My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?


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Temporary fencing to allow my chicks to free range

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I have six adult chickens and six chicks. One of the chicks is free ranging with her mum and has been since she was four weeks old. Mum does a good job at looking after her.

But my five chicks that were hatched in an incubator don’t have a mum to protect them from the big girls but I wanted them to have plenty of space to run around in.

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I went online and here is the answer to my problem. It is Omlet temporary chicken fencing, now available in New Zealand. It is easy to put up (once you know how) and is easy enough for one person to move when the chicks need fresh grass every few days. The chicks have been using this fencing now for about four weeks with no problems. I was a bit worried to start with that they might tangle themselves in it or the big girls might fly over into it but of course that didn’t happen. Just me being a worrier when I am at work all day, leaving the chicks and chickens to their own devices.

I would be careful though if you had dogs or predators around. This is definitely not a predator proof fencing but a temporary chicken fencing. We are lucky here in New Zealand that we are essentially predator free and I do not have dogs that come onto my property (touch wood but not so far in four years of having free range chickens). Read the reviews if you are unsure before you buy this fencing.

This allows my chicks to be amongst the rest of the chickens, meaning I should have less problems integrating them once I decide they are big enough to take the fencing down to join the rest of the flock.


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I think we have baby chicks

I heard her this morning, talking to her chicks.

I heard her, the bantam from the farm across the road who decided to come live with us and then decided to sit on a batch of eggs somewhere in the dense bushes beside our house.

Six nights ago, when we guessed Aunty Dorrie’s eggs were due to hatch, my husband heard the chicks peeping. It was late evening when chicks shouldn’t be making a noise so I guessed they were either just hatching or something was hurting them. I am hoping that they were hatching.

Since then we have been at work every day so haven’t seen or heard anything.

But this morning about 7am, I was outside and heard the familiar sound of a mother hen talking to her chicks. How lucky I am that I have experienced a mother hen bringing up her chicks so I know what to look and listen for. The main thing that worries me is what are they eating. My last chicks were fed chick crumbles but there are no chick crumbles in the wild. I have water near where I know the nest must be and so I hope she is bringing her chicks out for water. Chicks drink such a lot of water.

A least I know she must have at least one chick that has survived the week.  I’m glad I heard her.


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An update on Hannah-Hen’s chicks

I had a call tonight from the wonderful new owners of Hannah-Hen’s chicks. He had some good news and some bad news.

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He sent me some pictures of the chicks in their new home. Look at that wonderful garden. What a perfect haven for them.

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Firstly the good news. Hazel (aka Becky) with the little curled toe went broody and her first chick from her clutch of eggs  she is sitting on, hatched today! I am so excited and happy for her. That is such wonderful news. What a lucky we bantam.

Secondly the bad news. Also today, a note was left at the door of the house where these lucky chickens live. The note was from the city council (yes these wonderful new owners live in Auckland City, New Zealand). The note said they had two days to get rid of the rooster.

Yes, I know and so do the wonderful new owners know, that they were defying the council rules having a rooster in their yard but they did check with all of their immediate  neighbours first and the neighbours were perfectly fine about a rooster living next door. There are other roosters in the neighbourhood in this part of Auckland city. I wonder if they got notes on their doors as well.

So if anyone knows of anyone in New Zealand who would like a partridge wyandotte bantam rooster named Harry, please let me know. He is a beautiful nature and a real gentleman with his girls.

And in case you were wondering about Howie, Harry’s brother, he went to a farm just after they went to live with their wonderful new owners.


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My 6 month old partridge wyandotte chicken has gone broody

Well, the six month old partridge wyandotte chicken isn’t exactly mine anymore but I did hatch her and raise her so I am guessing I can still call her “mine” when it suits me of course.

I had a call from her new chicken dad yesterday and he said she was sitting on a clutch of eggs in the bushes and that she was quite protective if they went near her.  She is only six months old! I was amazed that she had gone broody so young.

He is going to shift her and her eggs into the hen house as it is winter here in New Zealand at the moment and she will need protection from the rain and wind while she is hatching her eggs. The rooster, Harry Hen-boy may be too young to fertilise eggs so they are going to candle them in a few weeks time. I am not sure at what age roosters are fertile but he is also six months.

They are all doing well at their new home and all of the three girls are laying regularly. But there is only one boy left. (But at least there is one.)

 


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Did I find a new home for my rooster and hen chicks?

