Tag Archives: broody

unseasonal chicks

Who has chicks in winter?  Ursa Minor does.

Ursa’s got four little chicks (living).  Two were already dead.  The future is not bright for chicks hatched at the beginning of winter.  But I’ll do my best to help her.

One piece of cardboard and she’s got a student apartment now.  That’ll be enough space for a few days, as they’ll spend most of their time under her.

I moved her back from the kitchen so the chicks would tumble out so I could get some pictures.

Turns out the chicks were super into some more food.

The other four crazy broody hens (down from six crazies – turns out it IS contagious) are busy playing egg burgle bingo, trying to steal eggs from each other.  We’ll see if any of them also successfully hatch.

Havoc in the henhouse.

Ok, it’s officially December now.  It’s not time to be broody.  But I’ve been having a battle of wills with four broody hens, the most determined of which is Ursa Minor, and the peckiest is Fiesty, predictably.

Then I open the coop to this.  This.  And this.Not ok!

That’s seven.  Seven.  Seven broody, growly feather pancakes sitting on eggs.  I didn’t have seven broody at once all summer.  This is bad.  Maybe it’s contagious.

They win.  They are sitting on eggs, and since they’re not going to give up, they can keep them.  Likely, chicks will die right and left, because it’s not the right time or place to reproduce right now!

Jeez.  I can’t put them in nurseries in this weather.  It’s super cozy in the coop full of fur chickens all night, but if I isolated the broodies the way I normally do, for the safety of the chicks, the hens would be at risk of exposure.  They can die trying to heat their eggs in cold temperature.  They’re going to hatch in the coop, and then the moms will go right down the ramp for a meal and a dirt bath, and the chicks will die unattended.  That won’t be fun.  Only the bright, lucky or strong will survive.  (Ursa says: If you’d just let me keep the first eggs, they’d be hatched by now!)

I’ve got quite a number of eggs from them from taking them away, but I can’t sell them, because someone might have started baking them.  Therefore, I resigned to the will of the broodies, and went through and carefully marked every single egg, and now if I go through twice daily and pull out the unmarked eggs, then I can get the freshly laid ones out.  What a bunch.This little guy just hopped up to watch the proceedings.

Now all the hens are on edge when I lift the lid, because they know I’m going to lift them up and rummage through their eggs, and they hate that.  They all bristle and growl, and most peck, and then they indignantly readjust their eggs after I’ve been through.  Grumble grumble.

Close call and a happy ending

I had a rough-ish day, and came home wanting to just eat and go to bed, but then had unexpected visitors that disrupted my usually smooth bird closing procedures.  With the delay and tumult, Galahad and his keet fleet failed to get back into the greenhouse!

That they spend nights in the greenhouse is the only thing that allows me to sleep – it’s a hard won habit, as guineas usually want to roost outside, and inside is what keeps them safe from owls and foxes.

Galahad is my golden bird.  Not only is he quiet, relaxed around me, and habituated to going inside at night, he’s an incredible step-parent, raising ten adopted keets, and I’m not even sure how rare that is for a cock to devotedly parent baby birds.

Therefore, without question, I had to find him.

I did.  It didn’t take too long, but it was solid dark.  He was in a decent spot (guineas tend to pick better places on the ground than in the trees), but still, on the ground, they’re not safe, period.

Their really weak suit is how they behave at night.  They don’t do dark.  Once flushed, they flop and stumble around, and make noise when disturbed.   I had planned to herd him and entourage back to safety, but he wasn’t capable of it, so I scooped him (violent reaction to being removed from keets) and plopped him in the greenhouse, promising to bring the keets.

Finding all the keets took much, much longer.  They peep, and also stumble around in the dark, but can be quick darters.  I scooped them in warm cuddly pairs and shuttled them to Daddy in the greenhouse.

His volume went down with every pair delivered, although he seemed satisfied after the delivery of six.  Six is enough, really.  Who can keep track after that?

