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I Love My Reclaimed Wood Coop

In the Fall of 2015 my husband and I made the decision to tear our back porch off the house. We had found  (during a stre...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Broody - Learning Experience #528


I have had the amazing pleasure, over the last few months, of having a couple of broody hens. It has been so fun and yet another learning experience. 

So, it all started with Pepper. Pepper is our Bantam Silkie and sweet roo who is too small to mate most of our hens. So, to save the ones he can reach from overmating, we decided to get a couple ladies for him. I contacted the person we got Pepper from and asked if she had any Silkie girls we could buy. She had two Partridge ladies and apparently one of them was currently broody, but without eggs.

I picked them up a night or so later and the seller was kind enough to throw some call duck eggs my way, for the broody. I got them home and set them both up in our small coop, to get them integrated, and popped the call duck eggs underneath the broody (she is now known as Coco). Over the next couple of weeks, the ladies hung out together and Coco stayed on those eggs, doing a wonderful job. Wookie (the non-broody lady) came out to play with the rest of the chickens and was immediately welcomed (by Pepper, in particular) or ignored. It was perfect. Meanwhile, Coco plugged away with seven fertile eggs.

It was about day 30 when they decided to pip, but remain inside the eggs. One of them ended up with a broken up egg and died and two others didn't make it either, so Coco hatched out four tiny, tiny Call Duck babies. 

Then, despite them all being isolated from everyone else, in our small coop, the first two ducklings to hatch disappeared (see the sweet picture above). My husband and I looked everywhere, but eventually came to the conclusion that a snake had gotten itself a solid meal. We immediately removed the poultry wire, since they were locked in a secure run, we had only worried about the other chickens getting to them, and attached some hardware cloth all around, plugging up any tiny holes. It worked, and the two remaining babies stuck with their mommy tight.


As this was my first broody, I was unsure what to expect and totally unaware of how good of a Mommy chickens are. Coco was amazing to these babies. They are much bigger than she is now and would still be cuddling with her at night if it wasn't for her hatching some more babies right now. 

One of my more entertaining moments with Coco and her babies was when she decided they needed a bath and tried to teach them dust bathing.  The poor babies didn't know what was going on. So, I ended up picking up the ducklings and taking them inside for a bath, while Coco took some time to soak in her dirt for a bit. 
Next up was Wookie, the other Silkie hen who went broody a few weeks after Coco hatched her ducklings. We didn't have any fertile eggs for her and I was unsure if we really wanted to let her hatch any - for about a second - then I called a local farm and asked if they had any fertile eggs. They did and I ran out and grabbed a dozen. I put them all under Wookie and decided to let her decide how many she could handle. In the end, 7 of them stayed under her and developed. She hatched out all 7 babies, but two of them she pushed away and they died while still wet. She apparently knew something the rest of us didn't, so five babies it was.

Wookie was an amazing Mommy, teaching them how to eat, bath, everything that a Mommy does. They decided to hatch on the coldest day of the year and since the other two had died cold, I brought Wookie and her brood inside for about a week, to ride out the 10 degree weather in the warmth. 

Now, when the babies made it to about four weeks old, we came home and Wookie has disappeared. We have been doing a few things to keep hawks away, but it wasn't enough. Two days after Wookie disappeared, her baby, Lemon, also disappeared. With the loss of Wookie, we fenced in a shaded area and hung owl reflectors. When we lost Lemon, we hung more pie plates and kept a closer watch. Then we had a third attack. I was home during the day and heard the crows outside. I went out to watch everyone and saw the hawk sitting in my yard, she had grabbed another baby, my favorite one, Izzy the roo. I was able to get him back, but he was too badly injured and died shortly after. 

At that point, I brought out the big guns (not literally). We built a scarecrow and multiple coverage areas (cool gazebo below) for them to hide under. It didn't take log for the doodles to figure it all out and we have not lost anymore, thank goodness.

So, today, Coco is hatching another batch, this time it's her own eggs, fertilized by Pepper, the Silkie roo. We have two that have appeared so far and I am anxiously waiting on the remaining five eggs.

