Sunday, May 6, 2012

WTH.. Looks like Blogger has radically changed in the past six months, which is about when the last I posted was. Snap! Let's see if I can figure this out now.. anyway, this is a quick pictorial of what's been going on the past three weeks or so that's very exciting, pay attention now, here we go:

24 days ago, our grey colored chicken (Rose, the kids call her..) didn't want to get off the nest box. I thought something was wrong with her, because she was doing the same thing our first killed chicken did.. which was make weird noises and wouldn't move. This is her back then:

A google search indicated that perhaps she wasn't dying after all, but instead had just gone "broody" which means she just wanted to hatch some eggs and raise babies. Why this happens has something to do with the change of the season to spring and lengthening daylight hours and such. It's a mom thing, really.  We have no roosters here at The Fortress of Awesome, so this is sort of pointless to do for a chicken.. but she doesn't know that. Genius that I am, I went to the farmer up the street who does have chickens with roosters in the mix, and I got some fertilized eggs from him, ten in all. I brought them back and presented them to Rose, who readily accepted them. Ten days later, we candled the eggs by shining a flashlight through the egg from the back side, after dark, and took a peek "inside". This is what we found inside eight of the ten eggs. Look close, those are blood vessels and such of a forming chick:

Fast forward to day #20 of this bird sitting on the nest and we found this at about noon:

All in all, eight chicks hatched out, but by that evening, only seven were still alive. Sad for that one, so we had a burial and then carried on with the rest, who are terribly fun to watch. The antics of the momma hen are just incredible. To think that this bird has never had a brood of chicks before, and the instincts to sit on a nest for almost a month are built right in, then the desire to teach these guys to eat and drink and defend them from the other birds in the coop from being picked on... all built right into the chicken, with nothing more for the "farmer" to do. No heat lamps, no brooder box, no tending to day old chicks in a cardboard box to make sure they're warm enough but not overheating... just let the momma hen do her job and they come out just fine. And better yet, absolutely free!

They had their first venture out of the dog crate we had them housed in just a few hours ago on day 24... today. Here's the weird pic of the momma hen sitting in front of the chick waterer and feeder.. I panicked a little when I didn't see the chicks in the box anywhere in sight:

Turns out there were there after all. Under the momma! She keeps her feet apart, her feathers puffed all out and her wings drooped down low to trap in the heat.. the babys just keep popping in and out from under her to regulate their own temperature as they like. Cool system.