Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Roosting Chickens

Baby Sister (left) and her son, Junior (right).

From left to right, in the nests, Baby Sister and Junior, Mrs Peckins, the Four Girls - only one has a name, Peepy Peeperton. She is the little white head just visible in the foreground. You can see that while she is white, she has a tan cast to her feathers. That means she is genetically Mrs. Peckins' daughter.

The Weird Sisters.

Baby Sister is the best hen mother. She hatched Peepy Peeperton and Junior this summer in two different settings. Junior is clearly one of Mrs. Peckins' eggs, and I think he is a rooster. (If Mrs. Peckins had hatched him, he would already be on his own!) Even though he as big as his mother, he still makes baby peeping noises, so Baby Sister continues to look after him. I think those baby peepings translate into human phrases like "Where's my college rent money, Mom?" or "You still need to pay my car insurance while I'm in college, Mom."

Last week, I opened the nest lid to count heads, and poor Baby Sister had her little wing stretched entirely out trying to cover Junior. In her defense, Baby Sister has endured much motherly trauma.

Unfortunately, I took all the eggs but one from her nest and put them under Mrs Peckins when they started hatching. When I checked on that last egg, a tiny little chick had only half hatched and was dried into the shell. That chick smelled HORRIBLE but she was so alert and conscious. When I was trying to determine how to best get her out of the stinky shell, her bright little eyes were fixed on me. I know it sounds silly, but that tiny little chick was conscious and present the way the other peeps were not. I soaked her and the shell in warm water and peeled it away without harming her or her fluff. I also washed her with soap and water because of the enormous smell. After she dried I returned her with all the peeps under Mrs Peckins instead of Baby Sister. I thought a single chick would be better off with a nest full of peeps, so that is why I put her with Mrs Peckins. She was so tiny it was easy to recognize her among all the other chicks. She was always losing the others and peeping loudly for them, so I began calling her Peepy Peeperton.

Later in the summer, Baby Sister hatched two more chicks, both of them brown. One hatched on Saturday and the other on Sunday. They were so cute, and Baby Sister was a ferocious mother. Despite her best efforts, one of the chicks disappeared when it was about three weeks old. The remaining chick (Junior) plaintively peeped for his sister for a couple of days. It was very sad. Due to so much loss and trauma, Baby Sister still tries to protect Junior as if he is a peep - that and he still makes baby peepings so his mother has not noticed how big he is, apparently.

Now, the Weird Sisters are a hoot! They are very high strung and go flying off in a big flurry at the slightest disturbance. When I call the chickens, those three goofy girls come flying and hopping as fast as they can. They are always together in a little gang of three. Even though they are so excitable, they are also the most curious. If I am outside doing something, they are the first to come around, craning their necks and observing everything with their big black eyes. They will also eat from my hand. Their feathers are smooth and their little bodies are very round and fleshy. They are very different in temperament than the D'Uccles. And, of course, no one is a sweet as Mrs. Peckins, the tiny Partridge Cochin hen.

I had no idea how much fun it would be to raise chickens. I should have guessed that they would each have their own personality. I knew I would get attached to them but I never suspected the depth of that attachment. I guess when you know'em from the time they were peeps....


Anonymous said...

Oh my god! You're the Kansas version of the little old lady with a hundred cats!!!

Seriously, I love your chicken scratches ... I mean ... posts. It's nice to see the photo's,
especially of the paint-by-number Weird Sisters. (Charlotte, Emily and Ann?). Those outlined
feathers just look so cool.

They are blessed to have such a caring guardian. :-)

Jackie said...

Oh yes, indeed. I have resigned myself to the fact that I am Crazy Old Chicken Lady. I worried I might become Crazy Old Cat Lady, but never imagined my life would take this sudden and tragic turn into Chicken Madness. It just can't be helped.

Jackie said...

Maybe Blanche, Maggie and Virginia? (duBois, the Cat,and Woolf, respectively)

Li'l Ned said...

I want to start some peeps next year. Will you come out to Oregon and advise me on building a coop, starting the little ones and all that fun stuff?

Jackie said...

I would love to come to Oregon! (And I will one of these days.) However, if you want to raise a few chickens, everything you want to know is on the internet! County Extension office has almost everything you need to know - how much square footage per chicken needed in the coop and pen - what to feed,how to keep them healthy. User groups abound on the internet.

www.mypetchicken.com is a commercial hatchery. (I ordered the Sebrites from them.) They sell coop plans, too. They are a hatchery with a conscience. They do not debeak the pullets or any of the other barbaric practices most of the big hatcheries engage in for profit and convenience (to humans).

Jackie said...

mypetchicken.com is just fun to explore - they have great photos and info of every breed of chicken and lots of information. When the time comes, you will want to get the peeps from local farmers, the farm store in the spring, or poultry swap meet.