My flock has increased dramatically in size over the last few months. I went from just managing to keeping it going to having 15 chickens. We have four laying hens, which is the most we’ve had so far and the first day I got four eggs was a very good day. With the girls laying 5-7 days a week (when they’re not ill or broody *cough-broody-Frodo-again*) we have a plentiful supply of eggs for the first time ever and I’ve been purposely making things with eggs in them to use them! With another hen or two, or three, we could sell some of our surplus. I’m still considering my chicken numbers with trepidation though, as Mareks has struck before and 10 weeks of age is the mark where it usually surfaces in the young ‘uns. The little chickens are 9 weeks old now. I have been holding off selling any of them until I get to that point, just in case. Partly, because I would hate to lose out on females if my chosen ones got taken out by Mareks and partly because I don’t want to offload potential Mareks victims on unsuspecting people. I know people always face the risks of getting chickens with Mareks, but since I’ve had trouble with it so recently I want to be responsible until I can get a better grasp on it and more confidence in the health of the chickens I’ve raised myself. We have a fairly small chicken gene pool in our little country and people selling anything and everything without regard to what illnesses and conditions they’re passing on is a bit of an issue. To date, Half Pie is the only chicken raised from an egg myself that I’ve lost, but danger lurks around the corner. What worries me the most is having one of the hens fall to Mareks when it surfaces in the youngies, as it did with Legolas last time. I just have to hope that they’re strong enough.

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Little faces: Darkie, Pearly and Orange Spot.

The little cockerels found themselves in a new home a week ago. I set up a temp pen, The Bachelor Pen, for them. The thing is, there are only three boys in there. I have a problem. I think I’ve fallen in love with a boy… Splash Dot is still in the main run with the others. I couldn’t bear to take him out because I’ve gotten attached to him. I’ve been too good at handling them! Splash Dot has a lovely nature. The other boys are rather nice too, even the Legolas boys have settled down a bit, but Splash Dot just about melted in my hands one night, and to top it all off, he is turning out to have some lovely colours. Oh dear. I don’t know if Mr Bingley would accept another male around or not, but I really need more girls if I’m going to keep another boy. What on earth am I going to do with myself? I don’t really want another roo right now. I think I’ll just hold onto Splash Dot a little longer to see how he turns out. Just in case something happens to Mr Bingley. He’s not a rooster, he’s an insurance policy. Do you think The Husband will notice?

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The boys in the Bachelor Pen: Number 1, Leggyright and Leggyleft. Leggyleft is the most curious chicken ever. He is so full of beans but is still smaller than the the others and at the bottom of the pecking order of these three, although he keeps trying to prove himself.
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Leggyright has blue barring on his wing feathers.
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Splash Dot is a lucky boy at the moment, getting to stay with the others.
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But isn’t he just pretty? He’s like a watercolour painting.

The other day I was surprised to see Splash Dot attempt to bust a move on Jane. She was lying down near Splash Dot and his group of four little girls when Splash Dot walked up to her and grabbed at her neck. She leapt up with a squark and chased him away. I was most astonished, as he is only 9 weeks old and half the size of Jane. Was he copying what he’d seen his father do or is he maturing even faster than his father? If he’s going to be assertive things could get very interesting around here! I have no idea what Mr Bingley is going to think. On the one hand, he is very assertive with his ladies, but on the other hand I have had to chase the neighbours’ young cat out of the pen on numerous occasions as Mr Bingley will just let it sit in there, watching them. I don’t know why this is. His father always chased Nala away if she ventured into the pen.

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Er, what just happened? Splash Dot (left) ends up hiding from Jane (right) on the other side of his little ladies, Penguin, Darkie, Pearly and Orange Spot, after attempting to tell her that he was boss.

Before I could finish this post, Number 1 presented with Mareks-like symptoms. We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched” but I have a new saying, “Don’t count your chickens before the 10-week Marek’s.” Ok, so it’s not quite as catchy, but it’s very true here. The feather babies had been doing very well up until this point, with no problems other than several having a touch of scaly leg mite. They haven’t even had an issue with coccidiosis this time. And so it is easy to get lulled into a false sense of security and confidence. Stupid Mareks.

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Number 1, the gentle leader, in the Bachelor Pen with the Leggy boys.

