Tag Archives: chicks

Coop training II

The answer (to how many went in the coop on their own tonight):

One.

Mom.  She probably remembers well living in a wooden box, and is right at home. 

Chick roundup night two went better, the last Silkie chick (different one) left running around found its own way in quite rapidly.

All the Chanticleers were piled in the cardboard broody box with “their” mom, who’s trying to work on the next batch.  They aren’t so sure about this coop business.

 

 

Tarzan chicks

Three feet off the ground!  A hen-pecked tomato three feet off the ground in the greenhouse.   Couldn’t have anything to do with this little clown:

He/she appears to be the resident vine climbing expert.

I have plenty of tomatoes to spare for them to supplement their diets with.  And they don’t need to reach so high to get them, either.

 

Happy Thanksgiving yesterday!

Greenhouse denizens

They grow up so fast!

The jungle chicks are romping and growing up in the greenhouse as the squashes die back and the cukes decline on the vine.  The visibility in there is a lot better these days.

It’s almost hard to tell the adult moms from the chicks, who have taken their final form, but are still miniature versions of it.  (Mom is foreground, the only adult)

Then there’s the other chicks, the Chanticleers, which are a long way off of their final size, and still about the same size as the Silkie chicks.

Apparently, they’re perchers.  They’re always standing up on something.  Funny.

This one has a sidekick on the ground, but he/she’s blurred because turning head

Halfway up the tomato vines.

Ground support is more prominent in this shot, but the whole thing is out of focus!

Back down to two

Only two guinea chicks running around today.  Life is brutal for latecomers.

They’re so funny!  Little bitty chicks, the size of ping pong balls, scuttling around on their orange legs right in the middle of the big flock, like they belong there.  They’re hard to even find in my pictures.

It’s a big rain day.  The rain is thundering down; I caught 300 gallons of water in an hour off two roofs.  Everything is puddled and the hens are mostly huddling under their new tents.

Wet chicken

New additions!

Already!  Two little guinea chicks showed up at feeding time in the middle of the guinea herd!

Only two?  She had about ten eggs in her nest even after the close call with the tractor, but I checked it out, and there were two empty shells, and four intact eggs.  Maybe something happened, she rolled out a few eggs or something stole a few.

Then HW came home, discovered the new additions, and said “did you see the three new chicks?”

Three!?  Sure enough, there was a latecomer.  Easy to tell which one.  Just a few hours made the original two old hands at life.  The late arrival was shaky and slow and having a hard time navigating uneven terrain and obstacles.

Mama isn’t as crazy as she used to be either.  She let me pick one up.

Little leafeaters

I wonder why my pepper plants have no leaves?

Maybe it has something to do with these little scamps.

Who, us? Surely not!

It’s also a mystery why they enjoy pepper leaves so much.  They must be sweet.  The hot pepper plants don’t get defoliated (the eggplant leaves are ragged too).  Doesn’t bother me.  They leave the peppers alone, and the plants will be out soon anyway.

There are 12 chicks in the GH, with two Silkie moms.  They have they’re hands (beaks?) full.

They’re at this point where the Silkie chicks (coming into fluffy tails), are the same size as the Chanticleer babies, who are eventually going to be huge. 

They all mostly get along.

No peep

The Blondies are losing their peep.  They’re starting to make different sounds.  Not yet grownup sounds, just different.   Sometimes it sounds like there’s a duck around.

There’s two males:(  The darkest one has just developed faster, showing a comb and being bossy.  But I caught the two of them head-bobbing at each other – the tell-tale rooster reveal.

They are pretty fully integrated into the house mooching chicken club now (the layers).  Flapping into the woods at any fast movements.  Run away!

Guinea growth

The guineas are growing up.  There’s fourteen left – two disappeared along the way.  They’re still running along usually like one school of fish behind one hen, but sometimes they break into a couple of groups, and even get caught alone.  Then there is shrieking, when they look up and realize everyone’s gone.  I’m alone!

They’re SO fast, and they can fly quite well.  They’re starting to make their transition from brown stripes to black and white dots, but they still have the bright orange feet.

They’re also lost their “chick immunity”, and can and will get pecked for being rude, especially by the layer hens.  One of the guinea cocks seemed to be being a real jerk, chasing and attacking the chicks all the time.  But I have a theory that that’s a developmental strategy, like play fighting or wrestling, that he’s teaching them the art of escaping attack (try catching one).  Especially since the hen is right there letting him do it.

