I am proud to announce that we have two feather babies! They arrived yesterday and are doing well so far. I am totally stoked because I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going to end up with any chicks. In my last post I detailed why and I have presented for you a great example of what not to do when hatching eggs. On purpose, of course… Next time, I will not be so hasty and will try to avoid the hottest time of the year.

On our last candling of the eggs before lockdown, we thought there were two viable eggs. Technically, I should have removed the rest from the nest and disposed of them, but considering how things had been going I didn’t trust myself or our novice candling skills. The day before the chicks hatched, Frodo left the nest and at first I freaked out, thinking she had abandoned the eggs because they were all dud. But with one look at her I knew she was still broody and she was back on the nest soon after. This is what she did last time; stocking up for the birth I guess. It hasn’t affected the hatch rate anyway.

While Frodo was off the nest I disposed of one Lydia egg, which, upon cracking, hadn’t developed. Phew. I hate cracking eggs that have been incubated because I’m always afraid that there will be a fully developed chick inside and I’d feel terrible if that happened. So, Frodo sat on the seven remaining eggs. On Saturday morning, Frodo was acting and sounding a little different, so I dodged her pecking and looked under her and, lo and behold, there was a wee fluffy blue chick. And then I saw the broken eggshell that it came from: one of the purebred Australorp eggs from the breeder. Woop woop! Oh, happy day for Frodo and I!

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The chick of great hope: a purebred Australorp, unrelated to my chickens. Oh, happy day!

 

Naturally, this was the day we were going to a friend’s wedding. I had moved the clean, big cage into the chicken run in front of the woodshed several days prior, but I hadn’t gotten it ready since I wasn’t sure if any of the eggs were going to hatch. I hadn’t heard back from the breeder about day-old chicks as a back-up and I hadn’t sourced any others so I was a bit ‘blagh’ about the whole situation. This was continuing the theme of what not to do. Suddenly, I rushed to get the big cage ready with bedding, food and water and moved Frodo and her hatched and unhatched babies in there before we disappeared for hours on end. I didn’t want to leave Frodo and the chicks in the coop while we were out since their numbers were so low and there are new young cats in the area. The second chick is a Lydia-Mr Bingley chick. The chicks looked the same colour to start with, so I sprayed a little purple dye on the purebred chick’s foot. However, once properly dry and fluffed up, the Lydia chick is obviously darker. It may still be a blue, as it’s kind of like Georgiana, aka Penguin, was when she was a chick: blackish but not quite black black. I’m really hoping the Lydia chick is a girl, with Lydia’s great laying skills, or it won’t be of any use to me. The purebred chick, on the other hand, that could be either a girl or a boy and I won’t mind… And for the record, I have discussed this with The Husband too…

I waited until the next day to deal with the rest of the eggs under Frodo. Even though there appeared to be nothing in them when we candled them, I was still extremely nervous about cracking them. My fears were allayed when none of the cracked eggs showed signs of growth in them. So, we do have some candling skills after all. These eggs were either unfertilised or something went wrong very early on. More like everything went wrong very early on. Once I had gotten rid of the dud eggs, Frodo happily moved over to the food container and commenced life lessons for the chicks. Some people say a hen will kick bad eggs off the nest, but most, including Frodo, have no idea whether the eggs are hatchable or not.

Now, after my mad rush on Saturday to make sure what few Frodo babies there were going to be stayed safe while we were out, I had half an hour to get ready for the wedding ceremony. That’s half an hour from gumboots, outdoor clothes and elated, crazy chicken lady nuttiness to pretty and sane. Plus making sure The Little Fulla was dressed nicely and with all the bits and pieces he needed. I don’t spend that much time getting myself ready these days but weddings are special. And I did it! The funny part is, we came back home briefly after the ceremony to bring The Little Fulla home, give instructions to The Parents and get what we needed for the dinner reception. Ok, the funny part’s still coming. I also rushed off to the chickens in my pretty dress and gumboots, which The Mother found very amusing, to check for more chicks and spray the purebred chicks’ foot. When I came back in and went to the toilet, a piece of hay fell off my dress onto the floor. “Phew!” I thought. “At least that came off now!” Later at the reception, a lady came up to me and said, “Sorry, but there’s a piece of foliage on your dress, do you mind if I get it off?” “Is it hay?” I replied. T’was a piece of hay. “I live in the country!” I exclaimed, as the lady took the offending piece of hay off to a rubbish bin. Then The Husband and I had a good laugh about it. Then we ate good food, shared in many wedding day warm fuzzies and danced the night away. Well, I danced. Meanwhile, The Husband added to our pair of Lego superhero table favours with a couple more. The next morning I discovered that we had acquired a Batman. Batman! T’was a good day.

The rest of the flock have been ridiculously curious today. Everyone has been hanging around the big cage, peering in to see what’s happening and trying to figure out how to get the food that is somehow stuck just out of their reach. I was surprised to find that Georgiana was exceedingly curious and friendly this morning. She was hanging around so close to me by the cage door that I even got to pat her briefly and she repeatedly ate from my hand and kept looking for more of something from me. My lovely Georgie is back. Last time I held her she didn’t peck me either. Warm fuzzies! I think she was harkening back to her chickhood upon hearing her mum, Frodo, making motherly noises to the chicks, teaching them to eat food. She just wanted in. Poor dear, she really is such a sociable and relationship-oriented chicken. I’m very glad that she’s settling down now after the departure of some of her sisters.

I am so thrilled that I have two chicks, as that is the best-case scenario I faced after the last egg candling. They will be a bit easier to manage than the last hatch of ten too. I just have to hope that they stay healthy and safe.

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6 thoughts on “In Which There Are BABIES, Amidst The Usual Amount of Nuttiness

    1. Thanks! She has no idea that neither of them are her own, but she continues to impress me with her amazing mothering skills. It’s quite weird that none of her daughters have gone broody at all yet and it does make me value her even more, even though her consistent broodiness drives me insane at other times!
      If the purebred has a nice nature and is of good quality, I think you know the answer to that question… 😉

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      1. I’ll keep hopeful for his disposition. Frodo raised Mr. Bingley and has done fine in the behavior department, despite having a bit of his father in him, Nurture vs Nature. Frodo will love them all the same.

        Abby went back to laying eggs for about 2 weeks after she went back to Hen Things, and then stopped. It *is* winter here and she really had not molted (I suspect due having plucked most of her own feathers out during those last 2 broody spells), so I’m not to worries about it. Yet. But her not laying eggs is kind of weird territory. I am hoping that it’s just that she decided to finish the molt she started before the EEs were born and take some time off. Sadly, with these sexlinks, they are bred for 2-3 years of heavy egg production and then a drop off. Abby was my first layer always prolific. I just miss seeing her on a nest. And I also wonder what that drop off in production will mean for her as a broody? Can they go broody if they aren’t going near eggs/nests?

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        1. I hope Abby is ok too. Even a drop-off in older hens is usually more gradual, but then it is winter. Maybe she’s just having a break, as you said. Have you checked her for any signs of illness or pests? I think they can still go broody if they’re not laying much but it would depend on the individual hen as to how far out their broodiness stretches. It’s not so fun to think about these things, is it? With heritage breeds like Australorps the laying drop-off is more gradual, so hopefully I don’t have to think about these things for Frodo yet. She is 2 years old now.

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