Tag Archives: Silkies

Treebird

My Silkies have perked up a great deal since either the spring, some multi-vitamins, or the program of anti-mite foot washing.

Now they are hopping around outside and lounging in the sun, or the shade.  The red hen loves the little pine tree.  I saw the first time she got into it: lots of dipping and hopping while she was looking up into the branches.  I was like, what is she doing?

Then she leapt up, and maybe she surprised herself, because she squawked and hollered about it even as she looked quite comfortable settling on a branch next to the trunk.

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Then I forgot to check the coop for complete contents when I closed them at night.  I woke later with a start, remembering, went out, and sure enough, she was still in the tree.  Nearly invisible but for her bright black eye when I parted the branches with my flashlight.

I’ve gone out a couple times since and the other Silkies are in evidence, but no red hen.  Where the heck is she?  Sprinkle some food, and boop, she hops out of the tree and comes running.

 

Aquapoultry, or, the washing of chicken feet.

Yes, I have taken to washing the feet of my chickens.  Not because I have too little to occupy my time, nor because I’m one of those clean freaks.

IMGP0332My Silkie flock has come down with a case of scaly leg mites this winter.  Scaly leg mites are pretty super gross.  Silkies are especially prone to them.  My old rooster has it the worst, the young rooster the least, and the hens just bad enough for me to feel bad for them.

And so, the Rx is washing the feet.  In tick and mite shampoo for dogs.  Soften the skin adhesions on their legs in warm water and scrub them with a toothbrush, and then, cover their feet and legs with Vaseline, which asphyxiates the mites.  Also, clean the coop and dust everything with a little diatomaceous earth.

IMGP0321In the winter, we were waiting for nighttime, then going out together, putting a toque over their heads and quickly washing their feet while they were hooded, then returning them to the coop to grumble about the alien abduction they just experienced while snagging and bagging the next bird.

In the summer, this is not practical.  My birds routinely stay up longer than I want to, so if I was going to wash chicken feet at all, it had to be in the daytime.

Turns out it’s not so hard.

The capturing of the birds is the hardest part.  They hate being captured, but once they are, they perch quite nicely in my hand.

The actual washing of the feet is pretty hilarious.  Holding the bird in one hand with their legs between two fingers, I dip the feet in the warm water.  If the water is too hot, they make a fist and retract it, but usually they obviously relax, standing in the water but sitting in my hand, and looking interestedly around.

IMGP0331What ladies don’t love having a nice foot bath?

IMGP0317The rooster gets a little too relaxed and tips forward like a narcoleptic, so I just tip him off my hand onto his chest with his legs hanging in the water.

IMGP0327A little less convenient for scrubbing his feet, but it more than makes up for inconvenience with hilarity.

IMGP0324IMGP0325I usually soak and scrub, wait, soak, rub their legs with my thumbs, scrub some more.  Soaking is more important.  Scrub too hard and it can hurt them, and they can bleed.  They will let you know when it gets to be too much, making a little fist.  I’ve had it!IMGP0322

Next comes the vaselining.  It gets all over their foot feathers and seems like it would pick up all kinds of crap, literally, but it doesn’t really, and the next day there’s a big difference.  The crusties are softened and wash off more easily.

Several days in a row is a good program, and then do it again after a week, and then again.

 

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

Nearly hatch time (?)

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It’s getting exciting!  The red hen is almost due.  We did a night mission to candle her eggs, as per the chicken bible. We were later than the midpoint he describes, but what we found: two eggs that look exactly like a normal egg (were they unfertilized?).   An egg with a black dot in it (this must be an egg that kindled then died in very early stages).  An egg opaque with darkness but with an angle in it like a water level (a mystery).  The rest – opaque.  The book says there should be a network of red veins through the egg, and there are dire warnings about dark eggs, that they are rotten and will smell horrendous.  But…what if at this stage, the dark eggs are the ones with chicks in them?  Because we were working fast to pull some out at a time and stuff them back under her before they cooled, we made no decisions, although I think we should have removed the eggs that look unfertilized.  The results were so confusing I just left her all the eggs.  Then I was lamenting that they have probably all failed, so H.W. got to gleefully tell me not to count my chickens before they hatch.

In the interests of continuing to let the white hen do her own thing without interference, we did not look at her eggs.  My money is on her doing better, sans meddling.  All we’ve done for her is lift her and put some layers of cardboard beneath her for insulation.  The nights are cooling off.  The days are blissfully bug-free and perfect for working, but you can feel the approach of winter.  It’s late in the year for chicks, but I won’t argue.  If they hatch, we’ll do our best to assist them in staying warm.

I feel like I put too many eggs under the red hen.  The book said you can put 6 normal size eggs under a banty mama, so I thought 6 bantam eggs would be conservative.  However, a couple of times I’ve seen an egg leaking out from under her, like she’s having trouble staying on them all.

