Friday, May 11, 2012

A Mothers' Day Chicken Tale



Minnie sitting on 3 eggs
Minnie has gone all broody.  Minnie is my little white Silkie hen.  Miniature in size, but with a lot of attitude.  You have to be tough when you are the only bantam in the coop.  There have been others, but she is the only one left. 






Minnie came with a couple of egg-mates a couple of years ago.  Poor little black Forrest Gump had a gimpy leg.  We were always saying, "run Forrest, run."  He got stuck in a fence and because of his leg defect he couldn't back out.  The sun was hot, what more can I say?   Her other mate was a fine guy named Rudy-Toot-Toot, or just Rudy or Tootie, named for the Rudy who wanted to play football at Notre Dame, but was too small for the team.  The coach let him stay because Rudy had heart.  The same here.   My Rudy was charming and beautiful.  And he was very vocal.  That is him in the above video. Toot Toot.  Minnie was his only girl and received more attention than she needed.  If you know what I mean.  He was around for a long time before I figured we had better down-size to just one rooster as he was starting to fight with Cornflake.  Territory and girls.  Girls too big for him to handle, but he kept trying. Cornflake won the coop.  
So back to Minnie as a mother.  Probably every egg she ever laid was fertile.  Rudy was the man.  But she never seemed to want to set.  So last year I bought an incubator and put in many eggs, some of them Minnie's.  I candled them and watched them progress, but when it came time to hatch most of them had died for unexplained reasons--not enough rotating, got a chill, too much or too little humidity, too much rotating--I just don't know.  But there were two of Minnie's eggs that were peeping.  The first was hatching out just fine when I went to bed and should have continued to open, but it just couldn't get out and it died.  One egg left.  It was still peeping.  An odd thing when you can hear a chick peeping from inside.  It broke the shell and was poking out it's little beak, but it looked like it was not going to finish either, and die like its mate.  So I did what they always tell you not to do--I helped break off the shell.  It would die inside or it would die from me helping.   I thought, what's the difference? But it didn't die.  It made it. 

Maizie the lazy bird
So now I had just one chick.  Nobody for it to curl up to and keep warm.  Because of her less than stellar hatching skills, I named her Maizie the lazy bird (from Horton Hatches an Egg).  Thinking Minnie might be interested in her own baby, I put her in the brooder box with the chick.  She looked at Maizie for a second then picked her up with her little black beak and tossed her--yes, flung with great force--all the way across the box.  No mothering instincts it seemed.  So back outside with her.  I felt sad for the little white chick--so so so cute, but no friends.  So I bought her two.  Two little carmel colored Silkies.  Always hoping for hens, but never knowing, until one crows.  And one did. 
Maizie, Chewie and Fluffie
One evening, weeks later, the three little Silkies were out in the run with all the big chickens for the first time.  A  racoon reached in through the chicken wire and got Maizie and Fluffie--leaving just Chewie, the rooster.  I think they huddled next to the wire edges instead of running inside with the big chickens.
I tried hatching more eggs in the incubator, but no luck.  Three weeks and all I had were stinky eggs. About that time Rudy found a new home in Connecticut.    And as soon as the pressure was off from Rudy, Minnie sat right down and got broody, and wanted to hatch eggs.  Well, no Rudy, no children for Minnie.  And she would NOT budge.  She sat there for days, not eating, and no eggs to sit on.   Finally, I gave her some of the other birds' eggs.   She sat dutifully for the 3 weeks, but nothing hatched and I had to take them away.  She finally relented and got out of her box and went about her business.
Until a few weeks ago.  And then she just sat right down directly in front of the door out of the coop.
She wasn't even laying eggs, not that they would have been fertile.  She had just finished moulting and hadn't started laying again.  Every once and a while a chicken will slowly lose all of it's feathers and grow new ones.  During that time they do not lay eggs.  But most just start again as soon as they are all newly feathered.  So, Minnie has been sitting on 3 eggs not her own for 22 days now.  Again, they seem to have died, or not been fertile.  They were eggs from the big chickens.  And I am sad because one was from a favorite Black Copper Marans hen that was eaten by a fox just a few days ago.  Bad bad fox--that's another story.   Neighbors, watch for that very tan colored fox.  He is out in the daytime which worries me.  So tomorrow I have to take Minnie's eggs away from her again.  It is a sad mother's day in the coop.  Minnie has done her best.  She has sat for 3 weeks leaving only a couple times a day to get a drink and a little to eat.  I really wanted to see what kind of a little mother she can be (after the chick throwing incident, I wonder.)  But I can't let her go on any more or she may waste away.  But I hope to see her out and about in a day or two.  (If I can keep the fox away).  I've missed her bopping about with the big chickens. 

Minnie out for a stroll.  I don't know how she sees where she is headed.
(Added note for Mother's Day---It will still be a great celebration here this weekend because today we added a new Bezzant to the world.   My new grandson (number 3) was born out in California today.  WoooHooo)
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