Tag Archives: hen

Morning chicks

I was greeted in the morning by news of chicks!  HW didn’t know that they were freshly hatched because they were so big, but they hatched overnight.

I knew they were coming, because for the last few days, mama passed up her daily meal and stayed put on her eggs.  (This mama was the lady who lunched).

These are baby Chanticleers, future layers.  Five hatched of six eggs, wonderful!  They are born bigger than the Silkie chicks that are a week old. 

I wasn’t sure what to do with these.  Already dynamic, a few hours old, I wanted to let them out of the chickery right away but worried that the hens would fight.

I did let them out, lifting the chickery up and over the sunflower that grew up inside of it, and all the chicks scuttled out into squash land.  I’ll barely see them anymore.

Later in the day, it seemed that the two tribes had not met; the Silkies on the tomato side and the new babies on the squash side.  It’s thick in there.  They have plenty to do without encountering each other.

Out into the jungle

Hers and Hers

I’ve got another broody hen, so now the eggery is a duplex.

The first broody – the most tolerant little girl who was keeping the orphan guinea warm for a few days (that little keet expired after all) – is due any day, if she was successful.  Her attachment to a daily meal may have left her eggs cold for too long.

I haven’t really thought through the extra occupation of the the chickery, but I’ll probably release the first set of chicks into the greenhouse jungle when they come.

The new broody is the biggest of all the silkie hens; she’s easily covering 9 eggs.

The first broody has stuck to her daily break time throughout her term-  a new quirk, and the box inside the chickery has worked perfectly.  She comes out, eats, poops, and then creeps back into her box, talking to her eggs the whole time, which is adorable.  I’m coming back…here I am.

Eye wide open

When they were small…

Now they are scampering around outside with the big flock wearing proper wings and tails and surely thinking they are all grown up, but when they were merely days old…

I was working in the greenhouse, the Chickery was in there with me because the chicks were brand new (they have a few chickery days in the greenhouse before going outside), and the Blondies and their mom were rummaging around in it, as they do.

I noticed she seemed to be digging with unusually single-minded determination in one corner.

I looked in on them once and she had dug a hole.  I thought, any minute, a chick is going to be able to slip out of there.

Before I turned away, one did.

Then another. 

 

When she would pause her digging efforts, a chick would dive in to see if there was anything interesting in the hole, and retreat when dirt started flying again.

Once all the chicks were popping in and out like electrons, I decided it was time for them to go outside. 

I popped a box over top of Mom (highly offended noises), lifted the chickery off and wrestled it outside while the chicks cheeped in the corner.

Then I grabbed the chicks and introduced them to grass.  Then I went back to the grumbling, rattling box, and returned mom to the chicks. 

Outdoors time!

Jean jacket chicken

I have one chicken having a hard time.  She´s a low chicken – the lowest – I call her Sidewinder because of her habitual cringing deferential walk.  She arrived like that.  She had a chance at a fresh start – no one knew she was a low chicken before – but she blew it.  Creeping and ducking – she got pegged as low from the beginning.

She´s molted, so she was practically naked.

Her wing shoulders were getting all raw too, from the rooster’s attention, but that problem is eliminated along with the rooster.  Jacques went in the pot for repeated bad behavior, and it was high time.  I couldn´t go out there without a stick and I counted on the protection of the Colonel.  He was very good looking, but a good-looking jerk.  Now it´s much more peaceful in chicken land, for everyone.

Then I think she had a close call with a raptor (unusual in the spring – perhaps it was a spat with a peer).  I think so because there was an alarming feather splotch by the trail, and I had heard a shriek, but then there was no one missing, and Sidewinder turned up with the last few cling-on feathers on her back gone.  Totally naked.

But now she has a jean jacket.

 

I was at my friend’s (Spoiled Rotten Chicken Club, chapter III), and half her flock was running around in jean jackets.  It was cool, rainy weather, of course.  She´d made a whole rack of them from a pattern on the internet.  I couldn´t stop laughing.  The ones in jackets looked tough, or swaggery, like they were proud of their duds.  And the colouring of some of the Ameracaunas with grey-blue wings in their jackets was uncanny.

It’s like Toad Hall, or (some other UK childrens’ stories where the animals all wear vests and/or cravats) come to life. 

