Goats, rabbits, chickens (pages)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mater and Chicks

Summer is drawing to a close...only a few more days until the autumnal equinox. I love this transitional time when the earth is changing from green to gold and we are changing from shirts to sweaters. The animals start growing more hair and the plants stop growing anything. Well, that's not exactly true as I am starting my winter plantings. Farmer Gary is mowing down some of the garden--like my broom corn. Last year it was 2 - 3 times my height with beautiful tassels of red seed; this year it's barely knee high.
There's nothing more refreshing than a brisk cool morning to get you going. Usually I love it; drinking hot tea up on the mountain watching Rocky and the goats eat and play--here's a photo of them. But, today we got some baby chicks so I was wishing it was a tad warmer. However, they seem snug in their brooder house with the heat lamp overhead, straw on the floor and straw tucked into the air spaces in the eaves and rounded cardboard in all the corners. What is it that makes chicks pile up in a corner on top of one another until the suffocate? Here they are in their new home. They're so stinkin' cute. It looks red because of the heat lamp. You can just see Mater in the top right.
Mater is keeping them company, at least for tonight. Mater is a little red hen who loves to eat tomatoes in the garden. Because she was covered with tomato juice --I may have blogged about that earlier--the other hens pecked her bloody. She spent a few days convalescing in sick bay then went back in with the flock. This was a month or so ago. She is now a bit slow in the mental department--having your head pecked will do that to ya. Yesterday, Rocky (our ever vigilant 14 month old guard Anatolian), who loves to "play" with the chickens, played with Mater till she was completely disoriented. No blood drawn. I let her dry off and get her wits about her--dim as they are--most of the day then at bedtime put her in with the flock. Come morning, her poor little head was once again pecked bloody. This time a lot more damage was done. I can't say why the others ganged up on her again other than chickens are ruthless about their (no pun intended) pecking order and automatically single out the weak ones. Survival of the fittest. My sick bay is in the brooder house and that's why she's in there with my chicks. I hoped that she might mother them. Although she doesn't peck at them I don't think she's feeling anything maternal.
I have a broody (broody means they are "setting"--they want to hatch chicks) Jersey Giant--Millie...isn't she beautiful. This was taken last winter--she shows up great in the snow! She's been setting on the nest for a couple weeks. I'm thinking that I may be able to sneak a couple of chicks under her (she's setting in the chicken house) and maybe she'll adopt them. Then I can move her under cover of night into the brooder house and she'll adopt the entire batch of 20 chicks. Don't worry, Millie is a huge chicken so she can accommodate that many. I wouldn't be able to leave her in the chicken house--the nest is a considerable distance from the floor and the other hens would be mean to them. I want to have time to watch Millie with the chicks in her nest before I move them, just to make sure she accepts them and they come to no harm. I won't have time to do this before Sunday because of farmers markets, but come Sunday I'm going forward with my plan. Wish me luck.

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