Mommy Material

About a month ago a pair of my Cuckoo Maran hens went broody.

Some broody hens just stay out of the way, are relatively docile, and are over it all in a few days.

Some broody hens are persistent. They just won’t give up – no matter what – unless they get babies.

Occasionally, I’ll have a broody who is not just not nice – but who is downright mean.

This particular pair of Cuckoo Maran hens that went broody last month are of the persistent AND mean variety.

I tried kicking them off of the nest.

I tried keeping them outside of the fenced run so they couldn’t get back in to the coop and the nests they were so committed to.

I pretty much tried it all.

But to no avail.

What’s worse – these two particular girls have a propensity to take eggs that the other girls are laying and somehow transport them from one nest box to the other to collect a nice sized clutch of eggs.

There was – of course – more than one broken egg in the process!

About two weeks into this persistent broody behavior I decided maybe I should look for some fertile eggs to let them hatch. The problem being – I usually only put one broody in the broody mama section of the coop at a time – and these two were determined to be broody together. What a pain! So I started reading up – and what do you know – sometimes that will work out, so I was willing to consider giving it a whirl.

I just couldn’t decide what breed of egg to find.

And then when I decided – I couldn’t find fertile of that breed!

Recently I talked to a couple of chicken owners who had had success with switching out non-fertile eggs from under a persistently broody hen with store-bought day-old chicks – effectively tricking the broody hen into believing she’d just hatched out a clutch of eggs.

We tried this once before.

It didn’t work well.

But after more research, we decided we know better how to pursue this and that conditions were right. We were gonna give it a whirl.

So yesterday we moved our two broody hens into the broody mama section of the coop, gave them each a nest with 5 eggs on it, and left them to settle in.

We also picked up a dozen day-ish old chicks from Burns Feed. My goal in breed this time? The youngest chicks I could find.

Fran, the amazing chicken lady at Burns Feed recommended the Light Brahmas and the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes – they were both the youngest good layers she had on hand.

As it turned out, there were 11 of the Light Brahmas, and I couldn’t bring myself to just leave a few of them behind, so I got them all and added in one of the BLR Wyandotte – I’m gonna call her Lucy because she’s going to have a red head.

So – late last night – after it was good and dark, after all of the girls had settled in for the night, John, Jessica, and I and the box full of chicks made our way out to the coop.

I started by reaching under the more settled of the two hens (Bertha) and replacing one egg for one chick – she seemed perfectly fine with it. Then I tried the same for the other hen (Mable) – she wasn’t so sure about this!

By the time I got to the 3rd chick for Mable it became clear that Mable was NOT mommy material. We grabbed her up and sent her packing to the other part of the coop!

So – wow – that meant Bertha would have to mother TWELVE chicks. I wondered if she could even FIT 12 chicks underneath her! But I managed to trade out all of the eggs under her (she’d stolen some of Mabels) and replaced them all with chicks – and then added the balance.

All we could do was leave them for the night and check first thing in the morning to see if Bertha was mommy material or not.

John set the alarm for 5:30 am this morning.

Success!

Bertha is MAJOR mommy material!

Can you believe she’s got ELEVEN chicks under her with just this one out checking things out?

I’m so impressed!

She’s not even phased by the fact that she’s the mother to an even dozen!

Woo Hoo!

Now – all I gotta do is sell the Anconas…. Anyone want 3 laying hens?

More chick shots as I’m able.

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Stinking Hawk!

Can you see it there in the mist?

This hawk has taken to hanging out quite near to the girls.

It seems fairly young.

Rather lithe.

It’s definitely bold.

It will swoop right down into the chicken run – with me standing just feet away!

I wish I could get a picture of it in action like that! But I’d have to actually look out the window before walking out the door – hands full of egg basket, table scraps for the girls, etc. – and be prepared with camera ready at the go.

Makes me thankful for the crows that hang out – they take great delight in harassing this hawk! Go crows!

This morning, as I walked out and nearly came face to face with the hawk – all of the girls huddling under cover – I was surprised that once the hawk winged it up to the tree just beyond the willow that the girls seemed happy as can be to just resume normal activity.

Because I was there? I don’t offer all that much protection – although I can yell – well, except for right now – I’m losing my voice to this stupid cold. I gave the girls a stern talking to about using caution with the stinking hawk hanging out so close by.

