Friday, May 27, 2016

Chicken Drama - Part II

Who knew I was going to have to serve in the capacity of private investigator, and genetics inspector when my son brought our first six hens home that were given to him?


I had no idea what I was getting into when he asked if he could bring the six banty hens home that a neighbor he was working for wanted to use as barter for payment for his work.


I also had no idea how much love was going to spill out of my heart for these funny, bordering on eccentric ladies who came to live with us.



Or how much I was going to learn about the beautiful and amazing way the Lord created chickens and how you have to learn to work with the way they were created, and not against.


I have been so amazed at how a little hen who has never been a mother before just KNOWS how to take care of an adopted chick.   Poor Bella is at the bottom of the roost "totem pole" so to speak. She is always picked on by some of the other hens because she is so small.  You see her head? The other chickens have picked out her feathers while she was broody.


Bella has become an amazing mother to poor little Buttercup.  I have literally spent hours watching them together, because it is so incredible to see how Bella interacts with and talks to Buttercup, and how she keeps *him* perfectly safe.


Did you catch that?  Him?


Yes... indeed.  Buttercup is a rooster!  Of that I have no doubt now.  And... Pepper is a rooster too!  I'll show you below just how I know...


Our chicken coop is daily changing in design.  Now that I have three different stages of baby chicks in one coop, I have had to get very creative in how to keep things running smoothly.  My greenhouse has become a "cage" of sorts during the day for Salt & Pepper.  They don't have a momma to keep them warm, and I was still having to keep the red light on for them.  However, some of the other hens have figured out how to get past the chicken wire over their caged area, and come into their little spot and lay their eggs under the light.  So, I've moved these two into the greenhouse, where it is warm, they don't need a light, and there is dirt for them to peck around and scratch in.  A win-win!


Who would have thought a greenhouse could also serve as a chicken coop? Not me... but like I said... things are constantly evolving because of the three stages of chicks that we are currently in.


Have you noticed a difference between these two chicks? Look closely!  They are black sexlink chicks.  Pepper was hatched by us, and Salt was picked up at a feed store as a companion for Pepper.  If you will notice their tail feathers, do you see one that is pointed and longer? Well, that tail belongs to Pepper!  So far, we have hatched out two roosters, and Salt came from the feed store and is indeed a hen.

It is a gamble in the chick-hatching business, as I've discovered.  I've learned several things about how to identify roosters:

1. If you put your hand into the pen where the baby chicks are, the rooster chick is the one who will approach you first. If you are attempting to discern who is a rooster, and who isn't, even at the feed store (because sometimes sexing doesn't work!), remember that the first one to approach you is most likely a rooster, because hens, by nature, run when they sense danger, while roosters come to meet it.  You can usually tell a rooster by this within a day or two of his life.  My husband and I were already concerned that Pepper was a rooster, but were hoping that because I was his only momma that he was coming to me because he was lonely... nope! My theory held true, in spite of the fact that I wanted it to be wrong! Lol!

2.  You can tell a rooster by the tuft of tail feathers that begin to grow as early as a few days old.

3.  Roosters can generally be hatched at cooler temperatures than hens.  If your eggs get cold at all (which some of ours did at times because of other hens pushing our broody hens off the eggs), then the eggs which hold hens will not hatch.  Rooster eggs can take a bit cooler temperatures and still hatch.

Those are just three of my hands-on experience with roosters, and how to know early on if you have one or not.

I suspect this is why most people buy their chicks from the feedstore where they are sexed, instead of hatching out a whole lot of roosters on your own, lol!


I'm not sure what to rename Buttercup.  He really is the CUTEST little thing you ever saw!   My husband suggested Butterball... but I'm not ready for him to have that name... yet!


Bella is doing an amazing job of teaching Buttercup how to forage for food already.  Here they are mixing and mingling with the other hens and Rudy.


I wondered how Rudy would feel about little Buttercup.  He ruffled his feathers up and got down low when Buttercup first entered the arena.  I spoke sharply to Rudy, and he settled back down, and since then, I have not noticed any issues.


It has been amazing to watch the interaction of Bella and Buttercup.  She will pick at something, and drop it and cluck.  Buttercup will come and eat it, as she has crushed it up for him.  Every 5-10 minutes or so, she will just sit where she is at, and Buttercup will run under her feathers to warm up.


Bella has a very specific "language" when talking to Buttercup that I haven't heard before, and Buttercup seems to understand and obey.  When something that she suspects is dangerous approaches, she has a special cluck that Buttercup obeys, and he scurries under her feathers.


If she finds some food that is particularly yummy, she has a special cluck for that too. In fact, I've noticed some of the other hens come running too when she makes that sound... it must be a common thing for chickens to communicate about what kind of food they have found.


So here we are... having hatched out two roosters, and a new hen that we got from the feed store... and Goldie, our other broody Orpington banty who is sitting on four eggs that are soon to be hatched.  The drama will continue, of that I have no doubt!

I have made some changes in the coop to keep Goldie secluded and only sitting on her eggs.  I hope this effort will result in us successfully hatching a hen.  Momma Mia is our one and only hen that we have hatched successfully from eggs.  I hope out of the four eggs Goldie is sitting on that we get some hens.  Time will tell... stay posted for that story in a few days {smiles}.



In other news... the wild strawberries are here!  I saw this beautiful strawberry yesterday, and what a delight it was to pop in my mouth, so sweet and tender! We have many more that will be ready in just a few days all over our yard!



Apparently a momma robin has decided that the chicken coop is a great place to hatch her babies.  I watched her build this nest over the last couple of days.

We took Annie and Roger for a walk in the woods, and the display of green was astounding!  We have had the most amazing spring, with above-normal warm temperatures and yet lots of rain!


