My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?


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Nine week old chicks are finally free ranging during the day with the big chickens

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Hilda does what chickens do best. She eats and lays.

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Helen on the other hand, lays less eggs than her sister and is a bit more highly strung, particularly since the chicks have been free ranging during the day.

Hilda is a fat nicely rounded chicken, as you would expect for one that loves to eat and doesn’t let anything bother her. Helen is a bit more streamlined, as you would expect from someone more highly strung and sometimes more interested in pecking at a chick than eating.

My first attempt at free ranging the chicks and their Mama with the two Barnevelders was not very successful and resulted in Mama hen “viciously” attacking poor innocent Hilda Hen after Helen got too close to the chicks and left Hilda to take the blame.

The  chicks were six weeks old. So for the next week, the chicks and Mama were only allowed to free range for a short time each day while Hillda and Helen were safely locked away in their run after bribing them with treats.

So when the chicks were seven weeks old and I was due to go back to work after my Christmas holiday, I tried once again to free range them all together. I was on guard duty and spent the day watching Helen closely.

Helen spent the whole day looking for opportunities to get a chick on its own so she could terrorise it. But I was watching her. Helen was very predictable, even though she thought she was being stealth-like. She would follow the chicks and Mama hen, at a slight distance thinking Mama hen wouldn’t notice. If Mama hen turned around, Helen would quickly stop and pretend to peck at a leaf or a bit of grass.

But we weren’t ‘t fooled. As soon as Mama hen moved on again, Helen would quickly follow with her body language on high alert and her beady little eyes forever watching for that opportunity.

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She was relentless in her pursuit throughout the whole day, but then again so was I. I was ready with my butterfly net (which I bought especially for this purpose after the last attack) behind my back, ready to be pulled out in an instant and brandished at Helen if she tried to take on one of the chicks. Thankfully his worked and there were no vicious attacks.

The next day Helen was again relentless in following those chicks. Hilda of course tagged innocently along but after last weeks escapade, she was wary and didn’t get too close. This time I only had to use the butterfly net once. Helen still looked for opportunities but by this time she had had experienced a few mild attacks from Mama hen and lost one or two neck feathers. Just enough for her to know that Mama hen is still boss.

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So now my chicks are nine weeks old and the chicks and the chickens all free range together while I am at work. So far, so good. They are all still there when I get home at night and there is no blood. In the evening Mama hen takes the chicks to bed in their nursery coop and Hilda and Helen go to their bed in the big girls coop.

Thank goodness it has turned out so well. We are going to the beach for a week tomorrow and I didn’t want to have Mama hen and the chicks locked up all day. This way, my chicken sitting sister will not have to do much other than open and shut the coop doors and make sure food and water is available.

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My eight week old partridge wyandotte bantam rooster is crowing

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This is a picture of me and my family  having a rest in my big mum’s garden tubs in amongst the blueberries, coriander and thyme. Me and my brother are the glorious coloured chicks, one of us standing beside mum and the other one sitting in the front of the photo. This photo was taken today and we are eight weeks old.

Last weekend I found a new part to my voice. I gave our big mum a real fright. She wrote a post about the sound I made but she wasn’t sure what it was. I haven’t told her it was me. I startled my brother and sisters when I made that  noise. You should have seen the way they looked at me.  I was quite embarrassed because I hadn’t realised it would come out like it did. It was like a strangled screech.

But my big mum has been at work all week so I have been practicing with my new voice.  And so this morning I felt I was ready.  She will be so proud of me. I waited until 7am because if I did this too early in the morning, she might get rid of me like I have heard her telling people.

So I put my head up in the air and opened my beak and made the biggest crow noise I could possibly make. This time it was almost like a real crow. Well I thought so anyway. I even managed to get two different notes. (Last time it was just rrrrrkkkkkk. This time it was rrrrkkkkRRRKKKKKKK.) Did I frighten my brother and my sisters? I don’t know and I don’t really care. They had better get used to it. Was my big mum proud? I am sure she was. How could she not be?

But I still haven’t told her it was me. She doesn’t know which one of us boys it was. But she definitely knows it was a real crow. I know because I woke her up from a deep sleep.