See how concerned they were:

Huh? You talking to us?

Yeah – so – obviously – they seemed to feel the danger had passed.

Oh – hey – remember Lacey?

She was one of the chicks Jezebel hatched in February. You can see her a little older here, too.

She’s done some growing up

She’s the Silver Laced Wyandotte in the middle. Pretty, huh?

Dommy (the Dominque – original, huh?) – one of the chicks that Buffy hatched in May may well be going broody… She’s kind of half-hearted about it – part of the time on the nest, part of the time off… That’s her behind the Leghorns. After we muck out the coop this weekend, I’ll set up the Broody Mama portion of the coop and see if she really wants to set eggs or not… If so, we’ll be getting some fertile eggs to bring in for her to hatch.

I don’t think I’ve introduced Blanche yet, either.

This is she:

She’s a buff colored Easter Egger – re-homed to us this winter. Blanche, she’s such a different girl. Kind of a social “special needs” kinda hen. She just doesn’t play well with others and self-isolates quite a lot. She has gotten bolder of late with the warmer weather – venturing out amongst the other girls now and then. But definitely not the team player the other girls are. She lays a lovely nice-sized blue-ish green egg every few days – but always in the wackiest locations! She makes me laugh.

I took some pictures yesterday that I’ll try and post later today or tomorrow. Hard to believe kind of stuff – particularly for those of our loved ones and friends who are on the East Coast awaiting the latest snow storm to arrive…

Back to rest for me, with a fresh mug of hot tea and honey for my very sore throat. Always with an eye out the window for the stinking hawk!

Stink!

It seemed like destiny.

One broody hen.

Plus 5 Golden Sex Link hatchlings needing a Mommy…

And reports from the Backyard Chicken Yahoo Group that folks had successfully snuck chicks under an existing broody hen and had them bond.

Perfect, right?!

It seemed so to us, anyway.

So yesterday, we happened to be on the far East side of town – in close proximity to a feed store that keeps chicks in stock through the summer – so we swung by. Sure enough, they had a lovely variety of chicks, and so we bought 5 to bring home.

We set up a temporary brooder and gave the chicks some time to acclimate.

As the evening was drawing to a close, we substituted one non-fertile egg under Shelly for one live chick over several hours.

It seemed to go well.

There was a point in time, though, when I was worried. She got agitated. She was pacing and squawking. I was just about to go and grab the chicks and return them to the brooder when I got sidetracked by this:

Is that not the cutest thing you ever did see? Buffy and her 4 babies perching on the roosts at bedtime! Three under her wings, and the little Dominique sticking close to Mom.

By the time I went back to check on the chicks, I found this:

Shelly with chicks nestled underneath her wings.

WOW!

I was so surprised. And exceedingly pleased.

But still a little worried.

Worried enough that I snuck out there a few hours later to make sure everything was going okay. Sure enough, everything was fine.

Early this morning John went back out to check on everyone.

Sadly, Shelly had rejected the chicks. One she’d booted out of the nest, and it had died during the night. The remaining 4 chicks were huddled and trying to stay warm.

SO SAD!

And such a bummer. I had so hoped we could get Shelly past being broody this way, and that she’d be a good mama to them, like she was to her chicks last year.

Stink.

So – we’re brooding 4 remaining chicks.

Back up with the heat lamp.

Poor babies.

And fickle Shelly – back on the nest box – thinking she’s gonna get babies from the wooden eggs she’s setting…

Ugh!

Buffy, the Peeved

When we choose breeds of chicks last year we referred to an oft used resource – Henderson’s Chicken Chart. Things that I looked at were how cold tolerant they were, how hardy they were, whether or not they were good forager, whether they were a consistent layer, and what size egg they were known to lay. I also like to choose breeds that aren’t quite as common – if we can help keep a breed from extinction – then happy day! I also pay attention to that column that tells what a breed’s likeliness to go broody is. Cause, while it’s nice to have a mama hen now and then, it really does do a number on egg production. A broody hen will set eggs for 21 days, and then for the next 4 to 6 weeks will be all consumed with raising said chicks. (And her pals in the flock will sometimes sympathize with her so much, they’ll slow down laying, too!) Then she’ll likely moult. Then, when she gets back around to it, will start to lay again. It’s totally the easiest way to raise chicks, but well – like I said, puts a bit of a damper on the egg production.