She gave me one for my beleaguered naked chicken, and she’s rocking’ it.  A little warmth, a little sun protection, and a little peck barrier.  It hasn´t seemed to gain her any status though.

HW says they all need club patches.

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.

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!

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!

Guinea eggs!?

I was working in the greenhouse and a hen started making a big commotion BaBWOCK!  BaBWOCK!! (etc-)

I looked out just in time to see a red hen (chicken) on the perch of the high rise guinea house, just before she took off.  She was most likely shrieking about her imminent long flight, like she was on the high dive board.

I turned back to work, and then it occurred to me – What was she doing up there?  Could she be laying eggs in the guinea house?!

I got a step ladder, climbed up to see, and sure enough, she WAS laying in the guinea house.  For a few days.  Well THAT helps explain the loss in egg production I was troubled by.

But hark.  She´s not the only one laying in there!  There are lovely pale brown pointy guinea eggs in there too!  What a sweet little nest.

Cool.  Guinea eggs!  She´s not laying in the woods after all.

Nice to know at least the guinea hen knows how to go inside her coop, even if she does sleep outside no matter the weather.

As for the chicken hen, what a cuckoo!

 

First boxed hen

I´ve put the first broody hen of the year to box.  She´s been determined to brood for a couple weeks, daily protesting the removal of her clutch.  I´ve relented, and put her on three pretty blue eggs (Ameracaunas).  I hope she can do it;  she´ll be the first of my Silkies to sit on a clutch of alien eggs.  If it works, it will be an ugly duckling situation.  My last attempt at egg swapping was rejected – they rolled the big eggs out and down the ramp.

She´s not a very good-looking hen; in fact, she´s an unusually ugly little lady, but she´s feisty and single-minded, keeps her eggs tidy (not allowing them to spill out),  and has been steadfastly resisting my attempts to break her up, so she might turn out be a great mother.

Granny

We have an old hen.

img_5281She’s the last of the original three – her and the Grandpa – the big boss of the greenhouse.  He’s not showing his age at all, but Granny is obvious.

She’s tiny, she moves slow, she’s not very white anymore, her head tips forward, no one bosses her, and her poof of hair feathers overhangs her eyes in a way that makes her look wizened.

img_5279She is the progenitor of half of all the Silkies in the greenhouse, but I think her hatching days are over. Every morning she eats with gusto but then toddles back to the coop, hops on the ramp, and goes back to bed.  One of these days she won’t wake up in the morning.

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Coop Infiltration

I go to collect eggs, and what the? I find a Silkie egg in the coop:

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There’s a Silkie laying eggs in the big hens’ coop.  Not only that, she’s laying them in the nest box where the others do. This must be the place for eggs.

This is amazing to me that one of the hens got it into her head to walk up the ramp of a coop she’s never been in, in the dark, where the residents are twice her size, and decide that’s the right place to lay an egg.

 

 

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.

Dawn Snow Chicken

On the way to the greenhouse in the morning, to let the hens out of the coop, I was surprised to find one lone, chilly chicken outside already.

What the heck?  Obviously she roosted in the pine tree for the night, and it seems a rabbit came by as well.  It’s just strange that she chose to leave the greenhouse at all yesterday, let alone not return to the coop.

The greenhouse was  open a few hours in the afternoon, and other than a quick novelty excursion to eat some snow, now that there’s a snow pack the birds generally choose to stay in the warmer greenhouse all on their own.

Except for this one.

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She wasn’t sorry to stay under the tree, either, making no moves to go back to the greenhouse even after her sisters started up the food noises.  With the “help” of the dog, and cutting well cut up by the brambles around the tree, I caught her, stuck her in my coat, and repatriated her.

Chicks!

Just when I was starting to worry- she’s been sitting on those eggs forever- HW comes in in the morning and says Have you looked under the brown hen lately?  Oh, you’re gonna be excited!

There's a little head in the wing.
There’s a little head in the wing.

FIVE chicks!  Five healthy, brown and mixed (spider markings) chicks.  OMG, so, so SO cute.  And an egg with a tiny hole in it.  I didn’t even know she had six eggs under her.

2015-08-02 07.56.17I peeked at that egg later in the morning and it had a slightly larger hole in it.  A whole day behind the others, though.  Will it hatch?

