grandson helping wake up the chicks

grandson helping wake up the chicks

Sunday, February 17, 2013

And the verdict!

Following the time I spent getting the broody hens all settled, the hens decided they really weren't into the broody thing anymore. Julia and Joan Jett went back into the "big house" and Bette Davis stuck with it for a bit in the little house. Julia (our little cochin) really couldn't decide and she'd roost for a day and then move to another nesting box in the big house AGAIN.

Joan Jett went back to brood so I gave her some of the eggs the others decided to abandon as well as the ones she stuck with. And Bette Davis paced back and forth, back and forth in the little

house like she was going to lose her ever-loving mind being "cooped up" in there (no pun intended
 :)   So, I decided to let her out with the general population...and that seemed to be a good idea.

Now, we had wasted a couple of dozen eggs with the "broody" experiment and it didn't look like we'd be getting any chicks out of it. However, lo and behold, one morning I went to check on things and a little black chick bopped out from behind Joan Jett in the big house! WOW! What a shock! She actually was successful! I couldn't believe my eyes. As soon as I saw it, it ran back under its mama.

She was successful and had a chick! Joan Jett was a mom and very protective of her new offspring. I decided to relocate her (nesting box and all) to the little hen house that had since been abandoned by Bette Davis. She took to that very well and continued to roost on the 4 other eggs she had under her. Would she hatch another????

No such luck. I waited for an entire week and decided to remove the other eggs before the pending explosion of rotten eggs.  And, along with that idea, I decided that maybe we should give her a couple of other chicks to build her "clutch" and sneak out the bad ones.

I searched all over (it's not really chick season yet) and found a lady in town that had some chicks for sale. GREAT! How wonderful! I would go and get a pair of babies for Joan Jett and she would have three. Since they are straight run, getting a pair would give us a 50/50 chance for getting at least one hen...I hope!

We picked up two light colored chicks and I proudly snuck them under Joan Jett. She seemed to be thrilled with the new additions. However, the little yellow chick was very noisy. I checked on them that evening and the two little chicks were on the opposite side of the chicken house from Joan and her didn't look too promising but I didn't see any pending danger.
Joan Jett and baby chick + two new adoptees on the right.

Two young chicks before the attack of mama hen.

I was WRONG! I checked back a bit later and the yellow chick had been killed by Joan Jett and it wasn't pretty! So sad! Maybe there was something wrong with that little baby? The other chick seemed okay and was hiding up inside Joan's feathers. Ok, it looked like everything was okay for now.  And it was time for bed.

This morning, however, I went out  to check on things and the little light brown chick was laying on its side and breathing very labored. What had she done?! She obviously saw these chicks as some kind of threat and wanted to get rid of them.

So, in a rush, I took the little chick and made a makeshift house for her in our laundry room and hoped for the best. She did drink water and all I could do was go to work and wait.

When I came home, miraculously, the little chick was fluffed up and chirping! Incredible! I am so excited and now I can care for this little babe that its adoptive mom would not. But, it's alive and well and I've learned a lot from this experience....Rule #1 - DO NOT give a hen chicks from other hens!

Little Orphan Annie will be her name.
Now, Miss Little "Orphan Annie" is living in a box in my laundry room, safe and sound, albeit not the best environment for a growing chicken. She is alive, safe, and warm. We will try to move Joan Jett away from her baby soon and reintroduce this little chick in a few days.

Never a dull moment in chicken raising!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Winter comes and so do the brooders!

My last post was in November and quite a bit has happened since then.  With a winter cold snap, we unfortunately lost several of our "girls" including "Nugget", our little Naked Neck Turken. She will be greatly missed as we loved to have her greet us and eat out of our hands whenever we were in the chicken yard. We lost a few others as well including "Lady Gaga", the beautiful Americauna that gave us a lovely olive green egg; and "Betty White", one of our first hens from when we started our flock. It was a sad couple of weeks that just emphasized the reality of our new life with animals and nature.

Even though we've been fortunate enough to "bring back" a couple of hens that were close to death in our time here, the reality is that often nature will take its course despite what we try to do.
In the meantime, now we are down to 24 chickens in the flock including our two roosters, Blue and Chaz. They seem to have found their "space" and get along fairly roosters can lol.

Our flock is doing well and enjoy their times ranging in the entire yard. They especially enjoy stealing bird seed from under the bird feeders in the yard. They make a b-line directly to the feeders when they are let out to range (especially Victoria, our blue Andalusian) and will clean up any seed the towhees and chickadees leave behind.

