The Busier I Get, the More I Forget

So… I totally forgot the Week-aversaries this past week.

Here are Peanut (representing the Mystery Bin Girls, as always), an Unnamed Australorp and an Unnamed Buff Orpington.

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Peanut and her Mystery Bin sisters are turning 5 Weeks tomorrow.   The Australorps and BO’s are now 4 1/2 weeks.  I chose to compare them this way to show how they match up for size.  Peanut is average-sized for the older ones.  There are a couple smaller than her.  This Australorps are all around the same size-ish, and the BO is one of the smaller ones.  There’s one that’s as big as Peanut!!!

Next I may change things up and take individual pictures of one group of them.  Maybe we can play a round of ‘hen or roo’ at the 5-week mark and see how many we get right as things progress.

I spaced off pictures of Pip this week.  He’s 19 weeks old.  It might be time to stop celebrating his week-aversaries now. However, if you’re interested… here are Dots and Pip (father & son) at the same age, roughly.

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Pip, of course, is a cross between the sexlink (Dots) and a Rhode Island Red hen.  I believe they have the same mannerisms and facial features.  Even if they don’t the same coloring, Pip still reminds me a LOT of his papa.  They are both handsome lads.  🙂

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.

 

Randomness

Yesterday, I watched as two of girls fought each other over the exact same laying box.  Never mind that I have 36 laying boxes, and they were the only two girls in need of boxes.

It was an amusing (for me) but also frustrating (for them) battle of wits, which I don’t know who won because I gave up watching in favor of getting breakfast.

Meanwhile, in the coop…

Snow, Sun, and a Couple More Weeks With Pip

Well, it’s been a busy couple of weeks here at our house, and while I had pictures to share, I just haven’t had time to share anything.

We’ve had snow, which meant my not-so-winter-hardy winter hardy birds spent most of the last week and a half in the coop.  They went outside just long enough to get a breath of fresh air, look at the snow on the ground and rush back into the coop with a very definitive ‘oh heck no! Our toesies are COLD!’   Because forbid their toes are cold.

Yesterday, after spending most the week indoors, it warmed up enough for them to come outside. They explored, hunted for food, and got in some dirt bathing.

By the end of the day, most of the snow was gone. It still is, so there’s mud and some green stuff to peck at. They’re happy campers… or would be if there was more bugs.

Last Saturday was Pip’s 6 week-aversary. I took pictures, and yeah, forgot to post them.

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So much for having a buffy-colored chicken, huh? He’s turning into the same golden red as the sexlinks. It’s kind of cute because he looks more like his gold sexlink momma rather than a Rhode Island Red. If I hadn’t been present when Madison laid Pip’s egg, and wrote her name on it right away, I would never have guessed.  The egg layer is a dark red and there is almost no dark red on Pip at all.

Today marks Week 7.

Pip is growing, getting bigger. He’s now a little over a 3rd the size of Abby, his momma.  He’s losing a little more of the residual baby fuzz on his neck.  That’s really the only spot he still has some.  And… I’m not sure if you can tell from the Week 7 photo, but his comb is getting pinker.  Same with his wee little wattles.  I’m holding strong that I think he is truly a ‘he’ and not overly big she.  Time will tell, though.

Following in the same vein as my last post, Abby and Pip are still breaking down my ‘understanding’ of how ‘things are supposed to work.’   EVERYTHING I’ve read in various forums and places have all said that by the 6th week, a mother hen will leave her chicks to start hanging out with her flock again, and start ignoring them in an attempt to ween them and transition back into being a laying hen again.

At week 7, I see NONE of that type of behavior at all between Abby and Pip.  Pip is still Abby’s constant shadow in the barn yard and coop.  If I pick Pip up and walk away, Abby follows me.  If I pick Abby up and walk away, Pip follows.  They sleep together still, although it’s getting harder for Pip to sleep under her wings.  I’ll have to get a picture tonight and show you.  It’s amusing.

I did notice today that Pip was straying away from her a little, but never more than a foot away from his momma at best.

