Friday, May 31, 2013

You're My Satellite

There is something extremely special about watching a mother hen with her chicks.  I will never tire of it!  We are now 10 days into the lives of our newest chicks.  They are very attached to their mother, Grun.  She puffs her feathers up like a turkey and clucks softly, communicating with them.  They are quick.  It's hard to get pictures of them that are not blurred.  In a split second, they scurry around and dive under Grun for cover if something seems amiss.  Grun is very protective of them.  She will go after any hen who dares to get near her chicks.  It is also very cool to watch her 'tidbit' treats to them.  She will tear pieces off of whatever treat she finds and leave them for the chicks.  I have witnessed the chicks finding worms and slurping them up like spaghetti!

Amazing as it is, I do not think the big girls even care about the chicks.  They are all floating around the yard in their own little orbits.  The big girls and Lila travel together, Grun and her babies hang close to the coop, their pen and hide under the bush in the chicken garden, the cat roams around and flops into the grass not getting too close to any of the birds, but not caring that they are around and then there is Phoenix. 

Poor little Phoenix.  He is now getting close to a month old. His feathers are coming in and honestly, with the heat we've been having, I would put him out now.  Only one's orbits include him.  He's a total loner relying on his humans to protect him.  He sticks close to us and often runs to our feet when he's scared.  He will even climb up my arm to the safety of my shoulder.  I feel sometimes like my cockatiel is back from the dead.  Only Chickens don't make as good pets as caged birds and I'll never get him to say Birdy Birdy or Wanna Come Out?  He cuddles up to the blue stuffed bear Trent offered him in the brooder.  He's a pretty curious and pleasant guy and he is definitely all rooster.  His comb has enlarged significantly and is turning red.  He stands erect and tall as he surveys the world around him.  He even prances when he walks in that proud rooster way.  He's going to be beautiful.  I am prepared to possibly have him butchered.  Partly because he will be a good young bird, partly because his father is a jack ass and the apples don't usually fall far from the tree, but the main reason is I just don't think he'll fit in.  By taking him away from Grun, I think I screwed his chances of bonding with the flock.  Time will tell, and once she loses interest in the chicks (I read that can happen as early as 4 weeks), I will move her back with the big gals and move Phoenix in with the chicks.  Hopefully they will accept him.  As far as the chicks go, I've been reading everything I can about sexing them.  So far, no one's combs seem to be enlarging and that was apparent with Phoenix pretty early.  The Ameraucana's do have different style combs, though, so the difference in breeds might make the signs harder to notice.  Our suspected frizzle does not seem to be showing frizzled.  All 3 chicks feathers are laying as they should against the skin.  That is a bummer, but we are very lucky that all 3 chicks have different colorings!  The woman who sold me the eggs said she got mostly the black chicks with the chestnut head.  That chick's feathers are coming in brown speckled and so far, it has the longest tail feathers of the 3.  The gray and black chicks seem to be feathering in as expected....solid black feathers on the wings of the black one, and solid gray feathers on the wings of the gray one.  I will have to keep watching for clues on the sex.  I'm hoping that all 3 will be females and Phoenix will be able to replace Lila and all will be well.  If we get any more boys, we will have some tough decisions to make!  One neat thing....the little chestnut head has leg feathers.  I'm not sure what breed the frizzled parent was, but it must be something with leg feathers.  I wish I had gotten pics of the parents!  We still don't have suitable names....Blackie, Brownie and Mouse have come up.  We are so original!  hahaha 

I initially bought medicated feed as I felt that was giving the chicks the best start.  We have finished the 2 small bags and I bought a 50lb bag of grower feed from Brown's Feed Mill.  They do not have organic, but I got non-medicated now as I do not feel they need it anymore.  The babies with Grun look awesome (yes, when I catch them, I do look at their butts!) and Phoenix is by himself and does not seem to have any sticky butt issues either, which is the main issues with the young birds.  I do think the chances of disease is much less when the mom raises, vs a brooder situation.  Glad things are going well!

You're my satellite...
You're riding with me tonight...
Passenger side, lighting the sky, Always the first star that I find.
You're my satellite. -Chorus from "Satellite" by the band Guster

Slowly watching our cute and fuzzy chicks feather out into their adult day at a time.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's a great day for a birthday!

Sorry I have not given any interim updates as we have been busy camping and planting our garden.  Trying to keep up with house work so we can play. 