Also, the book says the broody hen, although her appetite is greatly reduced, will get off her eggs periodically to eat, poop and bathe.  Not so the red hen.  She seems so determined to never lift off her eggs she moved them (twice) to where she could sit and reach her food and water dishes at the same time.  Maybe because she “knows” she has too many to keep warm properly?  And she eats, copiously!  Every day she empties her little dish.  This means corresponding pooping, and she won’t get off the eggs for that either, so there’s a wall of poop behind her against the side of the box.  So much for conventions. The moment chicks emerge, if they do, we have to snatch them all out of there for a clean box!

The rooster is just bored out of his mind and won’t shut up.

The white hen got us worried a few days before her due date by appearing outside the coop.  But she got back on her eggs after a dust bath.  I just can’t take another day without a shower!

Broody beginnings

Broody hen embroilments

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Robin the red hen setting, on the floor next to the nest so carefully prepared for her.

The little red hen was settled down on the coop floor again, clearly broody, so I got busy.  I made her a cardboard broody box that fits in a third of the Silkie coop, full of grass and supplied with food and water.  There’s a slightly elevated but shallow next box that I’ll put her and the eggs in.  There’s room for her to get off and eat.

Egg roulette
What eggs to put under her?  Hoping hard that I got a couple of eggs from the poor black hen, I chose six eggs to put under her, including two of the original three she was setting on, which I assume are her own, also which are possibly non-viable, if she was on them long enough to quicken.  All are labelled with their possibilities.  The likelihood is practically an algorithm, but there’s a chance of 1-3 from the black hen, 2-4 from the red hen, and 2-5 from the white hen.  Overall there’s a good possibility of 4 chicks.  If she hatches one chick, I’ll be thrilled.

In the night I set her onto her clutch.  Exciting! When I lifted her up I felt another egg under my fingertips in her belly feathers; I moved it with her.  I’m not entirely sure now how many eggs are under her.   In the morning she hadn’t budged.  She’s deep in broody chicken trance, motionless and flattened out wide over her eggs.  Yay!  The end of August is late in the year but I think still ok.  I wanted these Silkies for their broodiness, and now, they deliver!

Oh no!  In the afternoon I looked and she was settled down on the floor of her box in front of her food.  No!  I’ve read they can have a hard time finding the right nest to get back into- hence the isolation of the broody box.   Not only that, but she’d brought some of the eggs over with her, leaving three behind.  The three left were still warm, so I just lifted her with the eggs she was holding and put her back on the others through some mild protestation.  Her belly was hot!  It seemed bare, too, like her feathers were pulled out or else spread out, so her skin was directly on her eggs.  Now I worry.  Does she know better than I do what eggs she should be setting on, what eggs are viable?  Should I not be adjusting her?

After two days on all the eggs I come back to look at her in the afternoon and she’s back on the floor of her broody box, and this time she’s brought all but one egg with her.  (H.W. is again heartily wishing for a chicken cam.  “They have no hands!?”).  Hmm, she doesn’t seem very good at this.  Fine, she wants to stay there.  I check the egg she left behind and it’s cool.  Sadly, it’s marked as possibly one of the black hens.  I don’t remove it then for some reason, thinking I’ll wait until the evening to further disturb her- I have to feed and water her in the night anyways.  At night I go to minister to her and she’s collected that last egg out of the nest and put it under her!!  Good possibility now that three eggs have been killed by cooling, but she’s in charge, and I’m trying not to meddle.
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The white hen has simultaneously gone broody, bedding down in the floor of the main coop where the red hen did at first.  Her I’m going to leave completely to her own devices.  I don’t know how many eggs she’s on, but they must all be her own.  There’s only the two hens now so they don’t need another separate compartment.  I caught the cock sitting in a nesting box, presumably watching over his broody hens, solving the mystery of who’s been leaving feathers in the nesting boxes.  The hens don’t use them, always laying on the coop floor.

The rooster has been crowing a great deal more, and even going on adventures.  H.W. thinks because he’s awfully bored now.  There’s nothing for him to do with two hens setting.  He even ventured around the field, got in a fight with the big rooster, lost and retreated, got lost, hid under the house, and H.W. had to fish him out and catch him to return him to his domain, knowing I wouldn’t take it well if I came home and another Silkie was lost due to negligence.  He figured Snowball had nothing to take care of on the home front so he came across the field to “regulate” over there.

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Silkie rampage

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Our beta Silkie rooster has started to exhibit some bad behaviour.  Besides interfering with mating, understandable, I’ve recently seen him a few times pecking on the hens!  Not ok!  I understand he’s frustrated, but bad behaviour is a one way ticket to either the soup pot or Kijiji. He was also making a stab at crowing.  It was an awful, pathetic, gargling (cocks figuring out how to crow are hilarious), but the prospect of three yelling roosters was sobering, and H.W. was threatening to “give him to nice farm”.  I’m sure he’d make a good, happy alpha rooster if he got to have flock of his own, beta cocks usually do, so I put him up on Kijiji to give away.  Since we are now down two hens it’s kind of urgent; the little white hen shouldn’t have to put up with two roosters each three times her size.

