My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?


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Our defiant bantam, Aunt Dorrie

After finding Aunty Dorrie’s broody nest and her 18 eggs and after moving her and said eggs to a maternity coop where she would be clean and dry and her babies safe, she sat tightly on her eggs……

For two days! TWO DAYS!

After the two days she got off those eggs and paced up and down in her coop. She was very loud with her pacing! She squawked and complained and made it known that she was not happy being penned in.

I gave her one more chance. Perhaps after sitting on her beautiful eggs for one more night, she will remember that she has a job to do and she will stay sitting.

But the next morning, there she was at 6:00am standing in the run looking at me defiantly. I opened the egg hatch and looked in to see how her eggs were doing. I reached in and felt them and they were stone cold. So she hadn’t even been sitting on them overnight!

So I stomped grumpily around to the door of the coop, opened it and out she ran into the trees. Off you go then, you ungrateful little bantam. You will have to continue sitting on eggs out there in the wild and have your babies hatch and not survive.

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Look at her the day after she ran out of the coop. Still looking defiant. But King George has his favourite girl back.

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Aunty Dorrie the bantam and her 18 eggs

My friend arrived at my house with her gumboots and a determination to find Aunt Dorrie and her eggs. I have shared with her over the last 10 months or so, the saga and the stories of Dorrie and my attempts to help her hatch her chicks and have them survive.

The search area we had to work with is large and treacherous (prickly gorse and dense vegetation including cutty grass and slippery clay banks). So with our gumboots on and the sun shining, we began our search.

We started where I had been searching the day before, near the lone egg. A little further down the bank from where I had been searching, my friend spotted a nest with three of Dorrie’s eggs. Why on earth didn’t I see this yesterday. Maybe because the sun wasn’t shining yesterday. There they were sitting just under the ferns with the sun shining right through and the eggs glowing beautifully in the dappled sun. But these eggs were stone cold. We were pretty sure this was not Dorrie’s broody nest.

So we spread out a little and my friend was very brave and forced her way up another steep slippery hill through tight and treacherous vegetation. There she found lots and lots of broken egg shells. She had found Dorrie’s last broody nest and her chicks had obviously hatched but not survived. (This is a very experienced chicken friend who has hatched lots of chicks and knows what a hatched eggshell looks like.) This made me all the more determined to find her current broody nest. I needed to get her and her eggs into a safe coop so that when the chicks hatch, they have a chance of survival.

So after searching this particular hill to no avail, we moved to another area that was perhaps less likely for her to be in but easier to search as the vegetation was a lot less treacherous and not as steep.

We searched for another thirty minutes with nothing. So we moved further down the hill. As my friend climbed the fence to search the vegetation on the roadside, I was starting to become a bit despondent. There are so many places that she could have her nest where we would never see her. She is so small and her colouring is camouflaged against the ferns and bushes.

And then I turned and there she was. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was sitting under a few straggly bushes and was barely sheltered at all. She was all fluffed up sitting tightly on her babies-to-be.

I called my friend over. This is so exciting and I was so glad she was here to help me and to share the excitement. The plan had been to find Dorrie and then to come back at night to move her and her eggs as that is the best time to move a broody without the risk of her abandoning the eggs.

But we agreed that it would be too difficult to get back down here in the dark, so we made a decision to move her now.

I gently scooped her up (remember this is a bantam who has never been held and lives “in the wild”) and she sat quietly. She was in her broody trance, thank goodness. I carried her as quickly as I could up the hill, through the trees and bushes and vegetation and up the steep slippery clay bank and onto the lawn in front of the house. I carried her across the lawn and she started struggling and squawking! I am so glad that King George, the rooster was way down the hill on the other side of the house. He started calling out when he heard her distressed screeching  and then the rest of the girls started squawking. We finally got to the maternity coop without any mishaps, my friend opened the door and in Dorrie was placed.

Yes, we should have had a bucket with us on our search to collect the eggs and bring them up at the same time but remember the plan was to get Dorrie and the eggs after dark. So we ran off to the garage, got a bucket, ran back down the steep slippery clay bank, down the hill and through the vegetation and back to the nest.

We collected up eighteen eggs and carried them back to the maternity coop and gently placed them in the clean, dry wood shavings. Aunt Dorrie was pacing up and down in the run and after a while she went into the house and found her eggs. She came in and out a few times but after a while she stayed in the house, hopefully sitting on her eggs.

Now it is a waiting game but so far so good. This is what I like to see. A maternity coop with no sign of the broody mum out and about.

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Thanks you Trish for helping me search for Dorrie. I couldn’t have done it without you.


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The continuing saga of Aunt Dorrie and her eggs

Continuin the saga of Aunt Dorrie and her eggs.

I was determined to find Aunty Dorrie’s broody nest this time. So I lay in wait mid morning for her to come running and bokking for her mid morning food, water and preening trip off the nest. I would search the area where I had seen the lone egg the day before. Sounds easy.

So mid morning, bok, bok, bokking, along came Dorrie running across the lawn. While she was desperately filling her crop, I slipped away to search for her nest. Off down the bank I went towards the lone egg. I searched and searched. I lifted dense vegetation, even though this could be harbouring large spiders and other such crawly things that I wouldn’t be too keen on finding. I stood up rather defeated. There was no nest. It was just that, a lone egg.

But not all is lost. I would stalk Dorrie and if I was quiet enough, I would see exactly where she went. So I slipped and slid back up the bank and waited for Dorrie to finish her preening.