In the 2009 chicks we had 3 Buff Minorca’s, but by the time that group of chicks grew up, we were down to just one. We named her Buffy – anyone else remember Family Affair?

That’s her at about 10 o’clock in this picture. She’s decidedly a blonde. A sweet little bird, a little shy, but a great layer of large white eggs.

One of the things I’d learned about Minorca’s was the fact that they pretty much don’t go broody.

Leave it to us to end up with one that has!

Meet Buffy the Peeved:

She sat here for about a week – strangely enough, taking one afternoon off – but then went back to broodiness. After a few more days, we finally decided to get some fertile eggs to let her set.

So I took a little road trip south to http://www.eggs2u.com and came home with a dozen fertile eggs.

Here they are, nestled in a bed of hay, just waiting for Buffy to come warm ’em up!

There are:

4 Dominique

4 Easter Eggers

2 Rhode Island Reds

2 New Hampshire Reds

So – I went and got Buffy from the nest box, transferred her to the Broody Mama part of the coop, and expected her to sing the Hallelujah Chorus for bringing her REAL eggs!

WRONG!

She was totally PEEVED! Why, pray tell?

Cause I took her away from THESE eggs:

Yes, they are wooden.

No amount of explaining would quiet her down. So I left her to stew.

An hour or so later I found her thus:

MUCH happier, don’t you think?

So… we’re on hatching watch. We should have chicks sometime around the 25th or 26th.

I can’t wait!

Is she or isn’t she?

A good mommy, that is…

Today when he got home and checked on Jezebel John heard peeps – and found a dead (headless!) chick.

Great.

The question is – why?!

Especially when this is going on undernearth her?!

As you can see on the closer up below – two hatched, and one actively hatching – and quite a few peeps heard.

Peep updates whenever possible!

She’s so mean!

Yes – there are three open nest boxes.

So why are there two chickens in one nest box?

Because Jezebel wants to sit on the egg that the Delaware on the right is about to lay!

Jezebel is the Speckled Sussex on the left.

She’s mean.

REALLY mean.

Being broody has NOT improved her disposition one iota.

At all.

So – after some quick consultation, John and I decided to buy some fertilized eggs and let Jezebel set them and hatch out some chicks. We’re figuring she’s going to be one formidable Mamma Hen.

Here they are! There are:

2 Ameracaunas

6 Silver Laced Wyandottes

3 Rhode Island Reds

3 New Hampshire Reds

If everything goes according to plan we should have chicks right around the 20th of February.

The big thing to get this whole thing up and running – actually having to pick Jezebel up and move her to her babies. SCARY!

John was smart though, and put gloves on first. Boy, can this bird bite!

Very wise to move quickly with this bird!

She wasted NO time gathering the eggs into a pile she was happy with…

…and then went to work.

Is that a smile I see on her little chicky face?

It’s been a little crazy how peaceable she is now that she’s got eggs to keep warm!

Catching up…

What a couple of weeks it’s been!

First – my desktop computer – it croaked. No warning whatsoever. One minute it was working beautifully – the next, dead as a doornail. Thankfully I have a rocking warranty on it, and so I called the Dell folks, spent copious amounts of time on the phone with tech support, they had me try pretty much everything short of standing on my head and juggling oranges – and deduced they needed to send out replacement parts and a tech. They overnighted parts, the tech arrived with the parts – I held my breath in anticipation – would it work?!

NO.

So… the tech calls tech support, reports the outcomes, they decide to send MORE parts. But, of course, it’s the weekend before a major holiday, and so a WHOLE WEEK goes by before said tech calls again and reports he’s got the parts and wants to come by. I said, “By all means!” I mean HELLO! I’m addicted to my computer. May as well cut off my left foot without it! So he comes by, he replaces said parts – I held my breath in anticipation – would it work?

NO!

EGAD! So then they say – “Um… well… We’re basically gonna have to replace your computer!” Which, in theory, sounds great – right? New computer, 2 years into the rocking warranty. (Thank you Jesus that the hard drive is in good order!) Right?! But get this: 2 to 3 weeks to receive said replacement computer.

UGH!

