The days are whizzing by here. The feather babies all appear to be doing well so far and Frodo has been far from idle. After all her eight chicks had hatched and were able to move, she moved them from the nesting box beside the coop door to a better spot near the back of the coop, near the food. Excellent. Then on the morning of Day 4/5 (Day 5 for the first chick) I found her out, beside the coop ramp, with her babies in various stages of exit on or off the ramp. Ok, I was a bit shocked that they were out and about so soon. Well, I wasn’t expecting Frodo to be out and about so soon. It’s weird not seeing her broody and as soon as June hit, winter arrived with the first frosts of the year, although with sunny days to follow. I suppose it’s better for the chickens than the stormy, wet weather we had up until then.
Chilly mornings and all, Frodo was determined to show her babies the great outdoors. She showed them how to scratch on the ground and find things to eat. Then she started dropping them layer pellets from the feeder that was too high for them to reach. Oh oh, I wasn’t prepared for that! Layer pellets are too high in calcium for them and don’t have enough protein. Never mind their dedicated food and water stations inside the coop… I herded Frodo back into the coop and put the chicks back in then cleaned and refilled the outside feeder with chick crumbs and put it on the ground. Chick crumbs are everyone’s main food now, although I have put a dish of layer pellets in the pen for the others if they want it, until Frodo finds her way out there with the chicks.
Frodo is showing her babies as much of the great outdoors as she can. No coddling here, just foraging, eating and drinking from the adult vessels, preening and resting under her wherever she sees fit. I guess that’s life in the real world with their mum. It really is boom or bust for these babies. And hey, tough, healthy chickens are what I want.
Evening was approaching when I discovered that Frodo had set up shop under the coop. Why? The chicks couldn’t get up the ramp. To cut a long story short, most of them still can’t, and since Frodo is determined to have them out in ‘the wilds’, early evenings I can be found scrambling around the chicken run, small child strapped to me in the carrier, trying to get Frodo and all eight chicks into the coop. Frodo gives up when they don’t follow her up the ramp, not helped by her usually jumping up from the side, and will just plonk down on the hay anywhere in the run, and the chicks will wriggle under her. If I can get two or three chicks into the coop she will stay in there and I can eventually catch all the others and put them in. I am trying to teach them to go up the ramp but it is a slow process and I can only scramble around for so long, fidgety, hungry child in tow, back getting sore, poop getting on my pants and darkness approaching before I resort to catching them one by one and depositing them at the top of the ramp. The Husband hasn’t been home early enough to help. I need to sort out a better way to get them in the coop. There’s just one problem: The Little Fulla is sick. He hardly ever gets sick and only at crucial chicken times! Right, that’s it. I’m going to set up a border patrol at the gate and if you fail the health screening… You shall not pass!
There was another eventful chick occurrence yesterday (Day 6/7). Four chicks escaped from the run into the back paddock. They were sticking close together and next to Frodo on the other side of the wire. I promptly got them back in the run, hoping they hadn’t been out for too long, and found and fixed their escape point, only visible when I got down to a chick’s eye view from inside the run. Oops. Child-proofing for a human child is hard enough, but tiny feather child-proofing is not something that comes easily.
What about the other feather children? Sam’s runs cleared up (phew!), whether it was related to worms (maybe she didn’t get a proper dose from the water last time), chowing down on too many grass seeds from the hay or something else, I’m not entirely sure. She didn’t like being isolated but it’s better to be safe than sorry, and it was good to be able to observe her. She does have signs of scaly leg mite, which I have treated her for, as well as Legolas. What I really need to do though is clean and treat the whole coop, then all the chickens before they go back in there. Yikes. Legolas is the only one who will let me get hold of her with my bare hands. She is such a sweetie. “Did you ever know that you’re my hero?”… I tried to catch Elrond with the net the other day to treat him and it freaked him and Legolas right out. I think he was having flashbacks to when we partially stole his voice. A full coop and chicken treatment will have to be done on the weekend when The Husband can help.
When I let Sam out of the big cage she got to discover some new things. First, a new pen, complete with a very excited Elrond. Elrond was so pleased. He made purring noises and tried to feed and dance for Sam. Sam was like, “What is this?!” She gave him the cold shoulder and used Legolas as a buffer. She is looking a lot better as her feathers keep growing but she still hasn’t quite finished her moult. Orpingtons have so many feathers. Then Sam found Frodo in the run, complete with babies popping out from under her. The look on her face was priceless: surprise mixed with delight. “What has it got in its pocketses?” Sam has been mostly sticking close to her best buddy Frodo since then and helping her teach the babies about life. She will find things for them to eat and drop them on the ground as well as showing them how to scratch around; her specialty. What a good aunty! I think she is also enjoying the excuse to be close to the feeder.
And so it is pretty much happy families for the feather children at the moment. I will wait until the chicks are bigger until I give them proper names.