It’s been a while since I have shared any stories about the girls. Perhaps, that is because we have finally found a flock that jives with personalities. There are no more roosters to wreak havoc. There are no more bully hens. The chicken drama has been gone for a while. Everything and everyone has just settled into their daily routines. I do have to admit that it is a wonderful thing knowing that everyone is happy. Of course that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an occasional fight over a goodie that I have shared from the kitchen.
Or that our Silkies have stopped going broody every three weeks.
Or that Sunshine can’t resist eating an egg now and then…Bad chicken.
Or that 4 chickens don’t try to cram into the same hole for a dust bath. Yes, there are 4 chickens in there.
I think that there is definitely something to be said for harmony in the hen house.
The Silkies were broody again. Sunshine was just sick of it. All day she kept kicking the girls out of the nesting boxes. She was on broody police duty. No one was going to sit in those boxes without laying eggs. I captured her in all her glory as she chased poor Dolly and Autumn out of the boxes. As you can see, she meant business that day.
I am away for a few days spending time with my sister and her new baby on the West Coast. Please enjoy these photos while I am away. I can’t wait to return and share my adventures with you.
Every Silkie of ours takes their turn being broody. It seems that once one is done, another is found sitting upon barren pine shavings in the nesting boxes. This week, Fifi and Dolly have snapped out of their broodiness and Feathers and Autumn have snapped in. For the first time, I think that the bigger girls are more curious about being broody.
Tilly, Oyster Cracker and Sunshine, all standard breeds, have never been broody. They are older now and I know they have been curious to know what these little fluffy Silkies are doing staying in the favorite nesting box. I can hear them thinking. Why do they stay in the nesting boxes and never come out? Are they happy when they have to re-establish their place in the pecking order after being broody so long? Why do they pull out their chest feathers like that, is this something that I should be doing? Don’t they like treats anymore? Are you going to be in there all day? Can I lay my egg in the box you are occupying? The Silkies guard these boxes as if their life depends on it. Their heads wear their broody battle wounds. Their once perfectly tufted feathered heads are matted and missing feathers as they sit stubbornly in the boxes. The problem is, every flock of hens seem to favor one nesting box.
We have three nesting boxes. Yet, most eggs are laid in the far left box. Sometimes, I find the standard breeds trying to squeeze into the boxes with the broody Silkies. They wriggle, squawk and cause quite a commotion; just imagine me trying to squeeze back into that size 2 prom dress from high school. Eventually, the Silkies are pecked on the head or back and sternly told to leave the box as the bigger girls get to work laying a perfect warm egg.
As one of the larger girls sits and lays her egg, there are the Silkies circling and jockeying for position in front of the nesting box, waiting for the egg to arrive. Sometimes the larger girls are quick. Other times, they rest after they lay their egg. It makes me smile when I check under the broody girls later in the day and find an assortment of various sized chicken eggs. Oyster Cracker lays the hugest eggs. Those are the best to discover and easiest. I always know when a Silkie has one of Oyster Cracker’s eggs underneath her breast. She appears elevated up a few inches, perched upon an egg that is almost a quarter the size of their body.
As the broodiness fades, missing feathers return along with the weight that was lost during their dedication to being broody. It is cyclical. It is predicable for some. Some hens have a strong desire to mother, while others get down to business, lay their eggs and get on with life. For some the grass is greener outside of the coop where new adventures await, while for the broodies, there may be no fresh grass in the nesting boxes, but it is most definitely a place for eggs.
Dolly is broody yet again. Her instinctual drive to be a mother never ceases to amaze me. Like clockwork, she completes being broody after 3 weeks. After about a week off the nest, she begins to lay again. Once she lays about 10 eggs, she returns to the empty nesting box and restarts the process.
Some women love to be mothers. Some women never care to be. I find it fascinating that the same appears to be true of chickens as well. I have a few hens that go broody very often, while some have never been broody in their lives.
Mothers are dedicated to their unborn. Like pregnant women that rub their bellies and talk to their unborn children, a broody hen rocks her eggs side to side and whispers in chicken language to all of her eggs. A broody girl also keeps the eggs warm and pulls feathers from her breast to keep the eggs close to her skin and provide the proper humidity, perfect for hatching. Over the 21 day incubation course, she leaves the nest once to meet all her daily nutritional and bowel needs.
Mothers are selfless. Mothers often put their children’s needs ahead of their own, sometimes forgetting that they have needs too.
Mothers are the first teachers. Once hatched, hens teach their children their language. They teach their chicks to eat and drink and how to become adult chickens.
Mothers protect their children. A mother hen will go to extremes to save and protect her baby chicks. Heroic unselfish acts of sacrifice are seen time and time again.
Mothers set the rules. A mother hen runs a strict household. She calls the shots. She tells the chicks when to eat and drink. She tells them when there is danger and to seek safety. She even sets a bedtime.
