I can’t imagine my life without friends. In my travels through this world, I have met friends in expected places and sometimes very unexpected places. Some are in my life more than others. Some it has been years, yet we can pick up right where we left off. Others are there because of a certain need or cause. Some are there for as long as you can remember. I cannot imagine living without them. Not surprisingly, chickens have friends too.
I often wonder if some of the same breeds from the hatchery are in fact siblings or just friends. Sometimes, I don’t think that even matters in life. To some of us, friends are our family. In the world of chickens, they share love. They chatter with each other. They snuggle on the roosts near each other and yes, they have a preference. They eat together. They share a bond. They spend time with one another and they have favorite friends too.
Oyster Cracker and Sunshine, our Buff Orpingtons, are great friends. At first it didn’t start this way when they were one day old chicks. It developed and grew. They worked at it. Today, they are thick as thieves, completely inseparable. A fine example is when one of them needs to lay an egg. As one sits in the nesting box, the other follows her inside the coop. Once the nesting box of choice is selected and deemed worthy of the egg, the henny girl sits down and the other goes outside to the run. As the egg process is occurring inside, the other can not help but come in and check on their bestie every 20 seconds or so. From the run, she scoots inside and chats with her friend. Call it coaxing ,words of encouragement or just an “Are you done yet?”, it continues on until the egg is finally laid and they can rejoin each other in the run. Everyday, they reciprocate this behavior only to one another, to their best friend.
When I have to give Oyster Cracker a bath, I take her away from the flock. This makes Sunshine very upset. As the bubbles and scrubbing commence, Sunshine pines for Oyster Cracker’s swift return. She calls from the run, non-stop. “Where have you gone?” Even when Oyster Cracker, our self-professed lap chicken, wants snuggles and spends countless time on my lap, Sunshine is at my feet, content to wait. Sunshine has never wanted to snuggle like her friend, but somehow understands the connection.
I received an email from a friend the other day. One of her poor henny girls has been down. Earlier, they lost a flock member and now another hen went broody, leaving her henny girl feeling alone. Her chicken became depressed. It did not matter to her sweet girl that there were other new recent additions to the flock to become acquainted with, she longed for her old dear friends. To me this was fascinating.
Chickens love. Chickens make friends. Chickens have emotions. Yes, chickens live in a flock and find safety in numbers like most birds. However, in both places, I have now seen that chickens do have long term memories, sweet henny girl memories that they share between one another. Memories that make them feel good. How can I blame them for wanting to make more memories with their best friend? Isn’t that what we do with our best friends?
This post is linked up to Homestead Revival’s Homestead Barn Hop.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
|Oyster Cracker and Sunshine 3 days old|
Buff Orpingtons are a hardy, cold tolerant breed of chicken that are docile and a delight to raise with children. They are a beautiful golden color with tan legs and gorgeous red wattles, earlobes and combs. Dating to the 1800’s and originating in Orpington, Kent, England, they have gained popularity for many of these traits. They come in an array of other colors including black, white, splash and even rare blue.
These birds are known to be a heavy dual breed used for meat and eggs. Some Buff Orpingtons can reach up to 10 pounds. Due to their weight, many can not fly. Other characteristics include soft feathers that cover up the majority of their legs, curvy figures and single combs. They lay light brown eggs and will even continue to lay in wintry conditions.
These birds also make excellent mothers and will go broody at times. They are also easy to tame and enjoy sitting in your lap and taking treats from your hands. They are not skittish, in fact they are curious and a terrific addition to anyone’s flock.
|Oyster Cracker and Sunshine, 1 year old|
Oyster Cracker and Sunshine are our two Buff Orpingtons. I get the most compliments on their beautiful feathers and their overall appearance. They also are great friends and seem to get along with almost everyone in the flock. I rarely see them have to assert themselves with the other chickens and most importantly, they are gentle with the children. Based on my two girls, I can understand why some people choose to keep a flock entirely composed of Buff Orpingtons.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
Oyster Cracker and Sunshine are my two Buff Orpingtons. They have been together since they were one day old and have been inseperable ever since. They truly are best friends and do everything together. They eat, drink, sleep, scratch and dust bathe together. They are never apart except for when they lay their eggs and even then, they always go in multiple times to check on each other. They seem to be coaching each other with the process and sometimes, even impatiently wondering, “Are you done yet, I really want you to play with me!”
These two girls are the sweetest chickens around. They are incredibly mild mannered. Our huge super sized chicken, Oyster Cracker’s personality reminds me of a golden retriever. I guess they both do in a way. They love treats. They love to sit on my lap and enjoy a good rub. They love to nuzzle into the crick of my neck inhaling deeply all the while. Oyster Cracker always sound like she has nasal congestion!
They are also my best egg layers. These two lay everyday. I can only recall a day or two when they have missed laying one of their edible art pieces! Oyster Cracker’s eggs are huge. Probably because she is so huge herself. She is like a chicken and a half. Sunshine’s eggs are normal sized, as she is the size of a typical chicken.
They both sit right under Tilly in the pecking order. I rarely see them have to assert their place in the flock like Tilly does. Most of the others, just accept these two in their ranks. I have never seen them peck the other girls, just an occasional squawk. They also enjoy sleeping next to each other at night. No matter how hot it is outside, they sleep with their wings touching.
