I couldn’t stand to see her picked on, by chicks half her age! No respect.
She’s so meek and mild. I had a moment I wasn’t completely sure I’d grabbed the right hen, but I knew as soon as I put her in the box and she settled in for the long term, that it was definitely her. She’s perfectly content with minimal living. Just eats and naps, eats and naps. Looks over the edge with her telescope neck when she’s hungry. Hey, I’m out of food here. HW is at her beck and call.
I think if I can get her to broody, she’ll get all fierce as soon as she has some chicks. Too mild for her own good now.
I heard some scuffling, then HW blandly said “I think she’s ready to be out of the box.”He’d taken the netting off of her so she could stretch her neck up without restriction. I thought this very promising, a signal that I could return her to the flock, if she was feeling spunky.She perched on the side of the box for a good twenty minutes. Not too terribly spunky.I resumed my business. I heard another scuffle, then silence, and I forgot about it.
She had jumped down, and was standing on the floor. I gave her a local newspaper.We visited. I kept doing my thing. She walked around a little bit, then settled in on her newspaper. I felt she didn’t need any monitoring, and left her to it. Not long later, I heard a third scuffle and checked. She’d just hopped back into her box (where she settled down for a little nap and stayed, without confinement or supervision, the rest of the day).
Funny bird. Her whole foray out of the box was about a half hour long.
I’ve got all the Silkie hens in the Girls Fort these days. There are too many big hens around, and the meek, peripheral vision-challenged Silkie bantams get nervous and out-competed. So I experimented and put my only three fully adult Silkie hens in with the juveniles- the Sisters and on down. I didn’t know if they would scrap or just get along.Turns out all of them just want to hang on a hay bale. Having all the fluffy ladies behind a fence is driving the roosters out of their minds, though. The 3x-as-large-as-the-hens roosters can handle themselves perfectly well and mix it up with the full size birds. Some Silkie roos outrank the big boys, and aren’t beneath mating the layers. But their preferred girlfriends are locked up, and the Colonel patrols the fence all day.The Colonel. Roos look funny when they’re drinking. Yang having a little post-breakfast head-under-wing nap (before she got taken inside to be a temporary pet).
Yang is quartered in the house again. I brought her in yesterday when I saw her hunched up and not eating breakfast. I don’t know why, but she’s underweight and seems listless, compared to her sibling Yin, so she’s in rehabilitative care.
She’s into it. She likes cuddling,and seems to eat pretty well, if timidly, on her own.
I gave her a roomier box today, with a decent view of the room. First she went to the very back and made herself a nest, but then she edged up to within extended-neck’s reach of water and snacks and settled in there. She goes back to the back if I make loud noises.
I can’t figure out if she’s exceptionally meek, or if she’s ill, because a chicken usually has much more energy than this. Ie., they’re usually ready to tear a box apart, upset their water dish, and let you know, very loudly, that they do not thrive in captivity. But for now, she’s been admitted to the box and the all-you-can-eat buffet for observation.
Three little chicks. See how they drink. This is the pufftail stage. They’re still in the chickery with Mom (now in the slightly larger chickery), and they’ve graduated from the cardboard box and the nightly flight in to the house.
The other chicks, the two dwarves, have graduated up to the girls only fort. The sisters are not as accepting of the two dwarves (they soon need better names). Perhaps they are roosters. But their mother, Snow White, decisively declared she was done with child care by flying out of the chickery. I thought it might be a fluke and put her back in. She let me know it was not an accident, she was moving on to the next phase of her life and chicks weren’t a part of it.
I tried putting her in the fort too but she just paced the fence. She had a boyfriend on the outside. Straight back in the nesting box. In other news, Lucky Stewie is a reformed rooster. He’s been on his best behaviour.
We’ve got a box of cheeps:) On cold nights when we bring Brown Bonnet and her trio in, the box is set down with the flap to the wall, and in the morning, it cheeps.
So cute! At about 0:22 mom tries to open the box from the inside (also a daily activity). Excuse me, I believe it’s morning out there!
Then we ferry the box back into the chickery in the GH, which always provokes a lively conversation en route. There they are free. The only shot I get of them these days is crammed against the opposite corner of the chickery. Ahmygawd a camera! Today I vaselined her feet, and at her unexpected airlift out of the coop, all the chicks ran and hid in their box. Smart kids. Brown Bonnet’s attentive and loyal lover, Major Fowler, lurks. Someday, you will be free, and I will care for you and your offspring. Meanwhile, I sit.
Everyone is growing up in the greenhouse. The Chanticleer (and young Silkie) roosters are coming into their oats, so they’re always showing each other their neck ruffs, sorting out their hierarchy.
