Tag Archives: mothering other breeds

Auntie Apples- the end of the house chicken era

The little crippled chick was feeling much better today.  She started the day with some demanding chirps, so I tucked her in with HW, which always makes chicks happy.  After a cozy nap, she got restless and I put her back in her box.  I desperately needed more sleep.  We had a big driving day and it’s not good waking up feeling nauseously sleep deprived.

But she wasn’t having the box.  Cheep!  Cheep!  CHEEP!  CHEEP!  CHEEPCHEEPCHEEPCHEEPCHEEPCHEEP!  Chicks are loud.  Arrgh.  I shuffled downstairs, wrapped her in my t-shirt, and tried to go back to sleep with her tucked in against me.  But she was over resting, and feeling rather active.  I rested yesterday! Wriggling, squirming, clambering, and tiny little talons were interrupting my sleep.

Frustrated, I took her back down, and set her in the front of Apples’ box.  Maybe Apples can chicksit.  Ok, I’m glad you’re feeling so much better, but I really need you to shut up!  Apples flinched away, staring sideon, like a fencer en gard.  What is that!?    The chick turned its head, and Apples leapt out the back of her box squawking, like a lady jumping on a chair because of a mouse.  She climbed onto my hand  and I lowered her down to her newspaper, eye level with the chick in her box.  (Are you scared of that little chick?) I left them staring at each other and returned to passing out for a couple more hours.

When I woke up, both of them were hanging out in the mud room on the mat, cleaning their feathers together.  They had been roaming all over the house together, the way Apples almost never does on her own.   She was obviously showing off, now she had someone to show things too.  Here’s where I clean my beak on the mat.  This is the boot tray, it’s nicely sheltered under this shelf.  There might be crumbs under the cutting board.  It was adorable for about a minute.  Poop everywhere.

The chick seems like a slightly rude or presumptuous unexpected guest, making itself at home in her box, demanding to be snuggled, but they seemed immediately attached. She can’t get around very far or fast, and Apples doesn’t, so they are perfectly matched.  The chick is hopping around on one leg, holding up the broken one, but seems to have no shortage of energy nor to be in pain anymore.  When the one leg gets tired it flops down and has an active rest- feather cleaning, or eating, if resting near the bowl.  Her leg is blue and I want to unwrap to check it for circulation but think it’s more important to be immobilized long enough to knit- leave the cast on.

I walled them up in the traditional box/newspaper area, but it was clear, they were explorers now, and a tea towel would pose little barrier.  Chick on hay in a box, Silkie hen in foregroundMovin’ out!

I set them up in a chickery outside on the short clover.  View from above of chick, hen, and a box of hay on clover Right next to Cream Puff the Fierce, for role modeling.

floor space under windows and plants
The end of an era. No more house chicken box

This is going to solve everything.  The injured chick has a support staff, and Apples has a companion, and they will transition to outdoor community life together.  Apples should start laying eggs soon or go broody, but for now, she’s an adopted Auntie!

chick under Silkie hen Apples in a cardboard box
How I found them at bedtime.  Happy chick.

Circus chickens

What’s happening here?  I know it might be hard to tell.  That would be the notoriously mom-surfing chick, the yellow one, sitting on her mom.  Not only that, mom is perching on the swing.  With other chickens.  The swing is swingy.  I rarely see them use it at all.Obviously, she is far too large for mom-sitting at the best of times, but like one of those huge dogs that still thinks it’s a lap sized puppy, she doesn’t realize she’s outgrown it.  And while perching on a swing might not be the best of times.  Mom put up with it for awhile, too, but dumped her off when she’d had enough.  Next, it will be chicken pyramids.


Almost bedtime.  The mama hens got a box today, so that I can move them around soon.  They got very excited.  Did you know your mom was hatched in a box?  They like boxes. 

Too cute for chick school

Perchick is very watchful.  She mostly trusts me around her chicks, though.  She has chicks poking out. Cream Puff does not trust me, and wow, a full size hen peck is more meaningful than a Silkie peck.  No chicks poking out here.The one “old chick” looks much like a tiny, brown bald eagle.  Like a yellow chick wearing a brown cape. And this brood, well, they’re not grown up enough to be above a good wingpit warming.

