I was greeted in the morning by news of chicks! HW didn’t know that they were freshly hatched because they were so big, but they hatched overnight.
I knew they were coming, because for the last few days, mama passed up her daily meal and stayed put on her eggs. (This mama was the lady who lunched).
These are baby Chanticleers, future layers. Five hatched of six eggs, wonderful! They are born bigger than the Silkie chicks that are a week old.
I wasn’t sure what to do with these. Already dynamic, a few hours old, I wanted to let them out of the chickery right away but worried that the hens would fight.
I did let them out, lifting the chickery up and over the sunflower that grew up inside of it, and all the chicks scuttled out into squash land. I’ll barely see them anymore.
Later in the day, it seemed that the two tribes had not met; the Silkies on the tomato side and the new babies on the squash side. It’s thick in there. They have plenty to do without encountering each other.
Paranoid about the tragic loss of Blondie mom, I got downright defeatist over the disappearance in the morning of a guinea cock. What the? A guinea cock? It must be a raptor, snatched him off the coop. What am I going to do, sit out there all day with a rifle? Predator problems, just as the guineas are hatching!?
Inside the sky coop, there are chicks. I can’t tell how many! Five?
Psycho cobra mom hurls herself at the screen, and the little chicks who sometimes peek out the screen door scurry to the back of the coop, so I don’t know how many there are.
I’ve been nudging bowls of food and water inside the door, and mom doesn’t care why I’m reaching in, she means to take my arm off for it. Beak to arm: whackwhackwhackwhackwhackwhack!
Three times a day, so no one gets dehydrated. When they’re empty, I hear her pecking and clanking the dishes together in there. Sounds like a busy diner.
I quickly learned to tie a string onto the bowls so I can pull them back out instead of reaching in for them.
She’s got no problem eating the food, once I back off, but cut me a break for the delivery? No way!
The guinea cocks gave away the hatching. When we first saw the telltale eggshell, we both said “I knew something was up!” For the previous two days, the three guinea cocks were extra attached to the coop. Sitting on the roof, looking in, even in the middle of the day. I think they were excited. They haven’t stopped, they are animated and keeping close to the new mom.
What’s this? The guineas were hollering, as they do, and it was sustained, long enough for me to check on them, and I go and Oh! There he is, coming out of the woods. I count, yep, three… wait… I count again. Four. I check that the screen door isn’t breached. Four!
No way! The hen that disappeared two months ago is marching out of the woods, just like I hoped! With her proud and loud escort, klaxoning the whole way. He was missing half the day because he went to walk her home, and the others stayed with coop mom! I’m sure that the cocks have always known where she set, and have been regularly visiting her her whole term.
But does she have chicks?
There she is, very furtive, and yes, there are chicks! At least two!
She spent all that time, all those rainstorms, no shelter. No snack boxes. She’s not even acting ravenous.
A triumphant homecoming for the Lady of the Woods. She came right back to the old digs, hanging around under the sky coop. The guineas are very familial. The cocks are very much part of the parenting team.
The chicks are so tiny it’s hard to believe they’re making woods treks already. They tumble out of the grass and then toddle back in, and don’t stay right with mom. They’re comfortable getting a ways away.. They are very quiet peepers, unlike a chicken chick that will get piercing (they make up for that later in life).
Also, the attack mom is even more terrifying when she’s not in a box. She charges like a bull, with no fear. The wings go up in this flat fronted wall of feathers, and then the red mouth open, and worst, the crazy look in her eye, coming at you!
I dared to walk within 8 feet of her brood and got run at.
Tomorrow, I will open the door to the sky coop, and let them all out into the world.
Another box has started peeping – the peeping in that end of the greenhouse is my first clue there’s been a hatching. Mother hen is maintaining eye contact from the background.
This summer, except for the only chick, the hens have all hatched 5 or 6 chicks from 7 or 8 eggs, and if there’s an odd number, it’s to the advantage of white. The white hen (only one, of two, has gone broody), is a terrible setter (three times failed) while the brown hens are all models of success, although none of them have ever done it before. All the brown hens are last summer’s chicks – baby pictures. But the whites seem to get their eggs in the right place, like cuckoos.
This is the strenuous objection pose. They press their wings down into the floor as a barrier so hard their body tips up until they practically do a headstand.
First comes the broody hen. Usually I find her staunchly defending her post on at least twenty eggs, spread out like a feather pancake futilely trying to cover them all.
They have no restraint. That’s why she goes in the box. I let her keep seven or eight eggs, and make up a bunk with hay and a glass of water and a dish of food. At times I have three boxes all lined up. In there each hen “sleeps” in her broody trance uninterrupted except for getting her vittles refreshed.