At coop-closing time, I wiggled my fingers under her to see if there was still an egg, or a shell to pull out.  The hen firmly pushes her wings against the floor, making a barrier (while growling, a most amusing sound).  You can only nudge in under her chest or butt.  All underneath her was tiny legs and little squirming bird bits.  She contains multitudes.  The egg was there, intact.  I pulled it out.

It’s not every day that an egg, in your hand, shouts at you.  It’s disconcerting.  CHEEP!  The bird inside was very much alive.  Although still all crammed in its box without hinges, key or lid, it let me know- it’s alive, and busy.  Put me back!  I swiftly tucked it back in to the mom furnace to finish hatching.

Wow.  A 100% turnout from the brown hen.  She’s smaller, but smarter.

Chicken Mom / The In’s and Out’s.

Sure enough, the first night out, they did not go back into the coop.  Dusk fell, and the rooster finally retired, leaving the hen downstairs, under the coop, settled into her chick-warming shape.  She’d been doing this most of the day, as the chicks could only handle a few minutes scurrying around before running under mom for a warming.

The Silkies have been fortress-ized with hardware cloth for the weasel and bird netting for predator birds.
The Silkies have been fortress-ized with hardware cloth for the weasel and bird netting for predator birds. The whole thing is portable, in two parts.  As HW says, it’s more like a chicken mobile home than a chicken tractor.  “In theory, you can move it, but it’s no fun”. 

Ok, I thought, when I realized she was committed for the night, I’m gonna have to crawl in there.  Since the Silkie fortress is much more robust, it’s also a lot harder for me to access.  I have to climb over at the end by the pine tree, and crabwalk under the bird netting.

I incorporated their favorite pine tree, and anthill, into the fortress
I incorporated their favorite pine tree, and anthill, into the fortress.  The Silkies are so low impact and perfectly happy with a small area, this is very spacious for them.

I take the hen and put her up on the ramp.  She comes flying back down, wings out, on the attack, mad! I scoop up chicks and pass them into the coop as quickly as I can, getting pecked and pinched.  The cheeping is desperate from over my head, and the the rooster is making his excited sounds.  Then I have to grab mom and toss her up on the ramp, and her squawking instantly changes to clucking when she sees her young (How’d they get up here?) and she strolls up into the coop and settles down.  I crabwalk out of the chicken run, hoping this doesn’t go on for weeks like last year.

Evening two:
Almost an exact repeat.  This time I go for the chicks first and deposit them at the top of the ramp.  Then the hen hops up on the ramp and goes up herself.

Evening three:
Yep, same.  Hen settled in under the henhouse, most responsibly keeping her chicks warm.  The chicks are getting faster, but the process of putting them upstairs is smooth now.

Evening four:
That’s what I was afraid of!  The hen’s in the coop, tucked in most comfortably, and all the chicks are huddled under the henhouse, crouching pathetically against the food dish.  I guess three days grace was all they get before…what? They get left to their own devices?  I crawl in and start grabbing the chicks.  Uhoh!  At the sounds of distress, mom comes rocketing down the ramp, on a rampage!  Flying attack beak!  She’s battling me so fiercely, I have to protect the chicks I’m trying to grab with one hand from stabbing beak with the other hand.  I should mention that being attacked by a two-pound hen, even giving all she’s got, is not all that threatening, even while crouched awkwardly in the small space under the coop.  I got, like, one little scratch.

However, when I put the chicks up at the top of the ramp tonight, because they are cold, and mom is at the bottom of the ramp waging war, they come skittering back down, to her, crying.  I may as well be putting marbles on top of the ramp.  Mayhem.

Now here comes the rooster, roused from bed. Finally I toss the chicks into the straw in the coop behind him and their way is mostly blocked by the rooster, and as soon as I get them all up there at once, the hen runs right back up, purring.  Sigh.

Evening five: Exact repeat of evening four.

Evening six:  What’s this?  They are all, magically, in the coop together!  They figured it out!

2015-07-31 19.10.04 2015-07-31 19.10.24So much for the In’s.

But can they get out in the morning?

