Thursday, September 3, 2020

Chicken update

 I'm thinking we need a chicken update.  

Um, yeah.  My last chicken update was May 8, when our newest batch of chicks was just one week old.  Now, they are 18 weeks old.

I think the main reason that I haven't published more chicken updates this time around is because of this girl.  Guacamole's crossbeak has gotten much worse, and I spend a significant amount of emotional energy worrying about how I'm going to be able to care for her long term.  At this point, she is able to eat mash, which is chicken feed soaked in water, and she seems to be getting enough hydration from her mash.  

There are a couple of issues with this situation.  First, the big girls looooove mash, and if they have access to it, they will eat it.  All of it.  And second, pretty soon it's going to be cold here, and mash is going to freeze within a matter of minutes.  I have potential solutions in mind for both of these issues, but the truth is, I don't know if they're going to work, or if Guac is going to continue to be able to eat on her own. The third issue, for which I don't have a potential solution, is that Guac wears her food.  That's not going to be a good situation in the winter (frozen food caked in her feathers seems like a recipe for disaster), and we're not going to be able to continue giving her baths in the winter to clean her up. 

Guacamole's crossbeak is just about as bad as it can get at this point*, with the bottom beak pointing about 100° to her right.  She's such a sweet little girl, and she follows me around--probably because I usually have the food.  Guac doesn't realize she's any different from her sisters, and she attempts to do all the chicken things.  

Here's Buttercup.  She's such a pretty chicken, and she loves to roost on me and on my chair--Buttercup is the next generation of lap chicken.  She's kind of a follower, always concerned with where Charlotte and Guacamole are.  I feel like that's a good quality, because if I am carrying Charlotte, Buttercup will follow me.

And this is Charlotte.  She's smaller than Buttercup, but closer to laying, as her bigger and redder comb and wattles attest.  Maybe in a couple more weeks, we'll have white eggs in our egg basket.  Charlotte looks so much like a little dinosaur, and in fact, there have been a few times when the three chicks have been running in formation that they've reminded me of velociraptors running together, a la Jurassic World.  Charlotte is a flyer.  She likes to fly up into the branches of our pine trees, and once ended up about 20 feet off the ground.  Luckily, she came down without my intervention, because, while we do have a ladder that reaches that high, no way could I have maneuvered it into place by myself to get her down.

Indigo hasn't been feeling well, but she's still kicking.  I'm not sure what's wrong, but she's moving slower these days, and she hasn't laid an egg in several months.  She's kind of a loner--has been ever since we lost Hazel.

Koko is one of three chickens who are laying right now.  She's a superstar.  I love her temperament and her iridescent feathers.  I think I will always have a Black Australorp in my flock.

Rocky appears to be going through a partial molt.  She's lost her tail feathers, and some feathers on her neck.  In spite of that, she may have laid an egg yesterday.  The egg was approximately the right shape and color, and it definitely didn't look like anyone else's egg, but if she did lay, it would be surprising, since it's been about a month since Rocky has laid an egg.

Isn't this a fun picture?  I love that it has 6 of the 8 chickens in it, all lined up on the path heading toward the chicken coop--we're only missing Indigo, who was already on the roost, and Guac, who had her face stuck in a bowl of food at the time.  Toasty Crunch is still the matriarch of the group, and at the top of the pecking order.  She's another star layer, one of the three who is laying right now.

Esther went through a molt earlier in the summer, which was sensible of her, because it was super hot at that time.  Her beautiful beard has not returned, but she is the third chicken who is laying right now.

The chick grow out pen worked out really well for us.  I was glad to be able to let the minis grow to be about the size of the big girls before we needed to integrate them, but we needed to move them*, so Tuesday night was their first night in the hen house.  I put the minis to bed in the grow out pen, as usual, while the big girls put themselves to bed in the hen house.  Then Bubby and I went out when it was fully dark, and with the assistance of a red light, moved the minis onto the roost in the hen house.

In the morning, I heard a loud squawk, followed by emphatic clucking.  When I made it out to the coop, the minis were stuck in a corner, and Toasty was clucking at them.  I got them unstuck and put them in their exclusion pen (a safe spot, where the opening is too small for any of the bigger chickens to get in.  Except the minis are about the same size as Esther, so...) with some food and water.

I only heard one other loud squawk during the day, and every time I went out to check, everyone seemed to be getting along fine.  The minis seemed to be dividing their time between the top of the exclusion pen and inside the hen house.  Last night, I hung out in the hen house as everyone was getting settled so that I could referee any squabbles, but everybody behaved.  And at the time this post was published, everybody was still sleeping, so I can't tell you how the second morning went (will go). But so far, so good.

I hate this part of chicken keeping.  I hate that chickens can be so mean to each other.  I just want the integration to be over, but in the meantime, I remain vigilant and ready to intervene if necessary. 

And that's all for now.  I hope you've enjoyed this chicken update.

*Maybe I shouldn't say that, considering how the universe loves to be spiteful, but I honestly don't see how it could get any more out of alignment than it already is.  I have heard that crossbeaks can continue to get worse until the chicken is 5-6 months of age, so we're almost there.

**The minis are almost full size, and the grow out pen is only 12 square feet, so it was getting crowded in there.  In addition, almost always when I opened the top (which I had to do several times a day so that I could stir more water into Guacamole's food as it dried out), one or more of the girls would jump out.  Not a huge issue when Bubby was around to help, but with him starting school and being gone during the day, it was a lot to manage.  Those chicks are fast, and are pretty good at not letting themselves get cornered.  In any case, the minis needed to move and get comfortable with their new space before anyone started laying eggs, and like I said, Charlotte is getting close.  I'm not sure if we'll wait as long next time.  Truthfully, one major reason I waited so long this time is because of Guac and her food situation.  Anyway, integration needed to happen, and it did, and it seems to be ok.

Bonus (and blurry) pics of my curious minis:

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