My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?


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Autumn is here and so is the wind and rain. A new experience for my chicks.

My three older chickens have been through a winter (Hannah has been through several) so they know what the wind and rain are all about. We live at the top of a hill and we are classified by the council as being in the highest wind zone (we know this because when we built our house we had to include big steel beams to keep the house standing in the wind). The chicks (now five months old) are not used to this new sensation of high winds and blasting rain.

The weather today could be described as squally. We have just had some very heavy rain and with the strong wind gusts, the rain was hitting the windows sideways and sounding like hail. But there was no hail, just big rain drops hitting at high speed. I looked out the window and wondered where the chickens were. And then I saw them. They had been down in the garden on the west side of the property (where the big winds come from) and they were running as though there life depended on it, towards the house and the the outdoor table where they all huddled together.

A minute later, the rain stopped and out the chickens came looking wet and bedraggled and miserable. They fluffed themselves up and then trotted back down to the garden. I wonder how long it will be before they have to come back up. I guess they don’t realise that if they scratched in the garden on the east side of the house, they wouldn’t get so blown around.

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This is Hannah trying to shelter from the wind a few days ago. You can see her feathers being blown around so she was obviously not doing a very good job at sheltering.


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My roosters had a reprieve

A few weekends ago, New Zealand turned the clocks back and that was the end of our daylight savings. Prior to daylight savings, my roosters were crowing at 5:50am. Now the clocks have been turned back, my roosters are crowing at 4:50am. So my husband said “those roosters have to go”!

Last weekend I promised to advertise them on the New Zealand Poultry Central forum website.

But the roosters got a reprieve. One of the two babies due to be born into our family, came into the world. Suddenly the roosters didn’t seem so important (until 4:50am each morning).

But being busy helping to deliver a baby and supporting the new mum in her early days of motherhood is no longer able to be used as an excuse to keep my roosters. So they had a reprieve for one week. Now unfortunately their time has run out.

This is the advertisement I put onto Poultry Central. Wish me luck.

Free to a good home – 2 x pair of partridge wyandotte bantams
With the end of daylight savings, our beautiful but noisy roosters start crowing at 5am and because the coop is outside our bedroom, my husband tells me it is now time to “get rid” of our rooster boys.
I knew this day would come ever since my boys were hatched on November 30th. My plan has always been to try to sell a boy and a girl together so the roosters will have a chance at life. That will leave me one girl from by hatch.

So I thought I would see if anyone on the Poultry Forum would like a pair for free (or of course all 4) because I thought if they went to someone on the forum, they would obviously go to a good home where they would be loved.

If no one wants them on the forum, I will try to sell them on TM (but not for free of course as they may all end up being a free meal).

If that doesn’t work, the boys will go to my brother’s farm where they may or may not end up being sold for curry (thank goodness they are bantams) and I will then keep the 3 girls till they start laying and then sell 1 or 2,

So that is the plan. I am sad as these are my first ever hatch but this was part of the plan all along, so if anyone is interested, let me know.

There are lots of pictures of my boys and girls on my blog. The link is in my signature footer. The girls are in the picture header on my blog.

I really don’t want to hit the submit button on this post.……… :cry:


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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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My rooster chick is becoming a gentleman

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Harry Hen Boy has been trying to get the girls attention to show them that he has found food for them. He is just over 14 weeks old.

I went out yesterday evening after work to throw some scratch treats and I heard a strange little noise, a bit like a squeak. I looked over and there was Harry Hen Boy trying to get the girls attention by making this funny little squeak and pretending to peck at something on the ground (just like mama hen used to do when she was teaching her chicks to eat). At the same time he was eagerly watching the girls to see if they would notice and come over to see what he had for them. But did those girls notice? Of course they didn’t. They only had eyes for the purple treat tin.  They were too busy crowding around me expectantly waiting for the lid of the treat tin to be opened and the scratch to be scattered.

