June 13, 2023

More Drama in the Chicken Coop

First, some background: Several weeks ago, I told you about our Muscovy and Jersey Buff turkey hen squabbling over the eggs. Since neither one was going to budge, they finally "settled" the dispute by sharing the nest. Not long after that, one of our Speckled Sussex hens pushed her way onto the nest and refused to move. So the three of them have been continually jockeying for position. What makes matters worse is that the other hens insist on trying to lay there too, so we have an over-crowded jumble of eggs on that communal nest with no way of knowing what's going on. 

Hatching begins: We finally spotted one chick 

Readily adopted by Mama Hen for mothering

and one duckling.

1st duckling to hatch; followed Mom Muscovy
out into the chicken yard, but they didn't stay long.

Mostly, everyone was sitting tight on the nest, so there's no way to know for sure what's happening. This isn't unusual, as new babies take several days recovering from hatching before regular ventures out into the world.

Now, for the drama: Dan was in his workshop the other day, when he heard a ferocious racket in the chicken coop. He assumed it was Mama Chicken and Mom Muscovy fighting over the nest again, but he went to check it out anyway. When he got there, he saw a snake tail sticking out from the nest! He grabbed it and threw it against the wall, which stunned it. That's when he noticed the back end of a duckling sticking out of it's mouth. Dan grabbed a hoe, pinned the snake's head down, and managed to pull out a live duckling! 

The snake was promptly dispatched and we brought the duckling inside to make sure it was alright. I put it on a heating pad and we observed it for several hours, until it was alert and chirping. Then it was put back under the mamas in the nest. Talk about a close call!

The next day it was fine, and I was able to get some pictures. 

This is why we've had a problem. Instead of setting in
the nest boxes, they all want to set under the nest boxes.

It's hard to know how many are actually under there.

Duckling on the left is our snake survivor (still with dried snake siliva
on it's head.) Behind it is the baby chick. Two ducklings on the right.

Final count is four ducklings and one chick. Three of the ducklings are doing well, but the little guy who almost got eaten by a snake is lagging. Honestly, he looked a bit premature after his rescue, and we surmise that the snake went after the egg. Even though it broke, he was close enough to hatching that he can breath air, but he isn't getting around as well as the others. It may be a leg injury, hard to tell.

Our two turkey poults are doing well. They are now two weeks old.

They blend in well to their background!

They're beginning to look less like baby chicks.

Jenny B has proven to be an excellent mother.

The only broody mama with no babies is Jenny J. In looking over the remaining eggs in the nest, they all appear to be duck eggs. No turkey eggs. I find it curious that she readily adopted eggs that were already there without laying her own. Mama Hen took over the chick and Mom Muscovy took over the ducklings, so it's sad that Jenny J has no one to mother. 

I'd like to say all's well that ends well, but there are still many perils about for baby poultry. We just have to do our best to protect them and hope for the best. No more adventures would be fine with me.


Michelle said...

I wasn't expected THAT much drama!

Leigh said...

I know! It still amazes me that it turned out like it did.

reformed2 said...

Hi. New here. Where do you farm and what type of snake tried chicken dinner?

Leigh said...

Reformed2, hello and welcome! I'm in the southeastern US and our typical snake problems involve black or rat snakes. We've lost a number of chicks to snakes over the years, also to rats and skunks. Raccoons, 'possums, roaming domestic dogs, and hawks are common poultry predators here too.

Ed said...

If that duckling survives, they will have a story to tell up there with Jonah and the whale!

Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

Oh my goodness. We have not had any luck with hatching our own, but we still need a new and proper coop too. Enjoy those littles, and hopefully they will all do okay.

SmartAlex said...

Well, Ducky DID get thwacked against the wall. How much crash protection does a snakehead afford? Talk about snatched from the jaws of death! I hope he makes it.

Leigh said...

Ed, if that duckling survives, it will likely obtain special status around here!

Kristina, it is more challenging to hatch them this way, and I understand why people opt for incubators. On the other hand, we don't need dozens of new poultry every year. Small numbers are fine for our small homestead.

Alex, good point! He's hanging in there, but is way smaller than his siblings and struggles to keep up. He does a great job of paddling around in a pan of water, though. We're hoping for the best.

Quinn said...

Well I bet that got the adrenaline pumping - for everyone except the duckling, who probably still doesn't know what happened! Hope he rallies and lives a long, quiet life, since he got all the drama out of the way right at the start.

Leigh said...

Quinn, you're probably right that the duckling is clueless. he seems to be doing well and we're hoping his leg strengthens and he can be like all the other ducks. And I'd be very happy with no more drama!

PioneerPreppy said...

Can't say I ever dealt with broody ducks lol but ya when the moma's get to fighting over a nest all chaos breaks out. Only relief is that the chicks are pretty resilient as to adopting any mom in a pinch for the first little bit. Bet that is more of a curse when mixing species though :)

PioneerPreppy said...

I hope the duckling pulls through!!!

tpals said...

Oh, wow! So glad Dan was there to rescue.

Leigh said...

PP, originally we tried to give each species their own space. They wouldn't have it and they all migrated to the chicken yard and coop. Go figure.

Baby poultry is pretty amazing anyway, considering that they can be raised without a mother. But they do follow their moms around when little, and the chickens especially love to find their chicks things to eat. You're right though, that any mom will do, and there was a little confusion over that initially. It amazes me that they sorted themselves out by species.

Tpals, I know! Truly providential, I think.

daisy g said...

Ugh! That was a close call. Hope the lil' guy/gal makes it!

Leigh said...

Daisy, me too!

Annie in Ocala said...

Good work! It is hard with baby poultry but like you, I try to let the moms raise the babies. And I don't mind sacrificing a few eggs to the snakes, but the babies are grounds for dispatch. Had many memories of craziness with snakes as a kid. Big open chicken yard/house on the edge of 1000+ acres of dense woods. Here I have made a couple hardware cloth 4'x4' pens that I can set over the nests/hatchlings and moms for the first couple weeks. It helps. Mine don't have fixed areas to lay, but random wood or plastic boxes that I can move.

Leigh said...

Annie, the portable pens are a good idea. Ours got tricky because they all insisted on using the same spot under the nest boxes. I'm thinking we ought to lower the nest boxes! It would be easier than digging round under them to fetch eggs.