So, here's what I have learned about the broody hen:
  1. They are WAY better at hatching eggs than I am. Balancing the heat and humidity is not my forte. I can manage to hatch a couple of eggs here and there, but a broody knows what she's doing. The Call Ducks were Coco's first set and she was eight months old at the time. She did great.
  2. When babies are outside, instead of inside the house in a brooder, you have to think of snakes and animals that will only go for babies. This batch Coco is hatching today is completed enclosed in a small coop with hardware cloth. I found a hole about the size of a silver dollar and cut a small piece of cloth for it too. No risks!
  3. Hawks love bantams and teenage chicks as well. I have never lost a standard hen to a hawk and my ducks do fine as well, but the little ones are fair game. When these get bigger, they will only be out under my watchful eye until they are grown.
  4. Watching a broody teach their babies after the hatch is simply wonderful. The safety and comfort they give is beautful. 
  5. This was kind of sad, but wonderful as well - if a Silkie Mommy disappears or dies, a Silkie Daddy will step in and take care of the babies just as well. When Wookie disappeared, Pepper stepped in and he did everything she did, including sitting on them at night for warmth. Even though they're too big now at 9 weeks, they still snuggle with Daddy every night.
And here is Coco with her beautiful first baby chick, the only egg that wasn't hers. This is Mabel, our 1/2 Sapphire 1/2 Pepper baby. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Doodle Review: Once Upon a Flock



When I first dove into the world of backyard chicken-keeping, the connection I felt to my ladies and the desire to just sit, drink coffee, and watch them was something I wasn't sure spoke for a healthy mental state.  I found myself fascinated by their individuality and quirky behaviors. It didn't take me long to realize that, even though I had gotten chickens of all the same breed and color, they were very different and needed names, something I hadn't considered initially. It also wasn't long, before I was completely in love. The author, Lauren Scheur, perfectly validates this experience in Once Upon a Flock: Life With My Soulful Chickens

Much like Lauren, I not only love my flock, but I also have a love for power tools and being outside in my backyard. Creating and learning has been one of my favorite parts of keeping chickens and is clearly hers as well. She breaks out the books and tools when she gets an idea, even building a small, low to the ground coop for a special needs chicken, much like one we built for our Cornish X hen we couldn't bring ourselves to have for dinner. She even has a Buff Orpington who acts like a weenie, just like mine. 

This sweet, easy to read, book is something everyone who has a small backyard flock should read. The author deals with different personalities, broodiness, health issues, and the surprise of having a boy when you don't want to annoy your neighbors. A delightful addition to the stories are her illustrations. She manages to weave words, photography and these perfect drawings to lure the reader into loving her flock as much as she does. I read this book in two evenings and I highly recommend you do the same.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Story of Rico, Our Black Copper Maran


Finding complete posts showing chickens of a certain breed from start to laying is a challenge. I use the Google image search quite a bit, but even that is limited to what is out there. So, I have just a few breeds that I can use, but I thought it might be nice to do a post, for each breed and gender of chicken I have, for everyone to see what mine looked like at each phase in life. I chose to start with one of my ladies that I am waiting to start laying right now and I'll update the post when she finally steps up.

Rico is a Maran I hatched myself. The eggs were purchased locally from someone who has both Blue and Black Copper Marans that intermingle, so we can't be positive if they are a mix of the two (although still completely a maran) or not. Now that she is 20 weeks old, I am convinced she is a Black Copper Maran. She has never shown any signs of blue coloring and the egg she hatched from was fairly dark. Take a look for yourself and feel free to let me know what you think!

Rico hatched in my DIY hatcher (a 10 gallon aquarium with bubble wrap and a homemade lid) on March 10th while my livestream was down and I wasn't home. So, I didn't get the privilege of seeing her emerge. I did see the original pip and it took 26 hours after for her to go ahead and make her way into the world. 