18 chicks:  I’m going to need a lot of names.  Now open for suggestions.

Spring chicks

The chicks are all alive, even the little half size yellow chick, but there’s been no late hatchings.  That’s a pretty poor hatch rate – 12 live chicks out of 23 eggs under two hens.  The 13th was unlucky.   But that is a dozen bright new little lives, which is wonderful.  Maybe not all the eggs were fertile, or the late frosts we got made it too cold for them.Chick going under mama hen

I’m coming in there

The other chicks are still in the chickery.  Usually they start to break out, which lets me know it’s time for them to be at large, but so far, they are all staying inside, although they could fly right out.Silkie hen with chicks outdoorsThe little black “runt” of this clutch is catching up with the others.

And the oldest chicks, well: They decided to dust bathe at the bottom of the ramp, in the smallest dust bowl ever.

I’m not getting up

These two blip in and out of Silkieland at will, as do some of the other Silkies, since they can slip under the fence if they want.

For these chicks, the coop is the safe house, so they sprint up the ramp if there’s any strange noises or shadows or surprises.  It’s funny.

2018 chicks so far: 18

 

Water off a chick’s back

Butterfly party by the GH door.  There’s a bit of mud there, and it drew a butterfly crowd (why?) Mama hen and her chick duo slip in and out of Silkieland, but stick close by to it.  They seem comfortable over there, rather than the far side of the greenhouse.  All the chickens could come and go from Silkieland, it’s not a secure facility, but most stay.  They’re a little too crowded for my taste but they show every sign of contentment, so – good enough for now.  When I make the next one the space will be doubled.The little chicks are very precocious, handling the ramp from day 1, making their own decisions.  They aren’t very needy, or whiny.  They still stand on Mom once in a while.They all got caught out in the rain, though.  “Caught” – being out in the rain was optional.  Mom looks like a wet schnauzer, and the chicks look dipped, but they are unperturbed.The other hens all jog off when the rain starts, and hide under a tent.  The last guinea spends all his time with the hens now that he’s alone.  I’m disappointed to mysteriously lose those guineas.  I had a nice, peaceful flock, and they roosted in the greenhouse every night.  wth?  Now have to start over.  I’m thinking of getting keets and hoping this guy can bring them up.  The males are  active parents when the pair is intact; can they do it alone?

Piglets and chicks.

We got the pigs!  Three little piglets.  They are very pink, but they are supposed to be sired by a full black Berkshire.  It seems they take after their mother.

We’ve finally sorted out our pig transport, after trying dog crates and the back of the carThat extra chickery I made came in, secured with a pallet, and covered with a piece of canvas (becoming as useful and ubiquitous around here as baling twine and wire), so the piglets don’t get a sunburn or heatstroke.

Hello in there, pigs.

Our first piglets came in with sunburn and possibly heatstroke, but recovered.  Although, after wrestling with them, sometimes you wish they had heatstroke.

We carried them from truck to pigland over the shoulder.  “Easy”.  HW gave me the small pig, and she was a crazy squealer, who screamed the whole trip, and absolutely pummeled my lower back stomping with her sharp little hooves.  Wow.  That hurt a lot.

HW had it worse though.  He got peed on.  Both of our pigs pooped en route, and then HW says “Oh no!   Warm and wet – I think I’m getting peed on!”  So I was better off with the stomping pig.

Then HW moved the third pig and immediately had them all run right through the fence, making us completely 0 for 4 on piglet retention.  This time, the pigs were small enough to fit through the bottom squares of the electric fence, and they did.  He got them back in though, and they fell to rooting like they were born to do it.

In the middle of the night, discussing the piglets pouring through the fence, I said “You know, the right thing to do is to take the other electric fence, with the smaller holes on the bottom, and wrap that around outside the fence already there, and do it tonight while they’re asleep. ” And he started getting out of bed!  So we did that together at midnight, and the pigs are thoroughly trapped.

They weren’t asleep, but they were moving slow, watching us from the shadows.  And they are SO happy!  Face deep in the dirt, day one.

This morning, four new chicks!

The telltale shell!

All of them a bit damp, brown and black with black legs, and bright white egg teeth on their black beaks- SO cute.  There are two from Cleopatra (copper maran Xs), and two from Cheeks or Puffcheeks (Ameracauna Xs).  Proud mama!

