Oh, the drama of a hen house is just something new every day. I’m really enjoying having them, but it’s all a bit complex right now.
My first broody mama is doing great at raising her clutch of five. They are two weeks old as of yesterday, and just the cutest darn things ever. She is convinced that they must learn to go outside the coop, and while I think she’s nuts because it’s barely in the 40s right now, she gives them lessons in going out and coming back in every afternoon. It took them a while to be convinced — they would sit on the hatch door like that and just look around, but now they’ve all got it down pat. I was worried they wouldn’t be able to get back in, but with a bit of a running start and much flapping of wings, they do fine. It’s so fun to watch! It’s a good thing I do watch, though, because the next thing the mama does is jump up into a nesting box to bed down for the night, and that the little ones can’t copy, no matter how long she calls to them. So there is much loud chirping of upset babies, who eventually huddle in the corner on the floor, quite upset, and I go in and scoop them up and put them in the nesting box. I tried just leaving them, assuming she would figure out that they can’t get up, but by the time I gave in, too worried, they were chilled through, poor things. So fine — I’ll help her out with the elevator lift each night, but it does limit when we can run errands in town and such in the evening! Oh well. At least she is doing 99% of the raising.
My double broody mamas had three chicks hatch, with seven eggs still to go. I (sort of successfully) moved the whole lot to the ground, and they dutifully kept the eggs tucked under them. The other mama with the chicks was really aggressive toward them, though, trying to steal their babies, I think, so I put up a gate around them, with food and water behind it. I kept finding other hens in with them, pecking them madly, and eventually found a dead chick, too. So I removed the gate, causing them to promptly abandon the eggs, of course. I could hear pips, though, so Frank pulled out the incubator, and we popped them in. Two chicks have now hatched, and I’ve successfully got the mamas to claim them, so they are co-raising four now — two about a week old, two just a day, but they seem to be doing fine. I’m not hearing anymore pips, so I think I’m going to call this one done.
The two little hens from the last broody mama a few months ago (the one we lost to a predator) are just the sweetest little things. I am spoiling them rotten, but I can’t help it. Heck, I was mama to them after their mama was killed, and the rest of the flock is just awful to them. So though I’m keeping all the hens penned up in the morning until they lay me some freaking eggs, I let these two out, and feed them separately. When I show up in the morning, they run to me, get some cuddles and pop out. It’s really sweet. They are three and a half months old now, and should start laying themselves soon.
I also let Keikur out, the poor second rooster, the only one we kept out of that bunch. He’s just an absolutely rock star gorgeous critter, but as second rooster, he sure gets the short stick. Egil doesn’t let him down off the roost in the coop, so I let him out and he’s basically adopted the two young ones anyway. Good for him! We clearly need to have many more hens to get some sort of equilibrium established, and more coops, of course. I’d like to have about 100 hens, I think. Frank thinks I’m nuts.
Then there’s poor Peeper. This is the one from the batch I hatched for Elaine from Frelsi Farm. He got left behind by mistake, so I hand-raised him all by himself. Wouldn’t you know he turned out to be a boy, darn it, but he sure is the cutest little boy ever. He’s quite confused, of course, and isn’t allowed anywhere near the rest of the flock. Not allowed in the front of the house, basically, or within a hundred feet of the coop, so he’s roosting under the deck. I haven’t a clue how we’re going to get him through the winter. He thinks Frank, the pup and I are his flock, and follows us around whenever we’re outside. He dances for me, brings me bugs. We have no way to handle another rooster, and I should throw him into the pot, but I can’t. Not Peeper! I feed him separately every day. He used to hang out with the pigs, and I’m hoping that when they come back, he’ll roost with them again. It’s his only chance at handling -30°!
Having all of these chicken issues sure makes for a complicated morning chore ritual. I go into the coop to make sure that all of the babies made it out of the nesting box. It’s getting better as they get older, but for a while there was one or two squawking madly with an upset mama on the floor. I make sure that the double broodies still have food and water, which these days means changing out the frozen water, refilling their food box. I let out the two bobsie twins, and Keikur. I feed them all, and then go find Peeper to feed him as well. Then I go back into the coop, usually with kitchen scraps and treats, check on the main water and feed. It sure would be nice to be able to just treat them all like one big flock, but that doesn’t seem possible right now. I wonder if it will always be this complex as our numbers rise?
To top it all off, we are hardly getting any eggs at all! We have two moulting, so no laying there. We have three mamas, so no laying there. I wonder when they will start back? The rest are only giving us two to three eggs a day, and that only if I keep them in the coop in the morning. We need to get some light out there, I know. We still haven’t replaced the windows that the horses broke, and have it boarded up, so it’s pretty dark in there. They are also still on strike because all the bugs are gone, I think, and they hate the pellets.
Oh well. Did I mention I mostly enjoy having them though? I do. I spend a lot of time out with my chickens. Having the mamas to raise the babies is just brilliant, so I don’t mind helping out, really. I just love having all of the chickens running around the farm. There’s always some drama going on — Egil chasing Keikur away, someone finding something yummy. Even Misty seems to really enjoy them. I find her sitting with them all the time. What I’m going to do with Ms. Fences Are For Dummies is a whole separate essay!