Morning one:  No, they can’t.  I see the hen patiently going up and down on the ramp, talking to them (she’s such a good mom), but they don’t all figure it out.  Surprisingly, the diminutive white chick makes it down and the brown chicks are left upstairs, confused.  I nudge them down on the ramp and they run down, relieved.

Morning two:  This time one brown chick is left behind.

Morning three:   Interesting.  The white chick is upstairs.  Didn’t she already pass this test?

Morning four:  Yay!  They’re all out!

Morning five:  Not so fast.  Two brown chicks left behind again, confused.  Weird.  They’ve all managed it at least once.

There’s no physical challenge negotiating the ramp.  They seem to have a problem with the visual barrier.  Once the hen goes down the ramp, they can’t see her, and so she must have disappeared.  They can hear her, because she’s right underneath them, but since they can’t see her, they don’t move. If I put them onto the top of the ramp, they don’t drift down the ramp, they just hop back into the straw, unless they catch a glimpse of her.  Then they scamper down like lightning for a warming.   You’re alive! Maybe their little chicken brains just need to develop past the peekaboo stage, where one understands that just because you cannot see it, it does not cease to exist.

Now the brown hen has been placed in her broody box.  The brown hen is a little duchess compared to a cranky fishwife.  The white hen is fierce- irritable, feisty and spitting.  The brown hen is prim and quiet, hunching firmly over her eggs and protesting, but politely, when you touch her.

First day out for the chicks!

Unfortunately, I lost my phone in the woods, so I lost all the pictures of the first day of freedom for the chicks, a lovely sunny day.

2015-07-30 16.03.09By the time these were taken, the chicks were several days older and taller.

I split the (dirty, beat up) broody box open so that the hen could lead the way out, and make her way down the ramp on her own time.  She completely ignored the opening, although the chicks were interested, and quickly began scampering around the rest of the coop.  They move like water bugs.

Ten, twenty minutes later, they’re all still in the box.  I’m hoping to capture wondrous, triumphant first excursion from the coop, first time ever for the chicks, first sunlight in a month for the hen.

An hour later, she’s still in the box.

Two hours.

In the afternoon, HW comments offhand that he sees the chickens are outside.  What chickens?

All the chicks, and mom, are outside, and I missed it all!

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Phew, I get to throw out the dirty broody box they’ve all lived in for a week.

Now, how bad will the daily bedtime return-to-the-coop drama be this year?

Two more chicks!

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There’s the little brown one.
There's the little white one.  It looks like she's been pooped on.
There’s the little white one. It looks like she’s been pooped on.
The two new ones are remarkably smaller than the other chick, only two days older.
The two new ones are remarkably smaller than the other chick, only two days older.

Yay!  Three chicks from the white hen (although two are from stolen eggs)- far better than I expected, and equal to her productivity last year.

I’m pretty sure that will be it for chicks from her, although I’ll leave her her eggs a few more days.   She would know, I think, if there was any life in the remaining eggs and stay on them.   After the first chick, she got even more fierce about sitting on her eggs, as two more were close to done then.  Now she seems to be losing interest in the eggs, or else she’s just very hungry now.

All four of them are in a confinement box now for a few days.

Second broody hen

Ah, yes, the little brown hen is now officially broody.  I’ve been wondering if she’s on her way, as she’s been spending some time every day in the coop, but it seems she was just taking her sweet time laying eggs.

She has five or six under her, a nice reasonable number, unlike someone else we know.

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What? I’m helping.

What’s been very amusing is that she’s been shuffling her eggs every day.  At three eggs, I made a clean straw bowl and put the three scattered eggs in it.  The next day, she moved all three a foot away, and laid another.  The next day, she moved them back.  The next day, relocated again.  Now, she’s back in the “nest” I made, and is settled down.

We really need a chicken cam, to see what goes on in there- all this egg shuffling.  How do they do it?  How long does it take?

It’s kind of cool that they took turns going broody.  Snowball (the rooster) agrees.  He gets SO bored when there are no hens to hang with, and then he starts getting into trouble, deciding to take charge of the red hens, or something.

 

 

Due date dubious

Zen hen knows nothing at all about missing eggs.
Zen hen knows nothing at all about missing eggs.

A few days ago the white broody got really deep into it, no longer leaving the coop in the morning, and assuming a very deep meditative state.  I gave her a bento box and water, and she snacks on it, but at this stage she must must get very serious about her mission.