Here is what has been going on.  Phoenix is a sweet little guy!  He's getting so big.  His feathers are coming in on his wings and his little tail stubs are growing fast.  He has lots of barring coming out.  What a sweatheart!  We kept trying to mingle him with Grun, but she seemed less and less interested in him.  Last evening, while out in the garden, he spent the evening hanging out with his people.  He enjoyed afew worms we offered him and trying to steal our seeds as we were planting them.  It's obvious he has bonded with his humans and I hope we can still get him back in the chick fold in the near future.  Also hoping this will guarantee and wonderfully sweet rooster!  His father left me with a bunch of scabs last night and honestly, thinking of him making the best batch of Wedding Soup ever has me ready for his demise....

Speaking of the chick was 21 days since we gave Grun the 4 eggs we bought.  One got crushed about half way through developing, but the other 3 not only made it to the end...we got to hear all 3 cheeping as the chicks were getting ready to pip!  How exciting!  We had 2 eggs pipped last evening and by this morning, all 3 chicks were hatched!  I got a quick glimpse before work, but one was still wet so we tried not to disturb them too much.  I doubt we will know the sexes for quite afew weeks at this point.  Makes it hard to come up with names, but also, really hoping we don't get any more roosters!  I'm thinking Sid Vicious if our Frizzle gets Frizzled!  (only 3 out of 4 with the gene will actually get frizzled feathers, statistically speaking)  We will know as soon as some feathers start coming in!

Early morning just hatched!

We have a black chick and a gray chick...

Big Brother Phoenix @15 days old.  You can really see how his comb is enlarging!  BOY! OH BOY!!!  Still hoping that the 3 new chicks end up hens or we are in T R O U B L E!!!  The third chick here is black with a chestnut brown head!

Here's a first look at Mama and babies!  Took this video on their first afternoon.  I came home from work and found 2 of the peepers hanging out.   The third is tucked way under Grun.  GRUN AND BABIES 

Grun seems to be handling motherhood great so far!  These little chicks are super active.  When I got home and found the 2 chicks out in front of Grun, they took one look at me and ran for cover....under Grun!  It was super cute.  Definitely will want to handle them as much as possible so they don't fear us!  As I sit and look at this picture of's very obvious to me that he is a rooster.  I will definitely refer to this picture as time goes on and we try to sex the 3 new chicks!  I did contact the breeder to let her know our chicks hatched and sent her pics of each.  She said she has mostly hatched the brown headed kind and is about 50/50 for males vs females.  Then she referred to incubation temperature having something to do with male vs female.  I will have to research that one.  I thought sex would be determined at fertilization like it is with other animals and would not be dependent on other factors such as incubation heat.  Definitely something to look into!

Coming soon....the demise of  Lila.  Now that we now we have one male, and has bonded with us, we are ready to say goodbye!  Yes, Phoenix loves his humans!  He follows us outside and does not bother with any of the chickens. We walked away from him in the garden and he ran peeping his distress call all the way down the yard to us.  :)  Hopefully he will stay so nice.   Lila's replacement is in the house.  We will be seriously considering the transition from pet to stock pot.  He's so mean to me, that even the kids are now saying Lila will make a good pot of soup.  Glad they get this.  Yes we love them and they are like pets, but at some point, they will become supper if they are mean or old.  We may let afew live to retirement age, but if we always make room for new chicks, there will be a never ending supply of eggs and meat!

Happy birthday cluckers!  Now we need some names!!!!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pass out the cigars!

After Saturday and finding the first little chick who didn't make it, we were very sad and ready to see what would happen to egg #2.  Saturday was day 20 of incubation.  What a crazy 3 weeks it had been!  How many times had that bird been on the wrong eggs for who knows how long?  Well.  Sunday at 4:05 pm, we checked the egg and it had pipped!  It was very exciting!  Of course, we had no idea how long the rest of the hatching process could take!

Genny listening.  You can hear the chick peeping through the shell!  It was all very exciting!  We totally wanted to help it out, but they have to do it all by themselves!