With Number 1 it has been a slow burn, which I have been able to observe out the window. He started off lying down more than the other boys, then he began walking more slowly, increasingly favouring one leg. When I saw him lying down with one foot out the front of him I knew for sure that Mareks had struck. He is in the Hospital Cage in the garage now, with obvious paralysis in one leg. He can still walk around a bit though, getting himself to the food and drink, so it’s not too bad yet. The poor dude. He is the alpha of the youngies and it’s even more disheartening having an alpha struck by Mareks. Legolas was the alpha female when Mareks paralysed her. There isn’t much rhyme or reason to it, as we remember that Jane, who was and probably always will be the bottom female, was struck with transient paralysis last time too. I hope Number 1 will follow down that road and recover from it and I’m doing what I can to keep him comfortable and rested and provided with vitamin water, but at the same time I’m not overly optimistic, as Jane went down rapidly but showed signs of recovery after three days.

I really want Number 1 to recover and find a good home, as he not only has a lovely nature but is also intelligent. This evening I was gardening out the back when I heard the egg-laying song coming from the garage. I did a double-take, thinking Frodo had somehow got into the garage, as it sounded exactly like one of the hens: “Book book book BOOKARK!” When I got to the garage it was dear little Number 1, voicing an exact copy of the hens’ whole egg-laying song, which I have never heard a male do. It was his first evening in chicken hospital, it was approaching bedtime, he was alone and he obviously knew that if he made that noise his daddy, Mr Bingley would come to his assistance. True to form, Mr Bingley replied, echoing his own “BOOKARK!” at the end of each of Number 1’s lines of ‘song’, but he couldn’t come to the rescue. What a clever boy! I’m astounded that Number 1 knew how to repeat the exact noise of the ladies that makes Mr Bingley come running, the first time he tried it.

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Number 1. Let’s hope this lovely, intelligent boy can recover.

Also, in this episode of Chicken Hospital, Jane presents with an impacted crop (hard lump of something stuck in her crop) and Lydia needs another foot procedure. Thankfully, Jane’s hard lump disappeared after one night and one morning of me massaging it and giving her some Epsom salted-water. I was so relieved, as impacted crop is the precursor to sour crop. I caught it early this time! I have been watching her closely since she had sour crop and knew something was amiss when she stopped laying eggs, then was lying down more than the other girls, but wasn’t droopy-looking. I don’t know if this is the reason for her stopping egg-laying or not, but we shall see. I think she must have gotten some of the long bits of weeds from the back neighbour’s paddock through the fence, as there certainly isn’t any long grass in their pen now. I am going to have to do a little cutting along the fenceline. Lydia’s main bumblefoot lesion was not healing as I thought it was and it looks like I’m going to have to do another foot procedure on her. Thankfully, none of the other youngies have symptoms of Mareks so far, but they aren’t quite 10 weeks yet. Half Pie was 10 weeks when his paralysis appeared, Jane was 12 weeks, and Legolas got it a month after Jane, so the next few weeks, at least, are crucial. I could be teetering on the edge of disaster, but I am trying to stay positive. Who will survive? Only the strong. And who are the strong? Only time will tell…

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13 thoughts on “So Many Chickens

  1. Oh no! Not Number 1!!!! I’ll be crossing my fingers that he recovers and none of Legolas’s babies get it. 😦

    I wish I could say I was surprised that Frodo is broody again, but I’m not. She loves the babies almost as much as we do!

    Ooooh! Splash Dot is beautiful! He does kind of look like a water color painting! I have a severe weakness for the roosters, too. I would keep a Bachelor colony if DH would let me. Out here in the country where no one cares if they crow. And supposedly if you keep them separated from the ladies they don’t go all ‘bluster and bucks’ on each other all the time.

    I couldn’t really tell you how Mr. B would accept him in a flock as small as yours.

    The generally accepted rule of thumb is 7-10 hens per rooster, although most chicken people I know quote “10 hens to a roo” like it’s Gospel. In a flock as small as yours, you’d risk over breeding if both gentleman decided they preferred the same lady… or if in the case Dots and Pip, Mr. B suddenly became insecure and would go behind Splash Dot and mate every hen he did seconds after.

    Yes, Dots did that for a while. It was both amusing (his ego much have been bruised that the hen submitted to another man) and alarming (the poor henny!) He doesn’t do that so much anymore, but when he was, I was really worried for a while.