The cardboard has worked – no more egg thieving.  Her due date has come and gone, and I expect the worst, that she’s lost them all for being too ambitious.  Yet, I hope for some hatching.

I’m waiting for her head to come up, I remember it from last year.  When she starts looking awake, it will be because there’s something going on beneath her.

Thievery in the hen house

Trouble in Silkieland.  There’s been a dirty thief in the hen house, stealing eggs.

I discovered this when I responded to an altercation at the henhouse.  The red hen was complaining vociferously, and I was surprised to find the squabble was going down in the henhouse.

I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I happened to peek under the broody white hen.

This is what I found:

2015-07-05 14.32.34TEN eggs!  So much for leaving her a comfortable number that she can cover completely (four).  She’s been taking the eggs as the brown hen lays them.  If the brown hen is trying to get a clutch together so she can set, no wonder she’s pissed.

Where’s my egg?  I left it RIGHT here!  That’s the sixth one this week!

I don’t know anything about any eggs.  I don’t even like eggs.

What’s really funny to imagine is how the white hen is collecting them from the other side of the coop.  Does she roll them over with her face, or dribble them with her feet?  I’d like to see that.  But sometime during the day while the others are out, she leaves her  eggs and scoots the red hen’s egg across the coop into her pile.

And why?  What goes on in her little poofy head? Does she think OMG; how did one of my eggs get over there?    Or, An egg, all by itself, how sad.  I should adopt that!

At any rate, she now has six of the brown hen’s eggs under her and four of her own, which would be nice if they hatched, but it’s very likely she’s compromised the whole batch by having too many and not being able to keep them all warm.

I had to put up a cardboard visual barrier in the coop, so the little megalomaniac can’t see any of the brown hen’s eggs, and therefore shouldn’t be collecting them any more.

First broody hen

The white Silkie hen went broody today.  That was fast, 24 days after the first egg.

This is great.  She must be feeling good and healthy and content, and it’s a much more appropriate time of year to go broody than last year.

IMGP0396She was way too ambitious, though, sitting on a pile of eggs she couldn’t even cover, like nine of them.  They were spilling out all over, I took half of them away from her.

I know she was broody because touching her provokes, along with a bunch of bird growling, this tail up, face in the straw pose.

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A position she holds after you stop touching her.IMGP0398Not broody, she’d pop right up and run outside.  Today, nothing was moving her.  I cleaned the coop around her and even packed new straw all around her.

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Chick Days

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Sep 10
Hatch day!
Right on time:)  At the end of the day I insisted on preparing the red hen’s box for the arrival of chicks- cleaning out her turd mountain and soggy food and replacing her bedding, and lo and behold, there was peeping!  OMG, peeping!  I picked up the protesting red hen to see and a wet little tadpole of a chick fell out, wriggling on its back like a turtle.  Yay, a chick!
It did seem like she was unusually alert all day.

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Sep 11
Another chick!  A little spotted one, with markings on its back like a spider!  Maybe one of the black hen’s eggs, or the red hen’s.  Yesterday’s chick is white, now that it’s dried out and fluffy.  There’s one more egg with pipping; there’s a little beak visible, but it has not made progress over the day.  They are so, unbelievably cute, and tiny! One little chick is weightless in my hand.

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Sep 12
Well, the results of the ambiguous candling are now officially confirmed.  I removed all the unhatched eggs and looked through them with light again.  The opaque eggs at 15 days were full of chicks, and the clear/translucent eggs were eggs either never fertilized or lost for some reason extremely early.  Three and three.  So the red hen is essentially at 66%, if I gave her three non-viable eggs to start with.  The third chick died, and did not complete hatching, which is too bad.  To get that close!  I unpeeled the shell around it. It is indeed amazing how packed in there they are, and how well developed.  They come out and they function completely- standing, eating, digesting, communicating.  Amazing.