Then they hatch. Immediately, I move the whole family and unhatched eggs into a fresh box. That broody box has all poop and spilled feed and water under the hay, so they need a clean box to start life in. I find it takes two days usually for all the birds to hatch, and the chicks take it easy those first couple days, spending their time dozing under mom, transitioning to life outside the shell.
Then the chicks decide to pop out from underwing, and start hopping around, jumping in the water and stuff. They get another day or two in a more sizable box, with room to run around and spill all the food. Sometimes the hen is still sitting on an egg, but she will very soon give it up and start mothering.
Next they go into the indoor playpen, which is just a big box opened up against the screen door for ventilation, and arranged on the greenhouse floor, which is dirt, of course, and a layer of wood chips. Now the mom will start to teach chicken life skills. Scratching, drinking. The beak sweep, the beak wipe.
She can see the world out there through the screen door.
After a few days in the playpen, then they all go in the chickery.
Whoohoo! Grass! This is a frabjous day.
At night, I have to lift all the chicks and mom into a box and shut them in the greenhouse overnight, for safety. In the morning, I carry a cheeping box back outside and empty it into the chickery.
This hen thinks I’ve slept in too long, and it’s high time that they get let outside.
Eventually, after a week, two, or more, or single parenting, the family will be put into Silkieland with the main flock. I have to say, it’s working great. Waiting until the chicks are older to put them in the coop avoids the daily in and out woes. Their little chicken brains are developed enough after the chickery daycare to learn how to go in and out quite rapidly.
Unfortunately, she decided she was NOT done sitting on the rest of her eggs, and insistently refused to get up and start mothering, for several days (!).
I attempted to adopt the lone chick into the clutch that hatched four days earlier. Four days makes a difference – the newer chick is significantly smaller. I moved the chick in the night and put her under the other hen, but in the morning, I saw the hen pecking the intruder on the head! Yikes! Adoption not successful.
What to do? Take the eggs away? That could mean killing chicks that are almost baked, as the setting hens usually seem to know when their eggs are alive or not.
Luckily, the mother finally got up off her eggs and got about the business of early chick education.
The only chick and mother in the chick cycle rotation. Upgrade to the chickery.
I go to put them out in the morning, and she’s laid an egg! This hen is so ready for more chicks.
Let’s see who’s under that wing…One little baby. Let’s look farther under the feather curtain…A whole mess of chicks and shells… This damp little guy was still attached to his shell with a piece of the shell membrane wrapped around his leg- yikes!All free.And all the broken vacant shells cleaned out from under Mom.
We’ve got some new chicks! Little white autumn chicks, from the white hen’s second setting. It’s late for chicks, I hope they make it.
I made another mistake to add to the bank of learning experience. Next time, put the hen in the broody box before the chicks hatch! I was keeping a close eye on her near the end, watching for signs of imminent hatching, but I didn’t put her in a box. At night I’d seen that all the birds snuggled in around her in her fixed broody position, and I figured that was nice and cozy for her. It’s getting colder at nights. I didn’t want to isolate her yet. Besides, the chicks always stay under mom for 24-48 hours before they start looking out at the world.
But the chicks hatched in the night, and they did not stay under mom for a transition period.
I checked her at night, no hatching. The next morning when I open the ramp the chickens start filing out, the white hen among them. What? Oh no. Look inside the coop- mayhem. Some older chicks and brown hen huddled in a corner, apparently completely weirded out. Three white chicks strewn around, one tumbled down the ramp to the bottom, one still on it, one dead. White hen impassively eating breakfast.
Without thinking too much about it, I crawled awkwardly into the run from the pine tree end the way I have to do on occasion, snatched up the tiny chicks and put them in the kangaroo pocket of my sweatshirt, and pulled the elastic waistband of my (full disclosure) pajamas up over the shirt and pocket, securing them in there. Then I walked all over the property for the supplies to assemble the broody box. Next mistake: have the broody box on deck when nearing the due date. It took maybe 20 minutes. The tenor of the panicked cheeping in my pocket changed pretty quickly, though, to a peaceful muttering, so I knew they were content and cozy in there. The dog could hardly walk for trying to gain more information about what was going on in the vicinity of my belly.
Broody box installed and supplied, then I had to crawl back into the run, capture cranky mom, chuck her in the box and then give her her chicks and unhatched eggs.
She did not sit on the remaining eggs again, so I cracked them, and they were just rotten eggs, never kindled. She must have known. She sat on the other eggs that had chicks, but that died before hatch, for a long time. Eggs with nearly done chicks in them are much lighter than “liquid” eggs. They must use up a fair bit of mass expending the energy of living.
The white hen seems to have a two-chick limit. This time three hatched, one dead, same as last batch. Now the Silkie flock is dominated by little brown birds, the white ones are the unique, endangered ones. Hopefully they make it. She’s in her box now, momming around.
Just when I was starting to worry- she’s been sitting on those eggs forever- HW comes in in the morning and says Have you looked under the brown hen lately? Oh, you’re gonna be excited!
