Cooped Up

Well, today was the first time in four days that the chickens have left the coop.

image image  As you can see (on the left), Saturday, the high was 3-degrees.  Sunday saw a low of -11 and a high of 1-degree.  I let them outside a little on Saturday, but not at all on Sunday.  Monday was more of the same… warmed, slightly, but incredibly windy and the wind was coming in from a direction that would have blown all that cold air into the coop.

The temp inside the coop?  A balmy 18-degrees.  No heat lamps, no extra lights.

Today, we’re having freezing rain, but it’s warm.  I opened up the coop door, but left the run closed.  They all went out, shook their feather and milled around.  Looked for the treat dish (I left it inside) and some of them came back inside.

I decided to leave the door open.  It’s not cold, and the temp inside the coop is almost 40-degrees.  They won’t freeze, and they needed the chance to go outside.  Blow some stink off, as my Mom likes to say.

Saturday also marked Pip’s 11th week with us.  I took the usual pictures.

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Hi, Pip. Or is it Pippi?

 

Pip in Winter, Sprouts and Other Things

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Well, Saturday Pip reached the 10 week mark.  Seriously looking more like a pretty little hen than the baby roo she/he looked like back in week 4.

The pics are from Saturday.  As you can tell, we had some snow in the a.m. but by the time afternoon rolled around it was gone.

This really has been a mild winter, which is somewhat disheartening because I was hoping the snow would be a deterrent strong enough to keep them from venturing near the road.   Since we can’t build the fence for the pasture until the spring thaw, they really needed the deterrent.

In the last 2 weeks, we’ve lost two more hens to the road.  One, Madison (aka Pip’s bio-mom, who laid the egg) was totally splattered by a man in a minivan.  He was so sorry, and came to the house to tell us and apologize.

Yesterday, Dottie (one of the ones my son liked) got clipped by a trucker, who stopped and came to the house to ask if we wanted him to help ‘finish her off’ because she was still alive, but clearly would not live.

That sounds odd, but his heart was in the right place.  His mother owns chickens and he was also very apologetic.

Since October, I’ve lost 4 hens now.  1 to a predator, and 3 to their own inability to be afraid of the road.

Spring, and my fence, cannot come soon enough.

Especially since we haven’t had enough snow to speak up in my part of the world.

Although, we did get some today, and supposedly its going to keep falling on and off all day.

Pip was not impressed.  He/she went outside the coop and run to explore and came running back freaking out.  I even got this video of him/her trying to find a safe place to roost, so his toes wouldn’t be cold.  Poor baby!

The last thing… has anyone tried growing sprouts for their chickens in the winter?

Winter is almost over for us now, but I’m wondering if little beds of sprouts wouldn’t be a good encouragement to stay on the safe side of the road?  It’s the ‘greener grass’ on our side (not that there is actually green grass right now, but you know what I mean) that is attracting them.  Something new and different.

 

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.

Still Laying For Winter?

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Lots of eggs still!

I found these seven eggs in one nest yesterday, plus three more in other nests.  Plus we have one or two hens who tend to lay up in the top of the barn, in the hay mow.

Not counting those, I had ten eggs yesterday out of fourteen hens.

Not too shabby for a winter hail.

 

Are your our hens still laying?  If so, how many eggs are you getting?  Do you think the warmer weather this winter is affecting your chickens?