The two “old” chicks have integrated into gen. pop.  They integrated themselves, as they do.

Just before running out for pigs and doing a henyard check, I found one chick outside of the chickery.  After fruitlessly chasing her around the box a few times, I tipped it up so she could slip back under a corner.  She was looking.  It almost worked.  Then the other chick darted out, and then it was on.  Those two started to run away from home together, mama flipped out, so I just let her out.

She’s got a suitor

She was set upon by the roosters, and ran into the flock of hens, and the babies crouched in the grass (it only takes a couple of blades for them to disappear), but after the dust settled, they flew (flew like sparrows!) back to her, and that was that.  Now they are part of the flock.  They slept in the box last night, but this morning Mom was coaching them on how to use the coop ramp (although they were having none of it).

No way Mom! It’s morning. We don’t want to learn about going to bed!
Not listening!

Broodies and brooderies

First order of business: a broody box for Perchick (smaller than a chickery, but big enough for a big hen mom – wow!  I have broody layer hens!)

While I was making a broodery, I made another chickery, because I’m sure I’m going to need one real soon.

Note helper chicken, Apples, stage left.

Cream Puff is still freakin’ out!  She’s being good, diligently staying on her eggs, but she’s on high alert and looks very concerned, like she thinks she’s losing her mind, and no one told her this could happen.  What’s happening to me?!  I’m feverish!   I have a compulsion to snuggle with eggs.  I can’t Google these symptoms because I don’t have thumbs!

If I crack the door to her box to reach her food she flips out! and makes a wild flapping break for the door.  Then gets back on her eggs a minute later like nothing happened.

It’s nice that it’s easy to peek in at her.  Her guard is never down though.  No matter how quietly I sneak up to peek, she’s looking right at me through the gap.

Perchick made a smooth morning transition to her broodery though.  With the help of a cloaking device.

She seemed to like to be covered.  She pancaked right out while I sorted eggs and stuffed them under her.   I figure the disruption of being moved is nothing compared to being hassled by the other hens trying to lay an egg on top of her.  Puffcheeks is a real squaller.

Traffic jam in the nest box

I set her up in the greenhouse, and am just committed now to that being the last end of a row I get to plant.There’s a kennel vacancy.  The broody Silkie was faking it.  Well, probably not, but for whatever reason she was broken up and frustrated this morning, Why am I in a translucent mailbox?!  so I put her back into gen pop.  She was a new hen, so I’m surprised she even went broody.  I figure those hens are still calming down and learning to chicken, not ready to level up.

Last frost tonight.  Says me!  The forecast says not even, so it may have been overkill for me to run around in the dark for an hour, to cover everything and bring in the seedlings, etc etc, but it smells like winter this evening, and I’m not taking chances.  I am definitely ready for that aspect to be done – the frost shuttling and the frost blanketing of the plants already in.   I was excited for tonight to be the last night of that. So are the guineas.  They do not like the row cover.   Or someone keeping them up when they’re ready for bed.

*It did frost

The little chicks change every day.  The brown one is getting browner!

morning sunbeamThe other is still a mom sitter.

All aboard!

Another guinea down.  This morning she was sitting in the greenhouse like she wasn’t ready to leave yet, and I looked at her twice, and had a feeling, from her posture.  When she let me pick her up I knew it was bad.  I tucked her in this corner, gave her food and water, which I’m sure she didn’t touch, and the other two stayed by her, doting.  She just seemed to be breathing a bit hard.  An hour later, gone.  Such a pretty bird.  The feathers around her neck are lilac coloured.   If this is some weird bird illness going through the “flock” (2 of 4 in a week), then I’m going to be out of guineas just like that.   That would be so strange, they spend all day out in the wild buffet, how could they be healthier? All hope rides on the remaining hen. In the chickery, the yellow chick is part duckling.  She spends all her free time on Mom.  Every couple minutes she’s jumping up there.  Usually a chick barely stays up on Mom long enough to get a picture. Mom shrugs her off by bringing her head down low and tipping up her wings, so the chick falls off.  It’s funny, obviously a deliberate dump off.  That’s enough. It’s time for a grass recognition lesson.They are all bouncing around, and they have little wingtip feathers already, but I caught them back in the box hiding from the sun.Thinking about jumping up again. Very attentive students.  Back up!   It’s time for a little doze.It’s out of focus, but it’s just too cute!