The Colonel is in retirement, especially since the rooster formerly known as an Oreo has become huge and dominant. He may not be invited to stay. I was hoping being aggressive was a stage he would grow through, as he seemed to be cooling enough a bit, but not enough. We can’t keep any jerks around, if they endanger the health of the flock at large.
The guinea keet (keet in a bowl) is ungrateful and aloof and has forgotten all about being saved, and is also about to transition from brown stripes to black polkadots, which is always a sort of magical transformation. Why are they brown from hatching to mid-size? Camouflage? Does the arrival of their black feathers mean they are adult in the ways that matter while still not fully developed?
When the sun shines, even if it’s minus tens outside, it’s very comfortable in the GH, and the birds lounge around sunning, like it’s summer. They like to lean on the hay bales, so there are lots of hay bale nooks for them.
The two white chicks are alive and well. Recently released from the chickery:Major Fowler has been dying for her incarceration to end, paying tribute and bowing from the wrong side of the mesh.
They reintegrated very well, Snow White immediately bringing her chicks up into the coop, which she seemed very happy to return to. I’m ready to be in my own bed, and warm for a change! Only two days of chick ramp shenanigans before they were following mom in on their own. They’re never sorry to be picked up and tucked in a coat.This one was snatched up for a photo shoot and contented to be pocketed for a warming. They always have surprisingly cold feet. I’ve got wings!!
I have a broody hen (she’s lost her marbles, didn’t get the winter memo), so I built her a new special broody box for her own comfort and safety, out of hardware cloth, with a plywood base. A lobster trap meets a mailbox:First I put in a piece of foil, to reflect her heat on her eggs.Then cardboard.Then a “nest” of hay. A clutch of eggs (her eggs-I actually did the transfer very quickly from where she was setting in the main coop)A wall of hay bales around her, liberal hay underneath her box, and canvas for drafts and darkness (now it’s a covered wagon). There she is, settling in, front “mailbox” door shut. The first thing she did was throw a tantrum and knock over her dishes, but then she saw her eggs and simmered down.Naturally I had the usual helpers, doing anything in the GH:
Is that…Aluminum foil?
All done and closed up. Completely safe from any ground predators, just like the birds that get shut in their coops at night.
Now she gets breakfast in bed, in her prairie schooner. I plan to make a series of reusable kennels, for the broody hens next year. The cardboard box has many limitations. This is the right size for the first few days after hatching, when the chicks start to eat, but don’t go very far, and then they will go into the chickery after that.Snow White and her two white chicks lounging in front of the broody kennel installation on a warm day.
The temperature dropped over the holidays to “very cold!”, and I brought her and her mailbox into the house. She lives in the mud room now. I candled her eggs and they seem to be alive.
If she’s so determined to sit on eggs in the winter, well, we’ll try and give her a shot at success.
The tell-tale shell! It’s so cool how the chick unzips the egg much like we would take the lid off a hard-boiled egg.
Snow White was all about rolling her eggs out of the nest today. She probably knows something I don’t, but I gave her reject eggs to Heather, in the duplex next door.
There’s the chick! All of them spilling out of the box.
There was another chick as well, partially hatched, but her egg was crushed like it had been stepped on, as if being in an egg isn’t cramped enough. The membrane was drying out, so the chick was in trouble. The membrane that keeps them alive in the egg can kill them when they are hatching, if it dries out. It becomes stiff and adheres to skin and eyes. I’ve seen a couple of chicks die during hatching because they couldn’t break that membrane or worked too slow and the membrane suffocated them. That’s gross and sad. But this chick, I rapidly grabbed it and peeled it, Cheep! Cheep!, and popped it back under the dark hen belly. It was alive but not necessarily well, so I don’t know if it will make it to tomorrow.
Tomorrow I’m looking forward to moving the broodery to a fresh spot and making it all clean for the chicks to grow up in for a week or two. It’s pretty messy from two hens pooping for a full term.
Everyone else is well.After a year naked, Jean Jacket is sprouting a lot of feathers on her wings, which is excellent. She must be enjoying her fleece jacket. Except the black really shows the dirt!
There’s the keet in the corner, up on the keet highway. The keet is very active now, a big hopper and it can fly some too.
There comes a day in the life of every Silkie chick, when they get their pants.One day, out of nowhere, they appear to be wearing little feather short pants. So cute!
These chicks gave me a scare this morning. I couldn’t find them anywhere, couldn’t hear them either, and I found their mother in the big coop with the grownups, where she’d slept – no chicks! I was looking everywhere for bodies.