So, I’m pretty much just limping along on the laptop. THANK YOU LORD JESUS for the laptop! Oh, and the wireless network! BUT – all of my files – everything – are on the hard drive of that desktop, and well, yeah – it’s been a little bit traumatic.

So forgive me for my absence – not having the desktop has sent me for more than one loop! (Okay – yeah, I get it! I’m an addict – a computer addict! I know! I just don’t see anything to do other than embrace it!)

THEN…

The laundry room sink – original to the house (aka VERY old) – you know, the old cement kind? Cracked. Big time. And then a bit of a flood ensued. And the landlord had to be called, and stuff had to be replaced. Praise the Lord for good landlords!

THEN….

The washing machine broke. Had to get that fixed. Praise the Lord that happened on a pay day – and while it hurt to pay the $163 to fix it – it got fixed. Cause, honestly, I’m about as addicted to my washing machine as I am my computer! Thank you Jesus!

THEN…

Brace yourself…


(John visiting me in the hospital this summer.)

Remember how I was pretty much sick all summer long? (Well, honestly, it was since April 24th, to be specific.) And how I was in and out of the hospital May to September? And how the last time I was discharged from the hospital they had me go NPO (nothing by mouth) and sent me home with IV antibiotic infusions five times a day and TPN (IV nutrition) for 16 hours each day?

Yeah, I remember, too.

Well, on the 18th of November (the day the computer crashed) I went for a follow-up Upper GI. Guess what we learned!!

ALL.

HEALED.

UP.

THANK YOU JESUS!!!

So, 9 weeks to the day from the time I went NPO (September 19th, 2009) I took my first sips.

It was soup broth – nothing earth shaking – unless, of course, you’ve just spent 9 weeks ingesting NOTHING! I spent that Friday through Tuesday doing liquids, and then on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the wonderful Dr. Zelko (my amazing surgeon here in town who takes such great care of me) called and gave me the go ahead to eat whatever the heck I wanted to! I like Dr. Zelko so much! J

Great timing, huh?

Needless to say, Thanksgiving was full of lots of reasons to give thanks!


(Great-Grandma’s Toffee Cookies – for Thanksgiving, of course! Famiily tradition lives on!)

We had a great get together with family early in the day, and had the great privilege of getting to have a second Thanksgiving celebration in the evening with our very dear friends.

I got off easy – I brought the dinner rolls! I will concede they were pretty darn yummy.

Oh! And my African violet – which I’ve never had success keeping alive in the past – did this:

THEN…

In the midst of all of this – life has continued to go on.

Like…

Jonathan (the goofy kid on the right)… drum roll, please…

MADE THE JV2 BASKETBALL TEAM!

Woo Hoo!

We are SO proud of him!

His first game was Tuesday night – they creamed the opposition – 68 to 30-something. Go team!

And like…

Our girl Jessica – who unbelievably enough is a Senior this year (How?! Where did the time go?!) has…

  1. Been accepted to one college.
  2. Gotten her applications, essays, scores, etc. submitted to all of the rest of the colleges she wanted to apply to.
  3. Concluded she will likely go nuts waiting to hear the outcomes of said applications!

I, on the other hand, will try not to freak out about the fact that my BABY is in our home for the last Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years’, etc. as a kid… She will soon be out on her own. Sniff… I miss her already.

And…

William continues to be William – or ahem – BiL, as his friends know and love him – and give us all great cause to smile – and laugh out loud – just being who he is – a really, really cool kid.

In the Hip Chick Chronicles part of life, the 2009 Chicks are growing up!

Our flock has settled right at 30 girls. We were averaging about 10 or 12 eggs a day until we kept them shut in the chicken yard for about a week and taught them WHERE they are supposed to lay their eggs. We had a 20 egg day the other day – amazing!

Crayon has recovered from her molt and is no longer naked! Good thing, too – it’s been downright cold, and is supposed to be bordering on frigid in the coming week!

Scarlet – at the grand old age of 8 months old – has decided she wants to be a Mommy. She’s been broody for nearly a week now. If it were summer I’d buy fertilized eggs and let her set them. But the dead of winter? I think not.