Seven and Eight took a long time, and Nine, wow.  Half an hour at least.   The tenth was not to be found.  I needed one peep, but wasn’t getting it.  I was hungry and tired before this, and after two hours of low sweeping with a flashlight, I was stumbling.  I started to think I was beating bushes for a ghost, that maybe Ten was lost earlier in the day, or that he was somehow already in the greenhouse.  I went to look at Galahad and see if I could count keet heads.  Nine.

I tried a bit longer, but eventually gave up.  This bird got all the quiet guinea genes, may they serve him well.  If he could evade me so well, I figured he had a decent chance of making the night, although I hated the risk and settling for 90%.  I was VERY cranky, mad at myself, and did not sleep well, listening for a cry that I wouldn’t be able to make it out to intervene in.

Early up, it had been a chilly night, an October night, in August!, and that would be hard for a guinea keet alone.  All the cozy guinea keets were in no hurry to get up.  I walked around in the field some more.  No peeps.  Proceeding with chicken opening, I saw a lone keet streak across the yard!  It made it!  I tried to head him off in the woods, but he was elusive (skills).  Seemed fine.

Then Galahad et al exited the greenhouse, and his head shot up, listening.  I couldn’t hear the keet, but he could!  He started running back and forth, then zoomed out for the woods with a tail of keets following. All together again!  What a relief!  They found where I left the feed bucket for me.G was up on the coop.One by one, the keets flew up. Except for two, who looked up at the roof, and then went up the ramp.  Good inference, but flawed.  Hmm, that doesn’t go where we thought it did.They’re clamoring for a warming.  Hey, it’s cold!Time to go down now.

I can tell today is a big teaching day.  Before leaving the greenhouse, Galahad demonstrated the use of the perching rail, which he hasn’t done before.  Flew up, flew down – an obvious show-and-tell.  This is what we’re working up to.   I don’t think the keets can fly that high yet, some had difficulty getting on the coop, but I expect they’ll be on the rail in a few days.Then there was ridgepole walking.  I can tell today will be packed with practice.  Perhaps he’s extra motivated after the night they had, although he’s not holding anything against me.

They are really all there.  It’s hard to get them in one picture, as there are always one or two a little apart, doing something different, or lagging behind.Often eating.


In other news, Feisty, the little demon, has hatched three chicks.  Nothing’s changed.  She doesn’t care she’s in the 0-1 pound weight class and I’m a LightweightI’ll take you!  When I transferred her and chicks out of the dirty, cramped broody kennel into a chickery yesterday, I got her by her feet for everyone’s safety and held her upside down,  maximum 2 seconds, while I whisked out the chicks.  She produced an eruptive, liquid poop in those two seconds so toxic I almost threw up, proving she can attack from both ends.

Do not mess with Feisty.  Those chicks are safe.Arrrrr. 

 

 

 

 

A fleet of broody Silkies

Everyone is outside today!  First day out for Foxy and her full-size chicks.  She’s overdue for it, but it’s been rainy.  Cotton and Daisy know all about out, but have also been in for a bit due to weather.

Look who’s sniffin’ around – the Colonel

Ten to one one of these hens (Cotton) is going to fly out and go big world today.  And tonight, one set of them has to go to the big house – move in with the other hens in Silkieland.  That means the hens will all scrap to sort out their order again, but the chicks will like that a lot.

The greenhouse looks a little different with the vacancies!  Can actually walk through it again, now all the chickeries are outside.  Inside, there are now only broody hens parked:  an astonishing five of them.  Outside, Silkieland is a little sparse, with all these girls in setting on eggs.  The most recent two were settled in a nest box together, apparently broody, but without eggs.  I gave them the interference test (Touch them.  Do they puff up, stick up their tails, and screech-growl?)

Grrrr! Yes, we’re broody!

They’re broody.  I thought, they went broody together, I can put them in a box together.  They’ll be like sisters, and hatch their eggs together, and the chicks will grow up together– won’t that be cute?

