Wild/feral Chickens - lots of questions

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by FleurDangereux, Mar 25, 2018.

  1. FleurDangereux

    FleurDangereux In the Brooder

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    Soon after my husband and I moved in to this new place we met Brewster the rooster and Gwen the hen.
    I have never seen wild/feral chickens in my life before. Seeing them jump up into the magnolia tree at night blew my mind.
    Please forgive me if my questions are stupid. This is a whole new territory for me
    Well, because they sleep in a tree, where will Gwen lay her eggs? Or will she lay them at all?
    Do they make nests in trees? (I'm assuming no, but what do I know?)
    If not, will she lay eggs near the tree they sleep in, or in the more wooded/overgrown areas on the property?
    What time of day is she most likely going to lay eggs?
    Brewster is trying to "start a family" apparently, will this change their habits any?
    Is there anything I can do to help them protect their fertilized eggs from predators?
    Or anything I can feed them that will help them in the family making process?
    How can I tell if she's ill if she won't let me near her?

    Sorry for so many questions. I know these chickens can fend for themselves, but .. I don't know.. they're my friends now, dammit
     

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  2. LRH97

    LRH97 Songster

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    No stupid questions!
    Where will Gwen lay her eggs?: Well...anywhere she sees fit. Chickens won't make a nest in a tree, say, like a songbird would. If there's a hollowed out tree trunk somewhere, maybe. Things like shrubs and similar vegetation are more likely. If they're hanging around, her nest is probably somewhere nearby. Finding it will be the issue.

    Will she lay at all?: I'm sure. These two have more than likely been dumped by someone (which is complete bullcrap) or have escaped from a pen from somewhere. I'm unsure of the breeds. The female looks similar to a Leghorn and the male looks to have game in him. Possibly mixes. In any event, they're domestic breeds or crosses of some sort.

    What time of day will she lay?: Hard to say. Everyone is different. Some of my girls lay in the morning, some wait till later. All are usually done by 2-3:00 though.

    Will Brewster wanting to start a family change anything?: I love how you put this :D. Everyday is "start a family day" for roosters. Here's the normal day for a hen: eat, drink, scratch, lay an egg, put up with the stupid roos that are constantly trying to get on my back, sleep. Won't change a thing.

    Anything I can do to protect her eggs from predators?: I think this is a big issue. I wouldn't be worried about the eggs so much as the birds themselves. Birds that aren't safely locked up at night are more or less sitting ducks (no pun intended) for a whole host of hungry predators after a chicken dinner. As for the eggs, not much you can really do until you find her nest. You could try covering a dog crate with a towel filled with straw or litter and put fake eggs or golf balls in it to try and coax her into laying in there.

    Anything I can feed them to help them in the family making process?: Well, not really. Chickens love cracked corn and scratch grains. Either one of those would be a good treat for them. The staple in the diet should be a layer or all flock type feed from a feed store. Here's how the family process works. The roo mates with the hen, her eggs have been fertilized. The hen will need to sit on the eggs (known as going "broody") and hatch them, or they can be collected and set in an incubator. Broodiness varies by breed and ultimately individual. If she does go broody on an unprotected nest, she will be especially vulnerable to predators. However, she looks to be a light breed which largely aren't particularly renown for broodiness, so you may not have to worry there.

    I hope these helped some! Ask any more questions should you have them!
     
    Killer Tomato likes this.
  3. FleurDangereux

    FleurDangereux In the Brooder

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    I found out that Brewster is a Dutch Bantam!
    He is such a beautiful boy!
    They are so friendly to me (probably because I feed them oats every morning)
    They made quite the commotion when they went into the brush across the driveway from the mailbox when I went to check the mail.
    I think she might be laying her eggs back there.
    We do have a number of predators in the area. Mainly feral cats. But they all seem to be afraid of them.
    Even Gwen has spurs so I assume they were born in the wild.
    I might try to check out the patch of brush tomorrow and see if she has laid any eggs.
    We've seen a 3 ft water moccasin under the attached house. I don't know if they eat eggs, but I'll try my best to protect them .
    My best friend was a vet tech at the only aviary veterinary clinic on the area, so they would be in good hands.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    The only stupid question is the one that is not asked. We all have to start somewhere.

    Well, because they sleep in a tree, where will Gwen lay her eggs? Or will she lay them at all? Do they make nests in trees? (I'm assuming no, but what do I know?)
    If not, will she lay eggs near the tree they sleep in, or in the more wooded/overgrown areas on the property?


    Chickens instinctively sleep up as high as they can get, within reason. That way the don't leave a scent path for predators to follow and they are reasonably well hidden up there. It's not perfect but pretty effect.

    They tend to lay the eggs somewhere really well hidden. They might lay on some type of platform up off the ground but normally it is under a thick bush or in a tangle of vines, maybe behind a fallen tree. They are trying to hide the nest from predators including you. That nest could be anywhere, not necessarily close to where they sleep or even hang around during the day. They do not want their activities to bring predators to the nest. At the same time, that nest might be right under the tree where they sleep. You just don't know.

    What time of day is she most likely going to lay eggs?