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The two living chicks are toddling around and spending most of their time under mom.  The chicks come and go from under her, vigorously nudging when they want back under until they get let in under a breast or a wing.  She’s still in her broody bedded-down state, and I’m hoping she’ll come out of it now and start mothering.  There’s no plan B if these hens are lousy mothers. I sure hope she’s having them eat and drink when I’m not looking. I’m worried about them falling into even the smallest waterer, and have modified a little tub for mom to drink from.   I held each one to the chick nipple and forced them to have a little drink.  In lieu of chick starter, they have a fruit and veggie chopped salad and cooked quinoa.

IMGP7757Sep 14
Adorable!  The tiny chicks burrow under mom when they get cold, and pop out to look around.  They bounce around their box and peep a lot.  They glug from the water nipple like pros!   Mom is actively participating, very loudly cheeping over new food, poking them under her.   They’ve made a mess of their box scratching the food around, and every day I remove mom’s droppings.  The chicks are so small their turds are about the size of a buckwheat grain. Although even these chicks are huge compared to songbirds, they seem so tiny to me compared to standard day-old chicks.  Already they have their wing feathers appearing on their nubby little wings.
The temperature has dropped a lot, so winter is close enough to smell.   The white hen must be due any day now.  She went broody a few days after the red hen but I didn’t note it exactly.

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Going
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Going
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Almost
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Gone

Sep 15

After a day in Halifax we came home to a new chick!  Already fluffy and poking out from mama’s wing, this one must have hatched early in the day.  We prepped up a new chick box for the white hen and moved her and her eggs into it to finish hatching.  Yay!  I’m counting on more from her.  There’s sure to be another chick by morning.

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Angry Mom

Sep 16
No new chicks in the morning:( I was at work all day, and the text message reports flowed in!  A new chick mid morning!  Another soggy chick in the afternoon!  I came home, and OMG, one of them is smoke grey!  One is very yellow!  So tiny, amazing all over again.  The eggs are cracked in half, opened around the center like a seam, expertly.
Just the few days difference between the sets of chicks and the growth is visible.

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Now there are two mom boxes in the coop and the rooster sleeps between them.  H.W. thinks he must be really forlorn now everyone’s gone.
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It sure seems to me like they’re looking proud!

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Sep 17
The white hen has 75% success.  One of her four eggs failed as well, and similarly close to done.  I cracked the dead egg to see and the nearly completely formed chick was sharing space still with some yolk.  It must have died in the last few days.  But three very alive, and mobile.  The white hen has an amusing defence tactic.  She lowers her head and lifts up her butt and makes angry noises.  She tries to back her chicks into a corner and guard them like this.  The chicks still come leaking out and hopping around, and it doesn’t do anything to stop me from lifting her up to clean under her.

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Goodnight

Nearly hatch time (?)

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It’s getting exciting!  The red hen is almost due.  We did a night mission to candle her eggs, as per the chicken bible. We were later than the midpoint he describes, but what we found: two eggs that look exactly like a normal egg (were they unfertilized?).   An egg with a black dot in it (this must be an egg that kindled then died in very early stages).  An egg opaque with darkness but with an angle in it like a water level (a mystery).  The rest – opaque.  The book says there should be a network of red veins through the egg, and there are dire warnings about dark eggs, that they are rotten and will smell horrendous.  But…what if at this stage, the dark eggs are the ones with chicks in them?  Because we were working fast to pull some out at a time and stuff them back under her before they cooled, we made no decisions, although I think we should have removed the eggs that look unfertilized.  The results were so confusing I just left her all the eggs.  Then I was lamenting that they have probably all failed, so H.W. got to gleefully tell me not to count my chickens before they hatch.

In the interests of continuing to let the white hen do her own thing without interference, we did not look at her eggs.  My money is on her doing better, sans meddling.  All we’ve done for her is lift her and put some layers of cardboard beneath her for insulation.  The nights are cooling off.  The days are blissfully bug-free and perfect for working, but you can feel the approach of winter.  It’s late in the year for chicks, but I won’t argue.  If they hatch, we’ll do our best to assist them in staying warm.

I feel like I put too many eggs under the red hen.  The book said you can put 6 normal size eggs under a banty mama, so I thought 6 bantam eggs would be conservative.  However, a couple of times I’ve seen an egg leaking out from under her, like she’s having trouble staying on them all.