In the morning the group fills the feed platter, literally.  They eat, get full quickly, and then depart.  I give them a chance and then let the chickens out.  Through the day the guineas spend their time quite far afield (or awoods), sauntering through chicken land at times for a snack.

The adult flock escorts the chick flock less.  One hen has resumed her partnership with a cock and the two of them travel together independently.  The other pair and the bachelor accompany the chicks.

Hey, I wouldn’t mind getting here for some food.

 

 

Movin’ on up, up, up

The guineas are at this age where they just get into trouble all day.

They’re falling in the drink, getting stuck in or under stuff, and practicing perching anywhere they can.  I get called outside frequently by the panicked shrieks of the mortally assailed, and I find chicks…

How did it get in there?  Last year I planted a highbush blueberry and set a cage over it so the chickens didn´t uproot it through their vigourous appreciation of mulch.

I routinely found wailing chicks “trapped” in the chickery until I set it up on its side.  Now it´s a perch.They’ve got that guinea vase shape and they´re starting to turn speckled from striped, but they’re still brown.

Then I was brought outside at dusk by some particularly sustained alarm calling.

To find this:

The chicks were getting up on the greenhouse.  And they were really nervous about it, making  a lot of consternation noises.It started with the grownups.  They started inching up onto the greenhouse from the sky coop while mama was sitting with her brood on the perches.

A couple of days ago, they started roosting on the peak.

Not to be outdone, the chicks just decided that’s the place to sleep now.

First they flap up to the arch from the coop Then they scoot up until they gain the peak

A few of them are content to stay on the coop, which I think is smart, but I’m sure they’ll be leveled up in no time.

I have a theory that this started with the weather vane.  If that bird can get up there, then so can we.

Their additions are not very attractive.  They’re adding a lot of nitrogen now to the water I’m catching off the greenhouse.

No, they don’t puncture the plastic.  It’s tight at night in the cold.  It makes loud rumbling as they all scurry back and forth across it.

What’s funny, is that there’s not much space at the top.  It´s kind of a one way street.  Yet they insist on going back and forth, and when they pass each other….

If anyone gets more than a few inches from the center, they start to slip, then run in place, flapping, and either they regain the summit or abort, and push off to fly to the ground and then begin the quest again.

Eventually they line up like beads for the night.  It looks like an owl buffet to me, but I don’t have any ideas how to stop them.

Chicks in the greenhouse

There´s a tribe of chicks in the greenhouse.  One mom has 5 Chanticleer chicks, and the other has seven Silkies.

The Chanticleers

They never shut up!  PeeppeeppeepPEEPpeeppeeppeepPEEPpeep. Wow.  I don´t know how the Moms handle it, unless lots of it is inter-chick chatting that they can tune out.

Otherwise, it´s Mom, Mom, Mom!  MOM, Hey Mom, Look at this Mom, Hey Mom can I eat this?  What about this?  What´s this Mom? Look what I found Mom, Look at me Mom, I flapped!  See how fast I can run? Watch this, Mom!  

All. Day. Long.

The Silkies

The Silkies are a week older than the Chantis, so they´re all the same size (so far).  The Silkies are already entering their scruffball transition from fluff to feathers.  There’s three white and four brown.

Most of these chicks I’ve never even touched.  They´re going to be the wildest bunch yet. They were born in a box with an open door, and Mom’s been totally in charge from day 1.  I don´t even see them every day.

But boy do I hear them.

They’re all so happy and safe in there, savaging the low-hanging tomatoes, rearranging my mulch, tasting stuff.  It’s a rooster-free zone.  One Silkie rooster is wont to stand looking in the screen door, fantasizing.

The pigs are rooting.  I give them a nice new grassy area that looks like a green pig paradise for about an hour.  They like to customize their environment, which means turning over every inch of sod. Very diligent workers.  And fast.

Holy eyebrows, Batpig!

Blondies made it to the house

They’ve been getting closer every day, with their little peep peeping.  They´re so talkative you can always hear them coming.

They’re very funny, acting like they’re pretty sure they’re not allowed to be here, so far from the coop, and trippign over themselves dashing  into the woods when seenRun away!!!

But the big chickens are here (they hang around the house half the day, peering in the screen door and hoping for handouts).  So the Blondies have made their way over.

The house-moochers of the future.

They are also starting to get their cheeks, which is adorable:)

The three orphaned blond Ameracuanas are nearly grown up, now.  They look like proper chickens, with very erect half-fan tails, but they´re small!  Slim, long legged, and gangly.  the right chicken shape, but not filled in.  And still peeping like babies (constantly).

