Tag Archives: chicks

Box upgrade for the Brown Brood

Still in small box, new big box at the ready.
Still in small box, new big box at the ready.

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She gets a big roomy box, too, for all that family.  They will stay in here together for a few days, and then the In’s and Out’s will begin again with her.  Now the white hen’s chicks have it all figured out- I can count on them to get in and out of the coop without assistance- I get a short reprieve before it begins again, this time with SIX chicks.

Moving mama.
Moving mama.

It’s nice they are all the same age, too, since she did it right.  I can barely tell the youngest chick, the late hatcher, but there is one a tiny bit smaller.

Two!
Two!
Four!
Four!
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You can see their tiny eggteeth.
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It amazes me that they are so tiny, a third or less the size of a “normal” chick, and yet, there are any number of songbirds that are no larger as adults. A hummingbird egg must be the size of my pinkie fingernail.
Six!  Look at those little wings!
Six! Look at those little wings!

I’ve given them a lovely first meal – quinoa with ground sun and flax seeds, finely grated (zested?) carrot and cucumber.  It was a big hit with the white hen’s chicks, also with chopped apple.  I couldn’t believe how much of it the four of them would consume in a day.  They are only tiny, but they’d polish off a cupful twice a day.  Quinoa is fast becoming the number one choice of bird food around here.

Settling in.
Settling in.

It seems to me that once hatched, the chicks spend at least 24 hours under mom, adjusting or something, before they come out and begin to eat or drink.  It’s not like they just can survive 72 hours on the energy supply from the egg, but that it’s natural for them to have a long transition from egg to outer world.  Even once they were all hatched, it seemed with both hens that it was two days before the chicks started to come spilling out and express interest in what’s beyond mom’s feathers.

Chicks!

Just when I was starting to worry- she’s been sitting on those eggs forever- HW comes in in the morning and says Have you looked under the brown hen lately?  Oh, you’re gonna be excited!

There's a little head in the wing.
There’s a little head in the wing.

FIVE chicks!  Five healthy, brown and mixed (spider markings) chicks.  OMG, so, so SO cute.  And an egg with a tiny hole in it.  I didn’t even know she had six eggs under her.

2015-08-02 07.56.17I peeked at that egg later in the morning and it had a slightly larger hole in it.  A whole day behind the others, though.  Will it hatch?

At coop-closing time, I wiggled my fingers under her to see if there was still an egg, or a shell to pull out.  The hen firmly pushes her wings against the floor, making a barrier (while growling, a most amusing sound).  You can only nudge in under her chest or butt.  All underneath her was tiny legs and little squirming bird bits.  She contains multitudes.  The egg was there, intact.  I pulled it out.

It’s not every day that an egg, in your hand, shouts at you.  It’s disconcerting.  CHEEP!  The bird inside was very much alive.  Although still all crammed in its box without hinges, key or lid, it let me know- it’s alive, and busy.  Put me back!  I swiftly tucked it back in to the mom furnace to finish hatching.

Wow.  A 100% turnout from the brown hen.  She’s smaller, but smarter.

Chicken Mom / The In’s and Out’s.

Sure enough, the first night out, they did not go back into the coop.  Dusk fell, and the rooster finally retired, leaving the hen downstairs, under the coop, settled into her chick-warming shape.  She’d been doing this most of the day, as the chicks could only handle a few minutes scurrying around before running under mom for a warming.

The Silkies have been fortress-ized with hardware cloth for the weasel and bird netting for predator birds.
The Silkies have been fortress-ized with hardware cloth for the weasel and bird netting for predator birds. The whole thing is portable, in two parts.  As HW says, it’s more like a chicken mobile home than a chicken tractor.  “In theory, you can move it, but it’s no fun”. 

Ok, I thought, when I realized she was committed for the night, I’m gonna have to crawl in there.  Since the Silkie fortress is much more robust, it’s also a lot harder for me to access.  I have to climb over at the end by the pine tree, and crabwalk under the bird netting.

I incorporated their favorite pine tree, and anthill, into the fortress
I incorporated their favorite pine tree, and anthill, into the fortress.  The Silkies are so low impact and perfectly happy with a small area, this is very spacious for them.

I take the hen and put her up on the ramp.  She comes flying back down, wings out, on the attack, mad! I scoop up chicks and pass them into the coop as quickly as I can, getting pecked and pinched.  The cheeping is desperate from over my head, and the the rooster is making his excited sounds.  Then I have to grab mom and toss her up on the ramp, and her squawking instantly changes to clucking when she sees her young (How’d they get up here?) and she strolls up into the coop and settles down.  I crabwalk out of the chicken run, hoping this doesn’t go on for weeks like last year.

