Uncle B was able to get quite close and observe our new swan behbehs. How they’ve grown. The little dude at left…B thinks the same one is often off by himself, away from the other eight. We don’t know if he’s alpha cygnet or special needs cygnet.
Anyway, he was able to take some footage without disturbing them. Check it out. It’s so obvious Timmy Cygnet is imitating Mommy Swan (or Daddy Swan, hard to tell).
I wouldn’t know. I’m not into swans. I’m strictly a disciple of chickenology. This week’s lesson: What is chicken welfare? Defining “welfare”, ethical obligations, and welfare standards.
I just hope it’s not going to be a lot of depressing videos of meat farms.
May 23, 2016 — 8:14 pm
Eh. So I tried soaking Mapp in a bucket this afternoon. She got over herself for an hour or so and then went back on the nest.
To be fair, she was supposed to have half an hour in the water and she only had ten minutes or so. I peered under the towel to make sure she hadn’t fallen asleep and drowned or something, and she came flying out like a chest-burst alien.
I see more chikken-soaking ahead.
Good weekend, everyone!
May 20, 2016 — 10:28 pm
My girls don’t lay from about October to March. They don’t see enough sunlight to make eggs. They would stay in lay if I gave them a little artificial light, but frankly laying is hard on a bird and my lot are mostly pets. Let them rest.
Mapp grew to laying age just as the season ended and laid no eggs at all her first year. Lucia, same age, squeezed out a few before Winter came. But that’s Lucia, a chicken made entirely of awesome.
The next Spring came around and Mapp finally laid an egg. Several, in fact. And then she stopped. And sat on the nest looking distressed. For days.
So being a compete n00b chicken lady, and a nervous one at that, I came to the obvious conclusion she was eggbound. That is what it sounds like, and it’s extremely serious and often fatal. Oh, I tried soaking it out and I tried scrubbing it out. I ringed her vent with olive oil (we don’t talk about this). I soaked her in a bucket of warm, soapy water.
You can see how happy she is. Turns out she was just broody and eventually got over herself.
Broody. A wild chicken will lay a clutch of eggs and then stop laying and spend 21 days sitting on them until they hatch. That is broody. She’ll get off the nest maybe once a day for a few minutes to take a huge and extremely offensive shit and eat a little something.
Pekin bantams, like what my flock are, are famous for going broody. Hard, impenetrable broody. Inappropriately broody. Broody on a totally empty nest all Summer long. If you’re trying to hatch some eggs, they’re perfect. But a broody hen stops laying, neglects herself into terrible condition and scares other chickens off the nest when they need to lay.
Mapp, alone of my chickens, has gone broody every single year. She lays a few eggs, and then she plants herself on the nest and refuses to come off. Shrieks and screams if you go near her.
The classic treatment is to put the broody in a ‘sin bin’ — a cage, up off the floor, with food, water, lots of light and no nesting materials until she gets over herself. I don’t really have a setup for that, so every year I just pull her off the nest a couple of times a day, make her eat, and leave it to her. ‘Horrible condition’ or not, she has now lived more than twice as long as Lucia, the Mary Poppins of chickens.
Anyhoo, according to my chicken homework last night, SGOTI (some guy on the internet) says soaking a broody hen in cold water will do the trick.
May 19, 2016 — 10:15 pm
MikeW asked a question about the pecking order in the thread below, and I think I can wring a whole post out of it.
This is Vita, the biggest and most beautiful hen in my flock. The variety is known as gold partridge; her feathers are a sort of gold/bronze color with black markings. Bee-yootiful. At least to people. To other chickens, she’s a hag. Go figure.
The pecking order isn’t necessarily one, two, three, four… It can be one, two, everybody else. Or one, a bunch of twos, a bunch of threes. You get the idea. Bottom hen is known as the omega or pariah hen, and not every flock has one.
Though a lot of it is down to the personality of the bird, you can adjust the pecking order sometimes by humiliating an aggressive bird, or separating her from the rest of the flock until she loses her status.
But I suspect Vita is a natural born omega. When she and Violence were little, she didn’t engage in any of the usual status-related play: leaping, pecking, belly-bumping (this is hilarious). When pecked, a normal chicken will squeak and get out of the way, but Vita just stands patiently and takes it as her due. It’s heartbreaking.
One day, when she was fully grown, I looked out the window to see Vita motionless, beak-down in the grass. The other chickens were whaling the shit out of her. I thought she had died or collapsed and they were trying to revive her, but no, they were just giving her a good pecking. I have seen them do this until they were too exhausted to peck her any more.
Oh, I kept an eye on it. They never drew blood. If they had done, she would have had to be separated instantly. Chickens go a little nuts at the sight of blood and will peck until death and beyond (horrible little cannibals).
But the sad truth is, she’s more scared of me than the other chickens. Any attempt to pet her or give her treats just makes her more miserable and might even call down the wrath of the flock. Sometimes, no matter how much you want to make it better, you just have to leave animals to it.
When I mixed Maggie and Coco in two years ago, Vita got super aggressive with them. I assumed she was trying to establish a new position for herself as not-pariah. Sadly, neither of those girls lived long enough in health to join the flock properly.
She being super aggressive with the new girls now. They stay well out of pecking range, and it gets briefly ugly if she manages to corner one against the run. But I have a feeling these three, when fully grown, will be well able to put her back in her place.
May 18, 2016 — 9:39 pm
Not my picture. I stole it from this thread at backyardchickens.com. I don’t have a picture of one of my chooks doing this, but it’s a classic example of a hen’s Hey Sailor! position — the crouch or squat.
