Last Updated: 5/19/10
Pondet's Family and Loss
An End for One and a Beginning for Four
Clash of the Titans
I have not yet read over this page since I moved it to this directory so it may contain errors that I hope to correct soon.
Even though we had enough chickens, my mother wanted another hen. She picked up a really pretty 4-month-old Delaware pullet on 8/14/04. My mother named her Pondet (pronounced Pond-ay) since we had a Poulet (pronounced Pool-ay) since we have a pond and a pool. I thought that was lame. Anyway, she is a really nice chicken. The Delaware breed is pretty rare. Here is a link on Delaware chickens with lots of photos. Once released, Spicey and Clarice attacked her so she took to sitting on the window sill most of the time. Hopefully, she would integrate into the flock soon. Update: 10/14/04 and Pondet was mostly integrated. Pondet laid her first egg, a big brown one, on 12/7/04 at an estimated age of 7.5 months old.
We had never had a broody hen before until on 6/18/05, Pondet all of a sudden decided to sit on eggs. I had just removed four eggs the day before but she had two more to sit on (all hers). I was told by an "expert" to kick her off the eggs and mark them. She would not let me do that (I was afraid of cracking the eggs) but, on 6/20/05, Poulet was sitting on them with Pondet next to her so I pushed Poulet off, and she started squalking her brains out. I expected to find the two Pondet eggs and one or two from Poulet but there were four brown ones (each of the three hens lays a different color). I was so surprised, I did not even mark them. The first eggs were due to hatch on 7/9/05. I was worried that the rooster or other hens might hurt the babies, or we would end up with more roosters. Due to that and lack of space, I could not artificially incubate eggs but my mother said it would be "fun" to let Pondet hatch a few. Unlike incubated chicks though, we would not be able to directly interact with them.
A week later, I pencil marked the three remaining eggs (one vanished, most likely cracked by accident and then eaten). On 7/8/05, I saw a little chick under Pondet's rear! The baby was mostly yellow with some brown stripes. We wee waiting to see if the other two eggs hatch. Then, I had to worry about whether or not the chicks could get out of the nest, whether they would eat and drink, and whether or not the other chickens would hurt them. The "expert" said that Pondet would protect them from the rooster and other hens.
The expert was totally wrong. The next morning, 7/9/05, as soon as Spicey came off the roost, she went into the nest box, jumped on top of Pondet and bit viciously at her head and tried to bite at the now two cheeping babies next to and under her. I locked Sugar and Spice into the 6'x6' house. A few hours later, my father and I attached 1" chicken wire fencing (3 levels of 2' high for 6' of height) at the half way point of the outdoor run, effectively separating Pondet and the two chicks from Sugar, Spice, and Poulet (who did not show any aggression towards Pondet or the chicks but would probably be happier with the adults). Pondet stood up long enough for my mother to see that the third egg/chick was simply not there. When it was destroyed, I do not know as it was there a week before. There was no sign of egg shell in the nest at all. I guess Pondet ate them. Wild birds probably do this to ward off predators (smell of blood), flies, etc. and also to get back some calcium. The chicks could not seem to get out of the nest box so I made them ramps but they still would not come out. Pondet got out once and called to them to no avail. I tossed in mealworms and chick feed which Pondet and the two chicks ate. I was worried they would get dehydrated so I would have to lift them out the next day if they do not go on their own. Once out, they had to find the chick waterer and realize how to drink from it too! Their remaining yolk (for hydration) would run out soon. They seemed very healthy. Both were yellow with some brown stripes, one having more stripes than the other. I took photos that you can see on the chicken photo page.
I named the babies Sprout and Speckles. Sprout was mostly yellow with a brown head stripe. Speckles was yellow with a bunch of brown and grayish stripes on his back. My instincts said Sprout was male, and Speckles was female. In 6 months, we would see how good I was at guessing (I was wrong; Speckles is male)! As of 7/10/05, I had not seen the chicks drink anything. They were out of the nest box. I had to lift one out (Pondet bit me). The chicks were eating mealworms and chick feed as well as bugs that Pondet scratched up.
