Tag Archives: broody

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.

Outdoor Adventure Silkies

 No one expresses the joy of summer quite like the Silkies.  They sunbathe hard. 

 A bunch of white snowballs wriggling in the dirt or spread out flat like they´ve deflated.

Or for variety, going for a hike.

Sometimes the red hens get right  in there too for a bath.

What I wonder is, songbirds take exuberant baths in puddles all the time.  Chickens are birds.  Why don´t they like the water?

The biggest Silkie news is that the oil of oregano treatment is totally the cure for Scaly Leg Mite! So exciting!  I´ve got a few drops of oil of oregano in a bottle, and I shake that vigorously, and pour some of the mix in their water dish, not even every day, just enough to get a bit of a rainbow on their water.  Their legs and feet are obviously so much better, although I haven´t been doing Vaseline treatments.   Just the oil of oregano, or OOO, as I call it.  I´ve got plenty around for human health; now recommended for chicken feet health.  The layer hens have entirely cleared up – their feet look so good now, and I´m sure the Brahmas will respond too.

Another hen is boxed, with more pretty blue eggs.  Broody 2, 2017.  I have a special variety of hairless chicken that seems to go broody first.  I don´t know if broodiness goes with molting or not – do they need the long break of setting to reset themselves and regrow after a molt?

Hens are usually pleased to go in the box, and get their private trough.  This one is just attacking the food.  I of course provide a buffet during their confinement; in the wild they would be able to pop out for a snack when they got peckish but not so in the box.

There is an important rule though: Thou shalt know the difference between sloth and broodiness.

They might be doing this:

They might be in there all day.  They might slam their wings down and growl if you try to take eggs, but they may not be broody.  They might be laying an egg, or just thinking about it.

I was impatient to set someone on eggs and boxed one I thought was broody – she was NOT.  She was pleased at first with the snack, but upon finding herself trapped, she loudly registered her outrage, drawing the Colonel to pace at the screen door,  and effected a dramatic eruption out of the box, after kicking all the eggs around.  A broody will be thrilled to have eggs, and keep them in a tidy group.

So I´m waiting for one to turn.  They´re just having too much fun outdoors right now to think about motherhood.

Surprise! Additions to the family

I came home from work to find two new little black chicks bouncing around the box with (step-)Mom!  They´re already done?  Time flies!

I came back later with a camera and it was a different story.  Nothing to see here.  The chicks were stowed.  She has one more egg too.

Mom´s looking good.  She´s had time to regrow her feathers during her confinement.

I had to coax and poke and weather firm chicken growling to get a peek at a chick.  Oh!  There´s a little head.

There´s one!

They are as big and as lively as a week-old Silkie chick (these are Ameracaunas- they´re going to grow up to have cheeks!)

Time to break out the chickery:)

Also this evening I unexpectedly took receipt of four gorgeous Brahma hens.  They are large, and serene, and sweet!  So lovely.  They were taken directly to bed, and we´ll get to see them tomorrow:)

 

 

First boxed hen

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.

Dispatches from Silkieland

from Oct 17

Look at those feet!

Look at those little wings!img_4515 img_4514

Look at mama looking back.  What’s taking so long?

img_4506This mama has ideas.  At night I put them all in the box for the night.  In the morning she lets herself out to graze.  The chicks know where she is, but all frustrated.

Seven chicks survive.  She hatched an amazing, record setting nine, but two didn’t make it.  It’s almost normal for one chick to die every setting.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

The Only Chick

The latest broody hen hatched out just one chick.

Unfortunately, she decided she was NOT done sitting on the rest of her eggs, and insistently refused to get up and start mothering, for several days (!).

I attempted to adopt the lone chick into the clutch that hatched four days earlier.  Four days makes a difference – the newer chick is significantly smaller.  I moved the chick in the night and put her under the other hen, but in the morning, I saw the hen pecking the intruder on the head!  Yikes!  Adoption not successful.

