Thursday, June 14, 2012

Busy Bird Business

There has been quite a flurry of avian events around the homestead lately.

The Phoebes have been much more active and I figured it was time to go check out their new nest.  

Five little chicks!  That's a lot of bird to cram into one tiny little nest and a lot of bugs to be bringing in.  Last year's nest was knocked down from a nasty storm so they got to building a new nest this spring.  For a while I was wondering if I'd ever see any progress as they started building not only one, but three individual nests.  But they eventually settled on the current location and really built themselves a nice pad.  I'm not sure how old the chicks are, but if I had to guess I'd say just over a week old as that's when I think I noticed the increase in activity (and increase of little bird plops all over the porch).  Bit of trivia for ya: Did you know that Phoebe chicks get kicked out of the nest around eighteen days?  Wonder if Mom & Dad lets them come back after college??

My second batch of incubating eggs (over forty of them) yielded only one live hatch.  And it wasn't a good live hatch at that.  Usually, any leg problems we get are "splayed leg" chicks, which is easily remedied by constructing a teeny-tiny hobble out of soft cotton string and within a week they are pretty much indistinguishable from their brood mates.  But this wasn't a case of splayed leg; there was some serious deformity in one leg and there was no way to splint or hobble or otherwise "fix" it.  So after two days of watching it unsuccessfully walk around, I quickly ended it's life.  Two 100% failed hatchings this year; almost ninety eggs worth.

The surprise Easter Chick is doing well.  I opened the brooding pen two weeks ago so his mother could get some much needed outdoor time and so he could come & go as he pleased. I though for sure that he'd be picked on to the point of me having to lock him up again, but he's held his own.  And I know how he does it.  He's a frekking jerk.  As he has yet to figure out that all chickens are supposed to go into the coop at night, I have to hand-deliver him to the coop every evening.  And he pecks the crap out of me every time.  And I'm not talking just peck here peck there, that bastard bites and won't let go.  He almost became dinner a few days ago (another story I may share) but managed to live through it this time.  He's a rooster (if you haven't already guessed by my choice in pronouns) and most roosters are usually destined for the cook pot anyhow.  But given his particularly nasty behavior there is absolutely no question to his final destination; my dinner plate.

Although it seems as if my artificial incubating forays have been a complete disaster, I do have one - two actually - good things come from the weeks & weeks of incubator time:

Meet Jake & Elwood, my first turkey poults!
Christine named them, although I hope to have to change at least one of them to a more feminine name.  I was in Chicago when they hatched, so I came home to the little peepers all cozy in their little brooding box.  As these eggs were rescued from a brush hogging incident, I had no idea when they would hatch.  Originally there were eight eggs, but after candeling them I found six of them to be duds so we were down to two.  One of them has a misshapen foot, but it's obviously not hampering his ability to run around.  I'm not sure what I'll do about the foot, if anything.  The non-bum footed poult is a little less lively than his brother, but seems to be doing ok.  I've never raised turkeys before, so this is going to be a learning experience.

And as if to mock my continuing feeble attempts at artificial incubation and the unnatural brooding of poultry, Mother Nature has given me a big eye-roll and provided me with not one, but two broody hens.

They have been on their nests for over a week now.  When I first realized that they were going broody, I took the pullet eggs from them and replaced them with the older hen's eggs, hoping to get a better hatching rate from them.   The barred rock has six or seven eggs under her and the black hen is sitting on maybe eight eggs.  I really wish I could have shoved more eggs underneath them, but I didn't have many from the older hens.

So you win some and you lose some (like NINETY frekking eggs!!!), but time and life marches on.


  1. I can feel your pain (although my pain - 15 - is a whole lot less than yours!) I love turkey poults. They are so pathetically homely that you just can't help but be on their side. Hope you got a pair! What breed are they?

  2. Jake and Elwood are soooo cute! I love the big eye in the picture! I hope they grow up to be nice so that they don't end up T-Day dinner.

  3. That's disappointing about your hatch rate. I hope your broodies do a better job for you. And your Easter roo, I'm surprised he's lasted this long!

  4. Such a bummer that you are not having good reproduction rates... That poor little deformed chick. Mother nature is turning out to be quite a bitch, not only with her lack of rain in these parts, but with your birds as well. Those little turkey poults sure are cute though!

  5. Poor thing, I'm sure hoping next year is better for all our little homesteads, both in the garden and in the barn!

  6. The little Phoebes and turkey are sure cute! Did you name the Easter roo "Dinner?" Here's hoping that your broody hens have some luck getting eggs to hatch!

  7. Talk about bird activity! (Or non-activity . . . sorry.) I think maybe your two broody hens will be the chick producers for you this year. I know it all has to be frustrating for you, but I've sure found it interesting reading all about what's been going on in your incubating efforts. Why in the world have you had such a bad hatch record this year? Don't understand it.

  8. Susan, they ARE homely, aren't they?? They are the fancy breed known as "We ran over a wild turkey nest so here are some of the unbroken eggs for you to incubate" kind of turkey :)

    Christine, unless they are pricks, they won't be supper!

    Leigh, the Easter Roo was THIS close to be being supper, and he's still on the list.

    Tiny, it IS a crappy bird year. And yes, Mother Nature is a nasty little bitch sometimes.

    Erin, goodness hope that next year is better!

    Candy C., baby birds are cute in an ugly kind'a way. Homely, I guess.

    Mama Pea, I think Phelan over at Homesteading Neophyte hit it on the head with the pullet eggs being "not quite ready" for hatching.