A few weeks ago, my husband told me that the roosters were waking him up too early and that they had to go. That was the deal when we agreed to hatch chickens but I wasn’t quite ready for them to go.  I guess I would never be quite ready.

I have loved being part of the chicken hatching process.
I have loved watching the mother hen protect her babies.
I have loved watching the chicks grow.
I have loved watching how the chicks coped with the mean Helen Hen.
I have loved watching the chicks first free range outing
I have loved (and horrified at the same time) watching mother hen abandon her chicks.
I have loved watching the chicks become part of the main brood.
I have loved hearing the roosters crow.
I have loved watching the chicks making their decision of when to sleep with the big girls.
I have loved watching the girls mature.

But nevertheless, two weeks ago I advertised my chicks on Trademe website, which is New Zealand’s equivalent to Ebay. I advertised them as two pair, Howie and Harry Hen-Boys, and Hedvig and Harriett Hen-Chicks. I would keep Hazel Hen-Chick (with the curled toe).

Neither of the pairs sold that first week so I took this as a sign that they should stay with me , but my husband had other ideas. So the chicks were relisted on Trademe for one more week. We agreed if they didn’t sell that week, I would “get rid” of the roosters the following weekend and keep the girls until they started to lay.

At the end of that second week on Trademe, both pairs of chicks sold. Huge mixed emotions!

But after meeting the people who bought them, I couldn’t have been happier. I couldn’t have chosen a better home for my chicks. They will be loved and they are all together. I decided that because the four chicks were going to the one home, I felt it was nicer for Hazel Hen-Chick  to go with her brothers and sisters.

And I had the most amazing surprise the day before the chicks left for their new home. Two of the girls laid their first egg for me. What a generous gift.


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Is my five and a half month partridge wyandotte chick ready to lay?

I just happened to look out the window this morning and there was my five and half month old chick moving with a sense of purpose towards the chicken coop.

It is mid morning and the sparrows had probably finished off the chicken’s food that I had put out so I was watching to see if she would find anything to eat.

But no. With the same sense of purpose, she strode past the feed dish and  into the chicken house. The only thing I can think of is that she went in there to sit on a nest. Perhaps she is going to lay her first egg. How very exciting. I watched out the window for a few minutes to see if she came straight back out, but no. She stayed in there. What a shame  I have to go out soon and I won’t be there when she comes out.

But then maybe she is just familiarising herself with the process and she is not anywhere near ready to lay.


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My chicks are now sleeping in the coop with the big chickens

My chicks have finally integrated during the day with the big girls. Helen still chases the little girls when she feels like being mean but the majority of the time, they peck and scratch and wander happily together. The little girls still keep away from the big girls at feed time but at least they are allowed to peck at the treats in the same vicinity without being harassed too much. So the only thing stopping my chicks and chickens from being a fully integrated brood, was that they sleep in separate coops. The plan was to leave them in separate coops until I sell the two boys and two of the girls in a month or so and then to integrate Hazel Hen-Chick in the big girls coop.

Last night I went outside as usual to shut the chicks and the chickens in their respective coops. Hedvig Hen-Chick was standing in the chick coop and didn’t seem to want to go inside the chick house. I shut the coop door anyway and then walked over to the big girls coop and shut their door.

I looked back over at the chick’s coop and there she was, still standing in the coop, not wanting to go into the house. So I walked over to her to see what was wrong. Hmmm, that’s strange, there was no sound coming from the chick’s house. The chicks are usually very noisy as they jostle for position before settling down for the night. So I lifted the roof of the chick’s house and I got such a shock! It was empty.  Hedvig was the only chick in the coop. No wonder she was unsettled. Where on earth can the rest of the chicks be. It is past their bedtime and starting to get dark, so something must be wrong.

I walked around in a bit of a panic to look for the rest of the chicks. As I walked past the big girl’s house, I heard a noise. The chicks sounded as though they were jostling for position in the big girl’s coop! I peeped in and there they were. All of the chicks were snuggled together (minus Hedvig) on the floor.

So I went over to the chick’s coop and opened the door. Hedvig came running out and went over to the big girls house but seemed unsure. I managed to manoeuvre her towards the door of the coop and gently shooed her in. Once I shut the door behind her she looked at me as if to say, now what! I stood and watched her as she tentatively walked towards the ramp and looked into the house. She must have seen her  brothers and sisters because she stepped onto the ramp and slowly made her way up and into the big girls’s house. The chicks welcomed her in and she snuggled down with the rest of the chicks for the night.