Two have slate legs, but one has yellow legs.

Hello, cheeks
It´s possible we got two hens and a cock (this is the cock).

 

 

Summer’s turn

So it begins, with the guineas.

What have we here?  A pile of chicks trying to perch like grownups on the coop, next to mom.

But look closer.  Who’s that IN the greenhouse?  I don’t know how the F they got in there, maybe the gap above the screendoor?, but there were three little guineas on the door header on the wrong side.  Frantic!

I get involved, scare them off the door, thinking they’ll come out the open door after they’re on the ground.  Nyoooo!  Mom is on the ground now too, so they run towards her and out of my sight behind the cucumbers.

Mom can see them running back and forth through the plastic and starts pecking at them.  Naughty!  Get out of there!  Chicks:  We can’t, we can’t! 

The plastic is like the skin of a drum,  and her pecking it is frightening the daylights out of the chicks.  Boom!  Boom!  It’s frightening me too.

HW swings around outside to get Mom to cease and desist, I undo the wiggle wire on that corner, and after rattling the cucumber vines, the chicks come popping out the hole and it’s all over but the storytelling.

The wild Oreos and their fluffy stepmom no longer slip under the fence into Pigland but are content in the partially desertified former Pigland.  They tower over mom now.  One is coming into slate shingle colouring, and the other has developed coppery neck feathers.

The light is shortening, and it’s that glorious time of year when when the chickens feel like going to bed lines up with when I want to go to bed.  Midsummer is awful.  The chickens outlast me every day.  I’ll be so tired I’m struggling to stay awake long enough to close them up, because they’re out there hopping around!  Not a care in the world!  SO not ready for bed.  Today, I’m like, What?  Are you guys seriously all in bed at 8:20!?  I could weep with joy.

Inside the greenhouse Brown Bonnet is proudly bringing up 7 chicks.

These chicks have a different start because instead of chickery time, when they first emerged I lifted her box out of the fence because she was sharing, and trusted mama not to lose any chicks in the jungle.

Funny, the first three days, she barely went two feet from the box.  Now she’s using half of the tomato aisle as the chicks increase in ability.  Soon they will be anywhere, and I’ll think twice about slinging buckets of water.

At night they all go back in the box to sleep, which is adorable.  They are going to be so wild, never getting the daily airlift touching

Someone’s always got to peek out.

Or two someones.

Or three.

Worldwash

The world got a thorough washing yesterday, with spectacular lightning and thundering, and possibly 90mm of rain here.

I filled every vessel I had; the wheelbarrow filled in about 10 seconds it was coming so hard.  The paths were all rivers during the worst of it.

All the chickens were hiding under their tents, even the guinea chicks. 

In the greenhouse, new mama has a little entourage of chicks in the tomato forest.  One had a beakful of tomato, quite proud of itself.  I know they are going to taste test all the ripe tomatoes they can reach.  Oh well.

Later on, the sun came out.  The guinea chicks are growing by the day and getting tamer, slowly.  They learned to fly up onto the hen coop, and were practicing that, flying up, jumping off.

Perching practice

There’s the guinea keets this morning, practicing perching on the feet of the guinea sky-coop.  They grow by the day. 

HW has raised the issue of what happens when all these guineas grow up.  Case in point, when they start hollering about something, it’s “How do you think 20 of those are going to sound?”, and “What happens when all those guineas decide to sleep on top of the coop?” and the most difficult:  “So, if you had two hens this year and they had 16 babies, then what happens next year when all those hens are grown up, and they have….how many babies are they gonna have?”

Finally, a few pictures of the elusive guinea chicks

Over and over, all I get to see is lots of little guineas vanishing into the brush.This morning, they were under the chicken’s coop before I opened it.

They have little wings of their own now, and they are at least doubled in size from when they hatched.  Still with Big Bird orange feet and beaks.

I can’t believe one hen can cover them at night, and I think of her when it pours cats and dogs at night, resolutely making herself into a tent.  In the morning, all the chicks are dry.

They still move en masse, attended constantly by all five adults.  They get superlative parenting.

They aren’t quite as terrified of us, and I got closer today than ever before.  Now they leave when I come around, rather than flee. Not quite as much of a panic.   And the adults show their suspicion but are more tolerant.

I even got a chance to count them! and there are definitely 16, so that means that little spinaround chick made it.  I’m glad:)

Blondies at large

The Blondies have seemingly recovered from the loss of their mom.  It was a very sad few days, for everyone, but they’ve come out from hiding in the bush.