Evening two:
Almost an exact repeat.  This time I go for the chicks first and deposit them at the top of the ramp.  Then the hen hops up on the ramp and goes up herself.

Evening three:
Yep, same.  Hen settled in under the henhouse, most responsibly keeping her chicks warm.  The chicks are getting faster, but the process of putting them upstairs is smooth now.

Evening four:
That’s what I was afraid of!  The hen’s in the coop, tucked in most comfortably, and all the chicks are huddled under the henhouse, crouching pathetically against the food dish.  I guess three days grace was all they get before…what? They get left to their own devices?  I crawl in and start grabbing the chicks.  Uhoh!  At the sounds of distress, mom comes rocketing down the ramp, on a rampage!  Flying attack beak!  She’s battling me so fiercely, I have to protect the chicks I’m trying to grab with one hand from stabbing beak with the other hand.  I should mention that being attacked by a two-pound hen, even giving all she’s got, is not all that threatening, even while crouched awkwardly in the small space under the coop.  I got, like, one little scratch.

However, when I put the chicks up at the top of the ramp tonight, because they are cold, and mom is at the bottom of the ramp waging war, they come skittering back down, to her, crying.  I may as well be putting marbles on top of the ramp.  Mayhem.

Now here comes the rooster, roused from bed. Finally I toss the chicks into the straw in the coop behind him and their way is mostly blocked by the rooster, and as soon as I get them all up there at once, the hen runs right back up, purring.  Sigh.

Evening five: Exact repeat of evening four.

Evening six:  What’s this?  They are all, magically, in the coop together!  They figured it out!

2015-07-31 19.10.04 2015-07-31 19.10.24So much for the In’s.

But can they get out in the morning?

Morning one:  No, they can’t.  I see the hen patiently going up and down on the ramp, talking to them (she’s such a good mom), but they don’t all figure it out.  Surprisingly, the diminutive white chick makes it down and the brown chicks are left upstairs, confused.  I nudge them down on the ramp and they run down, relieved.

Morning two:  This time one brown chick is left behind.

Morning three:   Interesting.  The white chick is upstairs.  Didn’t she already pass this test?

Morning four:  Yay!  They’re all out!

Morning five:  Not so fast.  Two brown chicks left behind again, confused.  Weird.  They’ve all managed it at least once.

There’s no physical challenge negotiating the ramp.  They seem to have a problem with the visual barrier.  Once the hen goes down the ramp, they can’t see her, and so she must have disappeared.  They can hear her, because she’s right underneath them, but since they can’t see her, they don’t move. If I put them onto the top of the ramp, they don’t drift down the ramp, they just hop back into the straw, unless they catch a glimpse of her.  Then they scamper down like lightning for a warming.   You’re alive! Maybe their little chicken brains just need to develop past the peekaboo stage, where one understands that just because you cannot see it, it does not cease to exist.

Now the brown hen has been placed in her broody box.  The brown hen is a little duchess compared to a cranky fishwife.  The white hen is fierce- irritable, feisty and spitting.  The brown hen is prim and quiet, hunching firmly over her eggs and protesting, but politely, when you touch her.

First day out for the chicks!

Unfortunately, I lost my phone in the woods, so I lost all the pictures of the first day of freedom for the chicks, a lovely sunny day.

2015-07-30 16.03.09By the time these were taken, the chicks were several days older and taller.

I split the (dirty, beat up) broody box open so that the hen could lead the way out, and make her way down the ramp on her own time.  She completely ignored the opening, although the chicks were interested, and quickly began scampering around the rest of the coop.  They move like water bugs.

Ten, twenty minutes later, they’re all still in the box.  I’m hoping to capture wondrous, triumphant first excursion from the coop, first time ever for the chicks, first sunlight in a month for the hen.

An hour later, she’s still in the box.

Two hours.

In the afternoon, HW comments offhand that he sees the chickens are outside.  What chickens?

All the chicks, and mom, are outside, and I missed it all!

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Phew, I get to throw out the dirty broody box they’ve all lived in for a week.

Now, how bad will the daily bedtime return-to-the-coop drama be this year?

Two more chicks!

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There’s the little brown one.
There's the little white one.  It looks like she's been pooped on.
There’s the little white one. It looks like she’s been pooped on.
The two new ones are remarkably smaller than the other chick, only two days older.
The two new ones are remarkably smaller than the other chick, only two days older.

Yay!  Three chicks from the white hen (although two are from stolen eggs)- far better than I expected, and equal to her productivity last year.

