Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A tale of two hens

This is Vulture and Sophie, they are silkie bantams. They probably should have been named something more like Yin or Yang...Ebony and Ivory....Lucy and Ethel...but...I let the kids name them, and well, you know how that goes. This is the second year in a row that these two birds have gone broody together, shared a clutch of eggs and are raising the chicks hatched together. I've never seen two chickens work together to raise chicks before...usually they go broody, hatch the and then protect them from every other hen in the barn yard. These two protect the chicks as well, but usually it's one protecting and the other hen is gathering up the chicks and huddling with them until the argument is over.
They've been out in the yard teaching the chicks how to search for food....again, working will dig up a worm and make the appropriate noises and all of the chicks will flock around her....while the other one continues to look until it finds something...back and forth...cooperation at it's best.

I wish I had gotten a pic of them sitting on their nest(s)...they sat beak to beak for a month...when one got up to get food and water the other would gather all of the eggs into her nest and continue to incubate them until she got back...then they would switch off and the other would go and get some food and water. When the other came back they would again divide the eggs.
Once they started hatching the chicks would run back and forth between hens....never differentiating between the two. I don't know how common this is...if it's a bantam thing, or a silkie thing...I've never seen it before, but I'm glad to have them...they are such a great example of what working together can accomplish.


Gayle said...

Humans could learn a lot from your hens. In fact, I could use a second mom around here to help with the kids. Hmmmm...interesting concept. Or maybe just a (free) yard boy. Do you have a problem with hawks/owls/etc getting them? Or are they fenced in? The freaking ravens kills mine. I have lost 4 chicks and many eggs which is why I'm working on the pen covering. (More farm photos, please. Oh, and the kids, too! :)

Stace said...

I haven't had any problems with hawks or birds of prey..I see them...they fly over...but the chickens usually run and hide if they hawk is really big. I have never heard of ravens' killing chickens....I had no idea. We just have crows (although I've heard that there are ravens just don't seem them very often) that like to get into our garbage. All of our birds are free ranged...because I'm too lazy to build a pen :P They stick around and take care of bugs for us. :)

Chai Chai said...

I wonder how the Major would take Gayle's comment about having another mom running around...hmmmm.

I think those two working together is just fantastic. I have never seen silkies that look so fluffy, is that their normal look?

This is my first year with chickens but so far none of them have gone broody...I blame the rooster.

Stace said...

Oh, he'd be all over that...two women running the house/farm? That would mean less work for he thinks. I would see it as another woman to help me tell him what to do.. :P LOL

Yes..that is how silkies normally look...well..the ones ive seen/owned anyway..they're fuzzy. What kind of chickens do you have?? Some breeds don't go broody.

Chai Chai said...

Golden Laced Wyandotte's. They have been wonderful so far but none have gone broody as of yet.

Stace said...

I don't think my chickens started going broody until after their first year...and it really has been hit and miss...some will go broody..others want nothing to do with it...regardless of what they say about the breed and their broodiness..except for the silkies...every one of them has gone broody..and they will hatch ANYTHING.

TeresaR said...

I love your hens and I think they have great names! I especially love "Vulture" because, honestly, that is the least vulture-like bird I've ever seen. ;D

I have never heard/read anything about cooperative chick-raising behavior before, but I'm going to show this to my 15 yr old who is more of a chicken expert than I am. I know he'll be very jealous because one of our stupid chickens went broody this year and hatched 0 out of 8 eggs. He was pretty heart-broken.

I think we'll just need to get some bantams because I've heard they are better broody hens. We've stayed away from them because we're all about meat and eggs and there's really not much of either to speak of in a bantam. ;)

Stace said...

Teresa..we've eaten bantam eggs...just a little smaller than the usual...but for scrambled eggs or omelets you can't tell the difference. These two hatched out ducklings last year...we just kept shoving eggs under then and they'd one point Sophie (the white one) had a pile of eggs under here and she had to stretch her wings down to cover them all....we gave a few of those to the "other" silkie, Happy Feet (not part of the cooperative chick hatching I guess..shes in the coop sitting on her own clutch right now) and she hatched out a few. They are, by far, the best incubators we've used....and the most can pick these guys up off their nest and they won't peck at you.

TeresaR said...

You have really lucked out with Vulture and Sophie! I'm so envious! ;)