It’s still sad, that they’re orphaned.  No guardian, no snuggling in the dust bath.  They used to cheep all the time, and seem to instinctively know that cheeping is maladaptive when you’re alone in the world.  They don’t cheep very much now. 

They are miniature chickens, grown up early.  They stick together and go all over foraging.  They loosely hang with the Silkies, and go in the coop at night, but they are their own clique, and they’re still just little! 

Oreos and the Cobra mom

The only time to see the wild Oreos up close is evening time in the coop.  They are handsome looking now, and not so much filling as cookie these days – they´re turning out raven black, with the blackest glossy legs.

 

 

 

The guinea hen is definitely setting.

This is early on – is she or isn´t she?

Later on she scraped up all the hay in the coop, and made a lovely, perfectly round nest with high walls.  When she flattens out and dozes, you can barely see comb over the sides of her nest.

No idea how many eggs she´s got.  Easily 20.  Perhaps a chicken egg got in there too.  In fact, she could be due any day.  I don´t know about guinea terms, but she´s got to be close.

And since there´s only three birds walking about yet, I suspect those three are the boys, and the other hen has found her own nest site somewhere in the woods. May she walk out healthy one day with a trail of chicks.

While I´m delighted that she´s pleased enough with the coop I made them to brood in it, there are some things that I did not consider.  Such as, what happens when they hatch?

She hasn´t lifted off that nest for a moment, so I´m thinking as soon as they hatch she´ll be ready for a snack.  And then day old guinea chicks will start pouring out of the coop, six feet off the ground?  If they do bounce, then, how about when mom goes back to bed?  If I lift in the chicks, she´ll come blazing out, the chicks will follow her out…this is a circular vision.

I decided to put a screen door on the coop so I can keep them all in there a couple of days, or something.

Applying the screen door was fine.  When I set a dish of food and water inside the door, however, whoooweee!

She is terrifying!  She opens her mouth like a cobra, spreads her wings wide and full, so she looks like a flat feather wall, and stares.  Then one piercing squawk, and wham! cobra strike.  She gave me a good chomp.  Same when I refilled the water, after she tugged the dishes in close to the circle around her nest.  Then I had to reach in even closer to her.  I didn´t risk the food dish.

Yikes.

And then four hens decided to hang out in the woodshed, even though it wasn´t raining.

Tomatoes already?!

I haven’t even gotten everything into my garden yet, and tomatoes are already forming in the greenhouse.  I’ve also canned a round of rhubarb.  I think it’s not good when the harvest starts before the planting is done.  Better…next…year.

In the meantime, my greenhouse companions, the Blondies, are joyously scritching around in the heavy mulch, until it gets too hot and I kick them outside for the day.

One chick decided to have a dust bath.  Very funny – a chick the size of a tennis ball taking a dust bath.  Really into it.  I’ve not seen a little chick dust bathe before.

They’re getting their wing feathers and little stubby tails.

A pile of snakes sunning in the pile of straw.

What, were you born in a box?

A chicken in a box in the greenhouse? Nothing new there!

That’s where all the chicks and moms get put, at night, when they are put to bed from the chickery.

Thing is, I didn´t put her in there! 

I think, maybe once, this mom and the Blondies  got put to bed in the box.  As soon as I put the chickery outside, it started raining, so I turned them loose in the greenhouse, which they love, for the rain days.

But here they are, as dusk falls, all in the box.   This is where we sleep.

I wish I could have seen how that went down.  OK, kids, time to get in the box! That´s quite a jump.

And then, in the morning, they´re all out of the box and back to work!

To the tomato forest!

They love the tomato forest. So much mulch to kick around.

I turfed them all out into the big world, though, because it was too hot in the greenhouse.  Even though they were all hiding under a squash leaf.

They got readmitted late afternoon, and tonight, they´re all back in the box!

Oreo update

The Oreos are practically grownup now, or at least think they are.

First, they graduated to the chickery, as all chicks do at about three days old.  That means a nightly grab and go from the chickery to a box in the greenhouse for the night. 

So cute, with their little wing feathers coming in.  One is turning grey quite rapidly.

Chicken selfie – Mom under one arm with a handful of chicks.

Look at those beautiful little wings!

Into the box.

I throw a lid over them for the night and first thing in the morning, it´s an aerial transport back outside to the chickery.

Then the rains came.