Sadly, the young leave the nest too quickly. Like kids, the chicks grow so incredibly fast, hurrying to reach a more complicated adulthood. At six weeks, the chicks are fully feathered and ready to leave the nest and the comfort of their mother hen.
Mothering is amazingly universal. These traits are shared across all species. Mothering has its own language and it begins with love. It is a love of something much deeper than we will even know for something that we have never seen or met. It is having a bottomless heart. It is self-sacrificing, given freely and expects big things for such little ones we have never met. Dolly, you never cease to amaze me. You are one remarkable chicken.
Fifi is over being broody! It seems as though this little fluff ball had been broody for over a month. During these past couple of days, I could see the veil lifting. She has been first with Feathers to jump out the coop door in the morning and I began to find her spending more time in the run and less time in the nesting boxes. I felt so happy and relieved.
I always get nervous when the Silkies go broody. They seem to be broody all the time and being broody is not easy on their bodies. They eat very little and spend most of their time in a zen like trance that is sometimes difficult to get past. When I find them broody, I like to reach into their nesting box a couple times per day, scoop them up and force them to stretch their legs out in the run. Whenever I do this, it is like they are stunned. It takes them a minute to realize what is happening, who they are with and what exactly I am doing. As soon as they realize, I barely have time to return and close the nesting box lid and vooomp, the broody girl has returned.
Imagine my surprise today when I went out late morning to give the girls their treats and Dolly was in the nesting box. Like clockwork, she is dialed in to broodiness, every other month. It was easy to confirm. I lifted her up and found a colorful assortment of three eggs underneath her breast. I am coming to the realization that this is just who she is and how her body works. It makes me feel like I understand her and in someways, love her more for it. I returned inside the house and continued on with my day. Later in the afternoon, I fed the girls some scratch. The weather was getting cooler as the sun was setting. I took Dolly out of her box and let her enjoy the treat with the others.
Once nightfall arrived, I went out to lock up the coop. I was in for a real surprise. I opened up the nesting box door, expecting to shoo Dottie Speckles out and there I found it. Three girls, including Oyster Cracker were inside all three of the boxes. I first gently shooed Oyster Cracker out of the left box. She groggily left and walked off toward the favorite roost. In the middle box, I found Fifi. She was sound asleep so I picked her up and guided her feet to the vacant roosting bar. In the right box, I found Feathers. She too was sound asleep and stirred as I guided her next to her sister. Then, in darkness, I blindly felt in each nesting box for any eggs that had been laid between the afternoon and now. When I got to the box on the left where Oyster Cracker had been, there I found Dolly. Oyster Cracker had been sitting on top of her! I scooped her up as well and then placed her next to her fluffy Silkie sisters. Just when I think I have them figured out, they change their behavior. Tonight, it was like a clown car at the circus. The one expected chicken who like to sleep in the nesting boxes wasn’t there but four different ones were. The hen who was supposed to be broody decided today that another Silkie, Dolly, should now assume that role.
The temperature dropped overnight and I was awake listening to terrible rain and thunderstorms. We went to sleep with humidity and temperatures in the mid-eighties. We woke to a, dare I say, chilly breezy morning. It was 62 degrees F with little humidity. The chickens could not have been happier. They stayed nice and dry in the coop during the night and I am sure welcomed the rain and the drop in temperature.
The transition of the little ones into the larger coop has gone okay. I can’t say that it has been entirely perfect but there has been no blood shed and Dolly is a natural mother. A couple of days ago, under the cover of darkness, I placed both Fifi and Dottie Speckles under Dolly. Little did I realize how upset broody Feathers was going to be. I’ve now come to realize that she is jealous of Dolly having mini-chickens. Thus she is not too nice.
A few times per day, I find myself having to empty the coop and give the babies time to eat alone without Feathers preventing them from doing so. Just now, I opened the box to find the babies, Feathers and Dolly sitting in the same box with the mini-chickens panting beneath the two Momma hens. I had to intervene and allow the mini-chickens some air. I can’t tell if Feathers wants part of the motherhood action or if she wishes the mini-chickens were dead! Nonetheless, with a few sips of water, the panting immediately subsides and the mini-chickens go about their business.
As time goes on, I am hoping that the little girls will become large enough to defend themselves. Today is better than the day before; at least the mini-chickens are not trying to escape! As the chickens reestablish their pecking order and the mini-chickens realize their place in their new world, the flock will hopefully plateau off into a peaceful existence. For now, Dolly growls and spreads her wings as a protective mom should. I find it amazing that she has taken these chickens literally under her wings despite the fact that they are 8 and 5 weeks old!
I am at my wit’s end with these girls. Spring is definitely in the air. I don’t mind that they are broody really, I just miss their eggs. Sometimes the best things do come in small packages. I just hope they start laying for Easter time. Won’t the Silkie eggs make the most adorable dyed Easter Eggs?