She was also the only baby to hatch from those eggs. I am apparently not excellent at hatching and it's been a challenge for me to figure out. Luckily, I got one hen from these Maran eggs, however. The woman who I bought the eggs from also gave me more to try and none of those worked for me either. I plan to try again in the Spring and see how things go. Anyway, until then, at least I have Rico. 
Because she was alone for a few days, my husband and I made a point to hold and interact with her as much as possible. We had a few chicks that were a couple of weeks older and wanted to make sure she was ready to handle them before we introduced her. 

The first evening, after she was out of the hatcher, we took her into our room to let her find warmth snuggling with us. She was still a little wobbly, but moved around pretty well and found a favorite place in my husbands hair, tucked behind his ear. We cracked up at how much she looks like a penguin, so James named her Rico, after thePenguins of Madagascar. It was a good move, she has become hilariously skittish as she's gotten older. She actually hides behind bushes and runs between them, then hides, then runs again. It's hysterical.

After a few days, we started introducing her to the other chicks and observing to see how everyone would do. It turned out that it was no issue at all. They all accepted Rico just fine and she thought they were pretty cool. 


Two weeks to the day after Rico hatched, I hatched my first ever grocery store egg in an experiment.Marsha is a Ameraucana/Brahma mix and we decided to go ahead and put the older chicks outside and let Rico and Marsha hang out together in the brooder. We did not realize at that time the friendship we were creating, they are still inseparable almost 5 months later. 

On day 15 for Rico, I decided to take several pictures to see what changes were happening and take a guess as to gender. I took a stab at feather-sexing and was so wrong. We believed for a long time that Rico was a little roo, but she's definitely not. The first time I saw her squat I was like, waaaiiiittt a minute.

She was fairly slow to feather and had a regular stance that was very tall and proud looking.  Her feathers also formed the L shape that some cockerels do. I say some, because I have been right most of the time with feather-sexing, but not as often as I would like. 

She is not a show quality French Black Copper Maran, as her legs are not as feathered as they should be. However, she has one little feather on each foot (and still does) and I find it endearing.
At three weeks, she and Marsha were living together comfortably in the brooder and Rico was really starting to show some growth. She still looked like a penguin and the feathers on each foot were more predominant.

At four weeks and two days old her feathering was really starting to show and she looked more like a little cockerel than ever. The back of her neck reminded me of a Barred Rock roo I had sold as a little one. It looked like Rod Stewart. 


As you can see in the pix, she had the funny little teenager bald spots. She was adorable and I felt it was time to start letting them play outside a little. 

A month to the day after Rico hatched, I took her and Marsha outside to check out the yard for a little while. They stuck together closely, but managed to wander a little bit before I took them back to their brooder.

Rico and Marsha were moved outside on April 16th and enjoyed a dust bath outside for the first time that day.

 The following two pictures were taken on May 2nd, only a little over 2 weeks after the dust bath video, she's 7 1/2 weeks old. It's amazing how much she has changed! Her feathers are in, but she still has a little bit of white at this point. This was also the time I started to suspect she was a lady instead of a boy.

Rico became harder and harder to take pictures of. This was her and Marsha's sneaking around the yard time. I managed to take this one of her on May 11th (two months old) in the dust bathing area,even though Marsha was protecting her. She is just starting to get the brown on her neck.


On June 12th, she is 3 months and 2 days old, and the only way I could get close to her was through the fencing. 

Rico is just now starting to calm down a little and mingle with the other hens. She and Marsha are still thick as thieves, but at least she will let me venture near her and take pictures now. She is really a beautiful hen and her comb is coming in nicely. She's a little over 20 weeks old here and I've seen her squat once. This is my favorite picture of her. She almost looks like she's smiling. 


Rico gave us her first egg on August 12, 2016! The 1st picture below is a picture I took the day I collected her first egg. I was so proud of her! It's the beautiful dark brown egg, 2nd from the left.


The picture below was taken a couple of days later, when Rico gave us her second egg. It was a little darker and a little larger. On the right, the darker, spotter egg is her 1st and the dark brown egg on the left is her second.

Go Rico!