Tonight they all went into the big girl’s house to sleep. Hannah Hen is not terribly happy and she chases them out. They all come running out into the run and wait for Hannah to settle herself once again and off they go again, up the ramp and into the nice warm corner of the house, as far from Hannah as they can but at the same time being careful not to go too near Helen.

I have no idea why the chicks decided to sleep in the same coop as the big girls. I have no idea if this is normal behaviour or not. But I am very pleased.


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Two broods become one

Since Mama Hen abandoned her chicks when they were 10 weeks, the big girls have been free ranging together in their own little cliquey bunch, leaving the chicks to free range on their own. The chicks would be relatively close to the big girls but  if they got too close, Hannah Hen and / or Helen Hen would chase the chicks away with a few well aimed pecks.

DSC_0022This is about as close as the chicks were allowed and I did wonder if the big girls would ever let them become part of their gang.

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Then one day I noticed the chicks were allowed a little closer. Were they really being allowed to roam with the big girls? Notice that they are as far away from Helen as they can be. (She is on the left of the photo.)

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Then a few nights ago, the teenagers were allowed to peck in the same spot after I had thrown down some treats.

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I think the teenagers have finally been accepted. They are allowed to sit on the preening log to preen with the big girls! They have done it.

Now what will it take to get them to all sleep in the same coop.


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Mother Hen abandoned her chicks at 10 weeks

On the day the chicks turned 10 weeks old, mother hen finally decided it was time to let her baby chicks fend for themselves.

I knew she would leave them soon. I know most mother hens abandon their chicks long before this but Hannah Hen is a bantam and they are known to make excellent mums.

So how did this excellent and very protective mum leave her chicks. These chicks, their mum and the other two Barnevelders have been all free ranging together for a week or so now. How does a chicken mum leave her chicks to fend for themselves when they are free ranging together and the chicks can just follow mum around forever?

This is how it was done.
Two days before mother hen left the chicks, she was leaving them on their own for periods of time during the day. She would wander away and the chicks would stay put, waiting for her to return. Sometimes they would wander around together close to where she left them and scratch and peck and sometimes they would all huddle up under a bush and have a wee sleep until she came back. And she always did come back.

The day before she left her chicks, mama would leave them for much longer periods of time and would be out of sight from the chicks. They seemed quite happy going about their chick business and not really bothering too much where she was. Later that afternoon, the chicks got too close to mama when she had decided they shouldn’t be and she gave one of them a peck and made her angry “go away” noise. The same angry noise she makes when she is letting the Barnevelders know that they shouldn’t be eating out of the treat tin at the same time as she is.

While they have all been free ranging together, mother hen has determined the chicks bedtime by putting herself and the chicks to bed when she was ready. This was usually about 20 minutes before the Barnevelders went to bed. The Barnie’s coop and the coop where she is bringing up her chicks are near each other but there was never any questions as to who belonged in which coop.

This night however, mother hen seemed to be in a bit of a quandary. She stayed up until after the Barnies were in bed and seemed quite unsettled. It was starting to get dark and the chicks were also unsettled, standing alert wondering what was going on. Then mother hen decided to go into the big girl’s house (which was of course where she was living before we moved her and the chick’s into the new coop). Much to Helen’s disgust, Hannah hen (aka  mother hen) went straight to where Helen was settled for the night (unfortunately they sleep in the nest boxes) and kicked her out of the box and settled herself in. Helen indignantly ran outside and ran about in circles a bit and then ran back in and settled herself at the opposite end of the house in one of the many spare nesting boxes.

Meanwhile the chicks were watching all of this drama unfold in front of them as it was starting to move from dusk to dark. The chicks not daring to go into the big girls house, were outside where they could hear their mum settling herself down for the night, peeping their little hearts out.

Next thing mama hen came back outside, called the chicks and off they all went into their own house where they all settled and went to sleep.

The next day was the day mama abandoned her chicks. When she got up in the morning, she walked away and left them. If they came near throughout the day she would peck at them. The chicks seemed happy with this and they spent most of the day doing their own thing, exploring on their own and being quite grown up while keeping a watchful eye out for that Helen who still chases them.

Mid morning, Hannah Hen went running into the big henhouse and laid her first little green egg since going broody.

That night without any fuss, the three big girls went into the big girl’s house to sleep and the chicks went into their house to sleep.

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So now, I seem to have two separate free ranging broods, one made up of the three big girls and the other made up of the chicks. Here they are having some rest time.


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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.