Someone made an appointment to come get him, but that very afternoon we were out by the Silkie coop:  H.W. was just commenting that he hadn’t seen the beta rooster do anything bad when I caught him in the act.  He got a beakful of the little white hen and she started squealing and struggling.  I threw my hat at him, cursing, and he released her and ran away.  I chased him a few steps, and then H.W. said “here comes the other rooster!”. From behind me the alpha rooster streaked past, taking up the cause, running and pecking and squawking.

It was awe-inspiring.  We watched the two of them running off into the woods, hollering and shrieking, as far as we could see, while H.W. narrated. “Yeah!  What she said!  Dirtbag!”  And then “They’re deep out there, I’m not sure you’re going to have a rooster to give away tonight.”  Our Silkies aren’t known for venturing far from the coop, and are for getting lost when they do, so I figured I’d have to go after them.  I circled out into the woods to get behind them.  The alpha rooster was already back with his hen, her honour defended, but the beta was, predictably, wandering, and I chased him back towards the coop.  Who did I unexpectedly run into out in the woods though?  Fearless Friendly!  She sure gets around.

The beta rooster got given away that night to a new flockster with a few (full-size) laying hens.  H.W. skeptically predicted “they’re gonna laugh at him!”  I’m told they are doing just fine.  It’s either the shock of his life or all his dreams come true.  Or both.

Tragedy/Hope

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Today the dog chewed his leash and killed the small black Silkie hen.  I was away working and H.W. left him unattended for barely a moment.

Of course I felt horrible.  We introduced a predator to the farm and then failed to protect our tiny, vulnerable charges.  They have a house secure enough for wild animals, and they’re attacked by a domestic one.  Naturally the dog got “tuned” for his crime, but it’s his nature to hunt, our responsibility to train him otherwise.  And a little fluffy innocent life is gone because of a mistake.
I’ve ordered a poultry net to put around the Silkies; it can’t arrive fast enough.

Same day, the red hen went broody, and I broke her up by accident!  I thought she might be hurt, crouched unusually on the floor of the coop, and I stroked her.  She jumped up with a peep revealing three hot eggs she’d been on, and when I checked later she was on the roost, not on her eggs.

 

First contact

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The low hen brought a friend ‘round the camper with her.  They seem to get along.  I throw the odd scrap to them and brush crumbs out there, and betweentimes they go scratching in the crunchy leaves nearby, which is loud.  Having two hens around here, I thought that they just might wander over to the Silkies that are parked so near us, and I was hoping I’d witness the event.  (We have the Silkie coop near our camper, which is on the other side of an expansive field from the full-size hen coop and our vehicles/garage/etc).

Not quite.  I heard the Silkies burst out cry-screaming, and I ran out to see, just in time to see a red (full-size) hen sprinting towards me on the path from the coop, head up, eyes wide.  Behind her Snowball the Silkie rooster was thundering along like a stormcloud, head down, wings out, and eyes narrowed. I didn’t have time to turn my camera on before it was over.  The hen streaked past me and kept going, squalling indignantly all the way back to the flock.  The Silkie turned and ran back to his coop, where the little red hen was squealing like a spoiled little rich girl, not scared, but deeply offended.  That was that.  They’ve met, and they don’t get along.  The big hen got seen off.  It wasn’t the low hen, but her friend.

Later HW told me he’d been messing with the birds, trying to coerce an introduction, and he’d wondered why no amount of enticement would get the big hens to pass a certain point on the path to the Silkie coop.

Itty bitty bantam eggs

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Big news of the day:  Whattt?  A bantam egg?!  On their 51st day here, when we’re past expecting them to ever lay, the Silkies get in the game and come out of nowhere with an egg!

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Perhaps all the fertility going on is contagious.  As tiny as it is, it surprises me that’s it’s that big, because the petite handfuls that the Silkie hens are are SO much smaller than the big red hens.  It’s translucent and pointy, but with a firm shell.

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I don’t know what to do with it, exactly, besides save it for a recipe that calls for 1/3 of an egg.

We go to town to buy fencing (urgent due to chicken depredation) and end up doing many other things.  It’s too wet for the big chickens to venture far from the coop (ie. do much damage to the garden);  they cluster under its shelter, and at night, there are three staying up later than the others, and one nestled in the grass nest again.  They traipse upstairs irritably but with much less drama.  No eggs outside, that we can find, anyways; seven laid inside (good girls).  We can assume the lobster-hen is out of commission at the moment and the others take some days off.  I notice that they shift some nesting material and the plastic eggs from box to box;  H.W. reiterates wish for a night-vision chicken cam.  “What do they DO in there when no-one’s looking?”

Another punk rock hair day
Another punk rock hair day