If The Husband didn’t think I was a crazy chicken lady before, he surely does now. Anyone would think I was the one having babies. In preparation for the arrival of the feather babies I was nesting: tidying things up, making plans and getting everything ready.
I was going to move Frodo and the chicks, once hatched, into the big Hospital Cage in the garage and have a run going outside during the day. The main reason was to keep the age-specific food separate so it wouldn’t interfere with laying. I had just started arranging the plastic netting when I realised the chicks would fit right through the holes. Oops! I could have done it with chicken wire, but I started formulating Plan B. The Husband, during his week off this week, suddenly cleared out the other side of the woodshed, which was a hideous job that hadn’t been finished after we moved in. It wasn’t so much a woodshed as a mess shed. Unfortunately, the contents got dumped all over the second chicken pen area in front of the Cedar Garden: huge pieces of log, bits of firewood, pieces of timber of all descriptions and states of usefulness or uselessness, a big lot of dirt full of pieces of rubbish and everything else inbetween. I am not impressed about the chosen dump site, considering I am trying to ready this area for the chickens before they need to move, but I am so glad he got it cleared out that I can’t be too mad. Now that bay of the woodshed has some nicely stacked wood in it to match the other bay: one fresh wood and one aged wood. This pleasing organisation prompted me to clean up in front of the woodshed for the chickens. Then I realised I could fit the Hospital Cage there quite nicely and Plan B began to unfold. Frodo and babies would move there, so everyone could see each other nicely, and when ready to venture out and about, the door would be opened so they could join the others, behaviour pending. I took a wooden food shelter that was floating around aimlessly, and cut some bits of wood to go across the front, leaving a gap at the bottom that only the babies will be able to get under to reach their chick food. This will be in the run near the oldies’ food. I will need to adjust the planks as the littlies get bigger, but they are just screwed in. Hopefully that will work!
Further to this, I needed to deal with The Sticks. This is the pile that somehow accumulated along the back fence and was fenced off from the chickens by the plastic netting that the chicks would be able to get through. My chicken-wiring of the back fence had gone superbly until I got to The Sticks and stopped for some unknown reason… I was in denial when I said we were down to one pruning mountain, as this was just a pruning mountain with a different name. And it was a beast! It was long but dense and has required days and days and numerous sorting piles: compostable sticks, wood for the fire, awkward or diseased branches for the pruning mountain… Also, the neighbour of the paddocks behind us appears to have sprayed the boundary right up to the fence, which I am angry about, as the chickens could have easily reached some of the sprayed foliage. I cut down what sprayed grass and weeds I could that the chickens might reach and bagged it for the rubbish before chicken-wiring some more. It hasn’t helped that I injured my foot and have to try not to push it too hard. Except that I kind of did, and now I have a special shoe to wear. I am still working through the last bits of sticks and wood so that I can finish chicken-wiring the back fence for good so the chicks can’t go a-wandering once they are out. The oldies have been happily digging around in the new ground that I have uncovered. We also moved the rusty metal bin out.
Ok, let’s get on to the chicks. Now, Frodo gave me a scare when I found her in the orchard on Monday, during ‘lockdown’. She was only out for a few minutes (and after all those days I had to get her off the nest myself) but I was a little worried. I reasoned with myself that Frodo knew what she was doing and her own lockdown must be a little later. Too right, for the babies kept me waiting. I kept popping out to check on Frodo and the eggs, again and again like a neurotic jack-in-a-box. I was more nervous and impatient than the first time around! I think a large part of that was because of the eggs of the late and beloved Legolas. There were three under Frodo and not only did I want them to hatch and be ok, I wanted to know which ones they were.
As it was, my great timing plan did not pan out! The first two Frodo eggs were under Frodo when she started sitting one early evening. The next day I put the other seven Frodo eggs under her in the morning and the three Legolas eggs under that evening. I figured the Legolas eggs would be the last three to hatch. Ha! I knew the babies were finally coming when I heard Frodo start to make little noises on Wednesday evening. I was met with three chicks on Thursday morning. The first chick, owing to its size, dryness and dryness of the eggshell, was a Frodo egg, one of the unmarked first two eggs. This is a silver-coloured splash chick temporarily named Number 1. The second and third chicks were from Legolas eggs. The Husband helped me to put a wee cable tie on one leg of each of the first two Legolas babies. That left one Legolas egg, and I had to keep checking to catch which one it was. The fourth chick was another splash chick. The third Legolas baby was a bit tricksy, as I discovered it at the same times as one of the Frodo babies, with similar wetness and wetness of the eggshell. Since one was another splash chick and one was blueish like the other Legolas babies, I assumed the blueish one was the Legolas one. I can never be 100% sure but this is the best I could do! Poor Frodo wasn’t amused with my checking and I got told off with many pecks.
