watching my older roosters, I know that is a trait I admire in Double Dots.
Every since I watched Abby hatch and raise her wee little Pipsqueak, I have been in love with the process of hens raising chicks. They learn so much more from their mothers and it’s nicer having them with the flock rather than needing to be in the brooder box.
It seemed to go well at first. We snuck the three who hatched from the incubator down to Rapunzel in the middle of the night and slipped them under her. She snuggled in and seemed content to sit on them.
They all seemed really happy together for the first week and I had a lovely set of Week 1 photos to show off… and then at about the week-and-a-half mark, that all changed.
Rapunzel, who had by this time, been broody for 5 weeks already while we waited for the special order eggs to come, decided that she wanted to take her broody outdoors and see the sunshine. They’d already been moving about the coop under her supervision and that didn’t seem like an unreasonable request.
However, at some point in time, she had begun pecking at the feet of some of the little ones. I noticed the first one on Friday night. Little ‘Cutie’ – one of the little gray ones we couldn’t identify – had bloody and swollen feet and as I watched, Rapunzel kept pecking at them. I removed the chick for the day, treated the feet with Vetricin and Scarlex Oil, and put her back under Rapunzel at night. By Saturday morning, a second chick – the Grumpy one -was also sporting bloody tootsies. I removed BOTH chicks, treated them again, and put them in the broody.
I spent a good part of that Saturday observing Rapunzel with the other chicks. She would sit on them, warming them, with no problems at all. Then, she would get up, go to scratch in the dirt, call for them to come see what she had found, and then forcefully pecked the feet of the first chicks to approach. She got Rocky (Little Dude’s Barred Rock) and the light Brahma chick a couple of times while I observed.
Sunday, Cutie and Grumpy were walking better and healing up some, so I risk putting them back with their family. Rapunzel accepted them under her, but during the day, the scene of ‘call them over and then peck’ repeated. She would target Cutie, Grumpy and now Rocky, who now had a wound forming on one foot. Now and again, she would go after the little Brahma, too, possibly because of his feathered feet.
She only did this when they were out playing and eating. If they were under her, she was a happy momma, bucking softly and talking to them.
I had the sinking suspicion that she would slowly work her way through all the chicks, pecking and maiming all their feet. So, in order to save them, I took them all away from her.
These pictures, below, are the last pictures of them as a happy family, before the blood bath began.
It was heart breaking to them away. You see? She wanted them. She wanted to sit on them and nurture them. She paced the coop for days, talking them through the walls even though she couldn’t see them and when she figured out where the brooder was in relation to the coop, she jumped up on the roost to peer over at them, making screeching noises at me to “get away and give me my babies back!”
They, in turn, called out for her, alarmed and upset and NOT happy in the brooder. Who can blame them? She was momma and it was a strange box with a red light.
Every morning, I put her in with them, thinking maybe she would forget about their toes (which were healing nicely) and that just maybe I would give them back to her.
Each time, she went to them, calling and bucking softly, sitting with them and letting them gather under her, and they’d be fine for about 10-15 minutes. Then she would get up, go to explore the brooder and scratch to show them things… call to them to come look… and yes, you guessed it – attack their toes again. Cutie, Grumpy, Rocky… then anyone else.
This happened thee days in a row.
I gave up trying to let her try.
I don’t know why she did it. She certainly acted like she wanted them. But I couldn’t let her ruin their feet. As it is, poor little Cutie has one toes that is now broken and misshapen. He/she can walk on it, but it will never be the same.
So I stopped letting her in to see them. This was still heart breaking. She would alternate between returning to the coop to look for them and following Pavelle and her chicks around like a forgotten nanny.
In the meantime, I had another dilemma to deal with. How to raise these chicks so that the flock -who had just started to get to know them – didn’t forget them? I want a seamless integration and with the last re-design of the coop, we can no longer split it down the middle.
During a string of hot days, hot enough that 2 week old chicks wouldn’t need a brooder lamp, we had the idea. DH built a little playpen for them. On the hot days, I can take them outdoors, for a couple hours at least, with water and food.
They get the sunlight, grass and bugs their one-time momma tried to introduce them to, and the other chickens get to socialize with them.
The first two days we used it, Rapunzel went to them and attempted to talk and call to them through the chicken wire. Only half the chicks would respond to her. They were starting to forget ‘momma’ even if momma was not ready to forget them.
I tried – once – to put her in with them outdoors… to the same, sad and heart wrenching conclusion as the other times.
It just isn’t meant to be.
I don’t know if 5 weeks broody was too much for her brain, or if she still thought they needed to be eggs, or if 7 was too many chicks for a new mother hen to take on. Or if broody hormones made her insane. I. Don’t. Know. Sometimes, the only answer is that ‘some hens don’t make good mothers.’