I’m wondering if this due to Pip being an only child, or Abby’s first hatch, or because it’s winter and keeping him close means Abby has a buddy to cuddle with when it’s cold?  I don’t know, honestly, but the only thing I do know is that she is definitely not shoving him away in the manner most the chicken forums said she would.

Now, seeing as today is a beautiful sunny day, I’d like to end with some pics of the chickens enjoying it.

5 Weeks …

… aka “What I’ve Learned in 5 Weeks of Watching Abby Raise Her Chick.”

Yesterday was Pip’s fifth week-aversary, and I had a lovely post written out, but the WordPress app on my Kindle Fire ate it.  It wouldn’t let me post it and I had to exit the app… only to find it didn’t save either.  All those words lost…

 

 

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… but I’ll start by wishing Pip the customary ‘Happy week-versary!!!” and showing off how cute he is.  Because… he’s cute.  😉

 

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I mean really? Just look at this little guy! Adorbs!

Now to the subtitle of this post…  I’ve never claimed to be an expert on chickens.  That’s what this blog is about, right? Me learning as I go and you, my small but encouraging audience, following along with me.  Most of what I’ve learned has been gleaned from other blogs, Backyard Chickens, and a really awesome Facebook Group I found… and a LOT of observing my own chickens, trial and error.  A lot of trial and error.

This adventure of Broody Abby and her Baby Chick has challenged pretty much everything I ‘thought I knew’ about raising chicks.  It really, really has.

When we first brought the sexlinks home from Tractor Supply in their box, I had no clue what I was doing.  I had a brooder box and brooder lamp my father had used to raise pheasants a few years prior, a feeder, a waterer, and a lot questions.  I answered them by buying a couple of chicken raising guides and jumping online to suppliment.

I followed the guidelines I found in those sources to the letter.  My chickens had a brooder lamp until 6 weeks (7. really because I read they needed it until the last of their baby fuzz was gone an couple of the chicks still had baby fuzz on their heads until 7 weeks).  I didn’t let them outside until almost ten weeks, except for short, supervised visits in which I sat with them and watched them freak out over every little sound, the blowing of the wind, other birds flying over head.  I followed the feeding chart on the back of their feed bags for an idea of what to feed them at what age.  And when we added the Rhode Island Reds, I kept them separated and integrated them once I thought the RIRs were big enough to hold their own against the sexlinks who were 3-weeks older but lightyears bigger than them.

All of this… much like a new mother trying not to ‘screw up their baby.’

And then there is Abby with Pip.   Abby is a first time mother, too, but unlike me, she isn’t following anyone’s rules or guidelines but her own.

Pip had never seen a brooder box or a brooder lamp.  He sleeps cozy. nestled under her wings.  I expected her to keep him there for a couple of days, but from he very beginning, she always encouraged him to come out and eat, and after the first week, she encouraged him to go outside and play and explore.  In his first 5 weeks, Pip has gone outside almost every day, learned to scratch in the ground for food and bugs, and when he gets cold, they go back into the coop, and he snuggles under her wings for maximum warmth.

He has chick starter, yes, I keep his dish stocked… but he also eats the bugs, slugs, seeds and stuff Abby has been teaching to dig up when they go outside.  He also eats the scratch and seeds, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, fruit, etc I feed the others as treats.  Why?  Because Abby eats it, and if she decided it’s good for him, she buck-buck-bucks until he tries it.

He isn’t separated from the rest of the flock.  He lives with them, and now, at 5 weeks, is not afraid to move among them.  They haven’t been aggressive or harmful to him.  They seem to tolerate him just fine, in fact.

It is, in short, NOTHING, like raising day-old chicks in a brooder.  It is NOTHING like getting my sexlinks and RiRs to co-habitate without killing each other.  And also, NOTHING a book or a website could prepare me for… because it was natural.  A hen and her chick doing what instinct tells them.

