Sunday, May 24, 2009

Poultry Update

Tweedit, our guinea hen, has been patiently setting on her nest out front since the middle of April. It's way past time for them to have hatched though. So a few days ago, when she was off the nest to eat, we picked up the eggs. She came back to the nest and was calling the rest of the afternoon, but that evening Aries went out front and walked her back down to the coop and she went right in. All three guineas are now flocking together once again.

For the last three years, both Tweedit and Missus have brought in clutches, but it's looking like no keets this year. Missus is Grey's mate (that's Grey, above, in defensive papa mode); Tweedit was the only survivor from Missus' first clutch, hatched in late September four years ago. This Spring, our neighbor found Missus' nest in his shed and threw all her eggs away. They each might lay and set on another clutch late in the summer, but it's hard to raise the babies when the weather starts getting colder so if we catch them at it we'll clean out the nests too.

The chickens are now spending their days inside the pen instead of free-ranging. It's easier to find all the eggs (9-12 a day now) when they're in the nest boxes, and it saves a lot of destruction to my landscaping. PheasantFace and Junior have been flying out, but they've pretty much stayed out of the flower beds and the garden, and are both laying in one spot up by the garage, so I haven't tried to clip their wings. The guineas fly out first thing in the morning, but they prefer to range out in the sagebrush. Last year's hens, the ones raised with Coach, our bantam rooster, are looking pretty rough. He's been getting on them so much he's taken most of the feathers off their backs. I saw an ad in a poultry magazine for little protective chicken jacket/vests that fit across their backs and then velcro around their chests. I might have to make some for Coach's girls if he doesn't let their feathers grow back.

This year's new girls, Flopsy and Mopsy the Buff Orpingtons, and Cottontail and Penny the Red Stars, have now adjusted to life in the coop. They're lowest in the pecking order, so they're always on the move, staying out of everyone's way. They're the last ones in at night - taking advantage of everyone else going in to get an extra bit of food from the feed box.

We have a routine around here. Aries gets up early, so he goes down to the coop to open it up in the morning. We'll often let the flock out to free-range a bit in the evening, and then I'm the one that makes sure everyone is back inside before closing it up for the night. Last week, Aries had gone to work and I was sitting out on the deck later. I could hear Coach crowing non-stop, one right after another. Finally, I went down there to see what was going on. Aries had forgotten to open up the coop that morning. Everyone came piling out when I opened the door, and since the guineas were bullying everyone away from the food and water I went ahead and opened the pen gate too.

As I started back up to the house, I called to Boris, our hound dog, to get away from the nest box hatches and follow me. He wouldn't, despite my yelling at him to leave the chickens alone. He still just stood staring at the nest boxes, so I went back down to see what was so interesting that he wouldn't leave. One of the little Buffys was standing in the lower nest box - I figured she must have been hiding out from everyone, trapped inside the coop like that. But she wouldn't come out when I opened up the hatch - I had to get down and pick her up and set her outside. When I did, I noticed Cottontail had wedged herself headfirst in between the nest box and the wall, with the tip of one wing up around the edge of the box. Poor thing!

I managed to get her wing back next to her body, and then had to get inside the coop and crawl under the roosts to get my hand back in there to where she was. I had to reach underneath her to lift her up enough to pull her back out of there. If her feet touched the ground, as soon as I'd get her a bit backward she'd try to push forward again. I finally got her up and out, but her wing got scraped up pulling her backwards out of there. So I took her in the house to check her over, spraying liquid bandage over the scraped wing to protect it until it could heal. Within an hour she was out with her buddies like nothing had happened. I'm just glad Coach, Flopsy or Mopsy, and Boris made sure I noticed something was wrong.


Annodear said...

Awww... How nice they look after each other! And themselves!!

"Liquid bandage", eh? Unfamiliar with that interesting sounding stuff..

Nancy M. said...

I'm sorry about Tweedit's eggs not hatching. I ordered some of those saddles for my girls. I had one that was bald on her back, poor thing. I just put them on the other day. So far, they seem pretty good. You have a great dog to warn you of your chicken being stuck.

Anonymous said...

Sad to hear about the eggs. =/ It is amazing how animals tend to look after each other.