Which is sad, because as a Buff Orpington, she made a wonderful broody. She went quickly, stayed with the same next, was dedicated to her eggs.
But I don’t think I can risk giving her babies again. I could let her hatch and I could raise, maybe, but she couldn’t be trusted not to ruin their feet again. Could she?
As of the writing of this post, Rapunzel has gotten over the ‘baby thing’ entirely and gone back to Hen Things. She is pissed that Pip is gone. He was her chosen boyfriend and Luke does nothing for her.
I need to get more pictures of Grumpy, Cutie, the light Brahma and Rocky. It’s harder in the brooder because they are quick and scared.
Chipmunk, Goth Chick and CW are all feathered out enough to start flying and they have been, as you can see from the pictures, coming out of the brooder to explore the world. These three adventurers are bonding with myself and Little Dude because they sit out there and talk to us while we do morning chores. Chipmunk is especially friendly.
By next week, they will be old enough to withstand 75-80 degree temps, so they should be outdoors, in their playpen, a little more often. Unless it rains. I have been bringing Pavelle’s chicks to say hello to them, in the hopes that they can be ‘cousins’ once I try to integrate. Eggy is terrified of them. That will be fun.
My Pet Chicken finally gave me an updated version of which breeds we have.
Chipmunk – still a Partridge Welsummer. Also, accorrding to this site, a little pullet. Because she still has her ‘mascara’ on her eyes.
CW – still a Columbian Wyandotte. Gender unknown.
Rocky – still a barred Plymouth Rock. Gender also unknown.
The little Brahma is still a little Brahma. Little Dude calls him/her ‘Rap’ and I don’t know why.
Goth Chick, the all black one, is no longer (or never was) a Svart Hona. Instead, according to the breeders, Goth Chick is one of My Pet Chicken’s ‘Mad Scientist’ chicks. They are calling them ‘customed crosses’ and did not tell me what when into the making of this chick. Possibly Svart Hona, possible Cemani? Possible God knows what? Supposedly, if it is a hen, it could lay green eggs.
Cutie and Grumpy are both different flavors of Rocks. One is a Silver Penciled Rock and the other is a light Barred Plymouth Rock…. so essentially, the same as Rocky only gray and white, not black and white. They both have barring on the wings now. I think they will look very similar, to be honest.
I’m going to end this post with some random pics from this week. We had a deer visit the pasture, and half the chickens were terrified. Pavelle chased it because it was too close to her babies. It was amusing.
And that’s about it for this week. I am having surgery on Monday, the 26th, so if there aren’t updates for a while, this would be why. When I return, I promise pictures of the Brooder Babies, who should be more feathered out by then.
We had new baby chicks hatched this week, from Monday – Wednesday, but I haven’t posted pictures yet. Why not? Because there was a mix up at My Pet Chicken in the labeling of the eggs and until this afternoon, we didn’t know what kind of chicks we actually had! And there are still two unaccounted-for chicks. The good people at My Pet Chicken have reached out to the breeder to discover what they might be… with help from pictures I provided of the chicks and their eggs.
I have that lovely maternity box we made for the broodies out of a repurposed cabinet. I put her in it. She and the chicks spent one night in there and then Rapunzel decided to move them outside, into a corner on the floor. After fighting with her for two days, I gave up and have decided that she’s going to raise them her way, whether I like it or not.
Pavelle also rejected the cat carrier, btw, and has her babies sleeping in one of the laying boxes at night.
This kind of ‘immersion rearing’ kind of baffles me because Abby, Claire and Ashley ALL wanted to hide their chicks away from everyone, so they welcomed the special areas I made for them.
These two broody mommas? Want nothing to do with it.
So instead… I put out a bigger feeder for the chick feeder, a second waterer and put some straw down so Rapunzel could make a nicer nest of her own design… and took this video of Pavelle’s little Feather Butt meeting his/her little ‘cousins’ for the first time.
It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? And if you’ve been following my blog for the last two years, you know that I love to give my broody hens eggs and take pictures of them with their babies.
But this year, we did something different. Little Dude wanted to hatch eggs for a 4-H Embryology project, so we ordered him some eggs from My Pet Chicken. (I have ordered from them before, when Abby got her Easter Eggers. I should do a blog post about both experiences sometime soon, for those who might want to check out their services. Or not.) But for this project, he had to incubate them rather than our usual method of just giving the eggs to the broody hen.
As luck would have it, however, we also had a hen go broody at the same time as we purchased the eggs. Rapunzel, a one year old Buff Orpington hen. She’s the bigger of my two Orps, and a little standoffish around me, but not mean or skittish.
It was decided that we would give Rapunzel ½ the eggs and the Incubator ½, in an attempt to see which method yielded the better hatch. And then, since supposedly, they were all hatching at the same time, we could give Rapunzel the ‘bator chicks, by sneaking them under her at night while she slept.