Granted, the harder parts are yet to come.  Pip is entering his tween-stage, and in a few weeks, he will become an adolescent rooster.  There may still be scrimmages between him and Dots.  I hope not, because for now, he seems to know his place in the flock.  But time will tell… and because of Abby’s poor timing in going broody right before winter, all of this will come to pass in the dead of winter when they are confined to coop (mostly of their own choice because they don’t like to have cold toes) and close quarters.

It could get interesting in my coop in the next couple of months, people.

But what I take away from the last 5 weeks is that this is how I want to raise my chicks… with a momma to sit with them, teach them and protect them.  Abby has been amazing with Pip.  If she goes broody again, I will definitely give her eggs to sit on!

 

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.

An Early Christmas Gift…

… for my birds.

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:

Abby took Pip waaaay outside the run today, and let him explore the weeds in the barnyard.
Abby took Pip waaaay outside the run today, and let him explore the weeds in the barnyard.

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.

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.

Over all, I’d say it was a successful project.

Eating Out of My Hand (and other observances)

I took this video of Pip the other day. It’s a little reminiscent of this post, from back in April.  Which is, of course, Pip’s papa, momma and assorted ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles.’

The sexlinks loved to eat feed out of my hand.  Abby still does, which I discovered when I tried to hand-feed Pip the first time (by holding my hand down to Pip) and she kept butting in to get her own.  I am, however, more leery of Abby and Dots eating out of my hand because, well, they are bigger now and their pecks are more forceful.  I think if they got very enthusiastic, it could hurt more than I want it to.

The Rhode Island Reds never really ever did eat out of my hand.  I don’t think they were (or still are, some of them) as trusting as the sexlinks.

Pip is my cross between the two breeds, but he is being raised by a sexlink momma.  I don’t know if that has any bearing on the issue, but he is NOT afraid of my hand.  And, as you can tell from the video, he trusts me enough to sit on my hand.  He also climbs my arm and shoulder.  So much like the sexlink side of his heritage.

 

Pip’s Second Week-aversary!

Happy 2nd Week-aversary, Little Pipsqueak!!!

Pip's getting big, and very active!
Pip’s getting big, and very active!

Pip has been venturing outside into the run, learning to fly, and growing up very fast, right before our eyes.  If you look closely at the pics below, you can see that his wee little comb is already starting to look… well, BIG for a 2-week old chick.  Makes me think Pip will definitely be a boy.

I also don’t think he will be very red at all.  I think… more a buffy color?  Look at these wings!

The Post I’ve Been Dreading

I’ve been putting off writing this post because the subject is one that I have been dreading ever since we first got our babies back in April, and increasingly since about the end of September.

One of my hens was struck in the road, by a car.

It was one of my two remaining Gold sexlinks.

Now the only sexlinks I have are Abigail, Dots (our rooster) and if you count Pip (sexlink-x-RiR cross).

My heart is all kinds of broken.  And also all kinds of angry.

But not at the car/person who struck my chicken.  At myself, for not pushing harder to make a fence happen… and at both Dad and my DH, who both (at at different times) refused me the right to have a fence.

Some background on our Great Fence Debate:

When we first started talking about chickens, I wanted to fence in the inner barnyard for them.  DH was for it, but when we mentioned it to my Dad, he said “NO!” because if it was fenced off, he wouldn’t be able to drive his truck, tractor, lawn mower back there.   So, we opted to build them the little run, with the option to let them free range as they got bigger.

I asked DH’s cousin, Holly, (who lives a couple miles away on the same stretch of road) if she’d ever lost any chickens to the road.  She said no, because hers were afraid of the cars and ran away if they were close and a car drove by.

So I assumed mine would, too.  The cars and trucks that drive by are bigger, louder and noisier than my chickens. They would be afraid and run.

Right?

It wasn’t much of a problem for most all the time we’ve had the chickens.  Until June/July, they mostly stayed in the run and coop.  After we started letting them out of the run, they all stayed in the inner barnyard.  Occasionally, little groups of them would walk around to the side of the barn or out front of the barn, but they all stuck close and away from the road.