Here is the first sign that the chick is getting ready to hatch!  It is called 'pipping' or 'pip'.
We checked the egg every half hour until bed time with no further progress and lots of peeping coming from the egg.  We figured we'd let him be and check in the morning.  Turns out that it could take up to 24 hours from the pip to the hatch.  Many things are going on inside that egg.  First off, besides the obvious...the little excavator trying to crack his way out, the chick needs to absorb all of the remaining yolk sack.  This will be his food/nourishment for the next 3 days.  In nature, this is meant to allow the remaining eggs in the clutch to hatch without the mama having to start caring for her chicks.  In the modern world, this means hatcheries have 3 days to crate newborn chicks and get them out Fed Ex for delivery to the farm before they need to eat.  When we picked up the chicks last spring, the first thing we did was dip their beaks in the water so they would drink.  They were probably 2 or 3 days old when we picked them up at the feed store. 
Anyway, back to the story.  So I'm a little stressed out by the fact that it is Sunday night and I will be at work during the day Monday. I really want to take that chick away from mom and put him in the brooder.  I am concerned about her wanting to continue to sit on the remaining 4 eggs that will have a little over 2 weeks to go since we added them later.  But I manage to have a good sleep and am up around my normal time, 6am.  I head out first thing to check the progress.  As I get my hand under Grun to lift her up a bit, I notice black fuzz.  Ok a chick.  The shell cover it's back end comes off as I do this so it either just hatched or with Grun on him, he just couldn't weasel out of the shell.  I pick it up.  ALIVE!  Whew!  Relief for sure.  It was very wet, so I whisked it away and put it in the brooder to warm up.  I had turned the light on before I went down just to get it warming up awhile.  He started drying off.  Seemed weak, but healthy.  Figured that little chick had been working hard all night to get out of that egg!  I put his beak in the water and he took a little drink.  Whew...that is good too.  Well, he was all settled in his new home and off to work I went.  I could not wait to get back to check on him.
Our little chick just after I put him in the brooder.  His feathers were wet from the hatch and he needed warmth.  He was very weak and shaky in his movements.  At this point, he really wasn't standing up.  He is black and I can see a white spot on his head.....just like his momma.  Just like Weiss (so named for her BIG white spot on her head) and Rosa, the Barred Rocks. 

Here we are, 2 days later.  Phoenix is doing awesome!  He's a great little chick and is full of spunk and life!  We named him Phoenix because after the many times we thought he would not make it, he kept on trucking!   This was due to mom getting on the wrong nest, etc. 
He's the perfect fluffy chick now and oh so cute.  The first night after his hatch, I introduced him to his Aunty Grun.  She came in the house and they had some bonding time.  It went well.  She was making her clucking noises and seemed to be into him.  He ended up climbing under her for warmth.  It was very sweet.  They have been spending time together each eveing.  I am convinced that Grun is much more into the sitting that deal with a chick, however.  She is very focused on her eggs (3 of the 4 was crushed yesterday under her and it was developing nicely from what I saw of it).  Today it made me laugh that he kept pecking her in the eye.  She pecked him back only twice and after taking alot of abuse.  She did not seem to want him under her and next thing you know, she walked away from him and into the main coop, up the ramp and into a nest box!  What a stinker!  We relocated her to where her eggs were and she got back to business.  I guess Phoenix is 'going to grandma's'.  :)  She doesn't mind us raising him and in fact, seems to like it that way.  I do want them to bond so I am going to make sure she gets time with him every day.  I'm hoping she'll accept him after the others hatch.  Seems like she may be a stubborn one with this broody thing!  I am also glad that she has not given up on the eggs she's still sitting on, which is why I was cautious about letting her spend time with the chick.  Things seem to be ok.  In fact, Phoenix gets so excited when I come home from work.  He peeps and jumps to get out.  He cuddles up to me even.  Maybe this one will bond to us.  He's all alone in the brooder where we had 6 in there last year.  He has no buddies. 

About the HE.......
Another crazy thing to note.  I found specific info regarding the cross breeding.  The rooster is a Welsummer.  The mother is a Barred Rock.  Apparently, this cross produces sex-linked babies.  Remember back to middle school science.  There is a flow chart.  Anyway....with this cross....any females would be born looking like Grun did as a baby...brown with chipmunk stripes.  Males would be colored like the Barred Rock with white spot on the head (COUGH COUGH CHOKE).  Females in the black would have no white spot on the head.  No males would be born in the Welsummer pattern in this generation.  So according to science.....and you have to trust that....I mean, it's no mystery if there is a stinkin flow chart, eh? ... we got ourselves a roo.  Lila's possible replacement.  WITH Lila's stinkin' mean ass genes.  Weissy is bossy as well.  The only thing I can do is brainwash him.  I whisper things like:  YOU won't attack me...YOU are a sweet boy...Mommy loves you....Your Daddy's a jerk.   Time will tell if it works.....The awesome thing about this.....he will look like this:


Had he been born a female in the black coloring....she would be solid black with some red popping through.  Nothing exciting.  So here's to him getting along with the others, being a sweet boy...and if he and Lila are friends....well....we have the whole summer to decide what to do with that stinker.  

