So I mentioned in a previous post that my two little bantam cochins have gone broody, and are sitting together in a nest post waiting to be mamas.
I really don’t need any more chickens this year, but I feel like all my critters deserve the chance to fulfill their natural desires, whenever possible. Plus, I do love having babies around.
So I decided to order some fertile eggs for them, with the idea I’d probably sell the offspring later on as young pullets. I chose a breed of chicken I knew was perpetually popular in my area: marans. Specifically, these gorgeous French Marans in a mix of colors: blue, black, and splash.
Marans have very dark brown eggs, like this:
So…when a box showed up at my door (delivered by a very excited mail delivery woman, who is interested in getting a rooster for her hens–but that’s another story) and the eggs inside the box were not very dark brown, but were beige and speckled….
….I knew a mistake had been made, somewhere. And they were also quite larger than I expected….
Turns out I’m hatching some turkeys this year!
Red Bourbon Turkeys, to be exact.
I contacted the seller, both to inform him of the mistake, and let him know there was likely someone else out there expecting turkeys who had gotten my box of marans eggs. He was very apologetic, and offered to send me the marans eggs too, but as I only have two small broody hens, and these are quite large eggs, I said I was happy to just keep the turkeys.
I’ve always wanted to raise some turkeys, y’all. But I expected to get one of the small breeds of turkey, like the Midget White, not a full-on HUGE turkey breed like Bourbon Red. These guys are around 33 pounds when full grown! I may not keep them to full size. I probably won’t. Once they’re old enough to leave their mamas, I’ll sell them, and probably make a bit of a profit. Who knows. Maybe I’ll keep one, and raise my own Thanksgiving dinner!
And the seller – so nice – said to keep him posted, and if my broodies don’t accept these eggs, let him know, and he’ll send those Maran eggs out after all.
Goslings are too freaking cute. Also, so friendly!
She and the lavender orpington chick have become besties. I’ve seen the chick running after the gosling as if she were her mother. And they also eat together, and nestle under the broody hen side by side. It’s extra cute, since they are the two with the largest size difference.
No one minds having an oddly large, ungainly chick with a strange accent in the family!
Sophie the gosling is so cute when she snuggles in her mother’s feathers.
In other chicken news, I raised a few meat birds, and this year it turned into quite the sweet and heart-warming story! I bought an automatic chicken plucker with part of my covid stimulus money, so wasn’t quite dreading the entire process as much as usual. Chicken plucking by hand is definitely doable, but it takes time, and is NOT particularly fun. I assembled the unit (the Sportsman brand, if anyone’s looking for an inexpensive, but quality machine) and got everything else ready.
And then the machine didn’t work. It wouldn’t even turn on. I checked all the instructions, then mom tried to call the help line, but of course it was Sunday, and they were closed. The frustration was immense. I had nine birds – five of which were crowing roosters – and they needed to go. I was already overdue, because I’d been waiting for the plucker to arrive. I finally decided to just go ahead and do them by hand…and then mom saved the day by finding a review online which mentioned having been equally frustrated, by the same issue. It turned out that the instructions left out a critical detail, and two little stickers needed to be perfectly aligned when you put the drum on the base…or it doesn’t turn on! Seriously? Why would they not put that in the instructions! And the stickers just said ‘top’ and ‘bottom’, so it seemed like they were just informing me as to which way the base and drum were situated, not that those stickers needed to be matched together. Sigh.
But after that, everything went perfectly. Almost.
Two of the meat birds were not roosters, but hens. One of the hens was skittish and not friendly at all. The other…the other was a genuine little sweetheart. I don’t really spend much time with the meat birds, but this girl purposely sought me out, from the time she was a chick. When I would sit and hold one of the layer hens, she would come over and jump up on the arm of my chair and snuggle in against me. I tried not to fall in love. But I sort of was. I mentioned to mom how sweet she was, and that little meat bird played the same tricks on mom. It took mom about five seconds to decide we had to keep her.
So meet Penelope, once a meat bird, now a member of the layer flock.
(She looks slightly horrified, because I’m holding my camera. I swear, I do not beat my chickens with my camera. I don’t know why they hate it so much!)
So I processed all the other meat birds, cleaned everything up, and put everything away. I took a relieved breath because all the noisy roosters were gone, and I didn’t have to fight them off every time I went in the chicken yard to feed the hens. Seven young roosters create a LOT of chaos.
