June 19, 2014


Griffin and Pan on the perch.

The official definition of panache is: flamboyant confidence of style or manner. Historical definition is a tuft or plume of feathers, especially as a headdress or on a helmet. Rather appropriate as this story is about a chicken.

If you read my recent story about Windward chickens, you are aware that 3 attacks of predation have left us with only two adult chickens (other than the 5 Silkies we maintain), an Easter Egger rooster named Griffin and a young Rhodie hen named Pan due to her acrobatic abilities in escaping death.

Pan was left as the sole egg layer and produce she did, faithful to her breed, one a day until about the middle of May on a Sunday. We had a number of guests visit us and join us for lunch that day.

I cooked a big meal, trying to feature Windward products so I neglected to remove her egg from the nest box in a timely manner. When I went later in the afternoon to retrieve it she was sitting on it.

I tried to sneak my hand under her to retrieve it as Andrew suggested but she puffed up all her feathers and made threatening noises I'd never heard before. She went broody.

one day old chick and later, Mom teaching the chick how to peck for food.

Apparently this happens very rarely, especially in Rhode Island Reds, which have been bred as egg producers not for their mothering instincts.

Those mothering instincts have systematically been bred out. But not completely. Bantams, like our Silkies, are supposed to be good brooders and mothers, although ours have not done all that well this season.

We have three Silkie hens. One doesn't lay at all, the other lays her eggs all over the place and the third starting using the nesting box in the greenhouse and is sitting on one egg presently. So we have a broody Rhodie and careless Silkies.

Pan showing Panini how to dig a great hole.

I checked on Pan every day, making sure she had water and put food in the box for her (quickly). Every so often she would get off the nest and roll around in the dirt. Claire and I both caught her as we walked into the rabbit area. Seeing us made her start squalking and doing what I call the "psycho dance" where she sort of moonwalks with all her feathers puffed up. I did confirm that she was sitting on 3 eggs.

One day I found one on the ground. I attempted to put it back under her. The day before hatch due date, Lindsay and I moved Griffin out of the space and into Chickplex with the adolescents. There were numerous conversations about how to handle the hatchlings. I learned that this would be a first occurrence at Windward. That is, a production, egg laying chicken successfully brooding and hatching chicks.

Six of the nine oldest chicks with their varied plumage.

She got off the nest on the due date and there were only two eggs and neither was pipped. I was disappointed. Monday morning I checked again and thought I heard peeping noises but couldn't get near her. The next day I saw a little blond head peep out from under her feathers in the box and manager to get a picture.

By Wednesday afternoon they were out of the nesting box and on the ground so I got some starter feed and smaller watering device. The chick sees me as a predator so runs under mama as soon as I enter the coop. I observed Pan showing the little one how to eat.

She is still very protective and seems to be a good mother. She did leave the other egg to take care of her chick, which I'm calling Panini. Almost two weeks after hatching and they are still doing well. Panini is out and about much more now, still following mom and mimicking everything she does. Hopefully the chick will be a great leaper like its parents.

Update on the older chicks: All are healthy and doing well. I am expecting to figure out soon who the roosters are from the first batch since they are nearing 8 weeks of age. Most of them have almost all of their adult plumage and range from looking like the hen (Buff Orpington or Rhode Island Red) to something more exotic inherited from the multiple lineages in the Easter Egger rooster.