As we have acclimated to the new, smaller flock, we suddenly notice that not one, but two of our "girls" will NOT get out of their nesting boxes! Are they cold? Are they being harassed? What is the deal?  I got out our chicken books to investigate and discover they are BROODY! Are you kidding?! It is winter and we have TWO hens deciding to get ready for babies! Unbelievable! Such is life at the Coopers!

Gary became very annoyed at the hens and both of us actually tried to take them out of their nesting boxes prior to the realization that they were on a mission. After more reading, I discovered that a hormone will cause hens to "go broody" and there is nothing anyone can do about it! They will be broody for about 21 days, and either hatch baby chicks or give up.  It looks like we're in for a long one.

Julia Roberts doing her broody thing.

Joan Jett being broody.

Julia Roberts broody and Lucy (our old girl) taking up the laying box.
In the meantime, Gary had been removing the eggs from these girls each day. I decided we may as well make use of what nature was providing in the natural incubators so I started to mark eggs and put them back under our hens.  I also read that broody hens should be kept separate from the rest of the flock due to the fact that the other hens will harass them and force their way into the nesting boxes to lay in the same box.

We did find hens in the box with the broodies at times and they were leaving eggs behind but they seemed to be okay other than that. We continued to keep watch each day and remove the extra "unmarked" eggs while carefully checking the "marked" eggs to leave them under the hens. As we did this, we remembered that the eggs should not be moved after day 15 of the 21 days of incubation. is that going to work with other hens adding eggs each day? That's something to contemplate. I'll get back to that later.

Simultaneously, we noticed that "Bette Davis", our Spotted Suffolk, was missing. I had looked all over the yard and even called to her, but to no avail. One day, however, she did run out to us from somewhere in the back of the property to get a treat. But then she disappeared again. Where could she be?

Deep within the blackberries, I am kept at bay by the brambles. Bette Davis is in the top middle of the picture.
I decided to investigate as we had lost one of our hens to some sort of a critter a few weeks before. As I searched the yard and got to the back fence area where the blackberries were trying to take hold, I spotted a few eggs by a bush and low and behold, our little miss Bette Davis, on a nest.

She blinked and looked at me but did not move. As I looked at her, it started to snow. I decided that I needed to move her to a safer spot for weather. So, I began to cut away at the brambles to have access to her. As I removed her from her "nest", I discovered she had accumulated almost a dozen eggs and had been very carefully setting on them.

I carefully removed the eggs, two at a time, and relocated "Bette" to our small hen house. She settled in and appeared to be very happy about her new arrangement.

Feeling very confident that the "moving of the broody hen was a good idea, I decide to move the other two to the small hen house. That seemed to be a good idea for New Year's Day, right?! Well, I got them moved and right now, this very second, they are not real thrilled with me. The three of them have gotten a bit out of their trance and I gave them a little outside time before returning them to their new temporary home. I checked on the girls just before dark and the status was as follows: no hen on Julia or Joan Jett's eggs but Joan Jett was on Bette Davis' eggs. Silly hens!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

And the flock morphs again...

The flock before the new chickadees.
As Spring came, we decided to get a few more chicks. Gary was not thrilled with this idea, as he had just recently gotten his garage cleaned out (almost enough for a car to park in it)! But, with some encouragement and womanly logic, he agreed we could get a "few"....and the shopping begun.

Carol Channing and (not yet known cockerel) Little Bo Peep
I would hit the feed store every other day or so to check out the chicks in stock. I bought two under the premise that they would be teaching tools in my classroom. Meanwhile, we were trying to hatch a batch of our hens' eggs for the first time. As time went on and I candled several of the eggs, they appeared to be duds. So, I was glad I had bought a couple of chicks. I continued my pilgrimage to the feed store every few days and ended up with a total of 11 including 3 that my colleague successfully hatched in her classroom but didn't have a home for.

Little Julia Roberts
Again, we were in the chick business, so to speak, as far as multiple checks and food and water changes as they dirtied theirs. We now had Julia Roberts, Demi Moore, Carol Channing, and others that were still unnamed. They quickly developed their personalities and we decided we would move them to the little chicken house sooner than the last batch so that we could free up the garage and get them more accustomed to the hens.

Bette Davis (front) with two of the young cockerels behind.
So, out we went to clean the shut up little house and move the fence panels yet again to make a little "yard" for the babies, even though they were yet to be allowed out of their house. They acclimated very well and were thriving!