Without a doubt, these two girls are best friends. I have seen this incredible bond develop only between these two over the past year. Incredibly, chickens are capable of friendships. I do not need any scientific evidence to prove this. At least in my flock, these two girls have given me all the proof I will ever need.
Photo Credits: Tilly’s Nest
Today its raining on the Cape. It has been cloudy all day with occasional showers from the skies. I went to check for eggs this afternoon and I found Dolly and Autumn both sitting in adjacent boxes. Dolly was sitting on two eggs and Autumn was sitting on air. Then in front of the nesting boxes, lay 2 rouge eggs. The buff Orpingtons were also in the coop. They went back and forth, staring at the two Silkies in the nesting boxes then staring at the eggs. They must have been thinking, ” Not this again!”. Funny, the same thing crossed my mind. Yes, I had been waiting for Autumn to become broody since she was the last of the Silkies that had yet to this Spring. However, Dolly is now, once again broody. This will be the fourth time since December. She was an excellent mother this Spring, but as Chocolate is no longer with us, her chances at motherhood are no more.
So, how do rouge eggs get there anyway? I am not sure what exactly happens. I guess this is where a coop cam would come in handy! Sometimes these eggs are warm and sometimes they are stone cold. Sometimes they are the Silkie eggs and sometimes they are from one of the larger girls. They are never broken and I have been finding them everyday for the last 5 days.
I have seen the broody girls attempting to roll eggs from adjacent nesting boxes into their own. I also have seen the chickens higher up on the pecking order, evict the broody hens from their preferred nesting box when they are ready to lay. Could it be that sometimes the hen that is ready to lay her egg clears the nesting box of any preexisting eggs? All I know, is that there is an awful lot of confusion over these rogue eggs from the Buff Orpingtons and myself. I wonder if this mystery will ever be solved?
Flock together. I am convinced that Oyster Cracker and Sunshine are best friends. They have been together since they were born. I am not sure, but it is entirely possible that they could even be sister. They are difficult to tell apart. Oyster Cracker has reached maturity a little faster and is a little bigger than Sunshine. Other than that, they are pretty much indistinguishable.
Interestingly enough, I have noticed that my chickens, from early on, like to be near chickens of the same breed. The Silkies stayed together and the Buff Orpingtons stayed together. I find this fascinating. It must be instinctual. Although, they can see themselves as they go about preening, eating and living their chicken lives; my chickens have never seen themselves in the mirror. How do they know what their own faces look like? How do they know what breed they are?
Oyster Cracker and Sunshine spend their entire days together. The always do the same things at the same time. They eat together. They scratch near each other in the dirt. They take dust baths together. They even sleep side by side each other with their feathers touching at night. I would even say they like to snuggle.
When I was little, I remember having a best friend. We were inseparable. We did everything together and could not wait to share our day’s event with one another. I miss having a BFF like I did when I was a little girl. I am so happy that Oyster Cracker and Sunshine reminded me of those sweet memories. In my busy adulthood, I had not thought about them much. Friendships are indeed something very special.
Poor Dolly, she has now been brooding in her nesting box for four days. She really wants those babies. Yesterday, Dolly did not lay any eggs. She will typically lay two days in a row and then take a day off. However, we did find out who was laying the large eggs. It was not Tilly after all, it was Oyster Cracker, our big Buff Orpington.
Yesterday, as Dolly has taken residence in the “favorite” nesting box, Oyster Cracker wanted in; never mind that we have two other boxes. She was determined to lay her second egg in the same nesting box that Dolly occupied. She shoved her way in and made herself comfortable. After a couple of hours, I went out to check on them. Oyster Cracker no longer occupied the box. Dolly had made her way back into the center of the box and underneath her warm chest feathers was Oyster Cracker’s egg! I gently slid it out. She made a quiet low growl. I petted her on the back and felt her body. She was toasty warm. I felt her chest. Her crop seemed unusually large for a chicken that was not eating much. I decided that since Christmas was quickly approaching that I probably should take her to the vet and have her crop evaluated.
We have a fantastic vet in our area that treats chickens. I understand that this is a rarity, so I consider myself a very lucky girl. The vet agreed that her crop seemed larger than normal. She also felt that Dolly had become dehydrated. The vet cleaned out Dolly’s crop and filled it with water. She also gave us a medication to help with her digestion. Thank goodness that the crop was not sour and she did not have anything stuck in her crop.
When I opened the coop this morning, Dolly did not come out. She was in her nesting box. I took her out, gave her medicine and then set her free in the run. She did not do much socializing. She scratched a little and ate some corn in the run and then went back to her box. I created a small water dish that I suspended in her nesting box. I also placed a small amount of food near her. The vet said that she could be broody for about 3 weeks. I guess nature will just have to take it’s course. I cannot imagine baby chicks in the middle of Winter. I’m not sure they would survive. I’ll consider this practice for motherhood in the Spring. I just hope she is broody then!
So, how do I go about this, you ask? Well if you’re like me you read everything you can get your hands on, check the internet and dive head first into something figuring you’ll just troubleshoot along the way. However, there is some planning to optimize your chicken experiences that will make life easier. So, lets start at the beginning. How do I get the chickens?