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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Is this why George has lost his mojo?

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Perhaps this is why George lost his mojo. Ever since this rooster somehow found his way to our place from one of the neighbouring farms, to spend all day and every day with us, George has not been himself.

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Poor George. Maybe he is thinking he can’t compete with this newcomer when he is not looking and feeling his best!

Or maybe this newcomer’s arrival coincided with George’s moult.


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King George has lost his mojo

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King George was a very proud rooster standing tall with his chest pushed out and his tail feathers held high. He crowed each morning long before the sun came up, eager to start his day.

When he was finally let out of the coop each morning with the girls tagging along behind him, he would do his little morning dance and then spend his day watching and listening out for his girls, finding food for them and generally standing tall with enough crows throughout the day so that any roosters within hearing distance, knew he was boss. He loved life and he loved his girls.

Then something terrible happened. He started to lose his beautiful feathers! Beautiful rooster feathers lined the coop. Beautiful rooster feathers were all over the lawn. His beautiful neck and tail feathers were gone.

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King George did not stand proud anymore. King George did not crow anymore. King George did not do his morning dance anymore. King George did not find food for his girls anymore. King George was sad. In fact he didn’t feel like a King anymore.

He was just plain old George who did not love life or his girls anymore. He was miserable and he was grumpy and all he wanted to do hide was hide in a bush and hope no one sees him.

King George had lost his mojo.


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In case you were wondering

I have had backyard hens and my “chook” blog since 2012 and have loved every minute if it. Yes, both the hens and the blog.

In November 2013, my husband’s daughter and her 7 month old baby came to live with us, joined by her partner a few months later. I was struggling to manage my life and all of the additional stress that came with it.

Early one weekend morning in April, when I was lying there panicking and almost in tears, thinking of all the things I had to do that day, I made a very difficult decision to close two of my three blogs down. My blogs are a big part of my life and require energy and love and lots of time. If energy, love and time is not able to be given, then as far as I was concerned, I was not able to continue for myself or my readers.

A few more months have now passed and we have one less person living in the house. (We still have mum and baby, who is now a 15 month old toddler).  For some reason in the past few weeks, the grey fog that was surrounding me has lifted. Maybe I have come to terms with my new life, or maybe my tiny flock of backyard chooks has helped to lift me.

We are past the shortest day here in New Zealand and my chooks have started laying again and King George, my magnificent rooster, has most of his feathers and his mojo back.

When I closed my blogs down, I made them private. I did not delete them. I am sorry to my readers that I didn’t put up a post to explain what I was doing. I am now ready to start blogging again about my tiny flock but forgive me if the posts are a bit few and far between. I realise I would have lost most of my readers but maybe they will see my posts and start to come back.


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My bantam sat for 57 days on her infertile eggs

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As you can see, my little bantam, Aunt Dorrie is now back in among the rest of the brood. (She is the one nearest to King George.) After sitting on her infertile eggs for 57 days, she finally gave up.

For each of those 57 days she came off the nest to eat, drink, stretch her legs, and do her ablutions and then she would go running back. I always made sure there was plenty of fresh water but I was worried about her not having enough food. I would always leave food out for her in the mornings before I went to work but I know that the other chickens and the birds probably ate it all before she came out. But then I had to remember that she is a “wild bantam” who has lived across the road on the farm without being fed by anyone, for a long time before she came to my house. So I had to trust that she knows how to survive without me.

And then one day in the weekend, I saw her come out and run towards our chooketaria. A chooketaria is a self feeding chicken feeder that opens up when the chicken steps on the lid. She is far too light surely, to open the lid with her tiny little bantam frame.

This is a picture of one of my other bantam, Hannah using the chooketaria, with Hilda Hen waiting in line.

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But no, Aunt Dorrie went straight up to the chooketaria, put her feet onto the step, the lid opened and she raised herself as high as her little body would allow, and leaned in and started pecking at the delicious grains.

So that is how she has been keeping herself fed. What a clever little bantam.

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So Aunt Dorrie is off her nest and back with the rest of the brood looking no worse the wear for her ordeal.


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How long will a mother hen sit on her infertile eggs before she gives up?

Aunty Dorrie has been sitting on her eggs now for 49 days. Now you may think that I am very cruel to leave her for that long on her nest but I can’t find the nest and she is too wily to be caught and locked up when she comes out to eat, drink and do her ablutions.

She is sitting in among very dense vegetation. I have followed her to her nest site many times but I always lose sight of her when she goes over  the fence and then squeezes her tiny body through the dense and prickly vegetation and then just like that, she is gone! I think she chose such a dense site just to make sure I didn’t find her like I did last time. 

I think this time she is only sitting on her eggs and not a nest that has been shared with the other girls. I could be wrong but I don’t think the Barnevelders would be able to get their little fat bodies over the fence and into the thick vegetation. When Aunty Dorrie sat last time for so long, the only egg that hatched was one of the Barnevelder’s and the single chick didn’t survive the nightly hedgehog visits while she continued to sit trying to hatch the rest of her obviously infertile eggs.

This time she could have hatched chicks and lost them again but somehow I think she is just sitting and sitting, and sitting some more, on her infertile eggs once again. I think she is just too tiny for our very huge rooster.

When I am home in the weekends, I see her come out once each day to feed and water and she is looking healthy and fit. Better than the rest of my girls who are all moulting and scruffy.


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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.