Where there’s life, there’s cheeps.

This morning on chicken breakfast rounds, I discovered tragedy in the broody box.

A chick!  But it was spilled out in a corner of the box, belly up, wings and legs splayed out, eyes closed, beak open.  Very bad.  It was still alive, barely, and I stuffed it back under her, immediately.  Its legs stuck out straight.  A minute later, after tidying up, I rearranged the chick to tuck the legs in.  Its eyes were still closed and beak open, gasping.  This is usually the sign of imminent death.

But an hour later when I checked, lifting up momma’s front to see underneath, the chick was all life, jumping around tap-dancing on the other eggs. Cheep cheep cheep! Yay!  Recovery, due to the magical properties of momma hen heat.  I found her in time.

At lunchtime, there were two!This one was wobbly and still damp. It just kind of sunk, flattened, into the hay, falling asleep, and momma settled onto her.   This is good.You can still see a closed eye.By evening, the two were nimbly bopping about.   Momma jumped out to recon when we rearranged her living situation – now in a chickery – but went right back on the eggs. The remaining four eggs show no signs of pipping, unfortunately, but two healthy chicks are better than one or none.

One  is a blue egg, Puffcheeks or Cheeks’ offspring, and one brown- total unknown.  Hatching eggs from my layer flock is a mystery gift bag.  Almost all of them will be crosses of one kind or another.

Training coop subdivision

Guinea update:  they did all survive the night, and again skipped dinner (thus not giving me the opportunity to attempt to trap them again) and went to roost where they did night before last, which they also survived.  So I’m just moving the GH as fast as I can to put them in it.

It will still take awhile.  I’m interested to see whether it will take longer to take it down and then put it up again than it did for me to put it up in the first place.  If it were a house, then it’s always faster to just build a new one.  I’m thinking the GH could be faster to move than it was to build new, but we shall see.  I’m also weaker and less healthy than I was the first time.

I was in there half the day ripping it out, which meant a party of epic magnitude for the young chickens that live in there, the kegger that will not be forgot.

They were always underfoot, interested in the volume of green mass I was dropping to the ground, and the climbing and rummaging and scratching was such as had never been seen before.  So good the room was mostly silent, with all the chicks individually occupied throughout.  They know every inch of the GH, it is their whole world, so change must be very interesting to them.

Come dusk, I was still working, so I got to see the goings in.   I’ve been stuffing the chicks in the coop every night, and although there’s plenty of room, they squabble all night.  What the?

So I tried something new.  I tacked up cardboard, dividing the coop into apartment A and B, and I put a hen in each one.  One (mud head) is legitimately broody, I can’t tell if the other one is for real, but she’s acting as if.

Apartment A
Apartment B (true broody)

As it got dark, the Chanticleer chicks went to bed first, and they all came along one at a time, long-necking and then hopping up in with Mom.

Is that Mom in there?

Or two at a time.

Is it A or B?

This one chose wrong. And tentatively settled in.

And then, RRTROWWR!  She came bursting out, having been forcibly ejected by the resident hen.  So she‘s been the nighttime rabblerouser; she doesn’t like the chicks of another colour.

Let me try this again.  Is it door #2?
Don’t make the same mistake I did.

The Chanticleers eventually all loaded in, to the right apartment.It’s very cozy in there.  I don’t know how they do it.

That left the Silkies out, who much later started to think about bed, and went trouping around, looking like they might consider the possibility that they might sleep somewhere other than a pile in the corner.

I spent some time trying to marshal them towards the coop, and grabbed a couple and tossed them into Apt A, but they kept missing it, and going around it, then going under it, and a few hopped in on their own, yay!  Definite progress.

But I could’ve almost sworn I saw a white one dart into Apt B, which is already suffering overcrowding.  I groped around but couldn’t find her, until I took a picture.Aha!  Lower right, the couchsurfer.

I have some confidence that they will all go to bed tomorrow, or definitely the next night.  Unless the hens decide to switch apartments.