Then she was off, running back toward the hill. Then she stopped behind a fern and sat in the early Spring sun for more preening. The other girls and boys were also sitting in the sun in the same spot. So I waited and I waited. I may have glanced away a couple of times but she was still there. I could see her partridge colouring shining in the sun behind a fern

Then she moved. Very fast. She wasn’t slipping and sliding. I glanced down to check my footing and momentarily lost sight of her.

There she was again, just a bit further down the hill than I expected her to go. She wasn’t moving fast but she was definitely on a journey further and further down the hill. I kept following her and she stopped. I came round the corner and came face to face with her.

But is wasn’t her was it! It was Hannah. The other bantam. I had been following the wrong bantam!

Did they plan this together to trick me?

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See how similar they are? I guess it is easy to mistake one bantam for the other when they are running between the trees and bushes away from me.

There is only one more thing for me to do. Invite my very experienced chicken friend to help me search the whole area.


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This is the fourth time my bantam has gone broody since November

Aunty Dorrie went broody three times last season and she is now broody again for the first time this season and we are only 6 days into Spring.

I don’t mind her going broody. I would love to have lots of chicks around but she hides and I have never been successful in finding her nests until it is too late.

Today I was watching out for Aunt Dorrie. I knew that she normally comes out mid morning for food and water.

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And I saw her coming up from the hill at the bottom of the lawn. So I waited while she ate and drank and preened and bokked and then she decided she had been off her nest long enough. And she ran!

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She ran so fast that by the time I got to the end of the lawn and looked down the bank, she was gone.

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So I carefully eased myself down the bank slipping and sliding in the wet clay. I think she must be somewhere near this area.

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Then I spied a lone egg. A small light brown egg. This egg has either rolled out of the nest or she pushed it out for some reason.

I didn’t want to pull all the vegetation away to find her as I didn’t want to scare her. I might wait until tomorrow morning when she comes off for food and water and have a look around this area then.

 


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Rain, rain go away. The chickens don’t like getting wet.

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The rain started off gently but we didn’t like it. We sheltered under the fireplace because the wood was all used up on New Year’s Eve. George thinks if he squeezes close enough to the side of the house, he will stay dry. Silly George. But there is no room for him in here.

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George realises he was getting wet. He should be ok under the table as long as he doesn’t leave his tail too far out.

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Oh dear, the rain is getting heavy. Even the sparrows want to come in out of the rain.

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The rain is coming in sideways. Time to get out of here. My feathers are getting wet.

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Perhaps if we sit here and look pathetic enough she might let us in. Don’t hold you breath. I bet she wouldn’t like to be out here. Look at all the water on the concrete behind us. We could drown. Oh if only she would let us in.


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Helping Aunty Dorrie to keep her chicks safe – an epic failure

  • Trying to get Aunty Dorrie to sleep and lay her eggs in the coop and not outside in the bushes? – Failed
  • Trying to find where Aunty Dorrie was sitting on a clutch of eggs in the bushes? – Failed
  • Trying to keep Aunty Dorries’s single chick alive in the wild? – Failed
  • Finally capturing Aunty Dorrie and getting her safely in a coop with some “almost ready to hatch” eggs for her to sit on? – Success
  • Trying to get Aunty Dorrie to stay sitting on those eggs? – 50% success, 50% failed
  • Trying to get Aunty Dorrie’s second clutch of eggs to hatch? – Failed (one egg hatched but the chick wasn’t strong enough and died shortly after. The other two eggs didn’t hatch. She must have been off them too long.)
  • Trying to get Aunty Dorrie to realise the coop she has spent the last two weeks in, is a safe place to sleep? – Failed


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The best laid chicken plan……

I had a plan to integrate our new chicken, Aunty Dorrie, into our backyard brood. She is the last of the chickens from the farm across the road to run away and come live with us.

She was at the stage where she was spending every day, all day with my girls (and boy) but would sleep somewhere in the bushes down the hill in front of our house.

Aunty Dorrie was by now, used to the purple the treat tin. She didn’t feed from it while I held it but did when I put it on the ground and moved away. So the plan was to entice her into the spare coop with the purple treat tin and shut her in for a week. This way, she would get used to sleeping in the safety of a coop and then it would only be a matter of time before she followed the others into their coop to sleep at night and I would have a fully integrated chicken brood. And of course, with the bonus that Aunty Dorrie would be laying in the nesting boxes.  The next step of my plan was for her  to go broody and become a mum. (My other bantam, Hannah Hen hasn’t gone broody yet this Spring which is unusual.)

The plan to capture Aunty Dorrie was to be carried out on Labour weekend because that would give me three days to see my plan through. But on the Friday morning before Labour weekend, my husband informed me we were going away for the long weekend on a surprise trip.  Oh no! I would have to leave my capturing of Aunty Dorrie to the following weekend.

But when we got back from our trip on Monday afternoon, there was a chicken missing. Aunty Dorrie was not with the others. Did a hawk finally get her? Did a possum or a weasel get her while she was sleeping in the bushes alone? The next morning she wasn’t waiting outside the coop for the others to be let out, like she always does. I felt bad. If I hadn’t gone away for the weekend, I would have her captured and safe.

Then I had a thought. Maybe she is safe and sitting on a clutch of eggs somewhere.

And the following weekend, there she was. She was obviously on a feeding and ablutions break. She was making that familiar bok bok sound they do when they are broody. She was incredibly hungry and thirsty and in a rush to do everything. Then when she had finished, she ran as fast as her little legs would carry her, back to the bushes where she disappeared.

She had foiled my plan. Clever chicken. That was twenty one days ago. I am expecting her to bring her chicks out any day now.