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This is Harry Hen-Boy. (Sometimes called Prince Harry. Prince Harry has more ginger than his brother and is slightly smaller.) Is this the one who crowed?

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This is Howie Hen-Boy. Taller, darker but not necessarily more handsome. Or maybe it was this one that crowed?


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A hen in my house

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My mum let those pesky chicks out again with their bossy mother, Hannah Hen!

I have tried to be good today and not annoy those pesky chicks too much, especially when my mum is watching. Last time they were out, that bossy Hannah Hen attacked me every time I went near one of those pesky chicks. I was only trying to give them a peck to make sure they understood who was boss.

But today as I say, I have tried to be good. Early in the afternoon I came up from the bush and my mum was sitting outside so I put on my wistful, cute look and she went  inside and got me some treats from the purple tin. Bossy Hannah and her chicks were still down in the bush so my mum scattered my treats around for me and Hilda (I have to share with that Hilda as she  is my sister and she follows me around everywhere) and then my mum went back inside to put the treat tin away.

Well, that bossy Hannah Hen and her pesky chicks must have heard me and Hilda pecking away madly, as next thing I knew, there she was with those pesky chicks, glaring at me and wanting my treats. So I went inside the house to get my mum to tell her that bossy Hannah Hen and those pesky chicks were eating my treats. That’ll fix them. She will come out and growl them.

How indignant do I feel! When she saw me inside she growled at ME! She chased me outside and then had the audacity to follow me out and then talk sweet nothings to those pesky chicks. Doesn’t matter that I missed out on MY treats.


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My rooster chicks first crow?

It is Saturday morning . A  morning to have a little sleep in. But no, Hilda and Helen Hen decided they wanted to be let out at 6:30am so they started making lots of noise to make sure I would wake up and let them out. I did of course.

But then what do you do at 6:30am on a weekend when the rest of the house is sound asleep. I know, this is a perfect time to go through my photos before Haitch complains that my chicken photos are clogging up the computer. Hannah and her chicks were in a coop just outside the window where I was working and Hilda and Helen were happily scratching and pecking nearby.

Then I heard a sound. It was a chicken sound that I had never heard before. It sounded like one of my girls was being strangled! So I jumped up, looked out the window to see if Hannah and the chicks were ok. Yes, they were fine but they were looking a little startled. I couldn’t see Hilda or Helen from the window so I ran down the hallway to the sliding doors to see it they were both ok. Yes, they were sitting preening themselves.

Then it dawned on me. Could it have been one of my my little rooster boy chicks, either Harry or Howie Hen-Boy attempting his first crow. Seven weeks old.

 


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Waiting for chickens to lay an egg for my Christmas baking

Before Christmas I had been saving up my girl’s eggs for Christmas baking. I wanted to make my own sponge for my Christmas trifle (three eggs) and I wanted to make a pavlova (four eggs). At the moment I only have my two Barnevelders laying as my bantam is on motherhood duties and therefore no eggs.

Two days before Christmas I had six eggs and so I needed one more. The Barnies lay approximately one egg each every two days and Hilda was due to lay today and Helen tomorrow. My husband went to the grocery store and he knew I was one egg short for my Christmas baking and so he phoned me from the store to ask if I wanted him to buy eggs. I said NOOOOOO. I didn’t mean it to come out so aggressively, but come on….. NO. One of the girls will provide me with that last egg.

I made the sponges so that they would be stale enough for the trifle on Christmas morning. So that left the pavlova with one egg short. Hilda is reasonably consistent with her every second day laying so I was confident I would have a pavlova in the oven by the end of the day.  I kept my ear attuned for Hilda’s “I’ve just laid an egg” commotion. I didn’t need to listen too hard as she is very loud and proud and even the neighbours a kilometre down the road know when Hilda has laid.

but by mid afternoon, still no egg. Each time I saw her walking from the front lawn towards the back (where the coop is) I would rush out to see if she was going into the nesting box. But no, she was just going about her scratching and pecking business defying me by walking quickly in the direction of the coop and then she would stop and look up at me. I kept checking in the nesting box just in case today was a quiet egg laying day. But no, no egg today. (I felt like picking her up and giving her a squeeze but thought that probably was not the right thing to do.)