And then I looked out across the chicken run. And I saw…a rooster. A meat bird. Just standing there, looking back at me.
No. No no no no no! I couldn’t have miscounted. I couldn’t still have one meat bird left.
I had. I did. Bloody freaking roosters!
I couldn’t face dealing with another bird right then. He got a temporary extension. I have a friend who will be asking me to process her extra rooster a little later, so I guess I’ll do this one along with that one. And I must say, it’s like he KNOWS. I have never seen such a quiet, unobtrusive rooster. I rarely even catch sight of him. Smart little buzzard.
And lastly, two of my three bantam cochins, the little mini flock known as the Fluffernutters, have gone broody. I’m considering my options. I would really like to see these adorable tiny birds raise some adorable tiny babies. So maybe. Meanwhile, they are sitting on non-existent eggs together and look so cute.
I feel kind of sorry for the fluffernutter who isn’t broody, though. Suddenly, she’s all by herself, among the Big Girls…and she doesn’t even have the flock of meat bird roosters to chase anymore. (The bantam gang had those big ol’ roosters terrified! This little fluffy girl would come strutting out, and the roosters would scream and run for the hills.)
The last few weeks have gone by so fast! I was furloughed from my work because of covid-19, so I’ve just been avoiding public places and enjoying life on my little farm. I’ve actually been doing a lot more cooking/baking and crafting lately, but I have done a few things outside.
I have a few places in my yard that are basically a no-man’s-land, as far as planting in the ground goes. So this year, I decided to reclaim one section by using above ground planters. It’s out of the way, behind the chicken coop, so rather than investing in something expensive, I just went with large storage totes. So far, it’s been brilliant.
If you notice that some of the leaves are a bit…nibbled on, that’s the fault of my chicken, Ellie. She likes to help out in the garden, and takes her pay by taste-testing my veggies for me.
One of my Muscovy hens has gone broody, and has staked claim to a corner of the overflow coop.
She’s super sweet, not aggressive at all, and completely unflappable. My corgi managed to get in the coop with her yesterday, and stood there, barking in her face, and she just sat there and waited for him to go away. I did not think the eggs were fertile, because my one drake suffered a penile prolapse early this Spring, and ended up losing his…ahem…male equipment. This isn’t a problem for him, but it should mean no fertile eggs for me. I ordered three pekin ducklings to foster with her, but the day before they arrived, I double-checked her eggs by candling them, and miracle of miracles–about five have babies inside them! I don’t know if they’ll manage to hatch, but since they should be due any day now, I’m holding onto the pekins, and hopefully if she hatches some muscovies in the next few days, I’ll be able to slip the pekins in with them. I can’t give them to her now, because she’d abandon the eggs. You don’t know how hard it is to avoid snuggling three perfect little fluffy yellow ducklings! But I don’t dare give them much attention, because then they would imprint on me, and not accept her.
And speaking of perfect little fluffy creatures…along with the pekins, I got my future chicken guard goose! Meet Sophie.
She’s a tufted Roman goose, and is currently being fostered by my best broody hen, Ophelia. Ophelia didn’t even bat an eye at this strange new baby. Along with Sophie, I gave Ophelia two chicken chicks too, because I wanted Sophie to have ‘sisters’. Chickens are mean girls, and it really helps if you’re brand new, to have a few brand new friends.
I still need to figure out names for these two. The silvery grey one is a Lavender Orpington, and the brown one is a new hybrid called a Colorpack. It’s part Cream Legbar, so I will have colored eggs, either blue, green, or pink.
And just to show the size difference between a chick and a gosling…here’s Sophie and her sisters:
And here’s a video of Ophelia and Sophie:
It is so so so so HARD not to snuggle this gosling! Goslings are possibly my favorite baby animal, and Sophie is so calm and sweet. She keeps walking over to me and looking up at me with this adorable expression.
I’m hoping that once she’s safely imprinted on Ophelia, that I’ll be able to snuggle her. Ophelia won’t mind. This is the hen who, when I pick up one of her babies and the baby yells, runs over and pecks the baby to tell her to stop acting like an idiot. Humans are friends! They bring us food!
It’s going to be so much fun to watch Ophelia and her three mismatched children explore the chicken yard.