sad day

We lost our sweet Fluffy last night. Something tunneled under the coop and killed her. We think it was a rat. I feel horrible, because I left the ladder down, and I think that’s why it got up there so easily. Cleo and Gloria were fine, and we are very grateful for that, but we miss Fluffy terribly. The other girls are back inside until we can get the coop reinforced, and hopefully get the rats moved out of our backyard. We think they are nesting in our french drain. (Update: we are now pretty sure it was raccoons, not rats, and that they pulled her through the ventilation hole) We will try to remember the sweet times we had with Fluffy. I’m glad I’ve been keeping this blog with lot’s of nice photos and videos of her. She was so pretty! I wish we could have seen what she looked like all grown up. I salvaged a couple of her feathers, and the kids want to frame them to remember her. Rest in peace, little chick.

tail feathers – 7 weeks old

We just got back from a 5 day vacation, and the girls definitely look bigger. Their tails especially are getting quite fluffy and hen shaped. We’re going to try letting them sleep out in the coop again tonight, locked upstairs with food and water… I hear that’s a good idea so they get used to it as their new home. We’ll see how it goes…



News Flash: Mama Hen Protects Chicks

OK, so this Mama Hen couldn’t stand it. I had to go out and check on the girls at midnight to make sure they were OK, and that they had figured out how to get up to the second floor where there is hay and it’s dry. Alas, they were all huddled together down in the grass getting rained on and they were wet and seemed pretty scared. Granted it’s still pretty warm out and the rain was light, but they aren’t supposed to be in a place where they can’t get dry. I felt really bad, and thought I would try putting them up in the nesting box myself. They seemed happier up there and would have probably been OK, but then I started to worry that they wouldn’t know how to get down to their food and water… and that they wouldn’t be able to get dry… and it’s so dark for them and they’re not used to it…etc… so I just had to bring them back inside and set their cage back up. I also think it was just too much change in one day. To lose their brothers, and then to be abandoned outside to spend the night in the dark and the rain. I know the farmer said they would be OK, and they probably would have, but they are still only 5 1/2 weeks old, and other things I have read say to wait until they are 6-8 weeks to have them live outside. When I put them back in their cage they made lots of happy clucking sounds and they went right under the heat lamp to work on drying out their feathers by fluffing them up and using their beaks to squeegee out the water. Poor babies. Now they are sleeping peacefully and all is right in the world once again. Conclusion: I think I will wait another week or two, or at least until they’ve shown me that they can get upstairs on their own before I have them stay out there for good.

Farewell Penguin and Toothpick

We took the boys to the farm today. It was a little bit sad, but definitely time. Toothpick had started biting me pretty hard, and well… I warned him. Also, Penguin had been crowing a lot, and had started bullying the girls. They did a little of that before, but he was getting more aggressive with them, making them cluck loudly in protest. Enough is enough, I said! You are big boys now, you have all of your feathers and you can live happily outside, so bon voyage! The farmer (who donated the eggs to the school) was happy to take them back. They will have a good life there, at least for the next 13 weeks or so, at which time they will probably be dinner. C’est la vie. Here they are in their new home:

The farmer put them immediately on a rail to roost. Boy, were they surprised at that! They had never roosted before, and they seemed happy to discover that it came naturally. I also got a peak at one of the mama hens, a black one like Gloria. She was beautiful and BIG. At least twice as big as our girls are now. And she had adopted all of the chicks from the school that didn’t go to other homes… 17 of them! She literally took all of them under her wings to raise, it was hilarious to see them following her around. I guess she sits on a roost at night with her wings stretched out as wide as she can get them to cover them all. What a Mama! I also learned that the black chickens are actually Barred Rocks, not Black Stars. Our chicks are bigger and more developed than the others, supposedly because they were raised inside under a lamp. They couldn’t distinguish between day and night, so they ate all of the time, which made them get big fast. The farmer also said that they should all be fine to live outside now, even little Cleo who still has a few fuzzy feathers. So we came home and moved them into their coop! They seem to be pretty happy, but of course, as their Mother hen, I worry about them a bit. I’m sitting outside with them now while I’m typing to make sure they are OK. Today was very warm, but what about when it gets cooler and starts to rain? Are they really going to be OK? They haven’t figured out how to get up the ramp by themselves yet, so I hope they can figure that out if they get too cold. Right now they are curled up together against the side of the coop closest to where I am sitting. Sweet little hens. Here’s a video of them testing out their upstairs nesting box. Don’t they look pretty together with their 3 colors?

Also, before I forget, here are some photos from An of when they were hatching at the school.

cheep, cluck, cock-a-doodle-doo – 5 weeks old

The chicks are almost too big to be called chicks anymore. Time to start calling them chickens, I guess. On Sunday they got to spend most of the afternoon outside, and had a really great time learning to forage for themselves a bit. They wandered around the yard for a while, but once they found their way into the coop, they just wanted to stay in there. I guess it felt safer, plus there is shade in there. I imagine it’s pretty jarring to be under so much sunlight after spending most of your life under an infrared light in the basement.

Thanks to my Mom, I think we’ve figured out why Toothpick has been biting so much. She was wondering if it was in protection for the others, since he is the biggest male, and sure enough, right after she said that, I put my hand in to pet Gloria and he came over and bit it. Still not really hard, but not comfortable either.

They are definitely clucking now, and we’re hearing a few little crows from the boys as well. Here’s a video mash up from this week:

I thought I was all done blogging today, but then Penguin really started crowing, so I had to capture that as well:

Also, just for fun, the kids have been really into the new Muppet Movie, and this song is one of their favorites from the soundtrack. I think they are hoping their chickens will do this one day. I just played it for the chicks, and they were quite enthralled as well:

fried chicken blackmail – 4 weeks old

They are getting so big! Toothpick especially is really starting to feel like a chicken when you pick him up. He is also starting to bite occasionally. 😦 Not very hard, and always with the hope that our fingers are offering food, but still… it’s enough to make me wonder how much I’ll miss him when he goes back to the farm. I hear big six week old black star roosters taste very good fried, so I’ve been threatening him with that when he bites me (but not in front of the kids). The girls are still very sweet. I think I heard a cluck out of one of them today!

building the chicken coop

The kids totally impressed me with their skills and dedication today. It took about 2 hours to put the coop we ordered together, and they were very cooperative and careful the whole time. They pretty much did it all by themselves, I just helped hold the pieces together for them. Then, of course we had to let the chicks check it out as well. We’re very excited about it. It’s super cute and seems very sturdy. We just beat the pouring down rain today, and when we went out afterwards to check the inside, it had stayed nice and dry. I think our hens will be very comfortable living in it.

reinforcing the ends – this took the longest

attaching the 3rd side

all four sides attached

all finished!!!

the chicks seem to approve

And the video version:

6 little chicks

I’ve just gotta say it, and I don’t think I’m too prejudiced: The chicks are pretty cute, but my daughter is cuter.

6 little chicks

5 chicks: 23 days old, 6th chick: 5 years old