No, not cute.  I prepared a box (the very well used Apples box that has done a lot of time by now), and settled the two of them into it, giving them each a few eggs.  I came back in a few minutes, and both of them were in there in full fury, puffed up, heads down, beak to beak, snarling at each other.  One had promptly stolen all the eggs and had them under her, and the other wanted to be on them and was trying to bulldoze in.  Ok then, individual boxes.  And Ursa Minor also went broody again at the same time.  The little star.  I can just plunk her in a box, middle of the day, she doesn’t skip a beat. Long as there’s some eggs where I’m going. 

Some hens need to be coddled or they’ll break up.  I had one Brahma broody in the coop  (a Brahma!  So exciting!), and tried three times to move her into a broody box (an XL one), and she wasn’t having it.  In the morning, she’d be off her eggs and freakin’ out.  Finally I tried to make a better nest in the coop, a raised dais of hay, and just that broke her up for good.  Touchy.  I’m a little Brahma chick!  I think there’s only one, but I can tell it’s a Brahma.  The Brahma behaviour, and the feathered feet, are emerging.  Adorable!  I like the big pillowy Brahmas.

The other two hens in the covered wagons are due soon.  Fiesty may be hatching now.  Her head was up and she didn’t try to bite a piece out of me this morning.  She’s a terror.

She doesn’t peck.  She’s gone beyond that.  She pinches – grabs a piece and pulls, and she recently integrated a twist.  I bet she was Miss Popularity in the chicken schoolyard.  She’s the only hen to have drawn blood from me, and she has a knack for hitting the skin between thumb and forefinger or on my wrist.  She snake strikes from the dark recesses of the broody kennel when I reach in with food or water (I squawk.  I’ve been tempted to throw it at her).  Every morning, I get thanked for breakfast like this . Until today, so I suspect something is different.  Other than the savage daily attacks, she’s a good sitter.  I like it when they settle on their eggs and stay, without too much rummaging around, moving them around – that increases the chances that they lose one.

Daisy’s chicks are in scruffling stage- feathers sticking out in all directions

If hens were dwarves:  Fiesty, Cranky, Dopey, Whiny, Lazy, Screechy, and Fluffy

Big day

It was one of those days, where I get up for the hens, but am not ready to commit to being awake, so I bargain with myself, Well, I’ll just wear my sweat pants to do the chickens.  It’s like, bringing the comfort of bed with you.

Then the next thing, I stop for “lunch”, and turns out it’s 5pm, and I’m still wearing my sweat pants.  And of course I’m full of ticks, because I haven’t been dressed appropriately.  All day.  Those are good days, though.

I see this is how I come to be found wearing pajamas and rubber boots so often too – the early morning “I’m not really getting up this early, I’m just going to do the chickens and then I’ll make tea” rationalization.  What really happens is HW catches me in the middle of the day and I get a “wrath of god” bossy lecture:  “Little Nibbler, operating power tools in your pajamas is NOT appropriate!  Go get some work pants on, and some real shoes!”  And I can’t really argue with him, at all.  “But I’m just-I only have four more cuts! -Ok fine“.

First thing- chicks on grass!  First day outside for the cheeps.  Mom is beside herself to be on grass. She’s not waiting for the box to be opened.  She was out of her mind excited, cropping grass as fast as she could between clucks.  I haven’t had a salad in weeks!   The little brown one thinks it’s cold on the feet.  She jumped back in.They’ve got her surrounded.  I don’t know if chicks are as interesting to them as birth is to people, or just that they haven’t seen her for awhile.  They all have to stare.

I cleaned a bunch of junk out of the greenhouse and  put in the irrigation, working “with” my sidekick pet chicken Apples.  I’m working.

She still “lives in the house“, but I take her with me outside pretty frequently.  She rides along on my wrist like a falcon, her wings slightly out like she might have to throw them open for balance.  But she doesn’t seem ready to jump off when we walk through chicken land.

She’s a different little bird.   Just watches the others, while they watch her.  What the…?   Is that chicken riding the human?  She moves around the greenhouse pretty comfortably, getting some food variety and real dust baths.

