(nursing, no caps. sorry!)
returned from a weekend away to find four new chicks in the nest box in the hoop coop! she did it! she didn’t kill all the eggs!
after counting and re-counting, and looking at the fuzzy chicks and their dried up egg shells, we figured they hatched yesterday (sunday 8/15/10). that is also exactly 21 days from when jason snuck the extra eggs underneath her (7/25/10). our first round of babies (6/2/10) came on day 20, and i read that broody-hatched babies often come early. so before we left for the weekend, on sat. night around 4 p.m., i checked all her eggs for pips. nothin’. i figured we were safe to leave and not worry about losing any babies, since she left the nest so often and probably killed them all. we left her eggs underneath her so she’d stay broody (more on why later in this post) and took off.
on the way home this evening, i jokingly asked jason, “what if we have new chicks when we get home?” we both snickered. yeah, right…
jason put the sleeping kids to bed while i braved the mosquitoes in near-dusk and took cal out to let all the chickens out for a few minutes before dark. sure enough, there was a little fuzzy peep next to the hoop coop broody. i used a broom handle to gently lift her up, and i counted a total of four new babies! because we had learned our lesson from round one in early june, we had lined the sides of the nest box with cardboard so the babies couldn’t get curious and jump out before we found them. so they were all safely tucked in the nest box, most under their mama, and no dead babies on the coop floor. i put cal on my back, and jason and i decided to kick the teenager chicks (from round one) out of their chicken tractor and into the big hoop coop. we moved the the little tractor closer to the house so i can watch the babies easier, and encouraged the teenager chicks to go into the big coop. we put folded blankets over the new mama, cut the zip ties holding her nest box to the side of the coop, and relocated her whole nest to the little chicken tractor. all without incident.
(the two coops have been next to each other for nearly a month, and the chickens all range together every day. the teenager chicks explore the big coop and eat the big chickens’ food, and the big chickens explore the little tractor and eat the little chickens’ food. they were given ample opportunity to get used to each other! i will check on them frequently tomorrow to make sure the integration is going alright. i expect a few bickers and pecks, but if anyone’s getting seriously attacked, i’ll let the chickens all out to range for the day and re-think.)
now, why did we leave the eggs underneath the coop broody if we thought she had already killed the eggs? because since we thought we only had once lonely chick (out of the over 25 eggs being sat on between the two broody mamas), we went ahead and ordered 25 new male chicks to raise for meat. they are all males of heavy laying/dual purpose breeds, so not as desirable, and relatively cheap. we plan to keep a nice big one to replace our current rooster (just to mix up the genetics a little bit and introduce a little hybrid vigor) and butcher the rest by early december. they will arrive as early as wednesday morning, and we planned for the two broodies to each adopt half.
but we didn’t know we had more homegrown babies hatching!
plus, there will be one free rare breed chick included with my order. so now, we will have a total of 31 new or new-ish babies by wed/thu. what to do?
we are planning to build a new movable tractor this weekend. until then, we will keep one mama (the mama of one chick who hatched last monday) in a bin near the house. we actually stole one of the new four babies and gave her to the mama with one chick, to see how she’d do with the whole adoption process. we waited until after nightfall to do it. so far, so good. she is nesting and sleeping with two babies underneath her. the real test is in the morning; will she accept the new chick, or attack it? i will be watching very carefully, and will remove the new chick if there’s trouble.
the formerly-located-in-the-coop-nest-box broody is in the chicken tractor with her three remaining babies and dud eggs. i’ll sneak up to 13 more underneath her when the new babies arrive, and we’ll see how she does. it would be handy if the chicks would arrive at nightfall, but last time i got a call from the post office at 6 a.m., chicks peeping in the background. so i’ll have to decide if i’ll introduce the chicks during the day, or wait until night. i’ll probably cover the mama with a blanket and try sneaking the chicks under her in daylight.
the mama formerly-with-only-one-chick (do these ladies need names, or what?!) who now has two will also get 13 more.
and if any part of this adoption experiment fails, we have everything we need to brood the chicks ourselves. it’s warm this time of year, and we have a heat lamp and feeders/waterers, extra bedding, etc. but it sure is handy if the mamas do it. buff orpingtons are nice, fluffy birds, very motherly, and they have been known to raise large broods. here’s hoping our two mamas are up for 15-16 each!
next up: a re-cap of our 10th anniversary celebration. we had fun!