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.
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.
In addition to the local young woodpecker, who continues to flop around the house with no fear and seems to never get more than five feet off the ground, I found this little guy on our path.
I surprised the whole family, I suppose, as there were three full size robins flapping around in the trees, panicking and screeching. The chick, size of a guinea chick, let me walk right up.
It doesn´t seem to have a lot of lift. It seemed a big achievement to make it up on the stick pile, and then it flap flap flap! Coasted down into the field. I wonder if this is the first day out of the nest.
There´s a woodpecker zooming backing and forth from in front of the beehive to over the poplars behind the pigs. She´s as regular as a transatlantic flight and obviously is tending a nest at one end of the flight path, or the other.
Meanwhile, back in the livestock zone:
It´s a pig´s life. The pigs are happy to lounge in the shade.
The Oreo mom insists on being inside the pig fence. She´s mastered jumping up and through, where the holes in the fence are bigger, while the babies flow right through.
She´s out there now, smack in the middle of pigland. She found a shady spot she likes.
I guess the pigs have proved that they won´t hurt her or her chicks. At least she´s not worried. They are 15´away sleeping off a big meal of milk in the pig house.
Now I can´t electrify the fence if she´s making a habit of this. Which is ok. The fence is off more often than on these days. The pigs and I have an agreement. If I meet all their needs, they are perfectly content to stay in the fence. Which means they are really in charge. They´re simple girls, though. They want shade, water – poured in the bowl and over their heads, variety, food before they get too hungry, and sometimes a scratch.
Funny how the birds make decisions. Or is it the chicks? Oreo mom has been all independent and furtive, always hiding in shrubs and drifting out into the pasture, towards the pigs where only the guineas roam, while Blondie mom has went her way the opposite direction and rejoined the Colonel´s main tribe. Hey, I had some chicks!
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.
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!
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.