I’m going to tell you… it’s been a LONG twenty-two days for us.
Before I go into the details, let’s discuss the pros and cons of both hens and incubators.
Using A Hen to Hatch Your Eggs
The hen does ALL the work for you. For real. The mother hen uses her body to control temperature and humidity, sense when it’s too hot, too cold, and plucking out feathers to regulate humidity by skin-to-shell contact. She can also tell when an egg won’t hatch, so you don’t really need to candle unless you’re curious.
The hen then raises the chicks for you. That’s a no-brainer. Unless you get a hen who has no mothering instinct (it happens) or is violent to the chicks (it also happens), then your mother hen will raise the chick after hatches.
Chicks raised by henshave better natural chicken instincts, integrate better with your existing flock, and tend to be smarter and healthier.
Risk to eggs. With a hen, there is a risk of the egg getting broken, knocked out of a nest, stolen by a predator, or soiled (poop, etc) which could cause hatch problems.
Hen abandons the nest.Just like that. She goes broody one day, you give you eggs, she sits on them a while… and then she hops off and won’t come back. It happens sometimes. You should have an incubator as a back-up plan.
Hen could kill the chicks.This also happens sometimes. A new mother or a mean hen could kill the babies after hatching. Always have a brooder and heat lamp/heat source ready and waiting if your hen doesn’t accept her chicks.
Predators.Self explanatory. The eggs, chicks and hen are all vulnerable to the same predators. Especially if they are together.
Using an Incubator to Hatch Your Eggs
Freedom to hatch eggs whenever you want. No need to wait for a hen to decide to go broody. No sneaking fake eggs into the nest to trick one into it, either.
Freedom to hatch as many eggs as you want.Or rather, however many your incubator can hold.
Safety.Egg is safe from predators and accidents which could cause breaking.
You can watch every step of the hatching process.Because, let’s face it, that’s the cool part. Watching them pip, and break their way out of the shell.
You can control the environmental factors.Temperature and humidity are things that need to be maintained to have a good hatch. Even the best broody hen could be off the nest too long or some cold weather could chill the air too much… or some very hot weather heat things up too much. A lot could happen, but an incubator? You control.
You control the environmental factors. Yes, it’s a pro and a con. Because we, as humans, can screw up. Get the temp too high or the humidity too low? Bad hatch in the making.
$$$$$Incubators, especially good ones, cost money. And if you don’t have an egg turner, you have to buy one yourself, which costs more – OR – turn the eggs twice a by hand. Which means opening the incubator 2x a day until Lock Down and losing much needed heat. With a hen, she does the turning by instinct.
You need a brooder to raise the chicks in when you are done.So after you raise your 300 chicks in your 300+ egg ‘bator, you need a brooder big enough to house them for 6 weeks, unless your intention is to sell them off as day-olds.
Unforeseeable Accidents Happen.Like your incubator malfunctioning. Or losing electricity due to a storm or equipment failure at the main power source. Anything that lowers the temps in that incubator can kill your chicks.
I tried to keep the pros and cons pretty much even here, and there may be some I missed. Feel free to leave them in the comments. I like healthy discussion.
Now, let’s talk about Little Dude’s eggs… like I said, we ordered him eggs. Ten of them, and then added two of our own to round off for twelve eggs. We gave six to Rapunzel and gave six to the incubator.
I spent three days prior to that testing the temperature of the incubator to make sure it was heating correctly and our thermometer was working accurately. THEN I realized that we needed to gauge the humidity as well, so we purchased a digital thermometer that also did humidity.
After the eggs were inside, I realized that keeping the humidity steady at the right temperature -(and different websites and different ‘experts’ say different things are to what humidity is right, btw. I, however, was aiming for 45-50% humidity. But that’s HARD to achieve when you don’t know what you’re doing, so there’s that) – was going to be the bane of my existence every day.
Meanwhile, in the coop, other hens kept trying to lay their eggs in Rapunzel’s nest. At least every other day, I found her with a couple new, non-fertile eggs.
And then, the weather went from ‘high-70’s and 80’s with sun’ to mid-50’s and 60’s with rain’ and more rain and more rain. And wind.
The incubator eggs were pretty much unaffected, but because the rain was forcing my chicken-shit chickens into the coop all day, Rapunzel actually for forced off the nest several times between Day 14 and Day 18.
On Day 17, however, disaster struck the Incubator in the form of a 6-hour long power outage. I was smart not to open the incubator during that time, but the temp went from the required 99-degrees to 72 (room temp for that night). I was on the verge and taking them out and putting them all under Rapunzel when the power came back on.
I have been biting nails ever since. Will they hatch, any of them? ‘Punzel’s cold weather woes, the nest snatchers, and then an ill-timed power outage could have killed all of them.