All assembled, and as an added bonus, it actually works.   The lines charged, and it seems to drip evenly.  I wasn’t sure if the passive pressure from the stock tank that catches the water off the GH would be enough.  An experiment.

It’s not.  Half the tank emptied, but it took all day to happen.  The tank fills much faster than that in a good rain, so the drip will never keep up.   I was expecting as much.  I need a little submersible pump to push water.  That’s ok;  I needed one anyway to move water from where I catch it off our roof to the greenhouse where it needs to end up, the part I’ve been doing manually for years.  So done with that.  First I need to measure the head, and I haven’t managed that yet.

Then near the end of a full day I go to just do a couple repairs on the old coops that keep going and going, and discover … four broody hens! Now I have to make broody accommodations in a hurry!  One express broody kennel.  I can make them in less than an hour now.

line up the covered wagons

One hen will go to a friend, one goes in this broody kennel, and the other two – are full size!!

This is new!  I’ve never had a layer hen go broody before.  That’s what the Silkies do.  This is a new world!  I don’t know why I didn’t expect it – Chanticleers are heritage birds; it’s reasonable.   Perchick and Cream Puff, full sisters, broody the same day, different coops.  Perchick is serene, but Cream Puff is all fluffed out, and looks both surprised and irritable, which seems about right.

What to do with them?  A broody kennel is not big enough for them.

I evicted the rooster that was baching it, staying alone in the “temporarily” converted chickery-to-coop, and moved Cream Puff in.  I elevated him to the big coop, making his wildest dreams come true.  He’s been trying to figure out how to get in there for days, and every night after making a hundred circles around the ramp gives up and goes to bed in the wall tent.

I put Cream Puff in the “temporary” coop at dusk.  It’s the perfect size.  I tried to carefully gather her and move her, with her eggs.  Yeah right.  Big flapping drama, chase scenes.  I should have waited another hour.  She’s such a nervous nelly, always jumpy, of course it would go badly.  I should have waited until pitch dark.

I locked her in with her eggs and hoped.  I could watch  her through the gap in the canvas, pacing around, trying to escape.  I’m in a box!  I must get out!  Must.  Get out.  Oh, eggs!….eggs….I’m in a box!  Must get out! 

It’s like a switch flipping in her brain.  From agenda, to egg trance.  Must get out!  Oh, there’s some eggs….eggggggs…..Must get out!  Egggggs…..  Luckily, she settled on the eggs finally.  We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.  I hope all the action didn’t break her up.

She’s in there, but fully alert

The Silkies moved effortlessly, of course.

Perchick must wait until tomorrow for me to build her an eggery.  She’s hoarding all the eggs in B coop.

 

Guinea crisis II

She’s on her nest alright, but the mystery of why I hadn’t missed her is solved: she can’t resist dinner.

The other guineas hang out right on top of her most of the day, sunning, and grooming, and chatting.  Literally, even.  The “chicks”, little butterballs now half the size of full grown birds, hop over and on top of her, hunkered down in her nest.    I don’t know what she thinks of this; she always looks angry, flattened out on her eggs, but she is easy to check in on now, with the weeds trampled around her.  In fact, I went and clustered some cut weeds around her to help her out.

The whole group of guineas hovers around her like she’s the kitchen stove, generally blowing up her spot.

But when the rest of the flock left to visit the trough, she went running along behind!  I’ll eat too!  Then I swooped in to make adjustments, but she hawk-eyed my every move from the food dish.  She didn’t run me though, just watched, neck long.

I moved the pigs in another direction, after a long and laborious session cutting out alders and buckthorn.  Then, of course, a pig slips out, right by the nest!  The pig fence is about four feet from where she decided to brood.

I kept the other pig in, but the free pig, not caring about togetherness for the moment, started romping around the field, and ran right over the nest.  She came bursting out, attacking the pig, as all the other guineas, even the chicks, join the skirmish. I’m chasing the pig with a stick, the birds are all screaming and flapping, together trying to defend against the pig, but a pig is a pig, oblivious, gleefully prancing around.

