I’ve got all the Silkie hens in the Girls Fort these days. There are too many big hens around, and the meek, peripheral vision-challenged Silkie bantams get nervous and out-competed. So I experimented and put my only three fully adult Silkie hens in with the juveniles- the Sisters and on down. I didn’t know if they would scrap or just get along.Turns out all of them just want to hang on a hay bale. Having all the fluffy ladies behind a fence is driving the roosters out of their minds, though. The 3x-as-large-as-the-hens roosters can handle themselves perfectly well and mix it up with the full size birds. Some Silkie roos outrank the big boys, and aren’t beneath mating the layers. But their preferred girlfriends are locked up, and the Colonel patrols the fence all day.The Colonel. Roos look funny when they’re drinking. Yang having a little post-breakfast head-under-wing nap (before she got taken inside to be a temporary pet).
I was brought out mid-morning to check on the birds because the guineas were putting on an almighty hollering.
The cause? The guinea chick was outdoors for the first time, having made that big hop up to go through the chicken door! The guineas were all worked up about it (they’re so familial). This is the outSIDE! This is GRASS! (sort of). The chick is the lone survivor of a few hatched outdoors, so it may remember “outside”, but it seems it was a big guinea moment nonetheless. Right away the chick slipped through the fence. Here the hens are drawing attention to it- It’s over here!, and it’s barely detectable right by that fence post. Mom came running in, and the chick climbed back in just as easily.
The hen yard is already kind of grim, after freezing, being hammered by rain, and scratched up well. The chickens loooooove that pine tree through. They all cluster up under it for most of the day.
This is the Colonel’s flock of girls – it’s a very large flock, and they group under the pine day all day for a long, relaxed grooming meditation, and often a good perch. Usually there are 2-5 hens perching in the tree at any time. I pruned it out for them hoping they’d enjoy it, so it’s very gratifying to have them enjoy it so completely.
I haven’t managed to get any good pictures of the pile of guinea chicks.
What I have is a rolls worth of pictures of guinea butts disappearing into the grass, maybe a glimpse of keets following behind.
I’ve seen them! I’ve surprised them, walking out with a bucket of food (no camera), and the guineas will be in town. One hen rises to her feet and all the little keets tumble around her legs, like someone dumped out a salad bowl of chicks, and then they scramble into the grass or bushes.
It’s easy to watch them as a group – the adults stick out, but the chicks themselves are still so tiny they vanish in the weeds and can best be perceived by the grass rustling above them.
They’re amazing parents. Now we’re not sorry to have so many cocks. They seem to be paired up (one cock went out to get the Lady of the Woods, one coaxed coop mama out), so one cock still needs a lady, but all five travel in a tight bunch, all obviously involved in chickcare – education, herding, and retrieval.
The keets don’t distinguish between mothers. They move in one crowd, and all go under one hen for warming and nighttime. 16 of them! I can’t tell the hens apart to look at them, so we don’t know if it’s always the same hen settling on them, but my guess is that they share the job. The keets and hen settle down in the grass at night, and until last night, the rest of the flock stayed with her. Last night, the others all got up on the coop. Which raises a problem: What happens when 16 chicks are capable of flying up to roost on the coop!?
HW calls the one hen Mama Missile Launcher. She’s a grass torpedo. It may be either hen any given time, but it’s always a hen that launches an attack if you get too close. Charge! Very scary. I had picked up the little spinaround keet that got left behind and brought it closer to the group, when the mom charged me, flying right at my face. I blocked with my arms, and she went over my head, thumping me on the noggin with her feet as she went. Whapwhapwhap! I hope the little dizzy chick made it, because I haven’t been involved since.
Chickens always love a good canteloupe rind!
They won´t say no to a good egg carton either!
The Brahmas are so striking.
They´re very relaxed.
Maybe a little too relaxed.
The Oreos are practically grownup now, or at least think they are.
First, they graduated to the chickery, as all chicks do at about three days old. That means a nightly grab and go from the chickery to a box in the greenhouse for the night.
So cute, with their little wing feathers coming in. One is turning grey quite rapidly.
Chicken selfie – Mom under one arm with a handful of chicks.
Look at those beautiful little wings!
Into the box.
I throw a lid over them for the night and first thing in the morning, it´s an aerial transport back outside to the chickery.
Then the rains came.
I figured that the stuff growing in the greenhouse was big enough to not be threatened by one tiny hen and two chicks, so instead of bringing the chickery into the greenhouse, I just turned the three of them loose inside.
Oh, what good times.
I had a good time working in the greenhouse with my feathered company. Non stop clucking and peeping. The chicks just tweet tweet constantly.
Mom was quite fond of settling down on the edge of the wall like this, and I knew how the water level had been known to come up and pool in the greenhouse in heavy rains like this.
In the dark I went out with a light, planning to set them on high ground or in a box. I found mom and chicks not tucked against the wall, but on the very top of a mountain of straw, her personal Ararat. She´s no dummy.
The chicks got three whole days in the greenhouse, rummaging around in the straw, tugging on tomato plants, and scampering along the wooden baseboards.
And then, suddenly, they integrated themselves into the greater chicken society.
Luckily, I was outside with them when it happened. As usual, I glanced over, checking for both chicks, and there was only one chick! Mom was pacing against the wall of the greenhouse, starting to get distressed. Where´s the other chick!!?
(Music of doom):
The chipmunk hole!
I went outside. There was the chick, walking up and down the path on the wrong side of the greenhouse wall!
I tried to catch it.