    At current, Dots accepts Pip as a helper, but will still chase him several times a day. Dots prefers to have Pip so many yards away at all times. They don’t fight, though, and I’ve never had to treat wounds. It helped that Pip was raised from an egg around Dots and still thinks of him as ‘big and scary.’ ( I know. Pip is amusing, too.) It also helps that Pip is not dominant. He’s laid back and chill. A good 2IC, not content to rock the boat.

    If I had tried to keep little Black Jack, like I had so wanted to (what is it about those Australorp roos?), there would have been a fight. By the time little Jackie was 9 weeks old and crowing that first croaking starter-crow, Dots had declared him a Threat. So had Henrietta, oddly enough. She hated him and would attack the fence between them viciously if he was near.

    So… no help really, am I? It’s just going to depend on how Mr. B views Splash Dot’s place in their flock. They could get along great, with just some minimal chasing. Maybe. But in a flock your size, I’d be more worried about the over breeding issue.

    Which might not be a problem if Frodo keeps going broody.

    I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for the little ones, and sending positive thoughts your way in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully the next update won’t involve news that Number 1 or any of his siblings has succumbed to the Mareks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, yeah Number 1 is still fighting his partial paralysis at the moment but I just don’t know what will come next.

      Oh, a Bachelor Colony would be just beautiful! There are people who do that for sure. It’s a tricky business raising these cute young roos. I know I can’t really keep Splash Dot but I’m curious to see how his colours turn out and how Mr Bingley will react to him. If I have a second roo it really needs to be an unrelated purebred Australorp. One of our country’s chicken experts says that the ideal ratio of roosters to hens for heavy breeds is 1:5-8. If I kept all the little girls, assuming none succumb to Mareks, which is a bad assumption, I would have 10 girls, the minimum for two roos and I would definitely need more girls. But even so, I don’t want to keep all the girls as I want to keep room for Frodo’s next hatch, which I want to be purebred Australorp eggs acquired from a breeder, plus there’s no way I can keep that many adult chickens in my coop. I need to get a bigger coop to cater for my chicken addiction and I need to sell some chickens to help fund my bigger coop so I can have more chickens haha. So I really do need to sell Splash Dot, but for now I will observe the rooster dynamics, plus I won’t put Splash Dot into the Bachelor Pen now that Number 1 has come down with Mareks, just to be safer. I think Splash Dot was below at least Number 1 and Leggyright in the pecking order, but I didn’t get enough observation done over Christmas. He has been the most chilled out of the little boys anyway. I wouldn’t dare keep either of the Leggy boys as they are so active and curious they would be bound to stir things up!
      Frodo came out of the broody breaker yesterday afternoon, and this morning I watched as Mr Bingley herded Jane over near the youngies and his favourite three hens, Lizzie, Lydia and Frodo over somewhere else, close to himself. I think he knows that Jane is the weakest link. Maybe he was donating her to Splash Dot in exchange for some of ‘Splash Dot’s’ little girls when they get older. Or maybe he was just showing her her place now that Frodo was back. I haven’t heard Splash Dot crow yet and I haven’t seen Mr Bingley do anything remotely aggressive to him, but Splash Dot is still pretty young. Number 1 is the only boy I’ve heard do some little crows so far. And only when he was introduced to the Bachelor Pen and then the Hospital Cage. It’s hard to believe any of the little cockerals would dare take on Mr Bingley, but the raging hormones haven’t kicked in yet and it’s much more of a dangerous game when they do. Mr Bingley likes to go to bed early, as does Frodo, and lets the other ladies sort themselves out at bedtime, while Splash Dot waits for all the little girls to go into the coop before he does. Unless Jane scares one or two of them out again. I dare say she is enjoying not being at the bottom at the moment.
      I love the relationship that Dots and Pip have. It’s ideal really, isn’t it? I suppose it does come down to both personalities at the end of the day. It sounds like Black Jack probably would have been trouble. I’ve heard of older hens not liking young roos as they start to mature. Who wants a young whippersnapper trying to tell them what to do? 😛

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      1. Pip is always the last one in the coop, too. Dots first, followed by the ladies, then the young ones and finally Pip. If Mr. B and Splash Dot do that too, it might be the beginning of a good working relationship?

        Black Jack would have been trouble, but a beautiful trouble. He was such a dominant young man, right away, and being raised in a brooder and then in the separate half of the coop, he was probably under the mistaken belief that he was leading his own flock. He certainly acted like it. If I hadn’t rehomed him, the transition would have been hard. There is a striking difference between him and Abby & Claire’a Summer Babies. None of those roosters threatened Dots or Pip just by being there. I think it has to do with being raised inside the flock as opposed to separately.

