The Chick Cycle, and Hen-in-a-box

First comes the broody hen.  Usually I find her staunchly defending her post on at least twenty eggs, spread out like a feather pancake futilely trying to cover them all.

They have no restraint. That’s why she goes in the box.  I let her keep seven or eight eggs, and make up a bunk with hay and a glass of water and a dish of food.  At times I have three boxes all lined up. 20160620_072455In there each hen “sleeps” in her broody trance uninterrupted except for getting her vittles refreshed.

Then they hatch.  Immediately, I move the whole family and unhatched eggs into a fresh box.  That broody box has all poop and spilled feed and water under the hay, so they need a clean box to start life in.  I find it takes two days usually for all the birds to hatch, and the chicks take it easy those first couple days, spending their time dozing under mom, transitioning to life outside the shell.

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Then the chicks decide to pop out from underwing, and start hopping around, jumping in the water and stuff.  They get another day or two in a more sizable box, with room to run around and spill all the food.  Sometimes the hen is still sitting on an egg, but she will very soon give it up and start mothering.

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Next they go into the indoor playpen, which is just a big box opened up against the screen door for ventilation, and arranged on the greenhouse floor, which is dirt, of course, and a layer of wood chips.  Now the mom will start to teach chicken life skills.  20160723_070037Scratching, drinking.  20160723_06581420160723_065756The beak sweep, the beak wipe.20160704_072546

And of course, the dust bathing.

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20160723_06590220160723_065953 20160723_065922She can see the world out there through the screen door.

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After a few days in the playpen, then they all go in the chickery.

20160728_095915 20160728_095921 Whoohoo!  Grass!  This is a frabjous day.  20160728_095948

At night, I have to lift all the chicks and mom into a box and shut them in the greenhouse overnight, for safety.  In the morning, I carry a cheeping box back outside and empty it into the chickery.

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Hey!

This hen thinks I’ve slept in too long, and it’s high time that they get let outside.

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Hey!!

 

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HEY!

Eventually, after a week, two, or more, or single parenting, the family will be put into Silkieland with the main flock. 20160720_142501 I have to say, it’s working great.  Waiting until the chicks are older to put them in the coop avoids the daily in and out woes.  Their little chicken brains are developed enough after the chickery daycare  to learn how to go in and out quite rapidly.

The Only Chick

The latest broody hen hatched out just one chick.

Unfortunately, she decided she was NOT done sitting on the rest of her eggs, and insistently refused to get up and start mothering, for several days (!).

I attempted to adopt the lone chick into the clutch that hatched four days earlier.  Four days makes a difference – the newer chick is significantly smaller.  I moved the chick in the night and put her under the other hen, but in the morning, I saw the hen pecking the intruder on the head!  Yikes!  Adoption not successful.

What to do?  Take the eggs away?  That could mean killing chicks that are almost baked, as the setting hens usually seem to know when their eggs are alive or not.

Luckily, the mother finally got up off  her eggs and got about the business of early chick education.

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The only chick and mother in the chick cycle rotation.  Upgrade to the chickery.

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I go to put them out in the morning, and she’s laid an egg!  This hen is so ready for more chicks.

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I love this stage where they get a little puff for a tail

 

Dinosaurs among us

HW came running to get me.  “You have to come look at this!”

He ran back all the way down our path to next to the garden, and in the grass right next to the path, there was this:

20160714_175714My instinct was of course to immediately lean down to touch it, an instinct I luckily arrested halfway there, freezing in place.   No!  Don’t touch!

Apparently, that big snapping turtle that lives in the culvert on the road, that’s been too wily (and fast) for me to catch on camera before, decided to walk up here, apparently headed for the garden, and got intercepted at a path.  20160714_175746She’s not happy about it.20160714_175704More than likely, she is  a she, looking for a place to lay some eggs.

Behind her, there is a path cut through the weeds, showing exactly where she came from.  20160714_175838

Since it’s been so dry and she walked a half klick from the creek, I left a bowl of water, and after a brief photo shoot, we left her alone.

What a prehistoric creature!  Turtles are so…different, and ancient.  It’s like looking at a dinosaur come to life.

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An hour later, the turtle was gone.  Her path did not continue, so she either retraced her steps exactly in disgust after the attention, or walked along our path for a time before she left it into the woods, weeds, or garden (more likely).  Who knows!

 

crows roosting

Now I know where the crows roost in our nearest town.

I’ve never seen a crow roost before, but I’ve read about it.  Crows converge at night to sleep together in a huge social group, although they spend most of their days alone or in small family groups.  They have a designated place they gather.

They spend the evening before settling down socializing, sharing information, fighting, flirting.

Unexpectedly, while I waited in the parking lot for HW to come out of the grocery store, I discovered where the city crows sleep.  Right in the heart of town.

Just before dark, they were swirling around the treetops of these few tall trees, settling down and then skirling up again, putting on swooping chases and synchronized flight maneuvers, diving and landing and taking off again, shouting raucously all the while. The trees were dotted with them and the sky full of action.

They were loud!  A big crow social hour; a party before bed.

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Chickery!

I made a floorless chick pen!  It’s pretty simple.  Four uprights, the same size, and then eight horizontals, made of lath.  It’s two feet tall, and I know that because I used one continuous piece of three foot (1/4″) hardware cloth, slit the corners up 12″, and folded them out.  20160705_133148

The hardware cloth is actually stapled between the lath and the uprights, for anyone looking real close, so it’s very much secured there.

It’s not exactly a tractor, but it’s very portable.  I put it out in the field, and eight rocks hold down the outflaps of hardware cloth, so that chicks can’t tunnel under the edge, and predators are likely to find it inconvenient to get under the edge too, should they come around in the day.

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This chick is almost completely under the wall, in a little dip

It takes only a couple minutes to move all the rocks off, relocate it, and replace the rocks.

This is going to be the middle stage of the Chick Cycle.  I want the chicks to be outside as soon as possible, but it’s proved dangerous in the past to put them in with the whole flock when they are tiny, so this is a middle stage.

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