They were just standing in the shade together for a few minutes, while the other Silkies dust bathed on the other side of the tree.
Granny even offered a little grooming.
Granny is doing extremely well. I thought she was on her way out a while ago, but since the hens all moved outside for the summer, she´s been toddling around with the best of them. I think she can´t see as sharp; she doesn´t bounce out of the way like the others and you have to not step on her.
Could it be? Almost time for the big rooster to go to bed in the coop?
I got him in November, when my last, most excellent and sorely missed, rooster was eaten. He persisted in going to roost on the roof of the coop every night. No biggie. Every night, grab him and set him on the ramp, and he walks up it remarking on how that‘s where all the hens got to. Eventually, through repeatedly waking up inside the coop, he will figure out that that is where he is meant to begin his night. It works for all chickens, usually in a few days. Even the most stubborn little pile of chicks changed their habits in a few weeks.
So for Copperhead, it’s getting on three months. Just when we were starting to notice that he was extra persistent with his roof roosting, I got three new-to-me hens. HW didn’t know about the new arrivals and came in from evening lock-up outraged, that “that new rooster is teaching the hens bad habits. THREE of them were out on the roof with him!” Whereupon I momentarily forgot all about the new arrivals as well and exclaimed “Really? Three of them?”
The three “new” hens showed surprising attachment to the rooster and roof, also bedding on the roof, night after night. They would arrange themselves in the same order, make the same indignant sounds when grabbed and displaced to the ramp.
The rooster even came to know the whole routine. Our arrival after dusk means a grabbing, and he’d stand up and get nervous as soon as the door opened. We had to strategize; alternate grabbing him or the hens first, because he started to ran away once all the hens had been removed; he knew it was his turn. We tried agitating him off the roof right at dusk, and then, it being too dark to fly up again, he’d walk around and find his way up the ramp himself “Oh, that’s where all you ladies went!” We were hopeful. It didn’t work.
HW has been casting aspersions on his intelligence from the beginning, and this isn’t helping.
Days went by. Weeks. Rooster and three hens, evening lockup = nightly roo-grab. Then one night, there were only two hens. One hen had figured it out! She turned out to be the precocious one of the three. More days passed, turning into two weeks. Then another hen went to bed on her own (four days ago). And tonight, oh frabjous day! the rooster was out there alone! Looking pouty and forlorn, too. Now, now surely he will get the hint!
(I wrote this a week ago. He’s still holding out alone on the roof.)
Actually he spent most of his first day trying to avoid them. They were following him everywhere, grooming his ruff, and generally crowding him. The girls couldn’t get enough of him and he just wanted to figure out where he was.
They were just determined to follow him around.
He is very handsome as described, with his Copper Maran feathered feet.
He got some peace on the roof of the coop.
We were checking on him frequently during the first day, not knowing whether there would be a bloodbath (there wasn’t). Once we both went to the GH and he wasn’t there. We looked all over, under boxes, in the corners. He wasn’t even in the coop. With nowhere left to look, I lifted the lid on the Silkie coop, saying “Well he can’t be in here!” He was. He was in the corner of the coop with one Silkie hen on the other side, probably there to lay an egg. I guess the hens really got out of control.
He’s like a member of a royal court, with breeches, buckled shoes, and maybe a rapier.
I thought I might call him Jacques, since when I was driving him home I couldn’t remember any lullabies but Frére Jacques. Over and over and over… But I’m not sure it fits.
Things have settled down since the first day. He started doing his job, announcing food discoveries and doing a bit of dancing.
He crows a lot. He’s got a deep voice. And I’ve seen him mating a leghorn. But I’ve seen more unconsummated high-speed chases around the greenhouse.
Then the Silkie rooster, one third his size, automatically responds to the sounds of a screaming, running hen. He in his white pint-size majesty comes lumbering over silently, looks at “Jacques”, and Jacques runs off to hide behind something. Very funny. I’m real glad that they don’t fight at all, but also hoping that this guy will get a bit less timid over time.