    While she can lay anytime during the day, morning is most likely. There are biological reasons for that. Since they don't want to lay eggs at night there are certain triggers that tell the hen when to release the yolk to start the journey through the internal egg making factory. While there are always exceptions to anything I'll say on here, these triggers generally stop her from laying fairly late in the day and wait until the next day to lay. She is some kind of bantam and likely to not lay every day anyway. With her likely skipping days in laying, those triggers to release the yolk would probably cause her to lay fairly early in the day.

    Brewster is trying to "start a family" apparently, will this change their habits any?

    Absolutely not.

    Is there anything I can do to help them protect their fertilized eggs from predators?

    Short of trapping them and keeping them in a predator proof coop and run, not really.

    Or anything I can feed them that will help them in the family making process?

    I assume they are foraging for themselves, finding all the food they need, just like chickens have been doing on small farms for thousands of years. In Slidell your climate is going to let them do that pretty much year around. If you really want to feed hem something they might benefit from a high protein treat like BOSS (Black Oil Sunflower Seed), but that could also attract predators that would love to eat chickens and/or eggs. Feeding about anything chickens will eat can attract mice, which in turn can attract many predators that eat mice as well as eggs and/or chickens. And it can attract many of the predators themselves. if you elect to feed them anything do it in small enough quantities that they can clean it all up immediately. Those oats aren't bad as long as they clean them up.

    How can I tell if she's ill if she won't let me near her?

    If one is really sick they tend to stand around hunched up, fluffed up, and be lethargic, they look really miserable. Living in the open like that they hardly ever get really sick, though of course it is possible. Living in the open they are no more likely to get really sick than the wild birds you see around. And the hen's hidden nest isn't more likely to be found by a predator than the wild birds either. It happens, it can happen at any time, either to other wild birds or chickens. I'm not trying to say they are totally safe, they are not. But that nest is not guaranteed to be found by you or a predator.

    To me you are in a unique situation. I'm glad you are enjoying them and totally understand your desire to protect them. But i think you have two basic choices. Somehow get them enclosed in a predator proof coop and run and keep them there, at least at night and until she starts to lay in there. Or enjoy them but try to not interfere too much where you might attract predators to them, such as by feeding them too much. There certainly is a risk to this. You may be fine for years or one could be gone today.

    Those spurs do not mean she was hatched in the wild. All hens have spur nubs thought most don'r grow that much. But occasionally one will have spurs that a rooster would be proud of. What those long spurs probably mean is that she could be a bit old.

    In Slidell I'd think your biggest risk from predators would be snakes finding the eggs. Practically any snake will eat eggs if they are big enough. But you also have risks from raccoon, skunks, possum, foxes, coyotes, bobcat, and especially dogs. Feral cats or even someone's tame cat could pose a risk but usually not to adults, though those are bantams. It's the baby chicks that are at the highest risk from cats but many people keep barn cats around chickens to help control mice. There are no hard and fast answers fro you. Lots of different things can happen but there is no guarantee that any of them will.

    Good luck!
     
    LRH97 and RUNuts like this.
  5. FleurDangereux

    FleurDangereux In the Brooder

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    Slidell, Louisiana
    Thank you so much!!
    They always clean up the oats I feed them, I feed them in the same bald patch of grass they dig for grubs, and it's next to my door, not their tree.
    The magnolia tree gives them great coverage from above and below. And once the magnolias bloom, the fragrance will cover up everything.

    When we were fostering the Silkies a few years ago, in a different part of Slidell, a hen and the rooster were killed by a predator overnight.
    We thought we dug deep enough to bury the run, but the spring rain eroded the ground and made it easy for something to make it's way in.
    According to the necropsy, the rooster, Chippy, died from a broken neck, and the hen, Ava, was partially eaten.
    The vet thought that Chippy saw the predator (either a fox or weasel, according to the teeth marks) after he had killed Ava and attacked him. He must have fought bravely because Chippy's only injury was the broken neck. Broke my heart to find them that morning. I called into work. I had to call my friend who I was fostering for, she was beside herself , of course.

    We have seen a 3ft water moccasin over here, and these two have been here awhile, but no chicks, so I'm assuming either she's not broody, or something is eating her eggs.

    The feral cats around here are scared of them. The neighbors dog stops barking when he sees them. I wish there were more of them so they would be like a gang
     
    Killer Tomato likes this.
  6. HenHouse4Life

    HenHouse4Life GrandmaOnDuty

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    Those chickens look just like the ones that roam around in the Keys. Floridians refer to them as the gypsy chickens. Florida has laws protecting the gypsy chickens.
    Very pretty!
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    Why are they thought to be Dutch Bantams?
     
  8. LovelyChicks130

    LovelyChicks130 In the Brooder

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    I love the names you picked for them :woot
     
  9. FleurDangereux

    FleurDangereux In the Brooder

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    Mar 24, 2018
    Slidell, Louisiana
    From what people have told me, and photos I've seen online, Brewster looks like a Dutch Bantam. And Gwen looks like a Leghorn .
     
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    If birds similar sized and Gwen is a Leghorn, then Brewster is too big to be a bantam of any sort. His overall look is consistent with a game chicken.
     

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