All the girls are laying now. The new girl’s eggs are small and cute. They get a little bigger every day.
Ruby has developed a peculiar habit of squatting down, wings splayed, thrumming her feet when I come into their yard. All the girls have begun to squat when I come in. I’m not sure if it’s an attempt to have me pet them-which I do- or they desperately want a rooster. When I pet back to their tails, they promptly flag them in the air, which makes me think it’s about wanting a rooster.
Chickens have way more personality than you would imagine them to have. You wouldn’t think they would have the space for survival skills and personality in their teensy brains. It makes me realize how few brain cells it takes and how I must be majorly under-using mine.
While Rose is still a bit like Chicken Little with the sky falling, she is also very friendly and curious. Ruby has become the dominate hen and bold as you please. Ethel always greets me at the door first and her belly rules her mind.
So three eggs a day now! How awesome is that?
Well, I did it; I turned the girls loose with Ethel today. It felt a little too soon, the chicklets are in the voice changing era of their lives. Peep, peep, peep, squawk. The squawk always startles them. Since I have to travel a lot, just seems the only fair thing for both my chicken tenders and the girls. Being stuck in the cage can’t be fun or healthy, and it’s a lot of work for my friends.
I made sure to have LOTS of greens for them, along with a couple of strawberries, spread out across the whole chicken yard. That way they wouldn’t be on top of one another trying to eat and fight at the same time. It worked pretty well.
Ethel only pulled a couple of feathers out of Rose and occasionally scared the bee-geezers out of the youngin’s. I stayed outside for about five hours, keeping an eye on the situation, working on the blueberry coverings to keep the squirrels and large birds from eating my blueberries. I managed to finish that job – now it’s time to get the netting over the raspberries.
Rose is the explorer of the two new girls. She checked out the inside of the chicken coop and thought the egg in there was fascinating. Her head turned from side to side until she got up the courage to sniff it. I wonder if she her instincts tell her she’ll be doing that soon? I watched this with my breath held as Ethel walked over and stopped stock still, watching Rose. I was sure Ethel was going to corner Rose in the house and beat the crap out of her. My fears were thankfully, unfounded.
The young ones tend to rush to the corner of the chicken yard and try to find their way out through the wire when Ethel decides she needs to show them whose boss again. I keep telling them “just run!” Being in the corner makes them sitting ducks and Ethel takes full advantage to land a peck or two.
I’m mixing the baby food with the big girl food hoping everyone will get the nutrition they need. The little girls should eat the baby food for another couple of months. No way to keep their food divided and guarantee they will eat their own food without separating them again.
So, they are now a blended family. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’m home after two weeks away. I don’t think the girls recognized me when I drove up. Usually I get a greeting of, “We’re starving out here, what have you brought us to eat? Go pick me some good greens, I’m ravenous.” They just looked at me and went back about their business. I’d like to think they’re snubbing me – their way of showing me they’re angry I was gone and left them here.
The youngin’s were happy to get back out in their run and eat grass. Can’t say I blame them. Being cooped up in a 3 X 4 cage, even though it was cleaned well every day, had to feel cramped.
I’m looking for signs it’s the right time to turn them loose with Ethel. Ethel is really interested in them and it’s hard to tell if it’s a good interested or a bad interested. I held Ruby for a minute before turning her back into the baby cage and Ethel came running over, with what looked to me, like hatred in her eyes. It would be interesting if she gave the chicklets more trouble than Bossy did. Of course, Lucy and Ethel were as big as Bossy when I turned them loose together. These girls are just starting to grow their wattles.
All I can say is, I’m really happy to be back home, sleeping in my own bed and back to my routine.
I have arranged lodging for Ruby and Rose in the big girl pen. They spent their first night out there last night. At first, both Lucy and Ethel thought the presence of babies was a lot of fun. There was a lot of strutting and talking going on.
Lucy: “I remember when I talked baby talk.”
Ruby: “OMG, you’re so big and scary. I’m going to hide in this box.”
Ethel: “We have this big area, while you’re limited to that small cage.”
Rose: “Would you look at the size of their poop!”
This went on until the sun went down and everybody went to bed. This morning, things looked a lot different. The youngins’ were still quick to hide, Ethel was still strutting her stuff, but Lucy is on boycott. She has decided to strike. No eating, no egg laying, just sitting on her duff in a huff.
I decided to leave Ruby and Rose in with the big girls today, to see how things progressed, instead of moving them out to their run in the grass. Lucy never did give up her pouting. We’ll see what transpires tomorrow.
I’ve had Ruby and Rose for a week and five days now. The differences in their appearance is drastic! They are now growing body feathers, their tails have filled in and grown an inch and their wings are almost completely covered in “pre-adult” feathers. I say pre-adult because they are still spotted with white and aren’t red. The body feathers, in contrast, are coming in red.
The biggest difference I see, is their legs. No longer the spindly-legged, slender-toed babies – they are now sporting sturdy legs and toes with real claws.
They no longer have the red spot on their beak where the egg tooth came off, and – their wattles are emerging. This is the part I pay close attention to. In my way of thinking – if there was a mistake made in the sex of the pullet, this will be the telling factor. Please be girls.