Update 7/15/05: Sprout and Speckles were doing great! I just wished that when I put in special foods for the chicks twice a day that Pondet wouldn't flip the little dish and throw it all over! The chicks now had some real feathers at the ends of their wings. Sprout's were white, and Speckle's were brown.
When things seem perfect, that is when bad things happen. The morning of 7/27/05 around 6:10 am as I got dressed, I heard chicken noises. Opening my window, I could tell it was Pondet giving her "come here chickies" call with great insistence. I knew something was wrong and went right out. Sprouty was gone. There was no sign of anything. She was simply erased from existence. I have to assume that the black rat snake came in and got her even though she was getting big. Two of the four eggs that Pondet sat on also vanished without a trace. It was probably the same snake. It would be quite ironic if the culprit was the 5' black snake I tried to save a few weeks before. He/she was tangled in some mesh bird/plant netting. I cut him/her free but the net was still attached and strangulating the snake in half a dozen locations. If he/she survived and then ate Sprouty, that shows that no good deed goes unpunished. When looking for Sprouty (I thought maybe she had gotten out), there were a few birds (a wood thrush I saw) giving snake calls. I never saw the snake but it makes the most sense. Poor Pondet and Speckles continued to act scared, anxious, and kept calling for Sprouty. But, she was never coming back. I planned to move them to the hen house and put the adults out in the open. Hopefully, then when the snake came back, all he would find was Sugar's menacing stare.
As of 8/17/05, Specky was doing very well. The three chickens out in the open area were not very happy but seemed okay except for Spicey. She developed a bumble foot infection. While the swelling was not that bad, I thought it had gone up into the bone. I could have brought her in for surgery but that would mean quarantine, medication, being away from the others which would stress her, and an almost guarantee that the infection would return anyway (as with Salty).
Spicey had been ill for a while with her feet. It was getting harder for her to walk. Sugar continued to jump her, further injuring her. In late August, she started staying in the nest box, only coming out to eat. The morning of 9/2/05, she did not come out. Her eyes were shut. When I got home from work, she was gone. I feel guilty that we did not do more for her.
On 9/3/05, I removed the wood board keeping the chickens apart. They all joined together. Speckles was still pretty small for two months old but very fast. His daddy seemed to be behaving himself although he, of course, had to have his way with Pondet as soon as they reunited. Sugar was offering the baby as well as the girls food to eat. I found Speckles on the high roost on 9/4/05 in the morning so he was now pretty much doing all that the adults could. He still cheeped like a baby though. He was so cute! If things continued well, the next weekend, I would remove the rest of the barrier. I was so happy they were all getting along but wish Spicey had lived to be a part of it. She was the only one though to show aggression towards Speckles, even biting him through the chicken wire a few days before she died. He squawked and ran, like such a baby which he was! So there were pluses and minuses.
The morning of 12/23/05, I heard Speckles learning to crow. He made a "woooooo-wo" noise. It was not very good but he was just learning. His father crowed as a rooster should, and he would learn from him. Father and son seemed to get along okay at that time after some initial tifts when he was in between chick and adult size. Speckles was now almost as big as Sugar. The girls, Poulet and Pondet, stayed together and did not like either rooster much. Pondet especially seemed to dislike her son which was sad as she was really close to him when he was little. Speckles was full grown in less than six months. It is hard to imagine maturing that fast! He still let me pet him but no longer seemed to like it. He just wanted to eat his daily mealworm treat fast. I know the day will come when he will want to attack me as all my roosters have but I hope it is a long way off (update 5/19/10: Yhat day never came; Speckles is a sweetheart, my first nice rooster). Sugar seemed to be a little less aggressive towards me, perhaps something having to do with having another rooster to deal with.