On Thursday evening there were three eggs left, one that had pipped and two that hadn’t. I decided we needed to move Frodo and the chicks into their big cage, which was ready and waiting, as the older chicks were starting to get fidgety and needed food. They had eaten a little off my hand but they needed full access to food and water. I didn’t like to move eggs that hadn’t hatched but it was better for the rest of them, including Frodo, and The Husband helped me to do it very quickly. Frodo settled well into the bigger, more sumptuous nestbox and I put the food right beside her.
The last chick, the black Tiny, was born overnight on Thursday/Friday. There were two eggs left, which I left until Friday afternoon. They hadn’t pipped at all and I couldn’t hear or feel anything coming from them. I was scared to find out what might be inside them but I had to get them away from Frodo, as she was sitting tight and not spending much time showing the babies how to eat or drink. The older ones were getting more fidgety and started pecking at her face. Number 1 repeatedly pecked at her wattle, latched on and drew blood until I intervened. I took the eggs away, sprayed Frodo’s face with a little more purple wound spray than I had intended (oops!) and had a few sessions helping teach the chicks how to eat chick crumbs by tapping at them with my finger and holding some out in my hand. This hatch hasn’t been as easy as the last one due to the longer time taken for all the chicks to hatch. The chicks have been up and about more today and I have helped them to feed a couple of times, which Frodo seemed grateful for. Oh, and as for the two eggs that didn’t hatch, I needn’t have worried about cracking them, as one had stopped growing fairly early on, with a small blob amidst the yolk equivalent to maybe Day 7, and the other even sooner, mostly just yolk. Our candling obviously needs some refining, and we should have checked them all on the second candling! Ah well, at least they didn’t crack or explode.
And so we have a total of ten wee feather babies. Three are splash-based, two are black-based, one is maybe black but maybe blue (they were tricksy with this last time), that is Penguin, and the other four are what I am going to call blue for now. I’m hoping the Legolas babies won’t be a barred colour, which comes out in the opposite gender to the barred parent in a barred to solid colour cross, although Mr Bingley isn’t exactly solid-coloured so it’s difficult to know. I would love more barred chickens but in this case barred = male so I don’t want barred chicks. Assuming Mr Bingley is 3/4 Australorp and 1/4 something else, like Buff Sussex (if Elrond, his Dad, was 1/2 Australorp and 1/2 an eloped Buff Sussex or such), the Frodo babies would be 7/8 Australorp and 1/8 Buff Sussex or such. The Legolas babies would be 1/2 Barred Rock, 3/8 Australorp and 1/8 Buff Sussex or such. That’s not confusing at all hehe. I will be very interested to see how their colours develop. Other than the tagged Legolas babies it is going to be tricky to keep track of who’s who, but I will do my best to take lots of photos! And come up with some boringly descriptive temporary names…
4 thoughts on “A Story of Feather Babies”
I have to admit, I’ve been waiting and waiting for this post! I wanted to find out the fate of the other eggs so badly!
Sorry to hear about your foot! I hope you will okay soon. We use our feet for so much. It’s hard when you injure them and still need to move and do stuff.
The new chicken digs are cool! If I didn’t have so many chickens I would be tempted to put the gate back over the ‘grow up coop’ and let my mommas have that half all to themselves.
But I do have that many chickens (38 with Ashley’s babies), so I’m just leaving them all together like I have been. My chickens don’t seem to mind babies now. I think they are used to the pitter patter of little feet, and the chee-chee-cheep that comes with it. I learned with Abby and Pip not to stress separating the food so much. I offered both chick and layer feed and just let every one eat what they want. They free range anyway and after the babies get big enough (or brave enough) to go outside too, they will eat anything momma shows them. So I just keep a special feeder of just chick feed for them and momma near their nest and not stress it.
But still, I love seeing your coop! I kind of wish the guys had built me a real coop instead of sectioning off part of the barn. It’s not as nice to look at, even if it gets the job done. And I always see other people’s coops and get ideas.
Awwwwww! The new Littles are so cute! The Penguin one looks like my black Australorps, a little. Mine had yellowish white and they turned all black. I’d love to have one with Frodo’s coloring!
Speaking of coloring? Can you get the plastic ties in different colors? You could tag their wee legs and give each color a name, or temporary designation?