I figured that the stuff growing in the greenhouse was big enough to not be threatened by one tiny hen and two chicks, so instead of bringing the chickery into the greenhouse, I just turned the three of them loose inside.

Oh, what good times.

I had a good time working in the greenhouse with my feathered company.  Non stop clucking and peeping.  The chicks just tweet tweet constantly.  

Mom was quite fond of settling down on the edge of the wall like this, and I knew how the water level had been known to come up and pool in the greenhouse in heavy rains like this.

In the dark I went out with a light, planning to set them on high ground or in a box.  I found mom and chicks not tucked against the wall, but on the very top of a mountain of straw, her personal Ararat.  She´s no dummy.

The chicks got three whole days in the greenhouse, rummaging around in the straw, tugging on tomato plants, and scampering along the wooden baseboards.

And then, suddenly, they integrated themselves into the greater chicken society.

Luckily, I was outside with them when it happened.  As usual, I glanced over, checking for both chicks, and there was only one chick!  Mom was pacing against the wall of the greenhouse, starting to get distressed.  Where´s the other chick!!?

(Music of doom):

 

The chipmunk hole!

I went outside.  There was the chick, walking up and down the path on the wrong side of the greenhouse wall!

I tried to catch it.

The chick quite smartly scurried into the shrubbery.  Well then, it´s time to be outside, I guess.

Then I tried to catch Mom.  Phew!  That failed miserably, so I caught the other chick instead and introduced it to the shrubbery where it scurried off to join its sibling.

Mom I had to chase and coax until she hopped out the door on her own, where the lovesick roosters were waiting for her, and she ran off into the wrong set of shrubs.  I did some more chasing, until she went into the same clump the chicks were last seen in.

Good. I peered into the bushes looking for the happy family.  I could see her, but not the chicks!  I eventually found them – they were perched up off the ground on bent branches, already pretending to be real birds.

At night I opened the door of the greenhouse and Mom came around and hopped back in.  This is where we spend the night.  The third night I came to let her into the greenhouse and…. just one chick hanging around underneath the coop.

A: Wow! That´s got to be a first, a hen deciding to go to bed in a different place than the night before! Not only that, a coop she hasn´t slept in for months, in a new location.

B: Here we go again with the nightly chicks left outside drill – but I was wrong!  As soon as I came around the loose chick started distress peeping, and mom popped outside immediately, bristling.   What´s going on out here!? The second chick popped out behind her. I hid behind a bush to watch. Both chicks gathered up again, she coached them up the ramp together (!!!!).  WOW!

Never before!  First night!  On her own initiative! She deserves a good chicken mom medal!

And I was worried she was a little inbred, with her head puff not as puffy as the others.  They´re actually getting smarter!

Now the Oreos are right independent.  Mom opted to sleep in the small coop with the Brahma hens.  She takes the nest box at night with the chicks.

(There´s jean jacket hen) – when it rains I have to make a few rain tents for everyone. 

Mom and the Oreos are rather wild these days.  Hard to catch on camera.  I get distance sightings.

Under the rain tent

So far so good.

They´re often off on their own, in the pasture, roaming rather farther than the other hens tend to.

Once I found the Oreos inside the pig zone, Mom running up and down on the outside of the electric fence.  The chicks had just slipped through it.

She wasn´t alone!  One of the guinea cocks was pacing back and forth right next to her,  for all the world also worried about the chicks (!?!).  I was aghast, of course, at the situation, but the chicks popped right back through the fence when I came on the scene, and the guinea quickly resumed ignoring them all.  Different species.

The pigs are so big these days

Next time Mom was on the inside, chicks outside, I don´t know how she did that, and as I approached, so did the pigs.  Terrified, she plunged through the fence, tangling her leg in it and shrieking.  The pigs came up – I was totally worried that they would harm her, but they only nosed her, curious grunting, as I untangled her to run off again.

The Oreos are already getting up on their own in the morning, coming out before Mom, and running off from her.  They stick to each other like glue, though.

Wild jungle chicks:

Peep peep!

Three new blondies!  This Silkie hen hatched out three of three “cuckoo eggs” – full sized Ameracauna eggs. 

These three, unlike the last two (Oreos), while also Ameracunas, happen to be blondes!

That´s time-for-a-nap behavior.  Burrowing in.

Gone to bed.

This hen also molted before going broody, but didn’t regrow during her confinement.

I haven´t had little yellow chicks for a long long time!