Beautiful lupins adorning the landscape.


Roger is happy to roam around us as we hike.  We have learned we can let him off the leash, and he stays close by.


Annie is NOT so trustworthy... not at all.  We have tried different times to let her off the leash, each time only to have her run and chase something, completely ignoring our calls to come back.  So... she had to watch while Roger got to roam...

We have a busy weekend coming up with a wedding to attend.  I hope that all of you have a safe and blessed holiday weekend as we remember those who sacrificed all for our country.  :)

24 comments:

  1. Whew I was happy that nothing bad has happened to little Buttercup. Which by the way I think is a perfect name regardless that he's a Rooster or will be. I once had a cat named, Rosebud that as a kitten when I took it to the vet was told is was a "Rocky" as we renamed it instead. - Such fun learning about raising chickens. Oh wild strawberries, they are fun to eat but they are so tiny you need a lot of them to make a shortcake with. We have local berries here right now, yum! Have a great time at the wedding. Heading up to my brother's cabin tomorrow for a BBQ in the mountains.

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    1. Oh I had to laugh at y our story about Rosebud, aka Rocky, lol... as we had a cat once whom we named Prince. But "he" quickly got renamed Princess after a litter of kittens appeared, lol!

      Yes, there is so much learn about raising chickens, and each breed brings its own peculiarities too! I thought I was going to get some strawberries, but most of them did not bring forth the berry, just the bloom :( Lucky you to have the local berries there now, none here yet! We had a wonderful time at the wedding, and hope you had a special time at the BBQ!!

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  2. Sounds like fun times! I love observing animals...it's the best way to learn.

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    1. I agree... we can learn so much from our animals!!! Always appreciate your visit :)

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  3. Buttercup is the chicks name...smiles. I always enjoy your posts...have a safe and happy weekend.

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    1. Thanks Linda, we had a great weekend, and Buttercup is happy he is keeping his name :)

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  4. What a dear sweet post. Chickens really are amazing. You CAN'T do Butterball it makes me think of EATING (turkey)...lol It is wonderful that you have come to embrace and love those six chicks your son brought home. Have a wonderful time at the weekend wedding. xo Diana

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    1. You're right... Buttercup is his name, and that's it! :) We had a great time at the wedding, it was so beautiful! Hope you had a lovely weekend yourself :)

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  5. I always enjoy your chicken tales! I am a farm girl at heart so I could listen to you chat about them all day long. Have fun at the wedding! :)

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    1. I never thought I would get so attached to the chickens, but they are so funny to watch, one just can't help but love them! We had a great time at the wedding - hope your weekend was wonderful! :)

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  6. What a fun post! I love it! Our daughter just discovered that one of her four chicks is a rooster. I sent her this link.
    She LOVES her chickens, too!
    Aw! The robin! I love the robbies.

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    1. I hope my stories help your daughter, I am just learning as I go too! Hope that you had a lovely Memorial Day weekend!!

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  7. I enjoyed your drama story, it must be so hard to watch when one is being picked (or should I say "pecked" on). I'm so happy that Buttercup now has a mom and is being protected. I love that name, even if he turned out to be a boy. What a sweet little guy!

    Enjoy your weekend!

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    1. He is the cutest little thing! It is just so amazing to watch them out in the yard! I saw him jump on his momma's back today and just hang on for the ride, so funny! Chickens are great entertainment, that is for sure! Hope you had a lovely Memorial Day weekend!!

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  8. I loved the story. Oh my, Buttercup / Butterball ... I am in love with that sweetheart and his adoption story is the best.
    Have a blessed weekend,
    Carla

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    1. It has been a wonderful thing to watch the interaction between momma and her baby, for sure! We had a wonderful weekend - hope you did too!!

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  9. Marilyn, the saga continues and I am entranced! I am so excited to tell you that we ordered our chicken coop kit and extended pen. It should arrive early June and we then need to prep it (weatherproof it etc) and then build it upon some treated wood (so it doesn't sit directly upon the ground). We plan on putting it next to our big fenced in vegetable/fruit garden and make it connect to the garden via a small sliding door. They can be in the garden when we are home and in their pen when we are not.

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    1. Yes, the saga continues, and no doubt will for a while, lol! I'm so excited to hear that you are starting your very own chicken coop - it will be quite an adventure, lots of learning, and fun for all! I will tell you that the chickens will destroy your garden during planting and growing seasons, but do a great job fertilizing and turning it when it is not planted. You might need a backup plan for the summer when you are planting. I'm running into that problem here, lol! I wish you the best of luck!!!!

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  10. Well, here's to all your fluffy friends!

    What a sweet way to end this holiday weekend ...

    ;-}

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    1. They are quite endearing aren't they! Hope you had a lovely weekend!!!

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  11. How interesting! I did not know you could identify roosters that early! Little Buttercup is just so cute and I'm glad he has someone to protect him!

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    1. I had heard it before, but never had a hen and rooster chick side by side so that the comparison was so obvious! It is a good thing to remember if you are buying chicks from the feed store, because even though they are "sexed", they are not 100% for sure. The hand in the pen is the best way to tell. Hens naturally run... roosters naturally advance, it is in their nature. I've been learning a lot by experience, lol! Hope you had a wonderful weekend!!

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  12. Thank you for the lesson on how to tell hims from hers in the chicken world. :) I love how Bella nd Buttercup have become their own little family. That is just too sweet!

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  13. I'm so overjoyed to read that your cute Buttercup is doing well !!!
    sending blessings on your weekend ahed, dearest friend of mine, I so love to be part of your country life !

    Hope you're having a beautiful week I'm sending blessings of joy on your coming days

    xox Dany

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