The sad chicken update – Y’grette and Twank are both gone too now. The fox kept coming by, and scared them out of the run. I didn’t think that was possible, but there was a hole in the roof of the run, and I’m assuming the two of them flew out of the hole to escape, only to realize they were much less safe up there.
So now I have just the three hens. Mini Dora, who also left the run with the other two, but once again, escaped certain death somehow. She even lasted overnight, and just came casually strolling up to me the following morning when I went out. “There you are! I’ve been waiting for my breakfast for hours!”
And of course, the other two full sized hens, who have still not moved from their spots trying to hatch those eggs. It really is a good survival strategy for them, they have survived every single fox attack this way.
In spite of my terrible luck with adult chickens, I’ve been having incredible luck with baby chickens. I’m now up to 12 little chicks, having found the most recent one this morning.
As I’ve now had some experience picking up chicks, the best way to get the chick is to fend off the mother with a stick of wood while carefully snatching up the chick. Yes, I am serious. Those hens are vicious, angry birds. The hen below, Buffalo G. Orphington, will sit perfectly still until you get close. Then she’ll let out a growl and turn into a tiny alligator, snapping at anything in her space. She’s drawn blood. I use a small piece of flat lumber so it has the dual purpose of blocking her vision while I steal her young. Sometimes it works, and other times, I have to retreat back to the house to get reinforcements. I will summon Dave, and he will reach in there and take the chick while completely ignoring the raging hen. He’s a much braver person than I.
One day, I was coming up from the barn and saw Buffalo laying out in the run. This is incredibly surprising since I haven’t seen her move (other than to viciously attack) in weeks. As I approached, I saw there was a tiny chick hurrying about around her. I guess they had some kind of communication going, because as I came closer, the chick moved to hid in a little nook behind one of the legs of the coop.
In all my experience with chickens, I’ve learned one very valuable thing. Chickens are terrible mothers, or at least mine are. This time around, my hens have been responsible for the death of two chicks. One I found outside the run, all alone, damaged beyond repair, and another one I found with a broken neck, laying right outside the hen’s nest. After that, we determined that all chicks would be removed from the hens and brought inside to the brooder to be raised by responsible parents (us).
Seeing this chick out of the coop, and with its mother in the run was incredible surprising. It’s the most interest any of the hens has shown in their offspring. I was actually tempted for a moment to let them be, but unfortunately, there was no way that chick would be able to make it back up the ladder into the coop, and I had no idea if the mother would end up leaving it there when night came. I had to retrieve it.
I entered the run, and Buffalo didn’t move, just as always. She was directly blocking the chick, and since I am afraid of this vengeful chicken, I hesitated about picking her up to move her. I tried to reach around her, but I couldn’t get close enough to the chick, and I was afraid the chick would get squished in my attempts to grab her. I left the run, went around to the side of it, and could see the chick easily, although it would have been very hidden if I hadn’t known it was there. I didn’t know what else to do, so I took a blade of grass and gave it a poke.
The chick squealed, and ran from it’s hiding place, and started whizzing around the run in a panic. Buffalo got up, and started squawking and rushing with it. They did move to a better spot to grab, but when I went in, the chick took off the other direction, back into the run where I couldn’t get it. Then, it actually went right through the wires of the run and out into the open. I was not expecting that at all.
I went back around, and that started the dance of the chick trying to get back into the run, getting caught in the wire, backing out, me lunging at it to catch it, Buffalo screaming and lunging at me, the chick going back into the wire, me backing off because I didn’t want it hurt, and Buffalo panicking more. This lasted probably ten minutes. Eventually I managed to scoop it up right as it backed out of the wire, and I began to triumphantly carry the chick off, but Buffalo was screeching now, and following me along the inside of the run.
I decided to try to lure her into the coop using the chick, because I wasn’t sure how long a chicken would panic about losing its chick. I went back into the coop, and Buffalo ran at me, clearly with the intent to cause damage. She was frantically doing ninja kicks, but luckily I had on defensive boots. I immediately abandoned the plan of using the chick, and went to plan B, boot the chicken backwards until it goes into the coop. This was a great plan, and I shoved Buffalo back up the ladder and slammed the door. When I checked on her later, she was back to her silent vigil of sitting on eggs.
The chick however, was very upset about this parting. I put it into the brooder with the other chicks, and it spent the next hour cheeping in distress, and trying to jump out of the brooder. The other chicks were all bewildered by this, and they clustered together to watch this incredibly active newcomer.
Everyday we search the coop for more chicks. Some days, it’s easier, as we can hear the cheeping. Other days, the chicks are silent. One day, we heard cheeping all day but could not locate a chick. Then, we figured out it was still in the egg cheeping. That one we brought in shortly after hatching, still damp. It spent some time on a towel, sitting on our laps, taking a snooze while it dried.
One morning, I heard the distress cheeping as I walked down to the coop. Upon opening it up, I found a little chick who was several feet away from the hens, rejected, or just confused. I picked it up, and it spent the day with me, happily sleeping in my lap. Dave took it from me at one point, but it cried until it heard my voice. Dave returned it to me, and it slept on.
We’ve spent time with the others, and they enjoy sleeping in our hands. So far, it’s looking like they will be very friendly chickens, except for the oldest chicken, who spent enough time with her grouchy mother hen that she might have already absorbed her attitude.
The older ones are starting to get too big, so soon they will be back out in the coop. I don’t know how many more will be born, but I’m planning an even split with my neighbor, so that’ll give us each 6 chicks. The hens are running out of eggs at this point, and I’m surprised any of them are still hatching, I feel like they’d be much too old at this point. Although one attempt to get a chick did end with a hen hurling an egg at me, which exploded on my leg, and of course, turned out to be rotten, stinking and absolutely disgusting. I think I have to burn the pants now. The hens didn’t think so though, and they actually got up from their spots to eat the remains of the rotten egg. It was an effective defense though, I ran off crying, smelling like rotten egg, and had Dave retrieve the chick instead.
In all this, the good news is that our little Mini Dora has become super friendly, coming up to chatter with us, easy to pick up and hold. I’m guessing this is purely out of boredom, as I can only imagine how boring it is to hang out all day with two other chickens that barely move.