The chick quite smartly scurried into the shrubbery. Well then, it´s time to be outside, I guess.
Then I tried to catch Mom. Phew! That failed miserably, so I caught the other chick instead and introduced it to the shrubbery where it scurried off to join its sibling.
Mom I had to chase and coax until she hopped out the door on her own, where the lovesick roosters were waiting for her, and she ran off into the wrong set of shrubs. I did some more chasing, until she went into the same clump the chicks were last seen in.
Good. I peered into the bushes looking for the happy family. I could see her, but not the chicks! I eventually found them – they were perched up off the ground on bent branches, already pretending to be real birds.
At night I opened the door of the greenhouse and Mom came around and hopped back in. This is where we spend the night. The third night I came to let her into the greenhouse and…. just one chick hanging around underneath the coop.
A: Wow! That´s got to be a first, a hen deciding to go to bed in a different place than the night before! Not only that, a coop she hasn´t slept in for months, in a new location.
B: Here we go again with the nightly chicks left outside drill – but I was wrong! As soon as I came around the loose chick started distress peeping, and mom popped outside immediately, bristling. What´s going on out here!? The second chick popped out behind her. I hid behind a bush to watch. Both chicks gathered up again, she coached them up the ramp together (!!!!). WOW!
Never before! First night! On her own initiative! She deserves a good chicken mom medal!
And I was worried she was a little inbred, with her head puff not as puffy as the others. They´re actually getting smarter!
Now the Oreos are right independent. Mom opted to sleep in the small coop with the Brahma hens. She takes the nest box at night with the chicks.
(There´s jean jacket hen) – when it rains I have to make a few rain tents for everyone.
Mom and the Oreos are rather wild these days. Hard to catch on camera. I get distance sightings.
So far so good.
They´re often off on their own, in the pasture, roaming rather farther than the other hens tend to.
Once I found the Oreos inside the pig zone, Mom running up and down on the outside of the electric fence. The chicks had just slipped through it.
She wasn´t alone! One of the guinea cocks was pacing back and forth right next to her, for all the world also worried about the chicks (!?!). I was aghast, of course, at the situation, but the chicks popped right back through the fence when I came on the scene, and the guinea quickly resumed ignoring them all. Different species.
Next time Mom was on the inside, chicks outside, I don´t know how she did that, and as I approached, so did the pigs. Terrified, she plunged through the fence, tangling her leg in it and shrieking. The pigs came up – I was totally worried that they would harm her, but they only nosed her, curious grunting, as I untangled her to run off again.
The Oreos are already getting up on their own in the morning, coming out before Mom, and running off from her. They stick to each other like glue, though.
Wild jungle chicks:
Chickens are funny and eccentric when they are left to “organize themselves”.
Every morning when we open the layer coop, one hen is waiting in the blocks. There´s some jostling for pole position. If she´s on form, she´ll be the first down the ramp.
Then the human coop-opener heads for the Silkie coop at the other end of the greenhouse. Inevitably, this hen passes us on the way, legging it in the same direction at a flat out run. Racetrack chicken.
Get to the other coop and she´s pacing anxiously underneath it, looking up and twitching her tail. I´m holding in an egg here! Open up.
The second we drop that ramp, she´s up it, barging through the Silkies inside that were planning to come down, leaving a clamour of miffed squawks in her wake.
I´ve got an egg to lay! Coming through. Make way!
Every day. She´s decided that she lays eggs in the other coop, first thing in the morning. Don´t get in her way.
I was lucky to see and capture Granny and the Colonel sharing an affectionate moment.
These two are the last remaining of my original Silkies that arrived in 2014. Presumably they are the same age. They could easily be 5 or more years old now.
They were just standing in the shade together for a few minutes, while the other Silkies dust bathed on the other side of the tree.
Granny even offered a little grooming.
Granny is doing extremely well. I thought she was on her way out a while ago, but since the hens all moved outside for the summer, she´s been toddling around with the best of them. I think she can´t see as sharp; she doesn´t bounce out of the way like the others and you have to not step on her.
When I finished planting the rest of the greenhouse, I had to move out the assorted boxes and junk that have accumulated in there.
These are the sacks of hay and poop that I bag when I clean out the hen coops, on their way to being carted to the garden for mulch.
For some reason, the hens are always fascinated by these bags, jumping on them and scratching in the top.
Jacques the rooster, the weirdo, squeezed himself in between the bags, and then got himself stuck.
It was supposed to be a nice day, so Mom and the Oreos (Thanks for naming them, Mom) got to move outside! I transplanted the chickery from the arid hard packed environment of the greenhouse, where they spent a couple days, to the outdoors it was designed for.
Mom was so excited about grass – I can believe it- she was broody for so long she´d probably forgotten about grass – that when I lowered her into place she didn´t take a single step, just started gobbling grass where I set her.
Then the roosters came. The two remaining “exile” roosters, that stay apart from the main flock, and continue to sleep in the small coop, alone (I´m waiting for an opportunity to rehome them), lost no time discovering the new mama.
They made fools of themselves staring longingly through the mesh and giving some dancing performances.
I don´t get it myself, but she´s always been very popular.
They were resoundingly ignored by the object of their attention, but hovered around devotedly all day.
Will it rain or won´t it? Foggy, misty day – the chickery gets a rain cape.
When evening fell and mama settled down for the night, she and the Oreos got airlifted into a bucket to go in the warmer greenhouse for the night.
She was not impressed. I´ve never used a bucket before. The bucket is not very roomy, but it was handy (I got her a box tonight).