It was a warm and humid day. Almost the whole family was piled in the dirt bath by the house, making chicken angels. The family is growing. Except for Speckles, who’s having a party of one in a private dust bowl out by the pigs. Yeah, and you’re interrupting it right now.Got snacks?! Oops, I roused them. The pitter patter of chicken feet behind me on the path is quite a stampede these days. I didn’t even have a bucket.
Now there are eight. The keet with the lower body injury died in its sleep in the morning, head tucked into a wing. Hopefully it was peaceful. After a quiet night it did a little scruffling in the early morning, but seemed to go back to sleep, and then, didn’t wake up. Guineas die so easily and quickly. The evening before bed is one of the peaceful times in bird land (one of several – they like to lounge), time for a last scratch and snack in the long light. The Brahmas and Barred RocksCleopatra high in the tree, wearing her jacket. She got used to the one with shoulder pads. Inside the greenhouse in the evening, it’s cooling off and the chicks remember they need mom after all, for a bit of a warming. Ursa. Her other three are still playing behind her. The black and white ones are SO cute. She’s got a pair of dominoes too.
Because I want my chickens to be comfortable at all times (Spoiled Rotten Chicken Club, Ch II), when it rains I run out and drape their coops with plastic to make a tent.
This has drawbacks, not the least of which is that it looks like some old plastic bags blew through the field and got snagged. It takes time to put them up and tie off the corners, it’s a dirty job, and it makes it a bear to close the ramps at night and nearly impossible to get the eggs.
The hens appreciate it, though, they run and huddle under there when it starts to pour, so I keep doing it (since last year). And cringing at the visual effect.
Finally, I made the hen rain shelters I dreamed of! They’re very light (flimsy) frames, that are hinged on the top so I can easily fold them up, and probably store leaning on the back of the greenhouse when it’s not raining.
They’re made from fertilizer bag liners (neighbour), the same bags I was using before. The plastic breaks down in time in the UV, but the bags are free and abundant, so it’s not a big deal to re-plastic down the road.
The hens like the clear plastic because they can see shapes approaching through it.
Now at least it looks like I mean for them to be there.
I made three of them. Each coop gets a tent adjunct, and the third is for the guineas. We set it right over top of the broody guinea. Can’t hurt to keep her dry; all the others will happily stay dry if they can. She was angry about the installation! But got right back on her eggs.
Here they come.
The chickens get some time out almost every day now. Very soon they will be finished with the greenhouse for the year.
They’re getting tetchy in there. Starting to hate each other. They come running to the door when I come, hoping I’ll prop it open.
Although eager to get out, they don’t stay out, unless it’s a sunny day. There’s still snow on most of the ground, and if it’s grey, they find their way back into the greenhouse pretty quickly.
Guineas in the sun. They find their way back inside too, when done exploring.
The chickens have rapidly transformed another anthill into a walk-in bath.
They’ve been lounging around in most undignified poses in the dirt these hot summer days, all flopped out together in sunny areas, blissfully flapping and wriggling around as if to say:
“We’ve waited all winter for this!”
Can you see the rabbit? Right of center. The rabbits are light grey now, very cute.
The squirrels are regular patrons, and I even saw a vole out on top of the snow harvesting. It ran down the hole in the snow around a trunk of tree.
Squirrels, rabbits, birds and voles – It’s a regular multi-class buffet around the bird feeder these days. The dog wants a handful of Spitz at every feeder filling too – nomnomnom.
A perfect, tiny egg from the Silkies. They are obviously feeling all better and ready for spring.
Their eggs are so beautiful, with a hint of translucent peach, or pink. They aren’t exactly white.
For perspective, this is a “new hen egg” (they’re still working up to size, and an “old hen egg”. They lay whoppers.
We collected our pre-ordered 18-week old layers from the co-op today. A half dozen of them, to refill our stock. Three birds were lost last year to various predators, because I couldn’t get them in the greenhouse fast enough.
They’re cute. Really not much more than teenagers. Very slim, with tiny pink combs. We brought them home in two tupperwares, and fenced off a corner of the GH for them.
HW was all for dumping them out of the bins, but I insisted they be allowed to relax and come out when they were ready. They took their sweet time coming out on their own.
When the chicken man was shoving chickens into the boxes of all the people arriving for their layers, he paused with us and said “There’s a weird chicken here. It’s all white. Otherwise normal. Do you want the weird chicken?”
Of course, I said. I’ll take the weird chicken. So we have one reverse chicken, white, with flecks of brown.
Since the tragic loss of the exceptional and beloved pet chicken Friendly last fall (I’m still sad), all the other chickens, indistinguishable in looks and behavior, have been just Chicken. Even Naked, once her proud new plumage got a bit dingy, disappeared into the flock.
Now that the hens have been released, there’s one chicken distinguishing herself.
Typically there are three hens that stick very close to the rooster. His girlfriends. They cuddle with him at night while the other four perch over the nest boxes. When he food clucks, the girlfriends dash up to him (as HW says, “Whatcha got, big Daddy?”), and the other hens barely glance up, rolling their eyes, “It’s probably just a stick again”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It sure seems to me like they’re looking proud!
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.