Every morning I have an exploding box of chickens. Most have them have pushed out of the cardboard boxes they so tranquilly spent the night in, and are jumping, and pooping, and scrapping all over top of the boxes, frantic to get out.We’re all cooped up!The broody kennels too (now night occupancy for the greenhouse chickens).
They all come busting out, scratching and fluttering, and then vanish, absorbed into the jungle. They love a good hay bale.
Brown Bonnet has three little chicks, including the chick that Apples hatched. This was a terrible hatch for her. Two of her own, successful, and three that failed to make it out of the egg, even with my help. She was having one hatch every day, and after her first two she was up and off of the eggs except at night (Three’s enough), so the late chicks really struggled (and died). They’re so tiny. They look like they could fit comfortably in a ping pong ball, because they could. Just got out of smaller quarters. One white, one spider brown, and one white with rust accents (Apples’)
Ursa Minor’s looking smug (it’s funny how they always look smug or proud when they get their chicks, but it is an achievement that cost endurance and attention). Four chicks! How exciting, she got all of hers.There’s one!There’s another one. These two new moms got transferred out of their broody kennels into boxes and chickeries today, so I could clean the kennels for the next tenants.Daisy finally got her suite upgrade.This one (tentatively “Wolverina” is still so fierce! She only has two chicks hatched, which isn’t good, but she’s sticking to her eggs. They were both model sitters, so the problem must be with the eggs. It’s sad when they don’t get all their chicks. Side by side chickeries.There’s a kennel vacancy (not for long I don’t think). That’s Sprout and Apples enjoying greenhouse privileges.
The tell-tale shell! It’s so cool how the chick unzips the egg much like we would take the lid off a hard-boiled egg.
Snow White was all about rolling her eggs out of the nest today. She probably knows something I don’t, but I gave her reject eggs to Heather, in the duplex next door.
There’s the chick! All of them spilling out of the box.
There was another chick as well, partially hatched, but her egg was crushed like it had been stepped on, as if being in an egg isn’t cramped enough. The membrane was drying out, so the chick was in trouble. The membrane that keeps them alive in the egg can kill them when they are hatching, if it dries out. It becomes stiff and adheres to skin and eyes. I’ve seen a couple of chicks die during hatching because they couldn’t break that membrane or worked too slow and the membrane suffocated them. That’s gross and sad. But this chick, I rapidly grabbed it and peeled it, Cheep! Cheep!, and popped it back under the dark hen belly. It was alive but not necessarily well, so I don’t know if it will make it to tomorrow.
Tomorrow I’m looking forward to moving the broodery to a fresh spot and making it all clean for the chicks to grow up in for a week or two. It’s pretty messy from two hens pooping for a full term.
Everyone else is well.After a year naked, Jean Jacket is sprouting a lot of feathers on her wings, which is excellent. She must be enjoying her fleece jacket. Except the black really shows the dirt!
There’s the keet in the corner, up on the keet highway. The keet is very active now, a big hopper and it can fly some too.
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.
Paranoid about the tragic loss of Blondie mom, I got downright defeatist over the disappearance in the morning of a guinea cock. What the? A guinea cock? It must be a raptor, snatched him off the coop. What am I going to do, sit out there all day with a rifle? Predator problems, just as the guineas are hatching!?
Inside the sky coop, there are chicks. I can’t tell how many! Five?
Psycho cobra mom hurls herself at the screen, and the little chicks who sometimes peek out the screen door scurry to the back of the coop, so I don’t know how many there are.
I’ve been nudging bowls of food and water inside the door, and mom doesn’t care why I’m reaching in, she means to take my arm off for it. Beak to arm: whackwhackwhackwhackwhackwhack!
Three times a day, so no one gets dehydrated. When they’re empty, I hear her pecking and clanking the dishes together in there. Sounds like a busy diner.
I quickly learned to tie a string onto the bowls so I can pull them back out instead of reaching in for them.
She’s got no problem eating the food, once I back off, but cut me a break for the delivery? No way!
The guinea cocks gave away the hatching. When we first saw the telltale eggshell, we both said “I knew something was up!” For the previous two days, the three guinea cocks were extra attached to the coop. Sitting on the roof, looking in, even in the middle of the day. I think they were excited. They haven’t stopped, they are animated and keeping close to the new mom.