What to do?  Take the eggs away?  That could mean killing chicks that are almost baked, as the setting hens usually seem to know when their eggs are alive or not.

Luckily, the mother finally got up off  her eggs and got about the business of early chick education.

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The only chick and mother in the chick cycle rotation.  Upgrade to the chickery.

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I go to put them out in the morning, and she’s laid an egg!  This hen is so ready for more chicks.

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I love this stage where they get a little puff for a tail

 

Chickens in a box- lockdown!

Since the most determined little brown hen got up off her eggs for the second time, right before they were due, toasting another clutch, I finally listened to HW and removed her from the coop and locked her up.  This is her third nearly-complete round, and that’s a long time for her to be sitting and mostly not eating.

Another brown hen went broody at the same time, and I got to them just in time, as each already had an eight egg horde- a little ambitious, but it’s summer, so I let them keep all eight.  Now they are boxed.

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HW and I went back and forth- I have had bad luck when I interfere with them, but it has also not gone well when I don’t interfere with them.  They find ways to screw up; it’s very frustrating.  He told me “just take them out of the coop entirely, then there’s no distractions, no more eggs to steal”.  This means I will have to reintroduce them to the flock, and learning how to go in and out of the coop may be that much harder, but we’ll cross that hurdle once we get some chicks, I suppose.

They are in ventilated boxes next to the door of the greenhouse.  I’m a bit paranoid of them getting too hot in there, and how secure are they in the GH at night?, but so far, so good.  There is always a healthy cooling  draft through the GH.  They each have a fount with their poultry vitamin supplement (chicken Gatorade), and a little bowl of food, which they both consume a little of every day, I’m glad, and I sometimes have to scoop their poop.

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There are four more sister hens and the original white hen (outside), who is a little old lady now.  She seems to have shrunk, so tiny when you pick her up.  Still cranky though.  If any more drop into the broody trance, I’m going to have a whole lineup of bird boxes.

Broody hen egg poachers

Today I open the coop to this mess.

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I’m helping!

How exactly did they get an egg in the fount?

The fount is in there for the determined broody who was settled in.  I thought I’d try out letting her set in the coop.  It’s not going well.

My Silkies are trying.  Very trying.

The last of my originals are the good rooster and the little white hen, who is smaller all the time (shrinking)- a little wraith of a chicken- but still feisty, cranky, and laying.  The other hens are all former chicks, hatched last year, who are now trying to figure out how to become mother hens, but are rather bad at it and do not accept instruction.

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First they all went broody one after the other, in March.  A little early, Missy’s, but, if you must…  They decided to pile up together right at the top of their ramp, a small-brained decision.  Eggs roll, after all.  And the roosters would step on them on their way into the coop.

Then, the egg-thieving began.  These Slkies are champion egg thieves.  It’s an ongoing problem.  At first, the let-no-egg-go-untended ethos seemed good, as when any of the sisters left for a drink or a quick bite, her eggs were promptly grabbed and tucked under a hot furry chicken breast.

Curious how they moved eggs around as they obviously, frequently do, I’d wondered about their egg-rolling methods until I saw them do it, right under my hands.  It turns out the beak and the egg are perfectly adapted to each other when it comes to rolling.  I was shuffling irritated hens around to see what was under them, an egg came into sight, and whisk!  The hen (in my hands) stretched out her beak and flick-rolled that egg into her own collection as fast as a blink.  OK, then!

So these broody sisters were playing egg-snatchers, and sometimes a hen would have no eggs, another would have too many.  The egg arms race.

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“Chicken Gatorade”- poultry multivitamin

I tried to move three of the most committed birds into a shared broody box (still in the coop), but they were having none of it. Two escaped the box and returned to their original precarious choice (top of the ramp), leaving one heroically topping a mound of abandoned eggs.

I was reluctant to take any of them out of the coop because it seems cold to be away from the familial body heat.