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Haha sorry for the delay, I’ve just been a bit busy with the chickens and the jolly Sticks, and a little slower on the feet than usual. I know what you mean, I’m the same with news of your feather babies!
I was worried that when I cracked the last two eggs there would be fully formed chicks inside and I would feel terrible, but I knew I had to take them away as Frodo has such a strong sitting instinct and aside from the older babies needing Frodo’s teaching there would have been too much time difference if they had hatched anyway. I was most relieved not to find baby chicks in them.
You sure have got a lot of chickens! At least you have a lot of space with the barn though. That makes it easier to have them all together. I’m starting to realise that I may need a bigger coop. Or a second one. Just quietly… Whatever the coop looks like, what’s really important at the end of the day is functionality. I’d like to design my own one really. Maybe one day! The Hospital Cage has proved to be very handy. I think Frodo likes having her own space, especially with so many crazy babies to keep an eye on. I have started opening the door every now and then in case she wants to take the chicks out while I’m around. More stories on that later!
The main reason I want to keep the food separate is because the chick starter is medicated and has a 10-day withholding period for eggs, and I don’t want to have to stop eating eggs again. It’s not as big a deal if the oldies eat the grower food (6-8 weeks to at least 13 weeks), although it might affect egg laying. The other thing is I don’t want the youngies to get too much calcium as that can affect their development and I’m a stickler for everything since I’ve had all the chicken troubles. That’s easy to control when they’re small, as I just hang the layer pellets higher (provided Frodo or Mr Bingley don’t get into dropping them on the ground for the chicks too much) but it gets a little harder to keep out of their reach as they get bigger. Hopefully my youngies food box will work.
They are just darling. I am going to have a good look back at my photos of the last lot and see if I can actually match all of them up to their old selves. I do remember I thought I had more blacks than what eventuated. I think Mr Bingley might have been one of the tricksy ones that I thought was going to be black. So I’m just not going to guess with wee Penguin yet! He/she definitely has the classic Australorp chick patterning though. I’m wondering what Darkie will turn out like, as he/she is very dark for a chick. The Legolas chicks seem to be more of a yellow-blue than the Frodo blues, so that makes them stand out a little more. I did think about getting leg tags but figured I could just take a lot of photos to keep track of them so I don’t have to worry about getting them off before they get too small. I’m glad I tagged the Legolas chicks with cable ties though, as the blueish chicks are harder to tell apart when they’re running around. Maybe I’ll get some just in case things get too confusing! You have tags on some of yours, right? How often do you have to change the size?
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Oh, that’s right! You’re separating them because of the cocci and stuff! That makes more sense, now that I remember! If you build a new coop of your own, I’d love to see it. I have visions of my ‘dream coop’ in my head, what it would look like, how many nests, what special areas. I dream of a bigger space and a ‘tree’ of roosts in each corner, going all the way to the ceiling. Like circular stairs. I’ll never get it, but a girl can dream big!
I change bands when the current ones are too tight on their legs. but I use bands you wrap around their legs.
These are the ones I use on the chicks. Possibly from week 3 or 4 on.
Then I switch to these, some where around week 12-15.
I’m using them on my older hens now, too, because they’re the right size for my birds. The red bands were the next size up, and they easily slip off.
I’ve seen people use the plastic ties before. A good benefit is not needing to buy different items. But you’d have to change them more often, I think, as the chicks got bigger, or risk the tie cutting into their leg. I only have to worry about a chick losing their band.
I really needed to band them, because the Rhode Island Reds were so hard to tell apart at first. Now? Not so much. I’ve come to recognize differences in both feather patterns and personality, and that helps. But when they were younger, it wasn’t that easy!
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Your coop dreams sound amazing! My coop dreams aren’t quite that elaborate. I really just want a bigger coop that is easy to access, easy to clean and easy to get the chickens out of at night when I need to. It’s the floor chickens who refuse to sleep on the roost that cause me catching woes at night unless it’s really dark! Oh, and space for a maternity corner would be good too.
Yes, chickens the same colour can be very tricky! I still have trouble telling my blackies apart at a quick glance if they’re moving around. I’m finding it easier to tell the chicks apart now, as two of the Legolas chicks are more yellowy on the beak and legs and the other is Orange Spot. Orange Spot and the blue Frodo chick look similar on the non-spot side, but the Frodo chick is quieter, kind of like the Jane of this hatch at the moment. I might not need bands if I can keep telling them apart but we’ll see. Thanks for the links. It would definitely be good to have some on hand if I do need them.
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