What’s this? The guineas were hollering, as they do, and it was sustained, long enough for me to check on them, and I go and Oh! There he is, coming out of the woods. I count, yep, three… wait… I count again. Four. I check that the screen door isn’t breached. Four!
No way! The hen that disappeared two months ago is marching out of the woods, just like I hoped! With her proud and loud escort, klaxoning the whole way. He was missing half the day because he went to walk her home, and the others stayed with coop mom! I’m sure that the cocks have always known where she set, and have been regularly visiting her her whole term.
But does she have chicks?
There she is, very furtive, and yes, there are chicks! At least two!
She spent all that time, all those rainstorms, no shelter. No snack boxes. She’s not even acting ravenous.
A triumphant homecoming for the Lady of the Woods. She came right back to the old digs, hanging around under the sky coop. The guineas are very familial. The cocks are very much part of the parenting team.
The chicks are so tiny it’s hard to believe they’re making woods treks already. They tumble out of the grass and then toddle back in, and don’t stay right with mom. They’re comfortable getting a ways away.. They are very quiet peepers, unlike a chicken chick that will get piercing (they make up for that later in life).
Also, the attack mom is even more terrifying when she’s not in a box. She charges like a bull, with no fear. The wings go up in this flat fronted wall of feathers, and then the red mouth open, and worst, the crazy look in her eye, coming at you!
I dared to walk within 8 feet of her brood and got run at.
Tomorrow, I will open the door to the sky coop, and let them all out into the world.
Another box has started peeping – the peeping in that end of the greenhouse is my first clue there’s been a hatching. Mother hen is maintaining eye contact from the background.
This summer, except for the only chick, the hens have all hatched 5 or 6 chicks from 7 or 8 eggs, and if there’s an odd number, it’s to the advantage of white. The white hen (only one, of two, has gone broody), is a terrible setter (three times failed) while the brown hens are all models of success, although none of them have ever done it before. All the brown hens are last summer’s chicks – baby pictures. But the whites seem to get their eggs in the right place, like cuckoos.
This is the strenuous objection pose. They press their wings down into the floor as a barrier so hard their body tips up until they practically do a headstand.
First comes the broody hen. Usually I find her staunchly defending her post on at least twenty eggs, spread out like a feather pancake futilely trying to cover them all.
They have no restraint. That’s why she goes in the box. I let her keep seven or eight eggs, and make up a bunk with hay and a glass of water and a dish of food. At times I have three boxes all lined up. In there each hen “sleeps” in her broody trance uninterrupted except for getting her vittles refreshed.
Then they hatch. Immediately, I move the whole family and unhatched eggs into a fresh box. That broody box has all poop and spilled feed and water under the hay, so they need a clean box to start life in. I find it takes two days usually for all the birds to hatch, and the chicks take it easy those first couple days, spending their time dozing under mom, transitioning to life outside the shell.
Then the chicks decide to pop out from underwing, and start hopping around, jumping in the water and stuff. They get another day or two in a more sizable box, with room to run around and spill all the food. Sometimes the hen is still sitting on an egg, but she will very soon give it up and start mothering.
Next they go into the indoor playpen, which is just a big box opened up against the screen door for ventilation, and arranged on the greenhouse floor, which is dirt, of course, and a layer of wood chips. Now the mom will start to teach chicken life skills. Scratching, drinking. The beak sweep, the beak wipe.
She can see the world out there through the screen door.
After a few days in the playpen, then they all go in the chickery.
Whoohoo! Grass! This is a frabjous day.
At night, I have to lift all the chicks and mom into a box and shut them in the greenhouse overnight, for safety. In the morning, I carry a cheeping box back outside and empty it into the chickery.
This hen thinks I’ve slept in too long, and it’s high time that they get let outside.
Eventually, after a week, two, or more, or single parenting, the family will be put into Silkieland with the main flock. I have to say, it’s working great. Waiting until the chicks are older to put them in the coop avoids the daily in and out woes. Their little chicken brains are developed enough after the chickery daycare to learn how to go in and out quite rapidly.
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.
The only chick and mother in the chick cycle rotation. Upgrade to the chickery.
I go to put them out in the morning, and she’s laid an egg! This hen is so ready for more chicks.