And 2018 makes its debut on the farm by freezing the water pipes. Oh, goody!!
These are the current roosters on the Winters Family Farm. Red & Eddie have been here the longest – Red was hatched here. Sterling and Motley are the “babies” from this spring and either Red or Eddie is their father. I have one more from the last batch of babies that I’m thinking might also be a rooster. Too young to tell yet, though he tries pathetically to crow.
Somehow I don’t think my egg layer succession plan is working quite right…
L to R: Red, Eddie, Sterling, Motley
Big day for the babies. They’re a month old now, and Mamma decided she’s had enough. No more sunggling under her or hopping up on her back. They can find their own food, she’s not telling them where the “good stuff” is, anymore. And get out of the sand pile while she’s taking her dirt bath! Human mothers will recognize this as the situation where one cannot use the bathroom in peace…
So, I picked up Mamma and put her outside the play yard to go free range with the other chickens. She hung around the outside for a while, but soon was off scratching in the gravel and picking at various bugs in the grass. After an hour or so, I took the babies into the big coop to see how everybody would get along – or not. I’ve been using the cat carrier for their transport, so that has become a safe place for them to get away from danger.
Of course, the “big girls” were curious about these awfully noisy chirpers, and why did they get special food? To the babies, these new aunts all looked like potential Mammas! Several of the girls were indignant when a baby tried to scooch under them, and unceremoniouly pecked the babies, who didn’t get the hint right off the bat.
Finally, dusk was approaching, so now it was time for the real test. What would happen when everybody came back to roost for the night? Mamma had her own struggles with finding a place on the roost, since chicken behavior is such that any new bird or one that has been away for a while, upsets the pecking order. Yes, that’s a real thing. If you’ve never seen chickens go to roost at night, they argue and shove and push for the the “best” spots – on the highest rung. Imagine the crowd when the doors open on Black Friday. It’s like that.
Needless to say, the babies were quite confused and tried to hold their own in this chaos, but kept getting booted off, or stepped on or pecked. They wisely decided after about 20 minutes of this, to roost somewhere else. A nest box? No, that didn’t seem right. The other roosting bar – which was empty- was a good spot with them all lined up next to each other. That lasted all of 5 seconds. Running around on the floor. Walking through the big girls’ food. Testing their flying abilities and realizing they don’t have the braking part down very well.
During all of this, I squatted near the door to observe, but stay out of the way. And then it happened. One of the babies recognized me. It hopped up onto my knee, then onto my shoulder. It turned around, and rooted around until it was snuggled under my ponytail! It sat up there and purred, all set for the night. Of course, since we’re still in monkey-see, monkey-do mode, another one tried the same thing. That one didn’t make the hop to the shoulder quite as gracefully, and let me tell you…a baby chick chirping in distress right next to your ear is LOUD. Soon, I had the other three running around under me.
Although I was laughing, and loving the snuggles, I knew we had to find a spot for them to stay put. I had put some hay into the cat carrier earlier, so I placed them one by one into it. As they realized everyone was nearby, and it was warm & snuggly with each other, they settled down. Besides – by now it was pretty dark in the coop, and kinda scary. Best to stay in for the night.
Well, the hatching experiment was 50% successful. Two broody hens (hens that want to set on eggs – one Buff Orpington and one Cuckoo Maran) 12 eggs and six chicks later, we’ve got quite a little crew. Broody hens and new chicks have to be separated from the rest of the flock, because the others will kill the babies.
So, I sequestered the two broodies in the feed room/mini coop and their eggs began to hatch. Everything was fine until today, when I went to check on them around lunch time. One of the chicks lay dead, and the Maran was teaching another chick to, um, cannibalize it! 🙁
Needless to say, I grabbed the hen and pitched her out of the nursery! Unfortunately, the Orpington still had two eggs under her and wasn’t really interested in fostering someone else’s chick. I knew from the date that those two eggs were not going to hatch … later, I opened them both. One was infertile and the other had a deceased chick with only one eye.
Meanwhile, Ms. Maran was having a hissy fit and pacing back and forth, squawking loudly. I let her back into the small coop and she immediately started pecking at the Orpington, and another chick. So now, I readied the third, larger coop in the barn and put the babies all in there. Holy chirping, Batman! I could hear those babies all the way up at the house! I removed the aforementioned eggs from the Orpington, and put the Maran in with the babies (all of them) and sat there and watched them for 45 minutes to make sure she wasn’t going to kill them.
After things calmed down, the Maran started teaching the chicks to go to the feeder and to drink water. She also allowed them all to crawl under her. At this point, we were back to the cuteness of nature. A couple of the older chicks tried to jump up on her back, but they aren’t quite strong or tall enough yet. We will see what the morning brings.
When I left the barn this evening, I noticed that Laverne and Shirley, the cats, are very interested in those noisy chirpers…I’m hoping the chicken wire keeps them out!!
Baby pictures coming soon.