Also, the book says the broody hen, although her appetite is greatly reduced, will get off her eggs periodically to eat, poop and bathe.  Not so the red hen.  She seems so determined to never lift off her eggs she moved them (twice) to where she could sit and reach her food and water dishes at the same time.  Maybe because she “knows” she has too many to keep warm properly?  And she eats, copiously!  Every day she empties her little dish.  This means corresponding pooping, and she won’t get off the eggs for that either, so there’s a wall of poop behind her against the side of the box.  So much for conventions. The moment chicks emerge, if they do, we have to snatch them all out of there for a clean box!

The rooster is just bored out of his mind and won’t shut up.

The white hen got us worried a few days before her due date by appearing outside the coop.  But she got back on her eggs after a dust bath.  I just can’t take another day without a shower!

Broody beginnings

Broody hen embroilments

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Robin the red hen setting, on the floor next to the nest so carefully prepared for her.

The little red hen was settled down on the coop floor again, clearly broody, so I got busy.  I made her a cardboard broody box that fits in a third of the Silkie coop, full of grass and supplied with food and water.  There’s a slightly elevated but shallow next box that I’ll put her and the eggs in.  There’s room for her to get off and eat.

Egg roulette
What eggs to put under her?  Hoping hard that I got a couple of eggs from the poor black hen, I chose six eggs to put under her, including two of the original three she was setting on, which I assume are her own, also which are possibly non-viable, if she was on them long enough to quicken.  All are labelled with their possibilities.  The likelihood is practically an algorithm, but there’s a chance of 1-3 from the black hen, 2-4 from the red hen, and 2-5 from the white hen.  Overall there’s a good possibility of 4 chicks.  If she hatches one chick, I’ll be thrilled.

In the night I set her onto her clutch.  Exciting! When I lifted her up I felt another egg under my fingertips in her belly feathers; I moved it with her.  I’m not entirely sure now how many eggs are under her.   In the morning she hadn’t budged.  She’s deep in broody chicken trance, motionless and flattened out wide over her eggs.  Yay!  The end of August is late in the year but I think still ok.  I wanted these Silkies for their broodiness, and now, they deliver!

Oh no!  In the afternoon I looked and she was settled down on the floor of her box in front of her food.  No!  I’ve read they can have a hard time finding the right nest to get back into- hence the isolation of the broody box.   Not only that, but she’d brought some of the eggs over with her, leaving three behind.  The three left were still warm, so I just lifted her with the eggs she was holding and put her back on the others through some mild protestation.  Her belly was hot!  It seemed bare, too, like her feathers were pulled out or else spread out, so her skin was directly on her eggs.  Now I worry.  Does she know better than I do what eggs she should be setting on, what eggs are viable?  Should I not be adjusting her?

After two days on all the eggs I come back to look at her in the afternoon and she’s back on the floor of her broody box, and this time she’s brought all but one egg with her.  (H.W. is again heartily wishing for a chicken cam.  “They have no hands!?”).  Hmm, she doesn’t seem very good at this.  Fine, she wants to stay there.  I check the egg she left behind and it’s cool.  Sadly, it’s marked as possibly one of the black hens.  I don’t remove it then for some reason, thinking I’ll wait until the evening to further disturb her- I have to feed and water her in the night anyways.  At night I go to minister to her and she’s collected that last egg out of the nest and put it under her!!  Good possibility now that three eggs have been killed by cooling, but she’s in charge, and I’m trying not to meddle.
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The white hen has simultaneously gone broody, bedding down in the floor of the main coop where the red hen did at first.  Her I’m going to leave completely to her own devices.  I don’t know how many eggs she’s on, but they must all be her own.  There’s only the two hens now so they don’t need another separate compartment.  I caught the cock sitting in a nesting box, presumably watching over his broody hens, solving the mystery of who’s been leaving feathers in the nesting boxes.  The hens don’t use them, always laying on the coop floor.

The rooster has been crowing a great deal more, and even going on adventures.  H.W. thinks because he’s awfully bored now.  There’s nothing for him to do with two hens setting.  He even ventured around the field, got in a fight with the big rooster, lost and retreated, got lost, hid under the house, and H.W. had to fish him out and catch him to return him to his domain, knowing I wouldn’t take it well if I came home and another Silkie was lost due to negligence.  He figured Snowball had nothing to take care of on the home front so he came across the field to “regulate” over there.

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