I let them have it their way.  It did not go well.  Eggs vanished.  One hen decided to set a clutch way too big for her under the ramp, and when I culled her holdings she restored her stock from who-knows-where.

Eventually all the hens but one gave up and moved on with another phase in their lives.  That one, so determined, sat and sat.  She’s a classy polite little brown lady, like her mom the first brown hen. When it went far too long for anything to be alive under her, I took and broke her eggs, and sadly, half of them were almost finished before they died.  I don’t know why; there must have been some event.  The others were horribly rotten, gah!

She’s so fixed though (I’m hatching a damn egg if it’s the last thing I do!), that I gave her four new eggs, and, worried for her body weight, her own snack bar, which I think she ignores but the other hens polish off.  20160522_073507

A few days later, I was tucking fresh hay around her and peeked- seven eggs!  Sigh, here we go.  I suppose she’s taking them from the other side of the coop where the other ladies are laying and leaving these days.  I have to watch these little birds, but they do not make it easy to help them.

(just after this I resorted to sequestering each hen with about seven eggs in a box of her own in the greenhouse, and the Silkie population is now burgeoning)

RIP little brown hen

I found a dead body in the Silkie coop. At first I thought it was a developing cockerel and wondered the cause.

Only later I realized who was missing- the little brown mama :(

A shame, she was such a good little mother, but I guess it was her time to go. I don’t even know how old she was.

She certainly went out in a blaze of progeny…2015-12-01 11.45.53

White chicks

We’ve got some new chicks!  Little white autumn chicks, from the white hen’s second setting.  It’s late for chicks, I hope they make it.

I made another mistake to add to the bank of learning experience.  Next time, put the hen in the broody box before the chicks hatch!  I was keeping a close eye on her near the end, watching for signs of imminent hatching, but I didn’t put her in a box.  At night I’d seen that all the birds snuggled in around her in her fixed broody position, and I figured that was nice and cozy for her.  It’s getting colder at nights.  I didn’t want to isolate her yet.  Besides, the chicks always stay under mom for 24-48 hours before they start looking out at the world.

But the chicks hatched in the night, and they did not stay under mom for a transition period.

I checked her at night, no hatching.  The next morning when I open the ramp the chickens start filing out, the white hen among them.  What?  Oh no. Look inside the coop- mayhem.  Some older chicks and brown hen huddled in a corner, apparently completely weirded out.  Three white chicks strewn around, one tumbled down the ramp to the bottom, one still on it, one dead.  White hen impassively eating breakfast.

Without thinking too much about it, I crawled awkwardly into the run from the pine tree end the way I have to do on occasion, snatched up the tiny chicks and put them in the kangaroo pocket of my sweatshirt, and  pulled the elastic waistband of my (full disclosure) pajamas up over the shirt and pocket, securing them in there.  Then I walked all over the property for the supplies to assemble the broody box.  Next mistake: have the broody box on deck when nearing the due date.  It took maybe 20 minutes.  The tenor of the panicked cheeping in my pocket changed pretty quickly, though, to a peaceful muttering, so I knew they were content and cozy in there.  The dog could hardly walk for trying to gain more information about what was going on in the vicinity of my belly.

Broody box installed and supplied, then I had to crawl back into the run, capture cranky mom, chuck her in the box and then give her her chicks and unhatched eggs.  2015-10-01 16.55.49

She did not sit on the remaining eggs again, so I cracked them, and they were just rotten eggs, never kindled.  She must have known.  She sat on the other eggs that had chicks, but that died before hatch, for a long time.  Eggs with nearly done chicks in them are much lighter than “liquid” eggs.  They must use up a fair bit of mass expending the energy of living.

The white hen seems to have a two-chick limit.  This time three hatched, one dead, same as last batch.  Now the Silkie flock is dominated by little brown birds, the white ones are the unique, endangered ones.  Hopefully they make it.  She’s in her box now, momming around.

Evening in the coop now:

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A whole crowd of brown chicks, rocking their Arsenio Hall ‘dos (circa 80’s).