If The Husband didn’t think I was a crazy chicken lady before, he surely does now. Anyone would think I was the one having babies. In preparation for the arrival of the feather babies I was nesting: tidying things up, making plans and getting everything ready.
I was going to move Frodo and the chicks, once hatched, into the big Hospital Cage in the garage and have a run going outside during the day. The main reason was to keep the age-specific food separate so it wouldn’t interfere with laying. I had just started arranging the plastic netting when I realised the chicks would fit right through the holes. Oops! I could have done it with chicken wire, but I started formulating Plan B. The Husband, during his week off this week, suddenly cleared out the other side of the woodshed, which was a hideous job that hadn’t been finished after we moved in. It wasn’t so much a woodshed as a mess shed. Unfortunately, the contents got dumped all over the second chicken pen area in front of the Cedar Garden: huge pieces of log, bits of firewood, pieces of timber of all descriptions and states of usefulness or uselessness, a big lot of dirt full of pieces of rubbish and everything else inbetween. I am not impressed about the chosen dump site, considering I am trying to ready this area for the chickens before they need to move, but I am so glad he got it cleared out that I can’t be too mad. Now that bay of the woodshed has some nicely stacked wood in it to match the other bay: one fresh wood and one aged wood. This pleasing organisation prompted me to clean up in front of the woodshed for the chickens. Then I realised I could fit the Hospital Cage there quite nicely and Plan B began to unfold. Frodo and babies would move there, so everyone could see each other nicely, and when ready to venture out and about, the door would be opened so they could join the others, behaviour pending. I took a wooden food shelter that was floating around aimlessly, and cut some bits of wood to go across the front, leaving a gap at the bottom that only the babies will be able to get under to reach their chick food. This will be in the run near the oldies’ food. I will need to adjust the planks as the littlies get bigger, but they are just screwed in. Hopefully that will work!
Further to this, I needed to deal with The Sticks. This is the pile that somehow accumulated along the back fence and was fenced off from the chickens by the plastic netting that the chicks would be able to get through. My chicken-wiring of the back fence had gone superbly until I got to The Sticks and stopped for some unknown reason… I was in denial when I said we were down to one pruning mountain, as this was just a pruning mountain with a different name. And it was a beast! It was long but dense and has required days and days and numerous sorting piles: compostable sticks, wood for the fire, awkward or diseased branches for the pruning mountain… Also, the neighbour of the paddocks behind us appears to have sprayed the boundary right up to the fence, which I am angry about, as the chickens could have easily reached some of the sprayed foliage. I cut down what sprayed grass and weeds I could that the chickens might reach and bagged it for the rubbish before chicken-wiring some more. It hasn’t helped that I injured my foot and have to try not to push it too hard. Except that I kind of did, and now I have a special shoe to wear. I am still working through the last bits of sticks and wood so that I can finish chicken-wiring the back fence for good so the chicks can’t go a-wandering once they are out. The oldies have been happily digging around in the new ground that I have uncovered. We also moved the rusty metal bin out.
Ok, let’s get on to the chicks. Now, Frodo gave me a scare when I found her in the orchard on Monday, during ‘lockdown’. She was only out for a few minutes (and after all those days I had to get her off the nest myself) but I was a little worried. I reasoned with myself that Frodo knew what she was doing and her own lockdown must be a little later. Too right, for the babies kept me waiting. I kept popping out to check on Frodo and the eggs, again and again like a neurotic jack-in-a-box. I was more nervous and impatient than the first time around! I think a large part of that was because of the eggs of the late and beloved Legolas. There were three under Frodo and not only did I want them to hatch and be ok, I wanted to know which ones they were.
As it was, my great timing plan did not pan out! The first two Frodo eggs were under Frodo when she started sitting one early evening. The next day I put the other seven Frodo eggs under her in the morning and the three Legolas eggs under that evening. I figured the Legolas eggs would be the last three to hatch. Ha! I knew the babies were finally coming when I heard Frodo start to make little noises on Wednesday evening. I was met with three chicks on Thursday morning. The first chick, owing to its size, dryness and dryness of the eggshell, was a Frodo egg, one of the unmarked first two eggs. This is a silver-coloured splash chick temporarily named Number 1. The second and third chicks were from Legolas eggs. The Husband helped me to put a wee cable tie on one leg of each of the first two Legolas babies. That left one Legolas egg, and I had to keep checking to catch which one it was. The fourth chick was another splash chick. The third Legolas baby was a bit tricksy, as I discovered it at the same times as one of the Frodo babies, with similar wetness and wetness of the eggshell. Since one was another splash chick and one was blueish like the other Legolas babies, I assumed the blueish one was the Legolas one. I can never be 100% sure but this is the best I could do! Poor Frodo wasn’t amused with my checking and I got told off with many pecks.
On Thursday evening there were three eggs left, one that had pipped and two that hadn’t. I decided we needed to move Frodo and the chicks into their big cage, which was ready and waiting, as the older chicks were starting to get fidgety and needed food. They had eaten a little off my hand but they needed full access to food and water. I didn’t like to move eggs that hadn’t hatched but it was better for the rest of them, including Frodo, and The Husband helped me to do it very quickly. Frodo settled well into the bigger, more sumptuous nestbox and I put the food right beside her.
The last chick, the black Tiny, was born overnight on Thursday/Friday. There were two eggs left, which I left until Friday afternoon. They hadn’t pipped at all and I couldn’t hear or feel anything coming from them. I was scared to find out what might be inside them but I had to get them away from Frodo, as she was sitting tight and not spending much time showing the babies how to eat or drink. The older ones were getting more fidgety and started pecking at her face. Number 1 repeatedly pecked at her wattle, latched on and drew blood until I intervened. I took the eggs away, sprayed Frodo’s face with a little more purple wound spray than I had intended (oops!) and had a few sessions helping teach the chicks how to eat chick crumbs by tapping at them with my finger and holding some out in my hand. This hatch hasn’t been as easy as the last one due to the longer time taken for all the chicks to hatch. The chicks have been up and about more today and I have helped them to feed a couple of times, which Frodo seemed grateful for. Oh, and as for the two eggs that didn’t hatch, I needn’t have worried about cracking them, as one had stopped growing fairly early on, with a small blob amidst the yolk equivalent to maybe Day 7, and the other even sooner, mostly just yolk. Our candling obviously needs some refining, and we should have checked them all on the second candling! Ah well, at least they didn’t crack or explode.
And so we have a total of ten wee feather babies. Three are splash-based, two are black-based, one is maybe black but maybe blue (they were tricksy with this last time), that is Penguin, and the other four are what I am going to call blue for now. I’m hoping the Legolas babies won’t be a barred colour, which comes out in the opposite gender to the barred parent in a barred to solid colour cross, although Mr Bingley isn’t exactly solid-coloured so it’s difficult to know. I would love more barred chickens but in this case barred = male so I don’t want barred chicks. Assuming Mr Bingley is 3/4 Australorp and 1/4 something else, like Buff Sussex (if Elrond, his Dad, was 1/2 Australorp and 1/2 an eloped Buff Sussex or such), the Frodo babies would be 7/8 Australorp and 1/8 Buff Sussex or such. The Legolas babies would be 1/2 Barred Rock, 3/8 Australorp and 1/8 Buff Sussex or such. That’s not confusing at all hehe. I will be very interested to see how their colours develop. Other than the tagged Legolas babies it is going to be tricky to keep track of who’s who, but I will do my best to take lots of photos! And come up with some boringly descriptive temporary names…