FIVE chicks! Five healthy, brown and mixed (spider markings) chicks. OMG, so, so SO cute. And an egg with a tiny hole in it. I didn’t even know she had six eggs under her.
I peeked at that egg later in the morning and it had a slightly larger hole in it. A whole day behind the others, though. Will it hatch?
At coop-closing time, I wiggled my fingers under her to see if there was still an egg, or a shell to pull out. The hen firmly pushes her wings against the floor, making a barrier (while growling, a most amusing sound). You can only nudge in under her chest or butt. All underneath her was tiny legs and little squirming bird bits. She contains multitudes. The egg was there, intact. I pulled it out.
It’s not every day that an egg, in your hand, shouts at you. It’s disconcerting. CHEEP! The bird inside was very much alive. Although still all crammed in its box without hinges, key or lid, it let me know- it’s alive, and busy. Put me back! I swiftly tucked it back in to the mom furnace to finish hatching.
Wow. A 100% turnout from the brown hen. She’s smaller, but smarter.
Right on time:) At the end of the day I insisted on preparing the red hen’s box for the arrival of chicks- cleaning out her turd mountain and soggy food and replacing her bedding, and lo and behold, there was peeping! OMG, peeping! I picked up the protesting red hen to see and a wet little tadpole of a chick fell out, wriggling on its back like a turtle. Yay, a chick!
It did seem like she was unusually alert all day.
Another chick! A little spotted one, with markings on its back like a spider! Maybe one of the black hen’s eggs, or the red hen’s. Yesterday’s chick is white, now that it’s dried out and fluffy. There’s one more egg with pipping; there’s a little beak visible, but it has not made progress over the day. They are so, unbelievably cute, and tiny! One little chick is weightless in my hand.
Well, the results of the ambiguous candling are now officially confirmed. I removed all the unhatched eggs and looked through them with light again. The opaque eggs at 15 days were full of chicks, and the clear/translucent eggs were eggs either never fertilized or lost for some reason extremely early. Three and three. So the red hen is essentially at 66%, if I gave her three non-viable eggs to start with. The third chick died, and did not complete hatching, which is too bad. To get that close! I unpeeled the shell around it. It is indeed amazing how packed in there they are, and how well developed. They come out and they function completely- standing, eating, digesting, communicating. Amazing.
The two living chicks are toddling around and spending most of their time under mom. The chicks come and go from under her, vigorously nudging when they want back under until they get let in under a breast or a wing. She’s still in her broody bedded-down state, and I’m hoping she’ll come out of it now and start mothering. There’s no plan B if these hens are lousy mothers. I sure hope she’s having them eat and drink when I’m not looking. I’m worried about them falling into even the smallest waterer, and have modified a little tub for mom to drink from. I held each one to the chick nipple and forced them to have a little drink. In lieu of chick starter, they have a fruit and veggie chopped salad and cooked quinoa.
Adorable! The tiny chicks burrow under mom when they get cold, and pop out to look around. They bounce around their box and peep a lot. They glug from the water nipple like pros! Mom is actively participating, very loudly cheeping over new food, poking them under her. They’ve made a mess of their box scratching the food around, and every day I remove mom’s droppings. The chicks are so small their turds are about the size of a buckwheat grain. Although even these chicks are huge compared to songbirds, they seem so tiny to me compared to standard day-old chicks. Already they have their wing feathers appearing on their nubby little wings.
The temperature has dropped a lot, so winter is close enough to smell. The white hen must be due any day now. She went broody a few days after the red hen but I didn’t note it exactly.
After a day in Halifax we came home to a new chick! Already fluffy and poking out from mama’s wing, this one must have hatched early in the day. We prepped up a new chick box for the white hen and moved her and her eggs into it to finish hatching. Yay! I’m counting on more from her. There’s sure to be another chick by morning.
No new chicks in the morning:( I was at work all day, and the text message reports flowed in! A new chick mid morning! Another soggy chick in the afternoon! I came home, and OMG, one of them is smoke grey! One is very yellow! So tiny, amazing all over again. The eggs are cracked in half, opened around the center like a seam, expertly.
Just the few days difference between the sets of chicks and the growth is visible.
Now there are two mom boxes in the coop and the rooster sleeps between them. H.W. thinks he must be really forlorn now everyone’s gone.
It sure seems to me like they’re looking proud!
The white hen has 75% success. One of her four eggs failed as well, and similarly close to done. I cracked the dead egg to see and the nearly completely formed chick was sharing space still with some yolk. It must have died in the last few days. But three very alive, and mobile. The white hen has an amusing defence tactic. She lowers her head and lifts up her butt and makes angry noises. She tries to back her chicks into a corner and guard them like this. The chicks still come leaking out and hopping around, and it doesn’t do anything to stop me from lifting her up to clean under her.