So the next morning (the day before Christmas) my husband offered to go down to the local store to buy eggs and I said no, we would go without pavlova if Hilda or Helen didn’t lay by lunchtime. I couldn’t bring myself to buy eggs. Particularly since the eggs at the local store are not free range. I would rather go without the pavlova.

Then I heard it mid morning. Hilda’s egg laying commotion.  Inside the nesting box was my final egg and just in time for me to make the pavlova. Thank you girls.

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A very protective mother hen

DSC_0177 I am currently sitting outside as I write this post, supervising. I have been very brave (hopefully not stupid) and I have let the 6 week old chicks and their mama out to free range while the two Barnevleders (Hilda and Helen Hen) are also out and about. I have let mama hen and her chicks out three times now while the big girls have been locked in their run. The big girls have been able to free range alongside the chicks run ever since the chicks were a few days old so neither is a surprise to each other. Mama (Hannah Hen) is a feisty partridge wyandotte bantam who has lived in the wild for a few years before I “rescued” her (even though she didn’t need rescuing). Then I got two Barnevelder pullets to keep her company. Hannah Hen has always been number one in the pecking order but she hasn’t needed to be a bully as the two Barnevelders were young and instantly knew their place with this matronly old bantam. As I mentioned previously, Helen did try a pecking order challenge on Hannah while Hannah was sitting, so Helen is the one that I am worried about. I am worried that she might “go for” Hannah or one of the chicks and cause a ruckus that might frighten the chicks and they might panic. So what happened? They were all good for a while. Helen had a bit of an attitude and followed Hannah and the chicks round but Hannah showed her that she was still boss. One look from Hannah and Helen would look the other way and causally saunter off. That is until Helen saw an opportunity …. DSC_0221Helen Hen saw Hannah Hen and the chicks under some bushes so Helen (on the left) decided to use surprise as her attack. Poor innocent Hilda Hen is looking on, having no idea what was going on. She doesn’t have a malicious bone in her body. That is her on the right with the big fluffy bottom. DSC_0223I think it was Helen Hen that got the biggest surprise when Hannah Hen flew at her from under the bushes. This counter attack lasted seconds and Helen got up and scurried away with only her pride hurt. But what did poor dear innocent Hilda Hen do just after this? She  just wanted to scratch and peck under the same bush as mama and the chicks. So she did. She poked her head under the bush and started to peck at the seeds on the ground beside the chicks. Hannah Hen did not appreciate this and didn’t seem to notice (or care) that Hilda Hen was non threatening. Hannah Hen grabbed her by the back of the neck and she pecked and pecked and squawked and scratched and pecked some more at poor Hilda’s neck. I went over to see if I could get Hannah off as she looked as though she was not going to stop until there was blood or worse. But then I hesitated. Not a good idea to put my hand in there. I have already been on the receiving end of Hannah’s chick protection antics. After 30 seconds or so (which seemed like forever), Hannah stopped. Poor Hilda got up and stepped back with a look of disbelief and bewilderment. I grabbed the treat tin and put Hilda and Helen in their coop to protect my poor dear innocent heavy Hilda Hen. I checked her over and there was no blood, thank goodness. Later I put Hannah and the chicks back into their coop and let the Barnies out again. I went out a bit later to check on Hilda and there she was sitting as close to Hannah as she could get with only the wire of the run between them, both preening themselves as though nothing had happened. I am new to chicks and protective mama hens and I have no idea whether this is normal or whether Hannah was being particularly protective / aggressive. I’ll have to have a serious think about whether I let them out again together for a while. Maybe once the chicks are a bit older, mama won’t be so protective?


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Chickens caught in the act eating my strawberries

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Hilda “I’ll keep watch while you eat the strawberry”.

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Hilda “Oh no, I think she has seen us”.
Helen “Quick, put your head down and she might not notice us”.

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Helen “Are these ones over here ripe yet?”
Hilda “No, not yet. A few more weeks.”

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Hilda “There’s one over here I have been keeping my eye on.”
Helen “No, not ripe yet. We’ll check again in a few days.”