On April 11, 2015, I became a first time chicken momma to seventeen little yellow rooster chicks, and their three little brown&yellow sisters. It’s been five years since then, and a lot has happened. I’ve seen chickens come and go, added a lot of different breeds, and watched mother hens hatch out lots of babies.
We still have one of the original flock, our beloved Double Dots, who celebrated his first birthday without his sister this year. She would have enjoyed the day. It was warm, with sunshine and new green grass. Dots enjoyed but for her.
He is starting to show his age. His crow sounds like that of a little old man. The feathers around his face seem more white (gray hair, chicken style?) than they used to be. But he still walks around the coop/run/pasture with an air of purpose band and determination.
On May 5th, the handful of Rhode Island Reds we have left from our second round flock will also turn five.
Happy birthday (belated and early) to all my birds!
It’s been a stressful week.
I’ve suspected for a while that someone (or more than one some one) has been picking on my Silkie rooster, Frost.
Frost is a timid little guy, smaller than my other roosters and a bit of a loner. Lately, he’s been hanging out a lot by himself. I’ve wondered at it, but with my new, full time job, I haven’t had a lot of time to sit and observe what’s going on. However, with Covid-19 shutting down basically every thing, I find myself on an every other day work schedule and time to watch them.
I still couldn’t pinpoint who was picking on him, but you know how it goes… Sometimes when one does to, more if them will, too.
Frost started hiding in the duck house and I’d have to put him in at night.
And then last night, I found him there, huddled in the corner and caked with mud … and blood. Looked like he’d been mud wrestling with a bear, and lost.
I brought him inside, tucked him away in a nest and began doing a head count. At the same time, slowly looking at all the possible culprits.
Our youngest rooster, Barry, a little one my RiR Maicey hatched and raised at the end of them summer… also looked like he’d been mud wrestling, but won. I am pretty sure he did it.
The pictures I am about to show are NOT pretty. And they are very heart-breaking.
I had to bathe him, which is hard because he has very brittle feathers where he’s been trying to grow them back.
So it was more like him standing in the kitchen sink while I sprayed warm water over him to get out the mud and blood.
His eyes are swollen and I’ve been treating them with Vetricyn spray. You can tell it stings him when I spray it, but it’s necessary.
He is currently residing in a dog crate on our porch. Until his eyes are a little better, I can’t risk returning him to the flock.
The bully Barry’s days are numbered. It’s time we decided who of the 8 rooster we were sending to Freezer Camp anyway, but it’s been decided that it will happen sooner rather than later. There will be four of them leaving.
Possibly five if Frost doesn’t get better. I’m worried about those eyes, but I have faith in my Vetricyn.
And DH is building a smaller, enclosed coop, that I can possibly put Frost and some of the hens who’ve been over mated by over-enthusiastic younger rooster and need time to regrow feathers. He’s doing this emergency build right now, in the snow.
I love my DH. He is awesome on so many levels.
On a happier and more exciting note, tomorrow is Day 21 for my broody Columbian Wyandotte, Winnie and her seven little eggs. I am nervously awaiting the first signs of new peeps. I will talk more about that as it happens.
This is just a brief, no pics update on the status of our coop.
Yesterday morning, I moved Dots’ med cage to sit next to the coop, so he could be seen but not touched. After observing him ‘talking’ to the girls, I decided to leave him there for the day. It would help if they could see him.
When I returned home from work, I gave him his daily supervised visit. There was some chasing, but not bad.
Last night, after spending an hour before lockup with the flock, Dots went up to the rooster to sit next to his sister, Abby, and Maicey. I was hesitant to give him because him sitting next to the hens rather than being afraid of them is preferable. So I kept watching.
As everyone found their way to the roost, Philip eventually joined them, choosing to sit in the same general area as Dots. In the jostling for positions, he wound up with one hen between them. I watched, nervous, to see what would happen. Philip reached over the hen twice to try and pull Dots’ hackle feathers (but never actually did) and finally settled in to sleep. Dots settled in, nestled between Abby and Maicey, and that was where I found him this morning.
I did some more observing this morning, and other than a mild altercation with Sylvester, I saw nothing to be concerned with. Philip did not see the need to attack.
On the issue of Dots’ eye, it is healing. It looks better. He’s been waking up with it shut due to watering, but the Vetericyn spray opens it up and it remains open all day.
His status is the coop is still up in the air. Sylvester is still trying to secure his bid for 2IC. Based on this morning’s bought of chasing, he still views Dots as a threat to that.
I don’t. Dots has been making submissive rooster noises, noises I associate with hens and younger boys. If Sylvester and Philip come that same conclusion, maybe life will go back to a new normal.
If they don’t, we need to keep Plan B on the table.
I hate Plan B.
However, if we go for it, the other summer roosters are ready for Freezer Camp. Or the Pressure Cooker. This bunch in particular is very rowdy and there is too much chaos in my coop. I suspect getting ride of them would help settle things for the boys left to protect the flock, because their hands would suddenly be full of hens in need of protection.
Could Dots be included in the boys going with Plan B? I don’t know. I want to see how he is received in the next couple of days. If the new head rooster and 2IC can accept then, maybe not?
I will admit ( and this is hard) that my orginal plan was to remove Dots this spring to make way for new blood. By “original” of course, I mean back when we first decided to keep him in the first place. So… About three years ago, before we knew he was going to be such a loveable rooster. I’ve flip flopped about it since then.
However, watching this dominance struggle reminded me that he won’t live forever and that, if the Boys don’t think he can still do his job, maybe they know more than I do. Them being actual roosters and all.
At this point, however, I don’t particularly want to cull him after spending a week trying to heal his injuries. It seems inhumane to have gone through those motions. If they can accept him as a ‘regular joe’ then maybe I could still hold off to spring?
I do have a short list of older hens I’d like to cull, to make room for new chicks. It has been four years. We do need fresh genetics.
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.