Then tonight I went outside to close the coop door after the chicks had put themselves in for the night. And there was Harry Hen Boy. He was the last one into the coop and went trotting past the food container (that is always in the coop) and then he stopped. Looked at the food and decided he would let the girls know it was there. So he made his little squeak noises and did his little pretend pecking at the food and waited for the girls to come out of the hen house where they had put themselves to bed. I’m sorry Harry Hen Boy but the girls know the food is there and they have already walked past it to go to bed.

Never mind Harry Hen Boy, one day those girls will be grateful that you have found them food and they will want to share. Thank you for trying to look after them.


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My teenage roosters have started their sexual shenanigans

When my roosters were eight weeks old, I happened to look out the window to where the chicks were meandering about and I saw one of the roosters doing his sexual shenanigan practicing on his brother. I did think this was slightly forward behaviour and thought nothing more of it and didn’t see this again…..until last weekend.

Last weekend the rooster boys turned fourteen weeks. I know that bantams start laying between five and six months and I am guessing roosters become sexually mature at about the same age.

So I wasn’t expecting to see what I saw last weekend. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw chicken wings flapping. I looked over and there was one of my rooster boys being shaken off the back of the mama chicken who had hatched him. After she had shaken him off, she fluffed herself up and indignantly trotted away from him.

I am guessing he is still just practicing but if she goes broody again before the boys are sold off, I will leave a couple of her eggs under her, along with purchased fertilised eggs, just in case. (And don’t worry, it is not as gross as it sounds. Mamma chicken is not related to the rooster boys. She was just used as their incubator.)


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To sell or not to sell the chicks

The master plan for growing my brood of chickens from three to a maximum of eight (which my husband agreed to when we bought the bigger coop but has since forgotten the conversation), was to hatch a batch (or is that a clutch) of eggs each time my bantam went broody. I would then keep one of the girls from the hatch each time and sell the remainder. In this way, it would take a few years to get to my maximum number of chickens and it would give me time between broodiness to decide on the breed for the next hatch, while watching the new chicks grow.

My last (and only) hatched batch (or clutch) are now fourteen weeks old. I have three girls and two boys. The plan was to keep all of the chicks until the girls started laying and then I would keep one (Hazel with the crooked toe) and sell the other four. I decided if I kept them until the girls were laying, I might have more chance of selling the four of them as pairs. That way the boys may get a chance of surviving and living a happy life.

I say that was my plan because Hannah Hen went broody again far too quickly. (Only two weeks after she abandoned the chicks at ten weeks old). The maternity coop which I would need to move Hannah into, still had the chicks living in it. So the easiest thing (after weighing up a number of options) was to sell my four chicks early. But I was not ready to let my chicks go. I wanted to see my baby girls lay their first egg. I wanted to see what the magnificent boys looked like as fully grown bantam roosters. I wanted to enjoy the chicks for a couple more months.

But I knew how to go about selling them and that was to list them on the Trademe website, which is New Zealand’s equivalent to Ebay. So the first thing I had to do was to follow the chicks around and take some photos. The photos had to have the chicks looking as magnificent or as cute as they could, so I could entice a nice owner into buying them. At least I could take the photos. I didn’t have to list them just yet.

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Here they all are innocently sitting together not realising they were posing for their Trademe photographs.

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Here are the boys on their own so that the first person to want one of the pairs could see the boys colouring and choose which one they wanted.  I know it is not the best photo to show off their colouring but I had only just started taking photos. I was going to spend much of the weekend getting the right photos for  their prospective buyers. But this is as far as I got.

The mite drama and Hannah Hen being driven off her broody nest suddenly took precedence over getting the chicks to pose for photographs.

I feel terribly sorry that mites attacked Hannah Hen. It was obviously not very pleasant. But at least I can now keep my chicks for longer.


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Did red mites kill my chicken?

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This has been a very traumatic week.

This is a picture of my partridge wyandotte bantam, Hannah Hen. This is her, when she first chose us to  live with. She has been with us for approximately nine months and we worked out after finding out where she came from that she is quite an old bantam.

Hannah Hen has hatched five beautiful babies for us and looked after them until they were ten weeks old before she decided they were big enough to make their own way in the world. The same day she abandoned her chicks, she laid her first little green egg since being broody.

