Baby Cheepers

Winston Cheepers is now a father. There are baby cheepers running around.

Batch #1

The first batch of eggs were in the incubator until lockdown (egg lockdown, not pandemic lockdown), when they were given to broody hen Frodo. She successfully hatched all eight of Jenny Cheeply’s eggs, which are her grandchicks, before standing up and leaving the last three eggs in favour of teaching the older chicks to eat and drink. The last three eggs were her own. One had pipped. This was a bit of a pickle.

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Frodo hatched the first of the baby cheepers.

I had the Batch #2 eggs in the incubator. They needed the auto-turner but the hatching ones needed to sit still. They needed less humidity and the hatching ones needed more. I quickly got the three eggs inside, wrapped each one in a damp paper towel and put them sideways on the turning tray so they weren’t turning too much. Then I figured I better actually check them by candling. There was no movement in the two that hadn’t pipped and no cheeping. One had died part-way through development and one had died without hatching for some reason. The third one was the one that had pipped. It was cheeping. It had also pipped at the wrong end of the egg. It was at this point that I started thinking that Frodo is probably too old to produce good chicks.

The last egg stayed in the incubator for some time without any progress. I carefully chipped a small amount of egg shell away from the pip hole and the blood vessels hadn’t quite receded from the inner membrane yet. I left it for longer. When I checked it again the blood vessels had receded and it seemed like the chick was wanting to come out, cheeping and wriggling, but it was having trouble since it had pipped at the wrong end of the egg. So awkward. Often, these cases (slow and pipped at the wrong end) wouldn’t make it or would end up weak and/or having problems, but this chick wanted out. It was I fighter. So, I helped chip away more egg shell, very carefully and the black chick eventually flopped its way out.

To keep the chick warm while it dried out I put it in a small, shallow box on top of the egg turning tray in the incubator. This worked really well because it fitted without the chick being able to get out and it didn’t move side to side too much. In the morning when I checked it over it was a bit spraddle-legged, so I put a leg tie on it made with a small strip of cohesive bandage. You can see how I’ve done that previously here, on Annie. Later on, this chick had another brush with death because when I checked on it in the brooder box I found it off to the side instead of under the heat plate, getting cold. It’s a fighter, but it’s not entirely sensible.

Well, the little fighter pilot got its leg tie off after one day and after making sure it was eating and drinking and moving around well it got transferred under Frodo at night. And it’s just fine now, living happily with Frodo and the others. Unfortunately, one of the blue chicks was found lying dead in Frodo’s cage, presumably squashed by Frodo. It’s not the first time she’s stood on a chick in the recent past and I had already pushed her off one just earlier. It is hard when they’re so small and slow in those first few days but, well, I wonder if Frodo is getting too old to raise more than a couple of babies as well.

So, Frodo has eight chicks she’s raising: four black, four blue – one of hers and the rest Jenny Cheeply’s.

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Frodo and her chicks.

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Winston Cheepers, new father, has been very good with Frodo and the chicks and helps look after them. Here they are learning how to get into the chick feeder box where their food and water is safe from the big chickens.
Batch #2

Two weeks later, the second batch off eggs, in the incubator, began to hatch. Jenny Cheeply’s strong mass of chicks led the way. I had put them in the middle of the incubator and put the eggs from other mothers in two metal baskets to see if that would keep them separated. Two of Jenny Cheeply’s eggs had been put under a broody hen – Ribby. Yes, Ribby followed suit after Jenny Cheeply, who had followed Frodo, but Jenny Cheeply was not allowed to stay broody, for forthcoming reasons. I let Ribby stay broody. She was sitting tight at the right time, so I gave her just two of JC’s eggs from the incubator at lockdown time, since she hasn’t been a mum before. She was also sitting in the middle nextbox in the coop, which isn’t the best place to be hatching, but I didn’t have anywhere else to put her, for forthcoming reasons. She did not come out after I gave her the eggs.

Hatching is now complete. All but two of the eggs in the incubator hatched. One was Frodo’s sole egg and the other was a Morpheus egg. They had looked like they had more airspace and less dark chick mass at lockdown but I put them in just in case.

Meanwhile, Ribby successfully hatched her two eggs and got out of her nestbox briefly to show me her too wee blue fluffballs in the morning. Hooray! I had already moved Frodo and her two-week-old chicks into the main flock so I could move Ribby and her chicks into the big cage if and when they hatched. She’s doing a great job so far, in her quiet way. I started by transferring one black chick from the brooder box to her to see how she would react to one of a different colour. She accepted it beautifully and I continued to transfer chicks to her cage one or two at a time, every now and then, until she has 10 of them. When the last three are a little stronger I will give them to her too. I am very impressed with her mothering abilities so far. She is very gentle and quiet with the chicks and spends most of the time sitting so they can keep warm. She is doing so well that we might even be looking at Frodo’s replacement as a reliable broody mumma. She is a really nice hen. Who just wants to have babies.

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Sweet Ribby becomes a first-time mum.

Here are the 13 chicks we have in this batch:

  • 5 Jenny Cheeply blue chicks
  • 5 Jenny Cheeply black chicks
  • 1 Morpheus black chick
  • 1 Trinity black chick
  • 1 uncertain if it’s Morpheus’ or Trinity’s black chick

Jenny Cheeply has perfectly demonstrated the expected colour ratio for one black parent and one blue parent with 10 days of eggs in a row – 50% blue and 50% black.

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Little fluffballs are always a welcome sight.

Chick hatching time is always exciting. I’ve figured out that since we have fairly mild winters, it’s ok to hatch chicks in winter here. The worst time to hatch for us is mid to late summer, because it’s too hot for a broody hen and it’s the time when laying is the worst as well, due to the heat and the boom in population of mites. The hens are laying really nicely at the moment. Well, mostly. But I have thrown a spanner in their election…


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