My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?


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At last I have my own Orpington

My friend has Orpingtons. I love the fat, waddly way they walk. I love their colours and I love their nature.

I knew one day the time would come when I would have my own Orpington chicken.

A couple of months ago, I bought two Plymouth Barred Rock chickens, Hillary and Henley, in their first laying season. I bought them because I needed to boost our egg production.

A few weeks after the girls settled in, Henley, became broody. I had to weigh up whether to her let her become a mum and drop our egg production for a few months, or try to break her broodiness. I took the easy way out and let her become a mum.

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So of course, I called my friend and within a few hours, she had delivered four fertile eggs from her wonderful brood of Orpingtons. She recently had to get rid of one of her roosters and so was unsure of how fertile the eggs were.

Henley had been sitting tight on her golf balls for three days. I had read that it was best to put eggs under a broody at night when they were sleepy and less feisty and they will be more accepting of the eggs. My last broody was a very nasty protective mama and would try to attack me every time I went near her. She would come at me with claws and wings out, and her beak open. She was one scary mama.

But Henley was a very friendly girl and even as a broody she was quite happy to eat out of my hand when I offered her food on her broody nest. So I don’t think I need to wait until dark. I hobbled very slowly outside (I had just had a foot operation a few days before) and reached under Henley to remove the golf balls. I had to give her a little nudge to get all of them. After a few gentle bok boks, Henley wriggled herself and settled right down on top of those eggs.

Twenty one days later, she hatched one beautiful Orpington chick and discarded the rest of the eggs two days later. (I checked and they were infertile.) I am hoping my one Orpington chick is a girl. If not, I will have to try for my Orpington another time. I think she is a girl. Time will tell.

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Aunty Dorrie is broody again

Aunty Dorrie is broody AGAIN and is sitting on her eggs somewhere “in the wild” AGAIN. We know the general direction where she is sitting but can’t find her or the nest. A repeat of last time and such a short time ago.

I have seen her running across the lawn towards the feed container.

I have patiently waited and watched from a distance, while she feeds, drinks, does her ablutions, dust bathes, drinks some more, and then feeds some more.

I have followed her with stealth, as she runs back across the lawn.

When she disappears down the steep hill I hurry so that I don’t lose sight of her, whilst at the same time trying not to let her see or hear me. This little bantam is so clever she will go in the opposite direction if she knows I am following her.

I have seen her disappear behind a Toetoe bush.

But I have not been able to see where she goes from there. I think she goes over the fence as there is a lot of thick vegetation but I just cannot find her.

I have leant so far over the fence and poked my head into the gaps as far as I can without falling into the bushes but to no avail.

And the worst part is that her eggs are due to hatch today or tomorrow and I am going away tomorrow for a week! Once AGAIN nature will have to take her course with Aunty Dorrie and her chicks.


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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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Apologies to my chicken, Aunty Dorrie

Dear Aunty Dorrie,

I am sorry that you were left in the farmer’s paddock across the road and saw all your friends (exceptKing George) get taken by the hawks.

I am sorry that King George came across the road to my place and left you on your own to fend for yourself against the hawks.
But I am so pleased that you survived and followed him over a few weeks later.

I am sorry that I wasn’t able to capture you and put you in a coop where you would be safe and that you ended up sitting on thirteen eggs out in the bushes.

I am sorry twelve of your eggs were infertile eggs.
But you did hatch one baby chick.

I am sorry that you sat and sat for another week trying to hatch your infertile eggs while you were trying to look after your one baby chick.
I didn’t know. I couldn’t find where you were.

I am sorry that one night when your chick was six days old, at 11:37pm something sneaked up and took the chick out from under you.
I heard your strangled cries of fear and your desperate flapping of wings as you tried to protect your baby.

I am glad I was able to find you and move you to the safety of a coop.
I am sorry that you were not happy and kept trying to get out but it was for your own good.

I am glad you decided to keep sitting on the six infertile eggs I put back under you.

I am glad I had a friend who had Orpington eggs in an incubator that are due to hatch in four days and I am glad she let me have three for you.

I just hope you stay sitting on the new eggs for four more days. You have been so determined to be a mum. I know you have now been sitting now for thirty five days, but just four more days.


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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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It is very quiet without my rooster hen-boys and my hen-chicks

It is very quiet at home since the rooster boys and hen chicks have gone. I could say it is peaceful but I think it is more like something is missing.

On the first night when the chicks had gone, I watched the girls get themselves ready for bed.

About thirty minutes before sunset, the girls ( and the chicks when they were here) start to congregate in a certain spot about 10 metres from the chicken coop. It is quite funny to watch, especially when I had the five chicks here as well. No matter where they all were, at a certain time of the day (sunset dependant), they start making their way towards the congregation spot. Some wandering nonchalantly and others running as though they might miss out on something. Once they get to this spot, they start to frantically peck at the grass to fill their tummies (crops actually) before they go to bed. Once they have their fill, they then slowly make their way across the final ten metres or so, to the coop (just on sunset) and put themselves to bed.

If the chicks went to bed before Helen or Hannah Hen, there would be a huge ruckus resulting in the chicks running most indignantly back down the ramp and outside where they would wait until both Hannah and Helen had settled themselves in the best bedtime spots. The chicks would then tentatively go back up the ramp, peer inside to see if the coast was clear, and then find a safe spot to sleep as far away from Hannah and Helen as they could.

On the night the chicks left, the three girls still congregated in the same spot thirty minutes before sunset but it was somehow different. They were standing around looking unsettled. They were standing looking and listening, as though they were on alert. They weren’t pecking at the grass. As it got darker, they anxiously moved towards the coop but when they got to the coop door, they didn’t seem to want to go in. I wondered if I should go outside and try to entice them in with treats but I decided to leave them and watch what they do.

As it got darker and darker, they were still standing outside. The sun was down behind the hills and I was beginning to worry that they may not go to bed that night. But then, Hilda wandered slowly in and up the ramp and Helen followed. That left only Hannah Hen outside. By this time it was almost dark. She Hannah Hen turned away from the coop door and went off around the back of the coop. Oh dear. She walked around the whole perimeter of the coop and came back to the door. Then she looked around some more before deciding to go in. Poor Hannah Hen. Even though she didn’t have any motherly feelings towards these chicks that she hatched, once she abandoned them at ten weeks, did she maybe deep down realise her babies were missing?

I like to think that they had all noticed that the teenage chicks were missing. I like to think that they missed them. I like to think that they were waiting for them before they went to bed.

My husband said that they wouldn’t go to bed because I was sitting by the window watching them but I don’t think so.