Scarlet, by the way, was once deemed our special needs chick. If I had my desktop here I could upload a photo that showed you how she got her name. As just a wee thing she somehow got the top part of her beak caught somewhere – and it pretty much ripped off – and when we found her – she was all bloody. One of the kids – a boy, I’d venture! – said we should name her Scarlet. Somehow it stuck. At first we worried quite a lot about her – she was underweight compared to the other girls her age. But she’s compensated JUST FINE, thank you very much. She’s actually quite sweet and I believe would be great Mommy material. I keep wondering if we should have her bottom beak trimmed, though – it seems so weird that her beak is so uneven!

She’s a Cuckoo Maran, by the way, who lays the most gorgeous deep chocolate brown eggs – when she’s not broody! The copper coloring along her head and neck is so pretty. There is such a thing as a Copper Cuckoo Maran – I’ve wondered if that’s what she is!

AND, maybe most potentially world-rocking of all…

It has become quite obvious that we need additional income.

We’ve scrimped.

We’ve eliminated perks.

We’ve given stuff up.

And it’s just not enough.

So I’m looking for a job.

I actually got called for an interview. We’ll see what – if anything – comes of it. It was for a wonderful place, with very nice people, doing a job that I believe I would be very good at. I could be quite content with said job!

So lots to thank the Lord for.

As always.

Gosh, it’s good to be His!

She’s such a good Mommy!

If you’ve been following along the progress of our experience with a broody hen, you may have caught Monday’s arrival of freshly hatched chicks! Shelly had been setting on a dozen fertilized eggs. On Monday – day 21 (right on schedule) the chicks started hatching. Seven eventually hatched. Two died in the process of hatching out. L In the next twenty-four hours, two more died – both having fallen out of the nest and got too cold. Super sad!

So – we have three little hatchings.

I’ll be honest. The first few days I was about having a heart attack! I wondered:

  • Will Shelly know what to do?
  • Will she reject them altogether? We’d heard of hens that had actually killed hatchlings!
  • Will she be a good Mom?
  • Should we supplement with a heat lamp?
  • Should we take the chicks away from Shelly and just brood them, like we’ve done our Hatchery chicks in the past?
  • Will Shelly make sure they get enough to drink? To eat?

On Wednesday I said to John, “This is WAY more stress than just brooding them like we always have!”

Today, however, I totally take it back.

I will concede that we have learned a TON about the whole process and would definitely have done some things differently – which would have made a considerable difference in the survival rate, I’m pretty sure.

Would we do this again?

Yeah, I think we would.

Here are pictures of Shelly’s trip to the great outdoors with the babies in tow today. She is a fabulous Mom – and was a total delight to watch!

 

 

Rooth is on the left – she was SO curious about those tiny little chicks. You can see that Shelly is all puffed up and is spreading her wings so the chicks can dive under her for protection.

 

 

 

 

It was absolutely hilarious watching Shelly teaching the babies how to sun bathe and dust!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t think there’s anything cuter than watching the little line of three chicks following – single file – behind Mom!

 

 

Rooth decides she needs a closer look at the chicks.

Shelly gives her the eye! Can’t you just hear her saying, “Those are MY babies! Back off!”

Get a load of those ruffled feathers!

All in all, Shelly and the babies free ranged in the yard today for about three or four hours. I was amazed that the babies had that kind of stamina! I’m betting they are sleeping really well!

Oh My Goodness Gracious!

This is Shelly.

Shelly is a California White chicken. She’s 15 months old. She went broody the first time when this past December, when she was just a young’un!

When she went broody again in June we decided to try and find some fertilized eggs to purchase to let her set on.

We were fortunate enough to find www.eggs2u.com and got a dozen eggs – six Dominique, six Silver Laced Wyandotte.

We got the eggs June 15th. Shelly has taken her responsibility as broody hen VERY seriously – rarely leaving the nest.

Today was Day 21 – when, typically, chicks start to hatch.

Here are some pictures – brace yourself – they’re just too cute for words!

Seven chicks have hatched. Sadly, two didn’t make it. Gosh, to work so hard to hatch out of those super tough shells and then die. UGH! BUT, by bedtime tonight, we had five beautiful little chicks. I’m not sure which is what breed – but you know what? I really don’t care! I’m having too much fun just sitting and watching them!

More on the babies soon – I promise!

That’s it from Hip Chick Chronicles Central tonight!