        It’s possible that Splash Dot and his brothers have the same dynamic with Mr. Bingley. They were raised to see him as the leader.

        Pavel is enjoying the same experience as Jane right now. She’s a smaller breed than my other chickens, so the only ones smaller than her are the babies. Actually, Ashley babies are about the same size now, and only Abby’s babies are smaller. But she chases and does mild picking, so mostly they run away from her. It’s funny to watch.

        You’re right, the older hens do not care for the younger ones. Some of mine still do not care for Pip. Most of the hens I consider ‘his girls’ are the younger ones. While I still had the Summer Boys, the older hens put them in their places, too.

        The Mareks will be your wild card. I will keep the positive thoughts coming. Will it always be there, lurking in the background even if all your chickens stay healthy? Or will this strain eventually fade/die out of your flock?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I forgot that Black Jack was raised in the brooder. Very interesting. Splash Dot hasn’t rocked the boat yet, so we shall see. I’m too scared to move any of the chickens at the moment while in the bad Marek’s period. Number 1 hasn’t made any improvement yet so things are not looking good for him. I suspected as much with the slow onset being not very transient-like. So, a tough decision looming. 😦

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Commenting to add that Mr. B might view splash Dot the same as Pip with Abby’s younger chicks?

    Pip mentored Abby’s summer chicks and helped his mother keep them safe from the big hens. He is helping to watch after the little Easter Eggers and Ashley’s Babies now, too. I don’t know quite why, but he seems to view that as part of his job in our flock. The Big Brother.

    Just mentioning it because Mr. B did help Frodo and the chicks elude unwanted attention from Lydia when they were rejoining the flock.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Mr Bingley is definitely looking out for all the youngies at the moment, including Splash Dot. He is very good at looking after everyone but there’s no knowing how or when that could change as Splash Dot matures. The Mr Bingley-Frodo boys, actually the girls too, have been much more mild-mannered in terms of fighting and overall natures than the Elrond-Frodo youngies were, resolving most challenges by staring and sometimes a quick chest bump. Tiny is the least chilled-out and she’s a girl! And I think she’s near the bottom of the pecking order. I was waiting for the fighting to ramp up until I realised that that was their fighting. Only the Leggy boys get a little blustery sometimes. Whatever the reason, I’m really liking the personalities that Mr Bingley and Frodo have produced in their children. And now I’m going off on a tangent… 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like tangents!!! I’ve observed before but I think there is a difference in little roosters raised by momma in a flock.

        Pip? Didn’t crow until he was almost 8 months old.

        Dots and his brothers? 10 weeks.

        Black Jack and his brothers? 9 weeks.

        The Summer Boys? 12-14 weeks, some of them.

        The ones crowing by 9-10 weeks we ALL rooster I raised in the brooder.

        The ones who didn’t crow until later, all raised inside my existing flock.

        Ashley’s babies are 11 weeks and none have shown signs of crowing. This adds to confusion of what they actually are going to be. (I do have a post will pics, btw).

        Abby’s little Easter Eggers haven’t shown signs yet either, though they are younger yet.

        My belief is that the ones who are raised in the flock and accept their place in the pecking order don’t crow as early because it’s a sign of challenge to the head rooster. So they don’t. I could be wrong. Who knows.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, I think it’s definitely about the presence of an existing mature rooster. The first of Mr Bingley and his brothers started crowing the day after Elrond left and Number 1 only started crowing after I moved him out of the main run, away from Mr Bingley. They know crowing = dominance. Maybe if you put Ashley’s babies in a temp pen or cage outside the main one for a day, or maybe even a morning, you would hear some crowing! I bet Felix would crow anyway. 😉 Otherwise, it’s just the old waiting game. When they’re in with a mature rooster I don’t think they crow until they are a) confident and mature enough to accept the chance of receiving a challenge from the dominant rooster or b) stupidly naiive.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. He was awkward for a while there, wasn’t he? I guess that might be related to being an only child too. He had noone to practice his dominance on, whereas other chicks have brothers and sisters who they learn various dominant or submissive behaviours from. Pip had all the scary older chickens who just told him he was the weak, silly one over there in the corner!

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          2. And now he plays the unofficial ‘Big Brother’to all the little chicks, and helps keep the big scary hens older girls from bullying them the same way. He really isn’t a bad rooster.

            Liked by 1 person

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