Grass for the Oreos

It was supposed to be a nice day, so Mom and the Oreos (Thanks for naming them, Mom) got to move outside!   I transplanted the chickery from the arid hard packed environment of the greenhouse, where they spent a couple days, to the outdoors it was designed for.

Mom was so excited about grass – I can believe it- she was broody for so long she´d probably forgotten about grass – that when I lowered her into place she didn´t take a single step, just started gobbling grass where I set her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the roosters came.  The two remaining “exile” roosters, that stay apart from the main flock, and continue to sleep in the small coop, alone (I´m waiting for an opportunity to rehome them), lost no time discovering the new mama.

They made fools of themselves staring longingly through the mesh and giving some dancing performances.

Someday, she will be mine

I don´t get it myself, but she´s always been very popular.

 

They were resoundingly ignored by the object of their attention, but hovered around devotedly all day

Will it rain or won´t it?  Foggy, misty day – the chickery gets a rain cape.

When evening fell and mama settled down for the night, she and the Oreos got airlifted into a bucket to go in the warmer greenhouse for the night. 

She was not impressed.  I´ve never used a bucket before.  The bucket is not very roomy, but it was handy (I got her a box tonight).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a big playground in the greenhouse now

I can’t believe it but I’m SO happy.  ALL MY BIRDS ARE GETTING ALONG!  The one silver lining to the loss of my big rooster is that I don’t have to segregate my birds.  Two winters I’ve attempted to divide the greenhouse into two territories, Silkieland and Layerland.  I say attempted because there were always breaches no matter what I tried.

img_4450
When they were small

img_4449 First there were the guineas, with the GH all to themselves.

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Hey can we come in there?

Then there were the two Silkie moms and their nine chicks between them, who got to stay in the greenhouse mostly because of inclement weather.

img_4604Then I moved in the layer coop, the day after the rooster was killed.  The Silkies had the yard outside for a week of lovely weather, from whence they could see inside through the screen door.

img_4578Next I opened the door dividing the flocks, and waited to see what would happen.  A few red hens popped out, looked around, ate some grass, and went back in.  Hey, the guineas came outside, flew over the fence, and were walking around the other door looking confused.  The Silkies did not drift into the greenhouse.

The next morning, the Silkie rooster came barrelling inside when I opened the layer coop.  The reason:  one of his hens is sleeping in the wrong coop.  He chased her a merry race and taught her a lesson, and then raced back outside, where the other rooster was taking advantage of his absence to get some.  Life’s hectic for Snowball.  He’s got a lot of responsibilities.

They did not integrate on their own until, due to a bad forecast, we lifted the Silkie coop into the GH.  These long-suffering coops (Oh, they’ll last a year) are still enduring, still doing their job.

And then, miracles!  they all just … got along.  The layers drink side by side with the guineas, and the chicks are all up in the middle of everything, as they always have been.  Infants of any species seem to get big tolerance passes.  They can poop anywhere they like and be grabby and no one pecks them.  The guineas are smaller than the layers right now, but they seem to know that’s a temporary state of affairs, and they face off.  Staredowns, with their necks stuck out.  I’m gonna be bigger than you real soon.

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The layers are a bit bossy to the Silkies, but I’ve also seen the rooster run off a rude big hen.  YES.  I’m so glad it’s working!

Often the guineas are up on the haybales, just watching everyone else.

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Or behind it
Or behind it

They still move as an inseparable unit, even if they’re doing different things.  Some will be drinking, or eating, and the others will be curled up resting, but right next to them, and then they will all shuffle along together to the next stop.

img_4613 img_4593

Now there are five.  One guinea disappeared as a very small chick, in the first few days.  Actually vanished – I’ve never found a body, and there were no signs of foul play.  In September, I found one hen dead in the morning, of unknown causes, like she died in her sleep.  All the others came shuffling out of their hay-cave, and one was left, still.  I believe there are now two guinea cocks and three guinea hens, judging by size – the differential is growing.

They look much like turkeys to me now, with bald-ish necks, sparse feathers, and they stick their heads out long.  So funny/cute!  They are “the Africans” or the “little clowns” because they do funny stuff.  They are starting to make their weird sounds, and 5pm is the time to practice, every day.  Can hear them ten acres away, shouting.

I “cleaned it up” some in the GH.  Made some chicken play structures, which they dutifully appreciate.