Here's afew pics of Momma (Auntie Grun) and baby to make you ooooh and aaaaah.  :)

Congrats to Auntie Grun for being such a good surrogate Mama!  Hope the final 3 eggs continue to thrive and we have no more accidents!  2 weeks to go!

Phoenix is quiet now...he must finally be asleep.  He's an active little dude! 

:) Peace's sleeping.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Miracle of Life.

I have many tales to tell over the last few weeks.  Grun has been sitting on her eggs like a champ.  We had an incident where she ended up on the wrong nest.  We do not know how long, but it could have been hours.  We were afraid the chicks didn't make it.  This was about 12 days into the incubation.  We opened one up and saw that indeed, we had a developing chick.  It was exciting, but then we got scared that maybe just maybe our chicks wouldm't make it.  So we put the other 2 eggs back under Grun to wait it out.  Afraid that Grun would make a mistake again....Kenny quickly got to work to make her a palace of her own...where she can ride out the rest of her setting in peace and a place where she can be with her chicks without interference from the rest of the gang.  I would still like to cover with a  tarp at this point for some rain protection, but otherwise, it's working well.  FREE PALLETS ROCK!  We spent $20 on a used small dog crate from a yard sale group on facebook.  We've been locking the door at night just in case of predators, since our fencing is more to keep her contained in a small yard.  

We have a piece of fence surrounding the front so she will be able to get around  after the chicks are born.  As of now, she is only leaving her nest about every 2 days to potty, dirt bathe and chow down on grass.  We've been bringing her snacks and she eats from her nest.  

So on Tuesday of this past week, we decided to pick up afew more eggs to start.  We decided that we were not sure that this first set will hatch, so better have a backup and the new eggs are not related.  We picked all blue eggs....2 are from both Ameraucana parents, but different colors from our Prissy and Flower, and the other 2 are from momma Frizzle and daddy Ameraucana.  Frizzles are awesome and all their feathers look 'curley'.  Hoping we get some chicks because it will be awesome to see how they turn out and we'll have some blue eggs in our cartons!  The plan is....if the first 2 eggs hatch, we will remove the chicks and brood them so mama will continue to sit on the remaining eggs.  

Meanwhile.....we get to 20 for the first 2 eggs.  I checked them yesterday.  No sign of pipping and almost all is black when we candle minus the air pocket.  We did see movement in the Barred Rock egg (brown), but could not confirm in the EE egg (green).  We spent hours today out and about and come back ready to check on Grun and the eggs.  Something looked wrong when I approached the nest.  In the wood chips just outside the nest box was some yellow yolk-like material streaked with red blood.  I reached under Grun's breast and pushed her up off the eggs.  I immediately saw a crushed green egg, more blood and yolk looking stuff.  I was not expecting what I saw to the right of that.....a full grown, fully feathered chick!  It was laying under her wing area.  I reached in to pick it up.  It was all limp.  No signs of life.  I held it for a while, just to make sure it really was dead and not exhausted.  Poor chick had made it out of his of the biggest hardships for any bird to overcome.  We were pretty sad, but at the same time, so happy to see a successfully grown chick! Everything had worked!  I candled this egg yesterday and could not confirm movement in it and yet, there was a chick ready to come out!  We decided to name the chick "Star" and had a quick funeral in our pet cemetery.  Star was buried next to our beloved cats, Salem and Monet aka Mony Cat.  Although Stars life was too short, we are happy to see him/her and hope that the other egg ready to hatch has better luck.  

Because of the scare the other week, and confirming the second egg's movement well afterwards....we already have his/her name picked out....Phoenix.  We are really pulling for Phoenix to have an easier time of it.  We just checked the egg, and no signs of pipping.  The other one went in less than 24 hours.  Who knew a chick could hatch so fast!  Please send good vibes for Phoenix and we hope he/she has a healthy and happy arrival into the world.  :)  

The 4 blue eggs started incubating Tuesday night, so we have another 17 days.  I am ready to set up the brooder tomorrow so if Phoenix shows up we can whisk him away to his new home before Grun gives up on the rest of the eggs.  I was really hoping for 2 chicks to brood so they can huddle so I'm a little sad that Phoenix may be a loner.  

We will be watching Grun and the eggs like a hawk for the next 24 hours as Phoenix is due to make his/her entrance in the world!