He likes to be up high. On the bales, or the coop, or…
I was standing in the middle of the GH, bent over at the waist to knock some persistent ice out of a water fount. There was some warning flapping behind me, and the new roo flew up and landed on my back. It was a nice shelf. The times I’m not carrying a camera! When I finished laughing, and messing with the fount, I transferred him to my arm, where he contentedly settled down on my elbow as if to stay a while. He’s a big heavy bird. Friendly though.
My most excellent fine rooster was killed this morning, presumably by a hawk.
I presume a hawk because I witnessed, in the woods just a few meters from our door, a big hawk attempt to grab a chicken. The undergrowth was dense, the hawk fumbled her and the hen got away. She sprinted into the woods screaming and the hawk flew up into a low branch where it stared coolly at me until I started shouting at it.
Oddly, I didn’t hear the rooster. The silence was strange, and all the hens had hidden themselves. A bit later, I still couldn’t find any hens, until I was collecting eggs and was shocked to find seven hens huddled in the coop, middle of the morning.
At the end of the day when I came home, the hens were still completely weirded out, extremely subdued (most just hunkered on the ground) and not eating. To anthropomorphize, I would say they were distraught. Only the leghorns were behaving normally, scratching and pecking. They had only known him a few days.
I knew then the rooster was gone, and in a clearing a fair distance away I eventually found a tiny bit of him – a clean breastbone with the bones of one wing attached. There were barely even enough feathers to identify – he was almost completely consumed. He was a big bird, he was a feast for someone.
It’s sad to lose him, he was an excellent rooster. He was at least five years old, and didn’t have any plume feathers left in his tail, but he was still very handsome and what really matters: he cared for the hens surpassingy well. He was definitely appreciated his whole time with us.
He did his job right to the bitter end, saving all of the hens.
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.
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.
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.
HW just happened to remind me “remember when the rooster didn’t crow? Because he was a beta rooster?”. He’s right! The big rooster learned to crow after he arrived here, when he suddenly had to “man up” to his promotion to big cock on the block.
Now, he is deafening! He puts his whole considerable body into it, and throws his voice like a shotput. When he hops up on top of the coop, perfectly ear level to me, and delivers a cannon while I’m in the greenhouse, oh it makes my head ring! I can’t imagine sitting in a small, echoing box with him firing off multiple volleys, every morning. Maybe all the hens are hearing impaired.
Actually, he was probably a delta rooster, very low in his flock of origin, voiceless. I’m a big fan of secondary roosters, and promoting them. They’re so nice, appropriately frightened of people, and so appreciative of the job, it seems. They take it seriously and do it well.
I was commenting on the cocks of both flocks being both so good, it’s a shame they are aging and will soon need to be replaced. The red rooster lost all his accent feathers from his tail last year and they haven’t come back. Aging. And rooster choosing is dicey. A bad rooster can be a real dick. We are blessed with good rooster fortune on both sides of the haybales at the moment.
HW said “No… roosters can be really old and still be good roosters. You know, like in Chicken Run, the rooster’s a beat up old veteran.”
Me: That’s an animated feature! You can’t base your livestock knowledge on a cartoon!
The chickens have done their anthill number on a new anthill, this time right by our main path; practically on it.
Whenever we walk by, they eyeball us Am I really gonna have to get up? Soooo comfortable…, and then at the last minute scoot away into the brush trailing a puff of dust, like Pigpen.
It’s especially funny catching the rooster thrashing around in the dust bowl, all unkempt. It’s usually a conjugal event, if the rooster’s involved, and then both birds look up at you like they were busted in the bathtub together – which in fact, they are.
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.
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.
And they put themselves to bed perfectly too.
The naked chicken is healing.
We built a fence, so the chickens’ days of lounging in the garden are over.
The fence won’t keep much more than the chickens out at this point, but we haven’t had any deer around yet, and the chickens are threat number 1.
When we had three sides done, hens were finding their way around to the unfinished side to get in, so there was more hat-throwing.
H.W. also helpfully provided proof that the chickens can fly over the fence, when they are sufficiently motivated.