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All the vegetative debris and dead tomato/squash vines are just entertainment for them.  Places to run around and hide, and lose a pursuing rooster.  They pull down old tomatoes, eat any leftovers,  dig, and dirt bathe.  It’s a big party. The cardboard boxes too.  They always like standing up on things.img_4586

There’s still a truckload of wood chips in there that I pushed aside to plant in, and a great deal of hay, so lots of carbon, and I’ll bring in more if I need to.  It smells good, not like a chicken concentration camp.  My hens will lay all winter in the greenhouse.img_4574 img_4577

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At first the layers weren’t sure.  They weren’t allowed in the GH all summer, now they aren’t allowed out?  They like to slip out the door behind me when I carry something in.  Then five minutes later they’re outside standing on one foot in the frost, looking at me.  This was a bad idea!  All the food’s in there!

Soon I’m going to introduce a new rooster.  He’s a gorgeous young bird, a Copper Maran, big but gentle.  I’ve been telling my hens I’m about to set them up with him. I have a younger man for you to meet! I’m hoping that if he’s introduced to an unfamiliar room where the Silkie rooster already rules the roost, they won’t have a bloodbath fight.  Because the Silkie would lose.  This is why I’ve had to keep the flocks separate before.

I know that the space is too big for one rooster to rule, because the second rooster has started to crow!  The poor, put-upon, brown beta rooster, who’s molting with anxiety, has enough literal space now to figuratively spread his wings.  I hope to give them each a flock and enclosure of their own next year.

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The mother of seven sleeps in here, and lays in here

All the birds love salad.  I thought I was just being lazy, letting a patch of salad greens go to seed, the mizuna growing into beachball sized clouds, and mustard greens into stalks my height and as thick as my wrist that tipped over under their own weight, but I was actually being brilliantly foresightful.  I’m going to do it on purpose next year.  The chickens love a good salad.  I carry in an armload of greens, sprinkle it in a line along the open side of the GH, and all the birds move in, ripping and picking, all mixed up together in inter-avian harmony.  Makes it quiet real quick.

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The Silkies especially think that the thing to do with turnip tops is to pick them up and whack! them on the ground. It’s not the usual chicken lift and drop, it’s very aggressive, like they’re flail threshing. What’s really funny is a chick trying to do it to a foot-long turnip frond.  That’s like a person taking a 30 foot pine tree and whacking it on the ground.  It works about as well for the chick, but they try.

I thought they might be into cold-hardy greens considering what they did to the volunteer kale.

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The incursion of the birds has pushed out the rodent population, as I hoped.  The numbers are now down to one very bold resident squirrel.   I hope he gets pecked.  Chipmunks are gone.

Now that the coops are in the greenhouse the first Silkie with aspirations above her station has told a friend.  Two Silkies are going into the layer hens’ coop to lay eggs!  The one is still sleeping in there. Her chicks are convinced they sleep in the cardboard box still, and every night have to be chucked into their coop.

In the morning, I let the Silkies out first while I do everything, to give them a little advantage, first beak in the trough, before opening the layers.  They know.  They can hear, and they grumble!  The rooster comes and waits at the bottom of the ramp for the Silkie hen to traipse out, then he pounces!  Every morning.  He knows she’s in there.

 

Dispatches from Silkieland

from Oct 17

Look at those feet!

Look at those little wings!img_4515 img_4514

Look at mama looking back.  What’s taking so long?

img_4506This mama has ideas.  At night I put them all in the box for the night.  In the morning she lets herself out to graze.  The chicks know where she is, but all frustrated.

Seven chicks survive.  She hatched an amazing, record setting nine, but two didn’t make it.  It’s almost normal for one chick to die every setting.

Chick death by hanging from the mother’s underfluff is a very real risk, as bizarre as I thought it was the first time.   I saved three chicks from this hatch from hanging.  I found two at once being dragged around by the neck.  What a fate.  Her underfeathers were glued together at the ends, poop no doubt, and chicks had their heads stuck in the loop, probably from burrowing under her.  I saved them, phew!, pulling the feathers apart, and feeling for other knots.     I suppose the solution would be combing their bellies shortly after hatching.  You first.

It’s a bit like 101 Dalmatians around here now.  Chicks everywhere.  In the greenhouse, in the chickeries – I’ve lost track of how many sets there were this summer.  Some hens went broody twice.  There are a lot of chicks scampering around.

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The last remaining greenhouse setter is good as gold in her broody box, but she loves breakfast.  She eats nearly her whole bowl of food every day, and she goes at it enthusiastically the moment it’s given (as opposed to other broodies, who eat a bowl of food every week or two, and pretend they don’t care about food when you put it in with them).