I’m pretty sure that will be it for chicks from her, although I’ll leave her her eggs a few more days.   She would know, I think, if there was any life in the remaining eggs and stay on them.   After the first chick, she got even more fierce about sitting on her eggs, as two more were close to done then.  Now she seems to be losing interest in the eggs, or else she’s just very hungry now.

All four of them are in a confinement box now for a few days.

Chick Days

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Sep 10
Hatch day!
Right on time:)  At the end of the day I insisted on preparing the red hen’s box for the arrival of chicks- cleaning out her turd mountain and soggy food and replacing her bedding, and lo and behold, there was peeping!  OMG, peeping!  I picked up the protesting red hen to see and a wet little tadpole of a chick fell out, wriggling on its back like a turtle.  Yay, a chick!
It did seem like she was unusually alert all day.

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Sep 11
Another chick!  A little spotted one, with markings on its back like a spider!  Maybe one of the black hen’s eggs, or the red hen’s.  Yesterday’s chick is white, now that it’s dried out and fluffy.  There’s one more egg with pipping; there’s a little beak visible, but it has not made progress over the day.  They are so, unbelievably cute, and tiny! One little chick is weightless in my hand.

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Sep 12
Well, the results of the ambiguous candling are now officially confirmed.  I removed all the unhatched eggs and looked through them with light again.  The opaque eggs at 15 days were full of chicks, and the clear/translucent eggs were eggs either never fertilized or lost for some reason extremely early.  Three and three.  So the red hen is essentially at 66%, if I gave her three non-viable eggs to start with.  The third chick died, and did not complete hatching, which is too bad.  To get that close!  I unpeeled the shell around it. It is indeed amazing how packed in there they are, and how well developed.  They come out and they function completely- standing, eating, digesting, communicating.  Amazing.

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The two living chicks are toddling around and spending most of their time under mom.  The chicks come and go from under her, vigorously nudging when they want back under until they get let in under a breast or a wing.  She’s still in her broody bedded-down state, and I’m hoping she’ll come out of it now and start mothering.  There’s no plan B if these hens are lousy mothers. I sure hope she’s having them eat and drink when I’m not looking. I’m worried about them falling into even the smallest waterer, and have modified a little tub for mom to drink from.   I held each one to the chick nipple and forced them to have a little drink.  In lieu of chick starter, they have a fruit and veggie chopped salad and cooked quinoa.

IMGP7757Sep 14
Adorable!  The tiny chicks burrow under mom when they get cold, and pop out to look around.  They bounce around their box and peep a lot.  They glug from the water nipple like pros!   Mom is actively participating, very loudly cheeping over new food, poking them under her.   They’ve made a mess of their box scratching the food around, and every day I remove mom’s droppings.  The chicks are so small their turds are about the size of a buckwheat grain. Although even these chicks are huge compared to songbirds, they seem so tiny to me compared to standard day-old chicks.  Already they have their wing feathers appearing on their nubby little wings.
The temperature has dropped a lot, so winter is close enough to smell.   The white hen must be due any day now.  She went broody a few days after the red hen but I didn’t note it exactly.

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Going
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Going
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Almost
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Gone

Sep 15

After a day in Halifax we came home to a new chick!  Already fluffy and poking out from mama’s wing, this one must have hatched early in the day.  We prepped up a new chick box for the white hen and moved her and her eggs into it to finish hatching.  Yay!  I’m counting on more from her.  There’s sure to be another chick by morning.

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Angry Mom

Sep 16
No new chicks in the morning:( I was at work all day, and the text message reports flowed in!  A new chick mid morning!  Another soggy chick in the afternoon!  I came home, and OMG, one of them is smoke grey!  One is very yellow!  So tiny, amazing all over again.  The eggs are cracked in half, opened around the center like a seam, expertly.
Just the few days difference between the sets of chicks and the growth is visible.

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Now there are two mom boxes in the coop and the rooster sleeps between them.  H.W. thinks he must be really forlorn now everyone’s gone.
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It sure seems to me like they’re looking proud!

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Sep 17
The white hen has 75% success.  One of her four eggs failed as well, and similarly close to done.  I cracked the dead egg to see and the nearly completely formed chick was sharing space still with some yolk.  It must have died in the last few days.  But three very alive, and mobile.  The white hen has an amusing defence tactic.  She lowers her head and lifts up her butt and makes angry noises.  She tries to back her chicks into a corner and guard them like this.  The chicks still come leaking out and hopping around, and it doesn’t do anything to stop me from lifting her up to clean under her.