They are ranging further, nearer to camp Silkie every day. I hope I’m there to see first contact. What will the Silkie rooster make of the big hens when they sail out of the grass at him? Gorgeous Amazon hens! or Mutant monsters!
The hens are all well-attached to the rooster now. Occasionally there’s an independent or a pair palling around at a distance, but usually all the hens are in the same vicinity.
They are endlessly entertaining, popping out of the grass, sneaking, running, exploring. They love it under our box truck and hang out under there every day, whether rainy or sunny. I keep expecting to have to get eggs from under there, but they lay in the coop now without variance.
All 10 stowed themselves at night again. Ahhh, the time of adjustment is over, and there’s no need to worry about them any more.
H.W. has a swarm of chickens near him most of the time when he’s working. Chainsaw, splitting firewood, dragging things around – they drift along behind him as he works. I don’t know if they’re hoping for something more than the company. The chickens all pal around together most of the day, now. It’s a lot harder to count 9 hens at a glance.
Almost always, there’s seven around the rooster, and then two just a little behind, or off to the side a bit. It’s lovely to see them all drifting around together, squabbling or worm-running or digging. Hens look like sailboats cruising around, especially when they’re eating. They’re rarely not funny, whatever they’re doing.
I can recognize the low bird now. She’s missing a lot of feathers on her head behind her comb from being pecked. I saw another hen pluck a short feather out of her head at feeding time, and then she ran under the truck. I see this hen sometimes drifting off on her own. I’m surprised at the pecking; there is no shortage of space or entertainment out here. It’s not realistic at all to quarantine one bird, but I want to help her out.
H.W. cut down the remaining snag created by the hurricane. It was a tough fall and I was working the come-along trying to pull it over where we wanted it to go. Lots of yelling, roaring chainsaw; this doesn’t bother the birds. Naturally, all the chickens wanted to be in the fall zone and I had to push them off into the woods for their protection. The tree came down where we wanted, ahhhh. Success; relief. H.W. shuts the saw off and we’re quiet – there’s nothing more to say, it’s all done. But the rooster freaks out when the tree falls, going off like a siren, shouting, shrieking blue murder. BABWOCKBABWOCKBABWOCK! The end is nigh! Doom and destruction! The sky is falling! He doesn’t stop for a long time.
Uhoh. H.W. put the birds away in the night, a little bit earlier than full dark. I asked if he counted beaks in the coop and he scoffed, “No, but they’re fine”. Three nights straight they’d all gone to bed perfectly, so I figured yes, probably they are just fine, no need to worry. In the morning on my way to let them out of the coop I opened the truck for feed. A lone hen popped out from somewhere! She’d spent the night out, I don’t know where. She started telling me all about it! BuhBUHbaBAbabuh!BUHbuhBAbaBAbaBUH!!buhbaba!BUHba….on and on, very funny with all the variety of pitch in her voice. She was all worked up. When I released the others she ran back to the embrace of the flock and the rooster did a little dance at her. The rooster dance seems to be a kind of chastisement or herding behaviour, as unfortunately, this rooster doesn’t dance before mating.
The chickens have learned that I bring food. They see me and all run towards me down the path. It makes me feel quite popular. If I don’t give them anything, they mill around, some poking their heads up high and tilting them to look sharply at me. If I walk away slowly, they lurk and then follow me furtively a few feet off. If they’re positive I have food, like if I rattle it, they will all jog along behind me as I walk. How do they know, even from a distance, that it’s me, even with a complete wardrobe change? H.W. does not get this treatment; they know us apart.
What good good chickens. They look after themselves all day, lay 7 eggs every day in the coop, and all go to bed at night. Perfect chickens.
A hen made it all the way along the path to our camper! She went strolling by the front of the camper and walked into the woods. That’s far past where all the other chickens have made it to, and ever so close to the Silkies. I thought we’d have contact for sure, but not quite. The Silkie roosters were on high alert, hearing her in the woods, but she didn’t quite make it over to them. It was the low hen! I gave her a pile of seeds and scraps, and she could enjoy without competition. I expect to see more of her over here by herself.