Outside, it’s cooling off.  The birds come tumbling down the ramp every morning, and then, ugggh!, halt on the ramp to hunch their shoulders and fluff out.  Sometimes they just go back inside. Not ready to greet this day. 

There are two ways to identify roosters.  1) Even very small, they start beefing with the other baby cocks.  They lower their heads and stick their necks out, then stand up really tall on their toes, beak to beak.  If that doesn’t settle it, there’s some chest bumping.   2) Baby cocks hero-worship the rooster.  I’m gonna be just like you someday!  They are first to arrive when he does his food clucks, and they tag along with him, everywhere.

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I came home to Snowball out of the Silkie paddock, who knows how or why, and whaddya know, Wannabe Jr. is out there with him.  Note unflappable (harharhar) white hen looking on.

 

Chicken treats – cucumbers!

Few things incite as much excitement as giving cucumbers to the Silkies.

The rooster loses his mind chirping, and all the little furballs go scurrying around, grab and going with a cucumber round, crying if they can’t find one (especially the chicks – they know something excellent is happening and they’re missing out), trying to find someplace private to eat their cucumber if they have one….

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I have to distribute enough slices so that everyone has at least one.

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Then it gets real quiet.

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Until they start to get Cucumber is Greener on the Other Side ideas.

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They hollow out the centers first, sometimes leaving the outer rings until the next day.img_4407

Chickery II

From Oct 14

Well, the chickery is definitely occupied, by the mom of seven, but the chicks of the mom-of-three are coming up, and they must go outside.

I thought Well, I have this big box, I can turn the flaps out and set it on the grass…img_4454

Doesn’t look so big once the birds are in it.img_4456

She does not appear impressed with the real estate.

So I upgraded.  Two boxes.  img_4459

Much better.  They are next door to Chickery I.img_4460All’s well in there.

 

First day in the chickery

We have a new hatch record.  I allowed this hen to set on 10 eggs, a compromise between the 7 or 8 i usually allow them to have, and the 20+ they try to cover.  She’s one of the largest hens, and she hatched out nine of them!  img_4380

Most of the time once they’re out of the egg they’re home free, but this time, two died in the first few days (both white ones).  They spent a full three days hatching, so they are now five to seven days old, and already have proper little wings growing in.

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When I go to put them back in the greenhouse in the evening I find this:

Oh, the grass is so dry this summer (and that's where the Silkie "tractor" has been)
Oh, the grass is so dry this summer (and that’s where the Silkie “tractor” has been)

The chicks are coming and going from underneath mom like she’s a roof, and she’s sedately being a shelter.

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Center front is a popular location.

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When I’m about to transport them to the greenhouse for the night, they all come spilling out.

First I airlift mom out, then I come back for the chicks, who are acting forlorn.img_4384

They much prefer to be picked up all together in a big two handed pile.  The last batch of five quietly allowed me to scoop them all up at once right up until they were big enough for the big coop, but seven all at once proves too many.

Good, because I can’t take pictures with two hands full.img_4388

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My favorite trick- Mom surfing.

Into the box for the night.

New occupants ready for the chickery means the former denizens, the last batch, got moved up to the big house last night.  Even at midnight, mom was feisty, flapping around, so I stuffed her under my sweatshirt (I wanted to move mom and chicks in one shipment so as to only open the coop once).  She started scratching around and climbing the inside of my shirt until she had her head stuck down my sleeve.  Ok then.  Apparently contented, she cooed as I stuffed the chicks one at a time into the roo pocket of my sweatshirt.  Chicks always seem to like it in there.  Then I dropped her into the coop, the rooster shuffling sideways on the perch to give me more than enough room, and shoveled the chicks under her.  All done.

More Silkie chicks

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So cute, little blunt wings and variegated colouring

Another box has started peeping – the peeping in that end of the greenhouse is my first clue there’s been a hatching.  Mother hen is maintaining eye contact from the background. 20160720_122004

This summer, except for the only chick,  the hens have all hatched 5 or 6 chicks from 7 or 8 eggs, and if there’s an odd number, it’s to the advantage of white.  The white hen (only one, of two, has gone broody), is a terrible setter (three times failed) while the brown hens are all models of success, although none of them have ever done it before.  All the brown hens are last summer’s chicks – baby pictures.  But the whites seem to get their eggs in the right place, like cuckoos.20160720_122013

This is the strenuous objection pose.  They press their wings down into the floor as a barrier so hard their body tips up until they practically do a headstand.