I’m horrified; I have to get back to the house for the milk- the only sure pig bait, but the birds don’t stand a chance while I’m gone.  This pig is going to stomp in and snarfle up all the eggs in seconds. I run for the milk, hoping only that the pig finds something else to do for the moment.

I get back, the nest is still intact, all the guineas shrieking in phalanx.

I easily catch the pig again with the milk, and I finish moving them, and everything is ok.

The hen’s scowl may have deepened, but she’s back on her eggs, crisis averted.  This hen has had to put up with a lot, and she’s barely started.

Near tragedy

Our wonderful neighbour was over to bush-hog my field last night.  I need to move the greenhouse this year (not looking forward to it, no), and there were some robust shrubs growing right where it needs to go.

Anyhoo, he was driving around, mowing, and once, right when he came to a stop, I saw the weeds rustle directly in front of his front wheel.  As he backed out, I ran to the spot, fearing that a bird had been hit (I’d been paranoid and been tramping through all the weeds in front of him trying to flush out frightened chickens that were used to the tall weeds being a safe zone).

Horrors!  A nest!

A guinea nest.   His front tractor wheel had rolled into it, crushing a half dozen eggs, but not rolled over it, so most of the eggs were intact.  The eggs were kindled, with bloody yolks, but only a few days past.  I quickly scooped out shells and yolks, tossing them out, trying to clean up the mess with my fingers and restore her nest.  It was a nice nest, too, dried grasses lined up in a swirl. 

The hen herself had stayed to the bitter end, jumping out only when that black tire loomed over her, and we had both seen her flee at the last second.  My flushing hadn’t unseated her, only imminent death.

I did not bother her again by “checking on her” that night, hoping she would come back.

I didn’t even know I had a broody guinea!  I hadn’t missed her.

And what is she thinking?  Aren’t there enough brats around?  I’m flattered that she thinks this is a great place to raise children, but how many is enough?  Sheesh.

In the morning she was on her nest.   I can see her scowling in there. 

Hopefully she got back on them promptly; if she returned by nightfall the remaining eggs would be fine.  Now the weeds are gone, she’s far less concealed.  Her nest has a view.

Right there by the pigland too, right where I was planning to shift the oinkers to next.

 

Morning chicks

I was greeted in the morning by news of chicks!  HW didn’t know that they were freshly hatched because they were so big, but they hatched overnight.

I knew they were coming, because for the last few days, mama passed up her daily meal and stayed put on her eggs.  (This mama was the lady who lunched).

These are baby Chanticleers, future layers.  Five hatched of six eggs, wonderful!  They are born bigger than the Silkie chicks that are a week old. 

I wasn’t sure what to do with these.  Already dynamic, a few hours old, I wanted to let them out of the chickery right away but worried that the hens would fight.

I did let them out, lifting the chickery up and over the sunflower that grew up inside of it, and all the chicks scuttled out into squash land.  I’ll barely see them anymore.

Later in the day, it seemed that the two tribes had not met; the Silkies on the tomato side and the new babies on the squash side.  It’s thick in there.  They have plenty to do without encountering each other.

Out into the jungle

Hers and Hers

I’ve got another broody hen, so now the eggery is a duplex.

The first broody – the most tolerant little girl who was keeping the orphan guinea warm for a few days (that little keet expired after all) – is due any day, if she was successful.  Her attachment to a daily meal may have left her eggs cold for too long.

I haven’t really thought through the extra occupation of the the chickery, but I’ll probably release the first set of chicks into the greenhouse jungle when they come.

The new broody is the biggest of all the silkie hens; she’s easily covering 9 eggs.

The first broody has stuck to her daily break time throughout her term-  a new quirk, and the box inside the chickery has worked perfectly.  She comes out, eats, poops, and then creeps back into her box, talking to her eggs the whole time, which is adorable.  I’m coming back…here I am.

Eye wide open

Oreos and the Cobra mom

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.

This is early on – is she or isn´t she?

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.

Yikes.

And then four hens decided to hang out in the woodshed, even though it wasn´t raining.