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Decorating the Nursery August 26, 2006

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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I “blogged” a couple of weeks ago about our disappearing poultry and the supposed predator. We still haven’t verified that we have a snake problem, but the chicks and their mothers needed to be moved to a better location anyway. Living in the basement of the nesting box high-rise is no way for a chick to grow up!

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Tuesday evening, Joe and I managed to find about an hour and a half after dinner to recreate the “nursery” adjoining the chicken yard. (It’s mighty hard to find that time with Cub Scouts on one night, church another, etc., but it does our hearts and psyches good to get to spend even a little time in joint effort on a farm project. We’ve got to create more of these opportunities to feel like we’ve accomplished something and enjoy something we love).

Last fall, I had built nice little “single family dwelling” brooding houses to provide safe shelter for the mamas and their broods. I was truthfully a bit proud of these since I pretty much designed and built them myself (Joe cut most of the wood for me). They have hinged roofs so you can clean them out easily (this is also a handy feature when “re-locating” a broody and her eggs). They have doors that act as awnings to keep rain out or can be closed for more warmth at night. I even primed and painted them so they would look nice and last a while. (All they needed was a little picket fence around them!) They were used by last season’s mothers until the chicks were independent and then they all began sleeping in the henhouse (although Sgt. Black, the one with bad arthritis, let her “babies” keep sleeping with her in the nesting boxes until they were far too big to all fit).

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This spring, the broodies have been very obstinate. I moved them and their eggs into the brooding coops during the night. At first light, many of them ran right back to the henhouse and sat on fresh eggs.

To solve this problem, I had moved the coops down into the barn stall and used the “nursery” fencing to make a yard off the stall door. That did help the hens to stay in the brooding coops, but I created a new problem. All the chicks hatched out down there refuse to call the henhouse (75 yards away) “home” and still try to roost there even as “teenagers”.

New plan- to keep the new chicks up near the other chickens AND to try to stop our predator problem, we rebuilt the “nursery” adjoining the existing chicken yard. Almost all of the pen is made of chicken wire. This may not keep snakes out, but they should be too fat to get back out if they do eat a chick. At least we could eliminate them then.

After dark on Tuesday evening, we moved the mamas and their babies to the coops. It was an interesting dilemma to figure out what to do with the mamas who were “sharing” one chick. We put them in separate boxes (but didn’t divide the child in half 🙂 ). By morning, they were both herding the chick around and feeding it. To solve the “who is going to keep the baby warm?” question, they compromised. One hen sits on the chick and the other sits halfway on the first hen. Looks uncomfortable and hot to me, but if it makes them happy…

Remember the feedpan mama? Well, she was one who refused to use a brooding coop. Stubborn and dim-witted as she was, she insisted on sleeping outside, down near the barn, well away from Klondike, her protector. One morning, she was missing and 2 orphans were crying pitifully under the honeysuckle tree. They were only a few days old, so I wasn’t sure if they’d make it. I decided to try to adopt them out.orphanone8-22-06.JPG

(It’s hard to tell from the picture because this baby is so darkly colored, but the fuzz on the back half is matted down.  I’m pretty sure that is dog slobber).

The orphans looked just like almost all the other chicks that have hatched lately and they all sound the same to me, so I didn’t think it should be that hard, especially since two hens were sharing one chick. Wouldn’t they each rather have their own child if given the chance? But no, things cannot be that easy.

I tried leaving them loose near the sharing mothers, but they both ignored them. I tried putting them in a box with another mother, but she quickly chased them out. Then Russia, a black Silkie prone to broodiness, hatched two chicks and I gave it another shot.

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(Here Russia is having a “bad hair day”).

When Joe and I moved Russia and her 2 chicks to a brooding box, we put the orphans in under her. I hoped that during the night, they would all get used to the sounds of each other and bond. It didn’t happen the first night, but we put them all back again a second time and it seems to have worked so far.wrongsiderussia8-23-06.JPG

(Here you can see that Russia, though a good mother, is not that bright. Despite a wing trimming, she hopped on top of the brooding coop, then over the fence. This left her 2 hatchlings and 2 adopted chicks inside the nursery with no way to follow. WHY can the chickens not figure out how to get back IN if they can figure out how to get OUT?! ChickenMama to the rescue again- I opened the gate).

 

I’m not sure how these postings get so long, but I’ll end it here. More soon.

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Comments»

1. Pastor Josh - August 26, 2006

Great post. The chickens like it in the grass better any way. Just have to watch out for those pesty hawks. Have a great weekend.

2. Coming Through…Every Chicken for Himself! « The Farm Chronicles of Blessed Acres - October 3, 2006

[…] Last fall, I had several hens go broody at what I thought was an odd time- the beginning of October. I do so hate to waste a good broody hen, so I bought some eggs from breeders auctioning fertile eggs on eBay. The clutch set by arthritic Sgt. Black included a few of this and that from a lady who bred quite a few varieties. Out of that hatching, I got 3 Silkies (remember Russia, so named for her “fur” hat?), 1 Frizzle who looks like she had a perm, and a pair of Mille Fleurs. They are a French bantam breed and the name translates to “Thousand Flowers,” because of the many black and while spots on the feather tips. […]


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