Category Archives: Chickens

Chicken sitting, and an accidental week off.

I had no intentions of taking a week+ off blogging, but I had a real week from hell.  A book deadline, two books released, other time-sensitive obligations, and a side serving of serious stress which led to far too many nights working past midnight, so I’m just coming up for air now and seeing what else really needs to be done.

The bees got reduced on time, they’re happy.  The chickens, though, are under siege.  A predator grabbed a chick.  A chick!!!  How dare they!?  Right out of the inner chicken zone.  “Luckily” it was one of Velvet’s, so they both have two left – each still has a sibling.  Only chicks are so sad.   All the birds were so upset by this nearly all of them decided to sleep somewhere else, which is a story for another day.

So I changed my habits.  I have to do a substantial amount of work daily on my computer, and this cat/fox/mink isn’t bold enough to attack while I’m outside with them, so now I bring my internet with me and work outside in the afternoon:

sitting on chicken coop with laptop
My new office.

It’s cold, the wind blows my papers around, my fingers freeze, but it works.  No casualties since I started playing sentinel.  The smallest coop is a perfect size on the perimeter of Chickenland.

It is a wonder Nosey hasn’t hopped up there with me yet.   What’s really nice is being furniture in the midst of the chicken society, and watching them operate once they forget about me.  Serene, relaxed scratching, grooming, resting, and a constant murmur of communication.  It’s very quiet.  They have a nice casual circuit of exploration.  Looking for new bugs, I suppose.  Even the Brahmas drift by together.

Usually I’m the disturbance they’re responding to, squawking, running to, running away, announcing, but it’s a very slow pace of life in chicken world when I’m not doing anything noteworthy.

Except for the chicks.  They still zoom around.

They grow up so fast

I’ve lost track of all the sets of chicks.  There are around five that are almost indistinguishable from grownup chickens, the “big chicks”.Overnight, they are  all legs and big bodies.  If I don’t look twice, they look full grown.   These have all graduated to living in the “big coop”, although I’m still plucking at least one out of the tree every night.  No, not the coop!  They aren’t nice to me in there!Hello, I’m a Cheeks junior!  The “middle chicks” are still distinct – they are the five that Ghost and Velvet are raising.  They are perching pros, but still attached to their mamas, who have a nice bond with each other.   Once they ditch their moms, they’re easier to lose track of.

Then there are the “little chicks”.  They had a good week living in the greenhouse undisturbed, but naturally, they grew discontented with the daily manual transfer to and from in a box, and one morning, there was an escape.

You can’t put the chickens back in the box, so at that point, they were out in the crowd.  What is adorable, is that she led them through the fence into Silkie land, where she stays with them in the taller brush.  She remembers where she lived.Although the Silkies and big chickens generally don’t mix, the fence is permeable.  When the “big chicks” were tiny, they learned how to go under it in one spot there’s a three inch gap.  They remembered, even as they got bigger, and still go to the spot, poke their heads under, and slither through.  So they come and go, very nosy, have to see everything for themselves.  I think this Silkie mom is using the same spot.  Sometimes she seems to get stuck inside.   These little ones just started perching practice too!

The Brahmas are joining Team Mooch

The Brahmas are joining the chicken clique that hangs out around the house, which is really nice.  It’s the safest place for the chickens, and the most social.

Naturally the most vulnerable chickens, moms, chicks and adolescents, range the farthest, giving me palpitations, while the old girls homestick.They’re always together.  The Brahmas are so sweet, they’re the big feather pillows of the chicken world. One of them is in a half-molt state.  Feathers falling out everywhere but also new ones growing back- a whole new set on her feet; she’s got whole patches growing in, but is still dropping feathers.  She’s not going for that whole naked stage.   Too cold.

Now they’ve joined the House Moochers, that leaves only two retirees that still linger close to the retiree coop (coop nearest house).
Dozing, here with Cheeks.  

Profile: Athena

Athena is back at home.  She was loaned out this summer to raise some babies.

Athena and her sister were hatched last year and raised by a Silkie hen (they were the White Chocolates).  They turned out to be not quite leghorns- white, quite differently shaped from leghorns, but a little jumpy and high-strung like leghorns are. Early this summer, both of them went broody, but not at the same time.  Athena’s sister (Aphrodite?) raised a mixed set of five.  She abandoned them early, leaving the nursery coop to go sleep in the main coop a little before they were ready for her to do that, but they had each other, and were fine.

I had a friend ask for chicks, and the only way I could see to do that was to deliver them in the egg, with a chicken attached.  Athena was the only one setting at the time, so she was the only option.

Full turkey

This poor family got their first broody hen and hatch experience with the worst-tempered, most bloody minded broody hen I have ever had.  She terrorized them all, glaring balefully in a good mood, attacking viciously if anyone had the nerve to feed her.  They wore leather gloves to interact with her, and that was appropriate.  They named her Athena (I think they meant Artemis). She was horrible!

She spent her entire time, even after the chicks were all hatched,  puffed out in aggression.  On one hand, this meant she’d be a good mother, fiercely protective, but it wasn’t exactly a cozy and sweet introduction to chickens.

She raised seven chicks, and when they were done with her (and the people were really done with Athena), I picked her up in the night.  I was driving by after chicken bedtime, so I just grabbed her out of the coop and set her on my lap, and she rode home like a pet.  I popped her into the main coop where she’d always slept in before.The next night, I found her nervously prancing around the retiree’s coop, which I had already closed.  Do you want to go sleep in that coop?!  I opened it, she ran right up the ramp.  Ok then.  The chicken knows what she wants.

I noticed her all over after her return.  For one thing, she was as slim and sleek as anything, every feather in place.  She had one grease mark from being under one of their cars before leaving, but it didn’t take long to be able to tell her apart from her sister.