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Goodnight

Fledging day

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The trio of barn robins fledged today (clutch #2).  H.W. went in to look at them, and said they were all side by side in the nest, looking out, but when he looked up at them, they all burst out of the nest and strewed about on the floor.  He started to scoop them up and put them back in the nest (Uhoh, uhoh), when he got attacked from the air by the parents and beat a retreat.  So they were out of the nest, and stayed out.  Premature fledging?  The rest of the day was full of low-flying overhead zooms from trees to roofs and back, with clumsy landings.  The mother robin shrieked her head off all day, screaming concern or encouragement to the little ones.  “OMG!  The branch!  The wind!  People!  Veer!  No, not there! Ailerons, now! OMG!  Not the roof!  Don’t follow him!  I can’t look!  Augh!  My heart!!!”, or that’s what it sounded like.  We seem to have missed this day on the last batch.

The fledgers seemed ok.  By sunset they had spread themselves pretty wide, judging from the changing source of the mother’s piercing narrative.

Chickadee tragedy (?)

I snuck over to peek at the chickadee nest, and, the horror!  The dead tree was snapped off right through the nest!

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So much for super secure :(  The chickadee’s nest excavations, that made the wall of the tree 3/16” thin on one side, must have weakened the tree too much.  We’ve had some wet and windy days.

I studied the scene and found no trace of violent death from the tree snapping or predators later.  Not a feather, nor shells, on the ground. The top of the tree was lying next to the base.

One tiny poop and one wet feather in the nest- it seems improbable that she raised her young slyly enough for us not to notice comings and goings and they got out in time, but I can hold out hope.

The nest is almost wholly built out of my hair and fibres I recognize from our Icelandic wool blanket and our fleece sheets.  Incredible.  Basically he felted together a little bowl.  I’m glad they benefited from our intrusion here, then.

IMGP7008Once I saw him on the ground outside the camper door, gathering a few hairs and a tuft of wool that’d been swept outside.  He was really working at it, trying to tug the little tangle loose from where it was stuck on twigs and dirt.  Each yank and he’d emit a little “eep”.  The hairs were good and stuck and it looked frustrating.  “Eep, eep, eep, EEP!”  Something I wouldn’t even see- a few brown hairs on the ground- and that little bird spied it.

By the barn, the robin is very sly while feeding her chicks- HW has often worried that she hasn’t been around, but she clearly has been around, enough to rear up clutch #2 to a full feathered trio.  Clutch #1.  They’ll be out of the nest any day.  I should have taken a picture on the day I discovered the little pink wigglers with bruise blue eye bulges.  There were only two, sharing the nest with the third blue egg,  and I assumed that the remaining egg was a dud.  But no, it must have been the day they were born, and the third had not yet hatched.  They barely fit in the nest now, overflowing it.

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Quails and rabbits, oh my.

There’s been a quail family around this summer, with an impressive group of young (about 9).  Turns out that’s merely the low side of average for a quail family, but I’m still impressed with Mum, scurrying a wide zigzag herding all those little quailings.  The chicks are constantly running in all directions and being corralled back into a group. Quails are funny to start with with their pear shaped bodies, head decorations, and preference for speedwalking.

This family has three adults attending the chicks, and it’s always fun to catch them on the road.  Hard to catch on camera though.

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Now the chicks are all being herded down the shoulder into the scrub.

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We have rabbits too, always rabbits.  Especially morning and evening rabbits.  Scampering across the road, running along (OMG, a fence!) and diving into the brambles.  We were watching a mama rabbit one evening in the backyard, right under the deck, and a pile of creeping, fluffy bunnies, so little they just push themselves along on their bellies with their back legs.

The mama rabbit sat up, arching her back and  bracing herself on long outstretched forepaws, as all the little bunnies pushed and clambered their way under her to nurse.  Then as if they’d been told to do it, they all scooted up to the base of a tree and burrowed under the loose leaves, hiding themselves completely, and mama went on eating in the back yard.  Adorable!  We didn’t take pictures because a) we didn’t know then that that was our only baby rabbit sighting of the year, and b) didn’t want to move and interrupt them.

Here’s an unrelated rabbit, one that happens to live in the median between a highway and a parking lot:

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Raptor stage

What?  Not cute?

They’re not cute anymore.  Feathered feet?

They’re in their awkward, ugly stage; plenty of feathers yet not quite enough.  They look raggedy, a little half-plucked.

Two of them have hardly grown in two weeks, and the biggest two have tripled in size, now looking like full grown chickens, one with hilariously extravagant feathered feet. I still can’t tell which are the roosters, and there still doesn’t appear to be excessive aggression.

The black one that was the No. 3 gangster before I left is now one of the three smallest, having not changed at all in size.  He(?) feels plump and vital though.  They’re funny to hold, all pissed off but helpless at being held upside down.  So undignified! Continue reading Raptor stage