As the weeks went by, we discovered that we ended up with 3 roosters AGAIN! We had two from the three of my colleague and another that we purchased as a hen....yikes! Time to find homes for them so we won't have to feed them... (we're starting to see that feeding roosters is not a great way to increase egg production).

Julia Roberts
We posted the roosters on craig's list (as were many others that found themselves in the same boat) and got many responses. We ended up giving the roosters to a man that was restarting a flock. And, as we had a couple of hens that were not meshing well with our others, we gave two of our green egg layers to him as well. I am hopeful that he was being honest with me of his intentions, but that's all I can do, right? We have to trust folks at some point. So now our flock has "morphed" again and looks totally different again.  It's absolutely amazing how much joy our feathered friends can bring us if we give them the chance!

Blondie and Joan Jett

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wow! Has time "flown" by! We are in the middle of 2012!

It's been almost a year since my last post! Wow! Has time flown by! Let me see if I can get you caught up! In my last posting, our flock had grown from our original :Betty White, Joan Rivers and Bill (plus the three we had added of Lucy, Ethel and Cher) to the addition of six chicks from the local feed store plus ten additional chickadees from Texas.
 While we became accustomed to the new "babies", I decided to also try my hand at hatching some chicks in the classroom. We were successful in hatching 11 out of 14 eggs and raised those classroom-born chicks for about six months prior to finding new homes for all but one...."Chaz" the cockerel baby of "Cher".

baby "Chaz"

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Some time has passed and our flock has grown!

The first batch of chicks (Polish, Blue Andalusians, Americaunas
It was great having a small flock of chickens with our one "Bill", the rooster. But, Gary and I both decided that as we got to know more about chickens, we wanted to try our hand at raising chicks. So, he went online and ordered several different varieties; and, meanwhile, the feed store began to stock newly hatched chicks of various breeds that we did not order.

We purchased 6 chicks from the feed store, and away we went into learning what this was all about. We bought a heat lamp (red light so that they don't try to peck any chick to death that may have a bloody spot or injury)....we had to get small feeders and put rocks in the water dish so they wouldn't drown (who knew?).

This was quite exciting and time consuming as we made numerous checks on the chicks during each day. They would mess in their food and water....we'd clean it. They'd scratch the pine shavings into their food and water...we'd clean it.  Eventually, we learned to put their food and water up on a board to minimize the trouble of cleaning every hour or two.

They were so cute! We had two Polish (that looked like they had little afros), two Blue Andalusian, and two Americaunas. This was definitely new to us!

When our chicks were a couple of weeks old, Gary got a call that the post office had our hens from Texas. They had been boxed up right when they hatched and the poor things were very thirsty when they got here.  Now, we had 18 chicks and were a bit overwhelmed. The sad thing is that two of the Texas chickadees didn't make it past their first day (too much trauma I think) so now we were down to 16....and we decided we wouldn't be going far for awhile due to our new flock.

The Texas Chicks

During the third week of having the chicks, we went out  for a day and while we were gone, there was a terrible thunderstorm with high winds. This caused many power outages (including our house). By the time we got home and realized this, we had all of our chicks huddled in a corner (no electricity=no warming light) and one that was barely alive! I decided to warm her up and get her to drink...she was really having a difficult time and I didn't think she was going to make it....but little by little, she got up and moved around (her mate was walking all over her...I guess to say "get up and get living") and layed under the warming light that was running via our generator. I decided that if she lived, her name would be Victoria for "victory"....

"Blue" guarding his girls. "Victoria" on the right, "Stripe" in front and one of the Buffs on the left.

We watched closely to make sure the baby chickens had whatever they needed, and a day and a half later, our power went back on. Thank goodness for the generator! "Victoria" lived, and is doing quite nicely, thank you. The chicks continued growing until they were outgrowing their box in the garage and we had to first move them to my greenhouse and then to a small coop we bought just for that purpose.  "Victoria" turned out to be a gorgeous Blue Andalusian rooster and his name is now "Blue" thanks to my husband. We've named his mate (the one that wouldn't let him die) Victoria....and several of the others have names now too.

The first batch we started with were: Polish (Laverne and Shirley), Americaunas (Stripe and Gizmo), Blue Andalusians (Blue and Victoria).

The Texas girls' names have not come as easily, and some are still to be named...any suggestions welcome!  The Buff Orpington trio (Manny, Moe, and Jack); the lone surviving Silver Wyandotte (Lacey); two Golden Wyandottes (no names yet); one naked neck Turken (Nugget); and three Americaunas (no names yet)....