A week ago (three weeks after she abandoned her chicks), Hannah Hen decided it was time to hatch some more babies. So she started sitting on a golf ball and two of her eggs which she managed to hide from me.

Oh no. Not again. Not so soon. I still have a batch of teenage chicks living in the coop (without the ramp) that Hannah Hen would need for new chicks. I don’t want to move the teenagers into the coop with the big girls because Helen Hen is mean to them.  I don’t want to sell my teenagers yet because I want to watch them grow into fine adults. Perhaps I could get out my original smaller coop for the teenagers (they’re only small) and then Hannah Hen could have her maternity ward back.

Then I had to quickly think about what breed of chicks do I want to have next time. I don’t have a rooster so I buy fertilised eggs, so therefore can select any breed of chick, depending on what eggs are available at the time.

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So I decided to have her hatch some Barnevelders because they have such wonderful personalities and they are so pretty.

Hannah Hen had been happily sitting on her golf ball and her two little green eggs for about five days, so I thought it safe and arranged  to get some fertilised Barnevelder eggs on Sunday from the same breeder I got Helen and Hilda from. I had until the weekend to sort out the coop situation.

Then on Saturday morning around 7am, Hannah Hen got off her eggs and didn’t go back on them until midday. Very unusual, as once she is broody, she sits tight, hardly getting off for eating and ablutions. She was a bit puffed up and didn’t move far. I took the opportunity while she was off to check the nest for mites as I know they can force a broody hen off the nest.

I had had an outbreak of mites in the chick’s coop but had worked hard to get rid of them. I had not seen any mites in the big girl’s coop  as I had DE’d it as a mite preventative (I had forgotten to do the chick’s coop when I bought it) and so far the big coop had been mite free. But you never know, so I checked the nest. No sign of any mites, even under the eggs and golf ball.

I phoned the breeder to cancel the fertilised eggs for now as I think something is not quite right.

The next morning (Sunday) Hannah Hen again got off the nest at 7am but this time stayed off the eggs all day. She didn’t look well and was fluffed up and looking very lethargic for most of the day. She stood around and didn’t move far and at one stage I saw her standing with her little head bowed with her eyes closed. She did not look well at all. I decided that when she goes to bed that night, I would pick her up and check her over. I am not able to do that during the day as she won’t let me get too near her. I checked her nest again for mites, but nothing again. And none to be seen anywhere else in the coop.

Then in the afternoon she perked up and started looking her normal self. So that night I didn’t bother to check her out.

Monday morning we went to work in the dark and the chickens were still sleeping so I opened the door of their run so they can free range.
Monday night we were late home and the chickens were in bed and so I just shut the door.
Tuesday morning we left again in the dark before the chickens were up and opened the door.

Tuesday evening we were home at six. (The chickens bedtime at the moment is 8pm.) Hannah Hen was missing. How long has she been missing? I haven’t seen them since Sunday and she had been very poorly Sunday morning. I started to get worried. I checked in her nesting box in case she was sitting back on her golf ball. But she wasn’t there and to my horror, the nest and the golf ball were teeming with mites.

How could this happen? I had been so diligent in checking (or so I thought). I know that mites can kill chickens by causing anaemia. Then I remembered her little droopy head and her eyes closing while she was standing up. I remembered that she was lethargic. Why didn’t I see the signs and rifle through the nest, lifting up the wood shavings and hunting those mites out? How could my inexperience at chicken management cause the death of my Hannah Hen? She had lived for years across the road on the farm on her own and I took her in to keep her safe. How could I do that to her?

She didn’t turn up that night. I cried. I felt so bad and so sad.

I went to work the next day and was very sad but I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone. Not even my kids. If I had even a hint of sympathy, I would have burst into a fresh set of tears, so I told no one.  I will tell them once I have worked through what I have done.

Wednesday evening we came home and I was sadly and lethargically going about my business of preparing dinner. I asked my husband if he would go outside and look through the bush for Hannah Hen’s body so we could bury her.