Then we did the butchering, leaving Dots alone with his sixteen hens.  They were older by now.  The girls started laying eggs.  Abby went broody (September), and Rebecca and Ava started wandering closer to the road.  They crossed it a couple times, lead other girls and sometimes Dots to join them.

Since the first time, we’ve had an on-going debate over the absence of a fence and the need for one.

If we’re not at home, I lock them in the run.  We clipped wings to keep them from flying over the run (we have some girls who still do).

I’ve suggested a chicken tractor.  DH is against it because it would mean 1) they weren’t ‘truly free range’ and 2) they wouldn’t be using the coop he worked so hard on.

Then Rebecca got killed by the predator (we think cat).    Dad finally said to me, “you know, you should fence off an an area for them.”  We talked about it and both decided that IF we could get DH to build a fence with a gate for us to drive through, we could just clip the wings occasionally and the chickens should be fine.

DH still said no, giving the same reasons as above.

Then, this past Tuesday happened.

It wasn’t a good day all the way around.  Little Dude had been suffering from a toothache and I had to take him to the dentist (about a 45 min drive).  We were there ALL day.  As we were leaving, just getting on the Interstate to drive home, he says to me “Mom!  I left my glasses at the dentist!”  no place to pull over, and I suck at using my phone while driving so I couldn’t reprogram the GPS (I had never been to that dentist before, so I was using the gps on the phone to navigate).  I decided to go home, call the dentist, and go back the next day to get them.  Neither me or Little Dude had eaten since breakfast and it was almost 2pm then.

So we made it home, and as I’m pulling up to the house, I see this little pile of gold/red/white by the side of the road.

Ava.  Dead.  I screamed and cried and as soon as I was in the driveway and parked, I ran down to get her and just held her and cried.

Mom said she’d been watching and had shooed her across the road once.

Dad was in the barn.  The rest of the chickens were closer to the inner barnyard.

I don’t know what Ava was doing all by herself crossing the road.  I guess there’s no way of answering that question now.

I spent the rest of the day pretty upset. (I’m still pretty upset.  It’s like we’re not meant to have sexlinks.  If something happens to Dots, Abby and Pip, I will be broken.  Not to mention what it will do to Little Dude.)

I found pictures of Ava on my phone.  Some with her sisters.  They made me start crying.

DH asked what was wrong.  I told him nothing, I was just thinking.  He asked what?  I asked him. “what do I need to do, what do I need to sacrifice or give up or go without, to get you to fence off a safe place for my birds?  I don’t want to lose anymore.”

He joked about just buying more sexlinks.  I told him, it wouldn’t be the same.  They wouldn’t be the same birds.

He started to suggest the chicken tractor and then said no, too much work.  This was at bedtime on Tuesday night.  We were brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed.  I could see ‘his gears turning’ and I knew he was thinking now.  He went up stairs, flopped up on the bed and said that he could build a fence, but how to do a gate?  Then he said, “no, I know how to do the gates.”

Then he asked me how big of an area I was talking about.  “Just the inner barnyard and a little bit of the pasture, maybe to the tree line, where Dad planted those trees.  Not the whole pasture.”

That’s what I told him.  It’s not too unreasonable.  The barnyard, some of the pasture where they play.

He said he’d need more money for material.  He has some of it, but not all.

It’s winter now and the ground is hard, so it might not get it built til spring.

But’s he’s going to build me the fence, like I wanted before.  It will be on me to keep wings clipped enough that they won’t fly over it.  Some of them will anyway, but I’m going to assume that given a bigger area that their run, they won’t be as tempted.  Especially if we give them to the tree line.

I just have to keep the rest of them safe til spring.

My heart is still broken for Ava, but at least her death has served some purpose.

I’ll be honest here, I love all my chickens, but the Golds were special.  They were our first, and they were special.  Also, they have a nicer temperament than the Rhode Island Reds, by a long shot.

 

I feel like a failure for not keeping them safer, or not pushing DH and Dad harder for the fence I knew was necessary. I may be getting one now, but at what cost? The life of a little girl I can’t just replace. 😦