On Day 18, Little Dude and I candled them as per the 4-H project book’s instructions, and found 3 duds – two of Rapunzel’s and one from the ‘Bator. We removed those, and waited for Lock Down to begin.
Day 19… Rapunzel left her nest TWICE and I was worried that meant her ‘mother hen instincts’ were saying that the eggs were dead. But then she rallied and hatched three of her four eggs on Day 20 and the last one yesterday on Day 21.
The incubator wasn’t that efficient and those didn’t start pipping until late in the evening yesterday. The first one officially hatched at 3 am on Day 22. Two more, followed, and two… well, at the time of writing this post had not done anything. No pipping, no hatching. (I’ll probably wind up tossing them out tonight.)
I’ll be honest, it was neat to watch them actually hatch – and yes, I checked every hour on the hour all night last night for pips and zips and babies. BUT… I think I like my broody hens best. There is nothing like knowing those eggs are in safe, confident hands. Feathers, I mean.
That’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the last week or better. But here, for you, dear readers, I’ll back track…
It’s summer, it’s hot and yucky and I have been under the assumption that my older chickens began their molt early due to the heat. Is that a thing? I don’t know, but they are looking ragged, and several have stopped laying.
Double Dots, who is my easiest to catch loves to be held, had spots on his legs that felt like new feather coming in. Hard, pokey new feathers. I looked into the fluff on his legs and saw feather shafts with raised red skin around it.
Being new to chickens, and never having had any molt before, I assumed that the first adult molt made them irritated.
It turns out, as I have read in several sources, molting does NOT cause irritation.
So what do I have going on in my flock?
I have spent the last week and a half searching the internet, skulking in the Backyard Chickens forum, and the best I can come up with is mites or lice. Or extreme picking and feather pulling.
Dots appears to have the worst of it. His butt below his vent is awful looking, red, uber-irritated.
I diligently checked all the other chickens, young and old. There’s a few with minor signs of the same vent irritation. Pip has minor signs around his vent. Not anywhere as bad as Dots.
However, given that Dots is the Head Rooster of this flock and he like to mate with his hens frequently, he could spread them? Also, where is he getting them from? What about Abby and Claire, my two broody hens? Broody hens are susceptible to lice and mites because they sit and don’t go outside to dust bathe as often.
For anyone interested, Backyard Chickens has a lovely and informative guide to Mites and Lice. Their forum is also full of good threads on what to do. I spent a good amount of time there this week trying to figure this out, and make a plan of attack.
Ordinarily, I would have gone to The Chicken Chick or Fresh Eggs Daily first, but on this, I find myself unsure of the advice. One of them supports natural/herbal remedies and the other says that herbs will not get rid of mites and lice.
So I’m going with Backyard Chickens on this one.
My plan of attack is a 5 Step program.
Clean the ENTIRE coop and beds. Little Dude and I did it this morning, much to the chagrin of my little hennies who just wanted a nice bed of wood shavings and straw to lay their eggs in.
Spray EVERYTHING in mite spray. I’m using Gordon’s Goat and Sheep spray. The inside label says you can use it goats, sheep, cattle, horses, and poultry. It says, in reference to poultry, to spray it on the roosts, beds and walls of the coop (I did the floors, too) and even spray a fine mist of it over your birds. (I did not do that.)
Put down clean bedding. I just did wood shavings. See Step 5 for why.
Powder Chickens. This step is a bit controversial. BYC and other sources list Sevin dust as a good method of killing mites and lice and other external parasites on your chickens. It’s safe for the chickens, and like the mite spray ( step 2), you don’t have to withhold eggs. However, Sevin dust also kills bees. A lot of people are opposed to chemicals that kill the honey bees. If you’re interested in knowing, you’re supposed to put the Sevin dust inside a knee high (panty hose) and tie a knot in it to create a powder puff. Then pick up you chicken, hold them tucked up in under your arm, slightly upside down, and powder their butts near the vent. It’s best to do this at bed time, so you can just pick your chickens off the roost (as opposed to chasing them around). Little Dude and I will be doing this tonight at lock up.
Repeat Steps 1-4 in 7 days. Repeating will kill any mites or lice that hatched after the first treatment. This step is also the reason I only put in wood shavings and not fresh straw in the beds. We took out 7 wheel barrow loads of bedding while cleaning the coop. In 7 days, I don’t want to relive that.
I am super concerned about Abby and her Littles, though. I’m not sure how the Sevin dust will effect them. However, whatever is bugging the big chickens could kill them, so it needs to be done.
Now, the chickens were only concerned with where their straw beds went, how soon they’d return and OMG! Mommy locked us out of the coop!
And when I finally did let them back into the coop, I have 12 of them trying to lay eggs all at once. The various renditions of the Egg Song were deafening. Poor girls!