By 12/31/05, Speckles crowed pretty well but not as loud as his father. I also saw him rape his mother. Incest has no meaning to a chicken. Speckles was fully mature and yet so young.
On 1/27/06, I finally was in his presence when Speckles was crowing. It is always strange to see a rooster crow close up. He did not thrust his head up as strangely as his father and was not as loud either.
On 8/7/06, my mother called me at work to say they had rescued Sugar. He was hanging from the wire in the run by his spur! His spurs were way too long. I tried cutting them but none of my cutters will go through them. I actually got the cutters around the spurs when he was roosting without much trouble, just could not even knick them. Sugar was probably fighting with his son when he got stuck. He would have hung upside down all day if my parents had not been taking my niece for a walk.
Sugar seemed a little weak, may be getting old. The other chickens were fine. Poulet had not laid an egg since 2005 some time. Pondet laid one each day (fertilized by her son!). Speckles was still sweet. The foxes had been hanging around and doing well but had not gotten back into the pen. I close the chickens into the house at night even though the foxes should not be able to get into the run with the wire along the ground. Better extra safe than sorry.
On 12/16/06, when I brought out mealworms for the chickens, as I do every Saturday, Sugar was missing. He was always there because he was in charge. I found him hiding in the nest box. He moved a little so that I could see that he had broken off his dewclaw. The other one had broken off the year before. The remaining claw was all bloody. He looked scared and in pain. I took a photo of the piece of curled dewclaw (over 3" long if it could be straightened!) that came off later that night: Dewclaw with ruler. Later, when it was time to close them up for the night, Sugar was on the outside roost. I brought my Y- shaped stick in and forced him off there. While doing this, Speckles came off the roost. When Sugar flew down, Speckles attacked him. Sugar coward behind me. This was the first time since he was a baby that he could have attacked me but did not take the opportunity. It seems Speckles had a show down with his father and won. I could not get Sugar to go into the house at all so I closed the door with him on the outside roost. That way, at least the roosters could not harm each other until I came out in the morning. If a fox somehow got in, at least he would only get Sugar. I always close them in because of the foxes except when Speckles was a baby (and nobody but the snake got in then). Sugar seemed run down. I hoped Speckles would leave him alone, and that he would not turn nasty now that he was apparently dominant. Poulet and Pondet just stayed on the inside roost almost all the time. If Pondet got down, Speckles jumped her. Everyone ignored Poulet. Speckles was nice to me but sure was nasty to both his parents!
I planned to build a cage within the chicken house for Sugar on 12/23/06. I would replace the plastic covered windows with plexiglass to let in more light and so on because Sugar would spend his life inside the house from now on. He was going to get rained on for a few days before I could get to it since when I came home from work, it was too dark to build the new enclosed area.
Of course, it rained the day before I could get Sugar's new cage made. I hoisted one of my plastic kiddie pools up on top of the chicken run so it served as an umbrella for him until I could get it built the next day. The new room was built on 12/23/06. You can read more about it on my bird shelter page where I talk about their cage.
On 1/24/07, I came home to find that Speckles was in Sugar's cage, and Sugar was out on the outside roost! The girls had both found their way into Sugar's cage before. The food bowls go under the fence so if they move the bowls, they can squish under the fence there. This time, I guess Speckles went into Sugar's cage, and then Sugar managed to get away from him but Speckles got trapped. I had to cut the door open (the cable ties have to be cut), get Speckles out, and go grab Sugar with a towel, stuff him back into the cage, and put new cable ties on. I hope they do not make this a habit (update later: They did!)!
I was amazed to find a white egg in the nest box on 3/26/07. Poulet laid her first egg in what, two years? The roosters had somehow switched places again which they were doing often. I let them stay that way for a few days so Sugar could run around. It was a pain to try to get them to switch because Sugar wanted to kill me, and Speckles wanted to kill Sugar.
Here is a photo of Pondet (left) and Poulet's (right) eggs on 3/27/07.
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