We had quite a bit of excitement here on the homestead yesterday. As you know from my last post, we have two broody moms with five chicks between them. Well, yesterday afternoon I got to thinking that the nest boxes are up about two feet from the ground. It’s not unusual for mama hens to begin taking their babies out of the next within the first three or four days of their lives. I wasn’t concerned about the chicks getting out of the nest, I was concerned that once they did, they would not be able to get back into the nest. So I decided to move both broody moms and their chicks onto the floor of the coop, underneath the nest boxes. And move them, I did.
I sat with the broods for a while and everything went along just fine. Broody1 just sat in a corner with her two little little chicks cheeping happily beneath her. Broody2 brought her three chicks out into the middle of the coop and started teaching them to peck and eat. A couple of hens wandered in and checked out the chicks, and then moved on to the nest boxes. Everything was going better than I had hoped for. I went inside and over the next couple of hours I went back out to the coop about every 15 minutes to check on the situation. So far, so good.
After two hours, however, things changed. Swiftly and dramatically. I opened the front door to walk toward the coop and I immediately knew something was wrong. I could hear baby chicks peeping like crazy, and I could see a huge plume of dust and feathers flying out of the chicken door. I ran to the coop and opened door, and then stood there with my mouth open for a full minute. My two sweet, gentle, lovely little mama hens were in the middle of what looked like a bar room brawl. They were a screeching, screaming, clawing, pecking ball of feathers in the middle of the coop. I could not believe it. I quickly ran in and tried to separate them, and it wasn’t easy. Each time I would get them apart, they would fly back at each other and start fighting all over again. I finally managed to pick one up and as I stood, she had the other in her mouth by the neck. It was awful. I eventually got them apart and put each back in the nests they hatched their broods in. Then I looked around for the biddies. There were two. I grabbed them and put one in each nest box with a mama. I searched all over coop and there was not a sign of another biddy. I began to panic. I ran outside, laid on the ground and looked underneath the coop. The bottom of the coop is covered with chicken wire, but a one day old biddy could very easily fit between the wire. I laid there for a while, desperately searching for a sign of a biddy, but I could see nothing. And I could hear nothing. No peep, chirp, or scurrying. Nothing. I walked all through the woods by the coop searching for them. Nothing. I layed on the ground next to the garden shed and looked underneath it. Nothing.
Bernie was not home during all this. He had gone in to town to run some errands. By the time he returned, I was in the middle of a full blown nervous breakdown. I did my best to explain what had happened, but judging from the confused look on his face, I’m certain I was making no sense at all. I was standing there shaking like a leaf and mumbling something like “It’s hopeless. Hopeless! They’re gone. Gone forever.” when he said “Honey, they couldn’t have just disappeared. Let’s go outside and look together”.
We went into the coop and looked around. Nothing. We went outside and looked under the coop. Nothing. We walked through the woods searching everywhere. Nothing. And just when I began mumbling about the biddies being gone forever again, we heard a cheep. And then another. And it was coming from underneath the coop! I’m going to fore go the details on this. Suffice it to say that 15 minutes and a lot of running around chasing biddies later, we had the three escaped biddies safely tucked in with their mothers.
Two hours later I had built the pen that will house these mamas and babies for the next couple of weeks:
This is actually two pens – separated by more wire between them. Each is about 4′ X 4′. As soon as it was finished, I placed the mamas and their babies in them. And they seem very happy.
Broody1 got the worst damage during the brawl with Broody2. But in Broody1′s defense, she had been sitting on a nest for six weeks and hadn’t been eating for several days. She was very weak. Just look at her poor bruised eye and damaged comb:
Poor little thing. Today is the first day she has accepted food from me and eaten in many days. I’m really hoping she’ll start getting back to her old self soon. It was a little cool today, and she has kept the babies tucked up tightly underneath her.
Broody2 is doing just fine. She eats and drinks and calls the babies out to learn to peck and eat fairly regularly. I had a hard time getting pictures of her babies, but I managed to get this one (there’s one behind her, but you can’t see much of her):
Awwww. That is just adorable. This is one of the two White Faced Black Spanish mixes that hatched. In fact, I’m fairly certain this one is mixed with Bobby Lee, the Phoenix – notice the darker legs. The other is obviously mixed with Duke, a Silver Gray Dorking. She has orange legs and five toes – another trait of the Dorking.
I was not there when the fight between these two mamas started, but I am certain it had something to do with the babies. I have a friend that says mama hens fight like ninjas over their babies. Well, until you see it, you can’t imagine how accurate that description really is. I hope to never see it again.
I’ve written way more about this than I had planned, or probably should have. If you’re still with me at this point, please allow me to offer you some advice. If you plan to have chickens, read everything you can read about raising them and issues that can occur while you’re doing it. Talk to everyone you know that has chickens and ask them what their experiences have been. And then get your chickens and know that you will be able to write your own book when it’s all said and done. No book and no one can prepare you for everything in your future with chickens. Everyone is different. Every flock is different. They will have a lot in common but trust me, those little chickens will throw you a curve ball more than once. And at the end of the day, you wouldn’t have it any other way.