On top of that, I decided to try my hand at hatching some chicks for my third graders so I took 14
Brahma eggs to school and we had a batch of 11 babies hatch in April and are now living fairly cooperatively with the others. We have three generations of chickens and two roosters...we are getting about 4 to 5 eggs a day now as the youngsters start laying, and are having a ball interacting with them.

Brahma chicks and one Brahma/Barred Rock cross

Another sad note: While we were tending to the chicks, my sweet Ethel passed on. We found her a beautiful spot under the fir trees to rest. She brought us much joy and we will miss her. So, the adult chickens were now down to 5 including Bill the rooster, Betty White, Joan Rivers, Cher (the Barred Rock), and Lucy (unknown breed).

We've gradually incorporated first the teenagers, then the babies with the adults and they are all coexisting pretty well. Occasionally, Bill decides to chase Blue out of the yard, but that doesn't last long, especially since Bill is much more stout than Blue and can't run as fast...he tends to wear himself out before he gets close to Blue. Otherwise, they'll all become a community and are fun to watch and interact with. We let a few out into the yard each day to get away from the others. And, whether or not Victoria is one of the chosen, she lets herself out over the gate and joins her friends to explore.


Victoria has, by far, the most outgoing personality and will even come join Gary and I when we have lunch on the deck. She is very talkative and always has something to "say".  She even took to helping another chick "LaVerne" recuperate after a failed attempt to lay her first egg. LaVerne was at it all night long and when I found her in the morning, she was almost a goner. After giving her mouth to beak, warming her and forcing water, she began to look as if she might just make it. A half day under a warming light and more water helped, and when I took her back outside to be with her sister and Victoria, they sat right with her and protected her from the others...amazing! I'm happy to report LaVerne is miraculously back to normal....absolutely amazing recovery! We continue to have amazing experiences each day with our flock.

I look forward to next Spring when we can hatch Blue Andalusian eggs from Victoria and Blue....they will be beautiful!

"Victoria" and her friends

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken Politics

Now that we had figured out the problem to the egg laying (too many cocks in the house, for real), and eliminated the extra roosters, things were moving along nicely. Joan Rivers and Betty White were each giving us an egg every one or two days. And, we decided to name our rooster following a friend's suggestion. He was quite a lady's man, of sorts, so we'd call him Bill as in Bill Clinton. Or, "Dollar Bill" as Gary likes to refer to him.

I was checking on the new hens quite regularly (at least twice a day) and realized that the new hens were being harassed: not by the rooster this time, but by Joan Rivers and Betty White! I guess they really wanted to let the new girls know who was boss...and they were doing a very good job.

Our new hens: Lucy, Ethel, and Cher were very hesitant to come out of the hen house. When they would come out, Cher (the barred rock) made herself at home with both groups of hens. That was amazing. It seemed like Dollar Bill had taken quite a liking to her, and would often dance for her to try to get her attention. She really wasn't interested, and would squawk at him and go on her way. He was persistent, though, and eventually won her over.

On the flip side, Lucy (the smallest hen of the group) and Ethel, had not quite found their niche. They would both hang out together and cautiously make their way out if they saw that I had brought a treat. As they ventured out, the other hens (Betty White, especially) went after the new girls and pulled at their feathers to shoo them away. It worked! And, it really infuriated me even though I knew they were doing what nature told them to, and were establishing a "pecking order".

During the following weekend, I decided to try to coax the new girls out and intervene in this natural process, to ensure the stress-free environment for them. So, I got up early and trekked out to the hen house to check out the happenings. I found Dollar Bill, Joan and Betty out in the fenced run but no sign of the new girls.

As I entered the hen house, I saw Lucy, Ethel, and Cher on the floor of the hen house eating and drinking. Were they afraid to eat and drink when the old birds were there? It sure seemed that way. What was I going to do?

I spent a couple of hours out watching the birds and trying to observe the nuances of their interactions. Then I went inside and did some other chores, and checked in again every few hoursl Low and behold, I realized I really didn't have time to spend all day outside watching the birds and babysitting them to be sure they behaved themselves.

So, ultimately, I put vitamins in the water, gave them treats in separate areas and let Bill, Joan, and Betty out of the penned area for periods of time each day to give the new girls some stress-free time to graze.  Enough of the chicken politics....I had to move on and hope they'd all find their place. And, guess what? They did.

chicken house1

chicken house1
Our masterpiece ready for the chickens