My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?


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A new incubator and a terrorising rooster

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My chickens do not go broody so I bought an incubator.

Well, that is not entirely true of course. Aunt Dorrie, my bantam has been broody many, many, many, many times before but for numerous reasons, has not resulted in any chicks.

It all seemed to happen at once. We decided to increase our egg production and bought two beautiful Plymouth Barred Rocks in their first year of lay.

We also bought an incubator to hatch some of our own eggs since we had two roosters and were not having any luck with broody hens. Hannah Hen did go broody a few years ago and hatched chicks from fertilised eggs we bought, but hasn’t been broody since. Possibly something to do with the fact that she is almost 8 years old. The two Barnevelders have never been broody in their three years.

So an incubator, it is.

The weekend that the Brinsea Mini Advance incubator arrived, happened to be the same weekend that the Plymouth Barred Rocks arrived and the same weekend that we had King George put down.

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The following weekend we had to get rid of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull.

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With King George gone, Jonathan Livingstone, my Silver Spangled Hamburgh, took his place but as the main rooster he started terrorising my girls. He chased them relentlessly. They were running for dear life and squawking and even flying against the glass doors to get away from him. Hilda, my usually slow moving Barnevelder, ended up running into the hen house with Jonathan close on her heels. She jumped into the nesting box to get away from his terrorising advances. Jonathan relentlessly paced up and down the hen house waiting for her to get out of the nesting box. He finally gave up and came out and chased the others. Hilda stayed in that nesting for a full 24 hours.

Needless to say all egg production ceased that weekend and Jonathan was “taken away” the very next day.

So now I have an incubator and no roosters. If I could get some eggs into the incubator this week, fertility shouldn’t be an issue. With George having been so ill, he had not been doing his roosterly duties but Jonathan more than made up for that. But did I really want his aggressive genes in any of my chicks?

We were going away on holiday in a few weeks time and if I set the incubator this week, we would be away when the eggs hatched. That would be no good.

So we set a mixture of Barnevelder and Plymouth Barred Rock eggs in the incubator a week or so later. The chances of the eggs still being fertile were fairly low, but it is worth a try. I have low expectations so won’t be too disappointed if nothing hatches.


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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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My chickens may be laying outside in the bushes – but where?

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King George is a bit confused today. Things are not quite the way he is used to. He is waiting beside the coop door, so close to the coop in fact, that his tail feathers are squashed. What is he waiting for?

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He is waiting for his girls to be let out of the naughty room. I have not had any eggs for ten days. Now I know all three of them wouldn’t stop laying on the same day. They must be laying in the bushes somewhere.

So yesterday I watched the girls closely and I think I know the general direction of where the nest might be. I saw King George standing with Hilda and Hannah in the bush, just waiting. That’s what they do when each other is laying so I knew she must be close. They think they can outsmart me!

So I waited and waited and finally saw her come running towards the others. The bush where she has her nest is quite dense and after a quick look yesterday, I was not able to see it. But husband Haitch is going to help me look this afternoon. There should be a mountain of eggs in this nest!

But there is a bit of a twist to this story. Why would they all suddenly decide to lay outside for the first time in over a year of happily laying in the nesting boxes. There are no mites in the boxes and they are quite happily sleeping there each night. But I have had no eggs whatsoever in the nesting boxes for ten days.

Then yesterday while I was waiting very patiently for Hannah to finish laying in the bush somewhere, Helen trotted into the hen house and laid in the nesting box! Why today? Has she been laying in there each day and her eggs are disappearing! And if she has been laying outside, why would she suddenly lay in the nesting box today?

So today, I have locked the lovely chickens in their coop where they will have no choice but to lay in their nice clean, dark, warm, safe nesting boxes.

Let’s see what happens.

 

 


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King George the rooster has broken two of my rules

King George turned up at out place and made my chicken coop his home. We didn’t want a rooster.

But we decided to let him stay but with three rules.

Rule number 1 – He doesn’t crow in the early hours of the morning.
Well of course he has broken this rule! One morning my husband Haitch said to me “that rooster has got to go. He was crowing at 4:30”.
I said to him “if you want the rooster gone, you ring our neighbour / friend and you tell him to come and take his rooster away and kill his him. If he takes him back home across the road, King George will just keep coming back here”.

Rule number 2 – He is gentle with my girls.
King George is huge and I am scared he is going to squash my girls when he has his roostering way with them. I have never seen him doing anything with my girls so I was thinking that he is aware of his enormity and is therefore being a kind rooster and leaving my girls alone. After all, Hannah Hen, my bantam, only comes up to the top if his thigh!
I had some friends around last weekend and they know about chickens. They said that King George would definitely be having his roostering way, so to prove it, we broke one each of my girls eggs into a bowl.
Hilda Hen’s egg was fertile.
Helen Hen’s egg was fertile.
And yes, tiny, little Hannah Hen’s egg was also fertile.
And then a few days ago, I heard a ruckus and looked out to see Helen Hen looking indignant at King George and there was the tell tale sign, he had one of Helen’s feathers in his beak! So rule number 2 is on the verge of being broken.

Rule number 3 – He is not aggressive in ANY way
This is my most important rule. I have not seen any sign of aggression so far. He is very gentle and is learning not to run away from me when I go outside. He is learning that I have treats. He has even started coming over to me when he thinks I have food, but not too close of course.

So you see, King George has broken one rule and partially broken the second rule but he is still here. I know I said if he breaks any of those rules, he is out. But I’ve grown attached to King George the rooster and they are my rules, so I can choose to remove them on a whim.  (And then of course reinstate them, even without letting King George know.)
I hope he never breaks rule number 3, because there is no negotiation on this one.


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King George the rooster has finally made our house his home

I have watched King George in the evenings when it is time for bed. King George is a visiting rooster who “lives” across the road. He spends all day with my girls, returning home to his one lonely bantam girl across the road, only once my girls have gone to bed.

I have watched him when my girls are putting themselves to bed. He stands beside them and watches as they peck and scratch and fill their tummies before they go to bed.  He then watches them as they make their way into the coop, taking one last drink of water before they walk up the ramp and into their house to bed.

Then King George stands for a while, looking unsure. He finally turns to walk away and start his journey back to where he “lives” and where he has his lonely bantam waiting for him. He, stops after a few steps and then turns to look back at the coop. He hesitates and then turns and continues his journey. He hesitates again, this time turning and walking back to the coop and looking through the door.

He then turns for the last time and this time walks around the corner of our house, walks across our front lawn, walks down the hill, goes under our fence, walks across the road, squeezes himself under the neighbours gate, walks across a paddock and disappears into the bushes.

This morning I went to let my girls out and who should be in the coop, patiently standing beside the door, waiting to be let out. Yes, King George. I do feel sorry for his poor little lonely  bantam sleeping across the road on her own.