Squat down, stick your elbows out and wait for a big surprise. They present like this to the rooster, but they will happily present like this to people, too. Mapp is the most enthusiastic squatter in my flock, though she always has a look on her face like, “well, go on — let’s get this over with!”
It’s the best when someone says, “aw, that’s so cute — your chicken came right up to me and wanted petting!” And I’m, like, “nnnnno that’s not what she wanted.” It’s at that exact moment they remember when they stroked the bird, she flipped her tail to one side, almost like she was moving it out of the way or something.
This week in my Chickenology course — chicken sex! Or, if you prefer, “Reproduction, courtship, mating and nesting.” But, you know, chicken sex.
Today I learned that the alpha hen mates less often than her subordinates. That’s because the crouch is a submissive posture, and alpha don’t bow to no chicken.
Anyway, not really going anywhere with this, I just thought it was interesting. I also note my lowest hen in the pecking order never crouches. That would make sense, from an evolutionary standpoint. You wouldn’t want chicks from the pariah hen (yes, that there’s the actual chicken science lingo for bottom girl. Poor Vita). But you would think evolution would especially favor having more chicks from the alpha lady.
p.s. Oh, did you see this? 87-year-old double bassist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra collapses and dies in the middle of There’s No Business Like Show Business. Ba-dum-tssss.
May 17, 2016 — 8:39 pm
Lookee what Uncle B found! These little swanlets are surely brand new, all snoozing at once after struggling up the bank. I believe I count ten (nine little fuzzy heads, but over the furthest left I think that’s a little fuzzy body with his head tucked in). Not sure if that’s mama or daddy swan, but they were both there.
A big relief; we didn’t see the swan family last year and feared the worst. This year, our neighbors have been aggressive about fox control, so I have high hopes.
This was taken RIGHT in our back garden, but safe from Jack on the other side of the drainage ditch (man-made stream really; it looks nicer than it sounds). Uncle B’s picture — I haven’t seen them yet.
And with that, I’m on to Week Three of my Chickenology course.
May 16, 2016 — 8:09 pm
Subhead: tiny fluffy chicken judges you.
Not bad for a square cut from the center of a frame of wide angle video. All the blurring is P’shop — things like grass, straw and wire mesh really eat up the file size of jpgs, so I blur it out. To be honest, I’ve grown fond of the weird tilt-shift effect.
My Chickenology course is going well. I’ve just aced the Week 2 exam. I won’t say it’s heavy, but it’s not lol chikkens R cute, either. They go into the wavelengths of light chickens can see (they can see UV!) and the frequencies they can hear. The number of chicken taste buds (not very many) and the percentage of time they spend foraging, grooming and socializing.
I’ve learned new smartass terms like contrafreeloading, altricial, precocial and lol chikkens R cute.
Heavy rain tonight. I like to imagine the new girls snuggled up tight in their cozy new chicken house. Telling each other ghost stories.
May 11, 2016 — 9:46 pm
I’m back! I had a lovely week off. I had intended to stay indoors and play computer, but we had a surprise ‘heat wave’ (in quotes because, England) for the WHOLE of my b’day week, and I ended up spending most of it sitting in the garden. Shut the browser tabs for FaceBook, all the news and weaselblog and played mad chicken lady. I recommend it (now more than ever).
But first I had to assemble the chicken house, since the little girls had thoroughly outgrown their cardboard box sleeping quarters in the house. And I did, and I put them in it, and they were TERRIFIED. Of the henhouse. I’m not sure why. They huddled in a corner of the run farthest from the house and refused to go near it. I put them in, they launched themselves out like little ballistic missiles, if ballistic missiles peeped and shed feathers.
I guess that black opening seemed like The Cave That Eats Baby Chickens.
Still, I figured when night fell, their instincts would kick in and they’d go inside to sleep, but no. HELL no. When night fell, they wailed and cried until I went out and let them waddle happily into the pet carrier for a ride back indoors.
On the third night, I closed the pop-hole and shut them inside and…they’ve been happy in it ever since. In fact, I’m terribly impressed with what a grownup little flock they are, all by themselves. As predicted, Vita has been rotten to them. As predicted, Jack the cat has chased them around. But they calm down right away and go back to chickening (though they were mighty puzzled when the Chinook helicopter went over low and slow).
More on birthday later, but right now I have to start the second module of my Chickenology course: Behaviour Patterns of Chickens.
May 9, 2016 — 6:35 pm
No, no…that’s not my rooster. It’s the header photo from a course I’m taking.
That’s right, y’all — I’m taking a course in Advanced Chickenology from the la-de-da University of Edinburgh. They came mucho recommendo from one of the chicken forums I follow. At last, the prestigious credentials I’ve always craved!
Actually, it’s worth following the link. There are a number of online courses on offer for not a lot of money, and I gather you can audit a lot of them for free if you don’t care about grades or a certificate.
But I gotta run. I brought a bunch of work home and I’m all behind schedule AND IT’S BATH NIGHT!
April 27, 2016 — 10:01 pm
The big girls keeping the little girls company.
It doesn’t work so great in black and white, as the big girls formed a big, floppy, happy boneless chicken pile in the warm sun, every girl trying to get her beak under her neighbor, so they look like headless piles of feathers. They do this like babychicks trying to shelter under a mamachick; I think it’s the chicken version of kittenish play.
Make no mistake: once the little girls are free, there will be peckings and squawkings and jockeying for position, but this is how the socializing process starts.
The main thing I’m worried about is the little girls flying up into a tree. They fly well when they’re little. I cut myself to ribbons getting Maggie and Coco out of a blackberry bramble once.
On a related note, Vita’s butt totally looks like a delicious artichoke.
April 19, 2016 — 9:11 pm