Both girls are becoming very friendly and probably a tad bored with their box. They come running toward me now when I sit down by the box and remove the lid to handle them. They readily climb onto my hand to be lifted from the box and placed on a towel in my lap. The towel is my defense from turds that are deposited shortly after release from the box. When this phase is over, the towel is duly disposed of.
Before this weekend, I have to find a taller box. They have almost maxed out the height of their current box. I don’t want them to become stoop-shouldered from having to bend over when they stand up.
My youngest granddaughter came over to meet the chicks today. She’ll be two in a couple of months. While she thought she wanted to hold a chick and give it a kiss, when actually faced with Ruby, she quickly scooted away, saying, “bite me.” No amount of coaxing worked to get her to come close enough to touch Ruby, let alone kiss her. She was happy when the chicks went back home and she could wave at them safely through the top of the box. She was excited to go throw greens through the fence for the big hens outside. She giggled every time a tiny piece of green made it through the chicken wire and one of the hens ate it.
I am always amazed by the rapidly occurring changes of baby chicks.
Baby chicks have a built-in alarm system for anything that tries to grab them from above. Sometimes, I forget this. When I do, I get the reminder loud and clear.
The new Rhode Island babies are a week and a day old now. They have many more new bigger girl feathers. You can tell they are colored to camouflage them for being in dried grasses, as their wings are all stripped with tan colors.
They are beginning to realize I am not the total threat they thought at first. I can sit down and put my hands in their box while they munch their lunch, as if nothing is out of the ordinary. They are willing to step up on my hands, so I can pull them out of the box and let them wander in my lap. I put a towel over my lap to catch their droppings- they are not potty trained. Apparently that’s possible???? I haven’t managed to teach that to any of my flock.
Yesterday, I was trying to put Rose and Ruby back in their box. They were sitting on my hands and I was using the side of my arm to lift the top, (which is the door to an old dog crate with wide-ish bars) when Rose decided to leap onto the top. She took some crazy steps and fell through to bars and into the straw. She looked up at me in amazement. By the time they figure out the top is a way of escape as well as entry, they will be too big to fit through the bars.
So remember, baby chicks are approachable from the underside- this includes petting. Soon, they will trust me, but until they have itchy head feathers and want a head scratch, I’ll be keeping my hands low.
Our freezing weather blew out and we’re back to balmy. That’s the way it is here in coastal N.C. The girls are happily clucking and growing feathers AND one of them is even laying an egg a day. I feel elation. I prefer to eat eggs from my own girls.
Now, my internal debate about raising new chicks this spring, is back on. If I raise two more chicks, I’ll have four chickens in the pen come summer. Is that too many? If I have new chicks, I’ll be guaranteed eggs next year. If I don’t, it’s an iffy proposition. What to do?
Bossy Biddy met me at the door to their yard the other day, beak open, tongue hanging out, panting, “Who turned up the heat? It feels like an oven around here.”
Bossy Biddy is having a really hard time dealing with the 101 plus degree days we’ve been having. Add the heat index to that and it’s been a whopping 107 degrees. I don’t know how anyone else feels about the heat index in the summer or the wind chill factor in the winter, but I’m already feeling the temperatures and don’t need to be made to feel hotter in the summer or colder in the winter.
Back to Bossy Biddy – She’s experiencing diarrhea, losing feathers like crazy, her comb is laying down on the top of her head and she pants with a wide open beak. It’s pathetic. She hasn’t laid an egg in eight months. Being an old chicken sucks.
There’s part of me that wants to scoop her up and bring her into the house and part of me that wants to open the chicken yard door and let her out into the backyard to fend for herself. The true farmer would put her out of her misery and into the stew pot. I am not a true farmer.
I’ve been dumping some of their water, making puddles in the chicken yard so she has a cool, damp place to lie and throwing water on her every time I go out to check on them. They have shady places to be all day long. Lucy and Ethel are taking the heat in stride – still laying eggs and their panting is minimal. They don’t pay Bossy any mind – as if she doesn’t exist. I think this might be a sign.
I have some pretty interesting conversations with people about chickens.
Not too long ago, I was asked why I didn’t have a rooster. My answer – hens ovulate without any help from a rooster, just like women ovulate without a man. If babies are the goal you need a man. Hens can actually store sperm for a period of time, so if the rooster is out of commission, they can still produce babies.
Eggs come out of the same hole in the back of the chicken that the poop does – it’s called a vent. Fortunately, nature has made sure the two don’t mix by giving the egg its own chute down to the vent. I, for one, am grateful for that. So if you have a dirty egg, it’s because the nest box was in need of cleaning.
Another thing I’ve been queried on – what’s the white part of the poop. Birds poop and pee together in one glop. The white part is the pee that comes out as a paste. Aren’t you glad you asked?
Any more questions out there?
I have to report that the rats seem to be gone, either that or they are in hiding. I’ve been gone for a while and my chicken tender said she found a dead something in their yard. Fortunately, she removed the offending dead critter and threw it in the trash can, which reminds me, I need to take the can to the street tonight so the dead thing can leave the premises on the garbage truck. The good news is, the rats seem to be gone and I didn’t kill any of my chickens in the process. Whew. I feel like I dodged a bullet this time. I’ll hope I never have to use rat poison again.