She runs everywhere she goes.  There is no stroll, lope, or walk.  Dart here, dart there.  She’s the last to bed, but unlike the “normal” hens who mosey to bed, already half in a dream trance, Athena would suddenly look up from active pecking in the feed tray, turn and run up the ramp to bed.  She’s a heavy walker.  She’s small, but I can hear her running me down on the trail.  Thumpthumpthumpthumpthump!

She’s working on being a troublemaker, too.  She’s started taking a copycat interest in the house, she’s figured out how I open the GH door for the guineas and gets in there for a quick scratch before bed, and when I discovered a chicken had been up in my window box scratching it up, I thought it could only be Nosey.  Because.

Then I caught Athena in the act last night.  I don’t even know how she jumps up there.

The latest chicks

I had a whole passel of Silkies go broody this summer.  Some of them give up, two more go broody.  The usual, in other words.  I’m not letting them reproduce this year- I have so many Silkies.  I did give them five of Cheeks’ eggs between them though.

Drama central!  If any of them stood up to adjust themselves, another one would rob an egg.  Every morning most of them would go out for breakfast, and then there would be lamentations when they came back and their eggs had been swiped by another hen.

With all this egg roulette, it’s a wonder any hatched- they were a little too well attended.  By luck of the draw or else quiet persistence, this one brown lady had the eggs on hatch day.  Two hatched, and one died, and then another hatched late.  Phew!  I’m awfully glad there’s two, because chicks do so much better when they have siblings.
Mama is SO relaxed, and just because it’s so easy to do, I’ve popped them into the greenhouse.  At night I collect them in their cardboard box and lock them into a coop, and in the morning I slide them out, peeping out of their mom’s fluff at me, and I carry the box into the GH, where they spend the day without any conflict, competition, or threats.This is the summer of Cheeklings. Last summer was a raft of Puffcheeks’ offspring, and now all those Pufflings are grownups, sitting on sawhorses and laying eggs.  This year, when Cheeks recovered and started laying eggs again, I promptly set all of them under hens, to save Cheeks’ legacy.  Now I have lots of them.  Seven?  Of course some will be roos, and some look less like Cheeks than their father, but I should have some Jr. Cheeks hens.

Nosey is auditioning for role of house chicken.

Nosey the Nosy thinks that I have a chicken-shaped void in my life, and she’s the chicken to fill it.
I see that you don’t have a house chicken at the moment.  I’d like to leave my resumé.

It’s true, it’s been a long time since Cheeks moved out.  Nosey has an unusual degree of interest in the house.  With the door always open and the screen on, she spends a lot of time standing on the threshold looking in.And riffling the screen with her beak.I know this opens somehow! 

She work from one side to the other, worrying it.  She hasn’t figured it out yet though.

——–

Until the day a screen magnet snapped to the door, holding the screen open. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, Hello.

She strolled around the mud room for some time, inspecting, looking around. The “up” things were really interesting.   As were the knots in the wood.

I let her be.

I was walking back and forth to the door, and she’d look at me and walk towards the door (I was just leaving!), then watch me, and seeing I wasn’t actually shooing her out, turn around and resume inspection (Well in that case I don’t mind if I stay).  Who says chickens aren’t smart.

Inspecting the boot tray.

She stayed in the mud room, just peeking into the house.

Baby Nosey.

 

Profile: Nosey

All chickens have their own unique chickenalities, but some chickens distinguish themselves more than others.  Nosey has been her own bird from a young chicken, and unlike everyone else, is rather tame.  She got her name from always being excessively interested in my business, and always really into being near me.  She’d be the first at the door, have her beak up in whatever I was doing, sit on my shoulder, and generally tag along or be underfoot.She’s all grown up now, and her first adult summer has seen her create some real habits of behaviour.  She’s still excessively interested in my movements, popping out of nowhere anytime I come out the door, following me down paths, literally underfoot all the time, as I frequently trip on her or accidentally kick her while walking, as she darts in front of or between my swinging feet.When I prepare their food, stirring water into the bucket, all the hens gather and stretch their necks over the edge, but Nosey runs laps around the bucket, then stands on top of my feet to stretch over the edge of the bucket.  Then she follows me to platter after platter as I fill the “trough”s, and dives into each one, then darts to catch up with me at the next serving, as she has to be the first beak in.  Sometimes she’ll follow me all the way back to where I put the bucket away at the end of lunchtimeShe walks with me like a dog heeling, right next to me on the trail, and her pace is a little faster, so she’ll get ahead of me, then pause for me to catch up, then walk right next to me, get excited and get ahead, then pause again.  I’ve never had a chicken do something like this before.  It’s very pet-like, very trying to please, or connect.

She’s very interested in the house, hopping up and watching me through the screen when the door is open.  She just seems more connected to me than she is to the other chickens, although she’s part of the main “hangs out around the house during the day” chickens. 

She’s the only one that allows me to touch her, and I do almost every day, stroking her chest.  She gets all uncomfortable about it and it’s clear she doesn’t like it, but she lets me.  The other hens will leap and squawk when I try a stunt like that.

When other people say pretty much anything starting with “There’s this one chicken”, I know they mean Nosey.
“This one chicken is out here looking in my boot!”  Nosey.
“There was one chicken that came right up to me”.   Nosey.

I heard this one go down:  My husband was outside, and from inside I heard his yelp, and then indignant complaining out loud.  His tale of woe – he was standing outside, eating an apple, pensively watching the chickens, and as he stood between bites, with his arm relaxed at his side, “this one chicken” leapt up and knocked the half eaten apple out of his hand.

Of course, Nosey had the apple.