Then I found them alive and well, foraging behind a hay bale with the teenagers, quiet because they were busy, and content. I think they slept in the little coop with the teens, and mom decided to take the night off of chick care. Left ’em with their older siblings, babysitting.
I got a few watermelons this year, that was exciting. Yellow flesh and pink flesh melons. Watermelons before:
And after:And a little later:The chickens love their melons.
Speaking of melons – a bucket of cucamelons. Weird little things, supposed gourmet items, exTREMEly productive. They are starting to fall off in the GH, raining like hail. To the pigs, as usual.
A rubber egg, almost perfectly intact.That won’t last long
The hens are enthusiastically emptying out the bucket of greens. Chard and green cabbage yes, celery and red cabbage, no thanks. They have to reach down a bit farther.
This little beast, the Deputy, lower right, thinks he’s the big king now.Look at all those ladies he’s managing. This is the second in command Silkie rooster, who has recently decided to organize the house hens – the layer hens who hang around our house, mooching and sunning in the paths. Now he thinks he’s a big boss. Some of them even let him mate them, which is truly awkward. He’s so small, sometimes he tips over and falls off of them. If hens could roll their eyes.
The Colonel concerns himself with his own breed, and the young Ameracuana roos that are coming up haven’t come into their oats yet and are still meek.
In the late 80s, there was a hair styling product called Mudd.
This hen saved her money and went with the Mud with one D. Her hair is nearly dreaded.
Well, I’ve got another broody hen. A bit late, but that’s ok. I’ve had November chicks before. Two Silkie hens failed to brood this year (psst, I think they’re defective), but this is a proven mom. Tomorrow I’ll have to box her.
I wonder if this is the lady who lunches. I suspect it is, because both moms are usually front and center in the GH come feeding time.
*Yep, it’s the one who leaves her eggs to eat. The eggs were abandoned this morning at breakfast time, but I felt them- still hot. Except for the risk of not getting back on the right eggs, this makes sense. At the end of a brood, she won’t be starving and depleted. And cranky. Especially if she’s running her heater in the early winter.
She’s been hopping around with surprising vigor this summer, but I guess it was her time. Yesterday I found her face down in the grass against the greenhouse and I thought she was dead then.
I picked her up gently and her head popped up with the usual indignation Hey, what’s a chicken gotta do to get a nap around here? so I set her down again nearer the flock, but that was it.
She made a rapid transition. Often hens linger for a few days, standing around in a kind of half-asleep state before they go. I always wonder if they’re in pain when they go like that, but they seem to just slip away, from dozing to tucking their head under a wing for the last time.
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.
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.
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.
And then four hens decided to hang out in the woodshed, even though it wasn´t raining.
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.
The funniest thing about the arrival of the Brahmas is the reaction of the Silkie roosters – the two “exiles” as I call them, since they don´t interact with the main tribe and mostly hide in the coop. Or did, until the Brahmas came.
I think they feel they´ve gone to heaven since the Brahmas arrived. The second night they were sandwiched between the big pillowy ladies. I haven´t been this comfortable since I was a chick.
And ever since they´re really coming out of their shell. No more hiding in the coop. They hang all day in the shrub with the Brahmas, who really just lie around.
The big sign of transformation is that they are starting to crow! It´s not pretty (whoa, is there a rooster gargling over there?). That means they are feeling very good about themselves. Looks like some new copper tail feathers are coming in too. I’m glad they’re so happy.
They don’t mate the big girls (larger than they are). They seem perfectly content to snuggle.
Good looking guys.
I call them the walnut tree tribe – the mixed bunch of chickens who have decided they live in the small coop under the walnut. They are a distinct group now. Mom and the Oreos, the two roos, and the Brahmas. They interact surprisingly little with the Silkies who moved into the big coop, who live just at the other end of the greenhouse. The guineas and layer hens freely visit either tribe, and a couple of layers drop off eggs in the small coop.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I go to collect eggs, and what the? I find a Silkie egg in the coop:
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.
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.
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….
I have to distribute enough slices so that everyone has at least one.
Then it gets real quiet.
Until they start to get Cucumber is Greener on the Other Side ideas.
They hollow out the centers first, sometimes leaving the outer rings until the next day.
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.
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.
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.
I finally cracked the seven eggs that did not hatch under the white hen when she was sitting on so many.
I think I was afraid of them.
Every single one had a partially developed chick in it. Some more developed than others. A shame, but she lost so many because of having too many eggs to keep them all warm to fruition. For the ones that survived, it was the luck of the draw. Or the rotation.
It was not as gross as I thought. At least, there was no bad smell. All the chick fetuses were in a durable membranous bag that slipped out of the shells when I cracked them. In fact, they looked still sort of alive. Sleeping, in stasis.