Then a few minutes later, my husband called out to me, “Hey, Hannah is outside!” I looked out the window and there she was, looking bright and perky  doing the evening pre bedtime preening with the rest of them. Not long after this, she wandered off into the bushes for the night. The mites had driven off her nest and out of her coop.


The night I discovered the mites, I sprayed and DE’d  and sprayed and DE’d some more like a mad woman. But this weekend my plan is to empty the coop of wood shavings, spray it with Poultry Shield, let it dry, dust it with DE, put in fresh shavings and one day soon, try to encourage Hannah Hen back into her nest. I have a few plans for how to do this. But first I need to find where she is sleeping.


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The sparrows are eating all of my chick’s feed

I am surprised that the sparrows at our house can fly. Their tummies are so full of my chick’s grower pellets.

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The sparrows can’t get to my big girls chicken food. They have a sparrow proof chicken feeder (a Chooketaria).

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This is the Chooketaria open. The big girls stand on the little step, which opens the lid for them to gain access to their delicious treats.

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This is what the teenage chicks eat from. As you can see, the food is very accessible to all, including the sparrows. The feeder is kept in the chick’s coop through the day while I am at work and the chicks can go in and out of the coop to eat. But of course, so can the sparrows.

I used to fill this feeder right to the top every day and by the time I got home, it was completely empty and the sparrows would be still pecking away at the remaining dust as our car pulled into the drive. The chicks spend most of their day free ranging out and about and only a few times do they go back to their run to eat their pellets and corn so I have come to the conclusion that the sparrows are eating most of the food from the feeder each day.

During the weekend I think I have it under control. I shut the coop so the sparrows can’t get in and I bring the feeder out every couple of hours to put in front of the chicks and then I put it back. The sparrows are very cross with this and they sit outside the coop chirping indignantly at having their food source taken from them.

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A friend who keeps backyard  chickens told me that he has a bird feeder in the garden so that the birds eat their own feed and leave the chicken’s feed alone. So I tried that. I bought them their own feeder with their own wild bird feed to go in it. It took the birds a few days to notice the feeder and they loved the wild bird seed. But it definitely doesn’t stop the birds from eating the chick’s food. They just eat both.

So now that the sparrows have eaten all of the chick’s grower pellets, I have decided that the chicks can go onto a mixture of crushed corn and adult. (The adult pellets that my fussy adult birds won’t eat.) I know you are not supposed to feed chicks on adult food until they are about 16 weeks but mine are almost 14 weeks and I am not going to buy a big sack of grower pellets for 2 weeks. I checked with the man in the feed store and he said they will be fine. He added that the chicks might start laying in a few weeks as some start laying at 16 to 18 weeks! Arrgh. These are my babies I’m not ready for that. (I wonder when partridge wyandotte bantams start laying. I must try to find out.)


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I left the chicken coop door open all night

I had to go away for one night last weekend and I had been agonising over what I was going to do with the chickens.

The big chickens live in the big coop that has a h0use and a run. The teenage chicks live in a slightly smaller coop that also has a house and run. Each night just on sunset, they all put themselves to bed in their respective coops. After they are safely tucked into bed, I go out and close the run doors so nothing can get in and get the chickens while they are sleeping.

I have no idea what I think here in New Zealand is actually going to get into my chicken coops and hurt my chickens but nevertheless, I like to shut the coops up at night. The only real night time predator living in New Zealand that would attack a chicken is probably a weasel or a stoat and I don’t think there are many of them around. I guess a stray and very hungry feral cat may harm the chickens at night.

But because I was going away for only one night. I decided to take my chicken friend’s advice and leave the coop doors open while I was away.

I felt bad leaving my chickens in such a vulnerable situation but I felt I had no choice and I was willing to take the risk.

So as we drove up the driveway at the end of the two days, I eagerly peered over towards the coop. All looked normal. Then I quickly got out of the car (barely waiting for it to come to a stop) and went out to find (and count) the chickens and chicks. Three chickens (Hannah, Helen and Hilda) and five chicks (Harry, Howie, Hedvig, Harriet and Hazel) all accounted for and happy to see me.