Monogamous bantam pullet in mourning?

Meghan83

In the Brooder
Oct 1, 2020
6
13
15
We got our first chickens this past April: 7 full-size hens, and 4 straight run bantams. All day-old chicks brooded together. 3 of the bantams turned out to be cockerels and just one pullet, our sweet Gerutha. All game bantams. The 11 birds have been happily free ranging on our 2.5 acres in Vermont, and come home to roost in their coop at night.

On September 19 we culled Feng, our alpha who had started showing aggression towards our toddler. About two days later, Gerutha stopped coming home at night. We assumed a hawk got her (being the most athletic of our birds, we did not think she would be the first to fall prey to a land mammal). But after two nights away, I found her the next morning outside the coop when I went to open up. I saw her with the others later in the day too. However, she still did not come home to roost. I saw her again yesterday, about a week after the first sighting. She looked haggard, skinny, and her comb was flopped over. I brought her some food which she ate. About five other birds came over and she was with them for awhile but then disappeared within 30 minutes.

I think I underestimated the relationship between Gerutha and Feng. I knew he was her boyfriend, but I didn’t know if chickens or bantams were ever monogamous (he mated the other pullets, of course, but she did seem to have a special relationship with him as the only bantam pullet). I suspect she has found the pile of his feathers that my husband left in the woods and is hanging around there (I still need to have him verify this since I don’t know where it is exactly). I have heard that brooding hens’ combs flop over; but do their combs also flop over from other causes like malnutrition or stress? Is it possible she is brooding eggs out there at this untimely season?

I’m wondering if anyone has had similar experiences and could shed light on this behavior, and maybe give us hope that she will eventually move on from her grief and come back to the flock before cold weather sets in and/or she succumbs to hunger or predation.
 

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duckiemum

Songster
Sep 30, 2020
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Small town in Georgia
I'm not very experienced in this situation, but I definitely think it would be best to keep her home, for her safety. And since she's skinny it would also be good to do so she can put weight back on. Best of luck for you and Gerutha.
Also, welcome to BYC.
 

Meghan83

In the Brooder
Oct 1, 2020
6
13
15
She might have started a clutch somewhere and is only coming to the yard for some food every few days.

Next time she shows up you could try to follow her and bring her and her nest inside to provide security.
Thank you. You were right! I saw and fed her briefly yesterday but was unable to follow, and saw her today (with the group! ...but getting bullied:(), and today I was able to follow her to her secret nest, with the sweetest clutch of about 8 eggs. I will go back out later when I have DH’s help to gather up her and her nest.

We have a trough-style nesting box in the coop. Fortunately, Gerutha was the only one who used the right hand corner, while the rest of the girls all share the left hand corner. So I think I’ll place Gerutha’s nest, as intact as I can keep it, into her spot in the trough, and also put some kind of a barrier in place so she has as much privacy as possible. I hope bullying won’t be a problem as she is trying to navigate new motherhood all alone, but I guess we will cross that bridge later! Anyone with advice on bullying in this type of situation, please feel free to chime in!

I’ll check back in with an update after moving her, and later, after I have a chance to confirm with candling whether we have chicks growing.. I won’t bother with that today as the move will be stressful enough on her.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
Nov 27, 2012
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SW Michigan
My Coop
So I think I’ll place Gerutha’s nest, as intact as I can keep it, into her spot in the trough, and also put some kind of a barrier in place so she has as much privacy as possible.
Can you fit a crate in the coop?
Or a floor nest behind wire wall in coop?
Move her as late at night as possible.
 

LaFleche

Crowing
Sep 22, 2012
2,657
8,897
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Germany
That sounds promising, hopefully she will stay despite moving the nest. Fingers crossed...

Broody hens often get bullied by their flock mates, the important thing is to keep her and her nest separate so no other hen will be able to add to her clutch or bully her from the nest.

Thank you. You were right! I saw and fed her briefly yesterday but was unable to follow, and saw her today (with the group! ...but getting bullied:(), and today I was able to follow her to her secret nest, with the sweetest clutch of about 8 eggs. I will go back out later when I have DH’s help to gather up her and her nest.

We have a trough-style nesting box in the coop. Fortunately, Gerutha was the only one who used the right hand corner, while the rest of the girls all share the left hand corner. So I think I’ll place Gerutha’s nest, as intact as I can keep it, into her spot in the trough, and also put some kind of a barrier in place so she has as much privacy as possible. I hope bullying won’t be a problem as she is trying to navigate new motherhood all alone, but I guess we will cross that bridge later! Anyone with advice on bullying in this type of situation, please feel free to chime in!

I’ll check back in with an update after moving her, and later, after I have a chance to confirm with candling whether we have chicks growing.. I won’t bother with that today as the move will be stressful enough on her.
 

Meghan83

In the Brooder
Oct 1, 2020
6
13
15
E8EFAB7D-E324-4E1C-BA1E-CFBD4CC86224.jpeg
0B79918C-F41A-41FF-AB61-C38F7620EEDE.jpeg

Here are some photos from when we first went to grab her, and what we found underneath (ten)!

It was quite the saga, but fortunately has a happy ending, as far as we know for the time being anyway. We brought her and her nest and 10 eggs into the coop, but failed to close the pop door before starting. She escaped and we spent a lot of time trying to catch her. During this time I worried about the eggs so I put a warm rice pack on them with layers of wool between so as not to be too hot. She kept going back to her original nest spot even though we had shown her her eggs inside. So finally we thought of the idea to move her nest back to its original spot, but in a cardboard box. We went back after dark and sure enough, she was in there. So we grabbed the box and brought it into the coop. We put a piece of chicken wire over her whole nest area to protect her from the other hens. Some of the eggs were not perfectly underneath her when we found them, so it may be too late but we did tuck them in a little better. We just hope for at least a couple survivors for her.

Thank you for listening and for all your great suggestions!
 

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