Puffcheeks is new here. She’s my friend’s favourite chicken, god knows why I got entrusted with her, but she’s come to retire at my chicken rest home. She’s a distant Auntie to Cheeks, my other Easter Egger.She’s always in the bath. Except when I go in with the camera. Then she hops right out. Usually it’s her in the bath, often just her, and she’ll barely look up, while the other hens go nuts over the meal delivery. Food? Oh, do just leave it over there, I’ll get to it later. Ta, dahling!Today I got a few closeups, the vast majority out of focus or blurred by her sudden movement. Hey! Outta my shot! I’m doing the modeling here!I think I caught her blinking – that inner eye membrane of birds. Or else she has cataracts.Oh, how I wish this one was in focus.
Cheeks is eating hay. Consuming it, like a cow. I got some new hay bales and she’s up on one, picking it apart and eating the hay. Like spaghetti. You got a problem with me eating hay?! I didn’t think so.
Cheeks has turned out to be a bit bossy, and quite a loner. She doesn’t have a little hen clique; not that I’m sure how important that is to chicken mental health. I was hoping that she would make friends with Puffcheeks, one of her kind and a distant relation. But not so far. Puffcheeks has been sticking to the Barred Rocks she knows.
It appears that Phillippe Petit came out on top, as he is still playing guardian to the new girls. Particularly pompously, I might add. He’s very important now. It’s good to see him food clucking and surveying his domain, though. I like him and want him to turn out well.
A beautiful blue egg! Cheeks has come online.
Poor girl, as the only Ameracauna, we’ll know every day how her laying is going. None of the other hens sign their names to their eggs.
We’re real birds! The Blondies in a rare moment of repose:It’s funny; all the birds that grew up here, and then some, are into perching. They love the tangled alder brush. There’s the baby guineas. Nice to get a sighting. All mixed up in the flock of young adults.Time to groom like everyone else! Surprise! The second, smaller walnut tree is bearing. They come later, and they are a different kind of walnut. This kind is nice. The husks are round and super easy to shuck off the shell (on the right), and the nut is round, exactly like ye old familiar walnut.On the left, the pear shaped walnuts (from the big tree) have flat, pointy shells, and stubborn husks.I’m starting to get a respectable haul, for the first walnut harvest ever. Nice.
The Blondies are losing their peep. They’re starting to make different sounds. Not yet grownup sounds, just different. Sometimes it sounds like there’s a duck around.
There’s two males:( The darkest one has just developed faster, showing a comb and being bossy. But I caught the two of them head-bobbing at each other – the tell-tale rooster reveal.
They are pretty fully integrated into the house mooching chicken club now (the layers). Flapping into the woods at any fast movements. Run away!
They’ve been getting closer every day, with their little peep peeping. They´re so talkative you can always hear them coming.
They’re very funny, acting like they’re pretty sure they’re not allowed to be here, so far from the coop, and trippign over themselves dashing into the woods when seen. Run away!!!
But the big chickens are here (they hang around the house half the day, peering in the screen door and hoping for handouts). So the Blondies have made their way over.
The house-moochers of the future.
They are also starting to get their cheeks, which is adorable:)
The three orphaned blond Ameracuanas are nearly grown up, now. They look like proper chickens, with very erect half-fan tails, but they´re small! Slim, long legged, and gangly. the right chicken shape, but not filled in. And still peeping like babies (constantly).
Two have slate legs, but one has yellow legs.
The Blondies have seemingly recovered from the loss of their mom. It was a very sad few days, for everyone, but they’ve come out from hiding in the bush.
It’s still sad, that they’re orphaned. No guardian, no snuggling in the dust bath. They used to cheep all the time, and seem to instinctively know that cheeping is maladaptive when you’re alone in the world. They don’t cheep very much now.
They are miniature chickens, grown up early. They stick together and go all over foraging. They loosely hang with the Silkies, and go in the coop at night, but they are their own clique, and they’re still just little!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Wild jungle chicks: