Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chickies and Sickies

Spring has sprung and the evidence is thick in these parts right now.  We are loving it!  There is not a more glaring sign of spring than new arrivals in our little chicken coop we now know.  At the end of February one of our little Isbar pullets, nameless at the time but has since been tagged as "Mamacita," was found in a nest box mid-day presumptively laying her daily offering as usual.  When I reached under her to pull out any eggs that may be there as I do every day, however, I was treated with a quick and decisive peck to the hand accompanied by a puff up of her feathers and a very audible growl.  I knew immediately that we had a broody beast.  She happened to be in one of two boxes that I have placed a few wooden eggs to entice our girls to lay where they are supposed to AND to hopefully kickstart the behavior that Miss Mamacita was so eagerly displaying...we wanted chicks!

The last two springs I have purchased chicks from breeders and feed stores to grow our flock and have quickly learned that raising and brooding chicks is a lot of work and a BIG mess.  I had decided that this year if there were going to be chicks at Kneuper Acres that they would be hatched and raised by one of our flock leaving her to do all the work and lots of time for observation for the rest of us.  Mamacita didn't fail us.  She sat on those wooden eggs for two days straight and so I moved her up to  one of our brooding pens so that she could peacefully sit on some eggs for the 3 week incubation without being bothered by the rest of the flock. The evening of March 1st, I placed a mix of 7 eggs under her and removed the wooden eggs (and was punished severely for it...ouch!).  We marked our calendar and the countdown began!

On day 10 we candled our eggs.  This is our first time hatching eggs using any method, so I had never candled before.  I wasn't comfortable throwing any of the 7 out...I had a hard time picking much out.  Two of the eggs were Black Copper Marans eggs, so they were very dark.  I could see better on some of the normal brown I knew was from "Buffy" our Buff Orpington, but Mamacita had cracked it. The other 2 light brown eggs could have been from a Barred Rock, a Speckled Sussex or a Red Sexlink. The last 2 eggs were both green Isbar eggs and one I was fairly certain was infertile and I couldn't tell on the other.  I taped the one cracked egg and put them back and we did some more waiting.

At 14 days I did another quick candle and thought I could see some change in most of them, so we kept on trucking.  Day 18 is the last day you are supposed to do any candling, so we did and determined the cracked egg had stopped developing and that one of the Isbar eggs was definitely infertile.  We removed them both and even did a little "egg-topsy" on the cracked one so that I could verify what I was seeing during candling.  Sure enough, there was a partially developed chick that probably stopped developing around 2 weeks.  I must admit, I was nervous placing the remaining 5 back under her.  This would be our first hatch and its success would set the mood for all future hatches.  Three days to go.

Her face really tells it all
I should interrupt this chicken story to tell what was going on inside the big ol' farmhouse on Kneuper Acres.  Spring break began for the older 3 kids on the 16th day, so the chicks were due to hatch on the 22nd...right smack in the middle of their spring break!  Unfortunately on the first day of spring break, X-man began running a fever.  He coughed and sputtered.  He vomited a couple times and moaned and groaned in misery.  2 days later Ella Forever awoke in the wee hours of Monday morning vomiting...and then couldn't stop vomiting for several hours.  A very tired momma spent most of Monday trying to appease the 3 healthy children who were very bummed that we couldn't do any of the fun things that we had talked about doing that day.  That night both Gokey and Jilly Bean fell victim and Ella Forever had another 2 1/2 hour non-stop vomit-session.  As Wednesday approached the pressure for success on this impending hatch was thick!  We needed a bright spot in this week!

Since I didn't set the real eggs under Mamacita until the evening of the 1st, I knew that realistically they would probably hatch overnight on the 22nd and into the 23rd.  On Wednesday morning, the 22nd, however, I went out to open up the coop for the flock and check on our devoted momma.  I gently lifted her with one hand to get a peek of the eggs underneath her and to my shock saw a peeping lump of black fuzz and the remnants of the sweet chickie's home over the last 3 weeks!
I ran inside to retrieve the kids and there was a hustle to throw on boots and jackets and a very speedy scurry back out to the coop.  This time I lifted Mamacita entirely off of the nest to reveal another fuzzy gray chick!  Two of the five eggs had hatched successfully overnight.  The kids were ecstatic (I might have been a tiny bit excited as well) and Mamacita was very insistent that we bug off. It took everything in me not to camp out there and check the other eggs every 20 minutes for the rest of the day, but I had sick kids to take care of.

By late morning the 2nd Marans egg had a pip in the shell and we could hear tiny peeps coming from within, which is a really cool deal and the kiddos were fascinated with this development.  It instigated lots of discussion.  Around 3 pm I snuck out without the kids in tow and discovered the 3rd chick in the last stage of hatching and just kicking free of the confines of its shell. By that point, when I would tap on the shell of the 4th egg, one of the tan ones, I could hear definite peeping from inside confirming that we should have a 4th chick in the near future. By bedtime that evening, the egg had grown quiet and it still hadn't pipped through the shell, so we locked up the coop and I had to wait and see what was to be found the following morning.

Mamacita did not disappoint.  I dashed out to the coop as quickly as I could the next morning to found a recently hatched TINY little chick, still a bit damp and very wobbly under momma.  We left the last green egg under her for the next 24 hours, but it never did hatch and when we performed the egg-topsy we discovered that it never developed.  So...the two green eggs were infertile, which makes sense because they were from young pullets.  One of the tan eggs got broken in Mamacita's comings and goings during nesting, which is unfortunate, but a very real outcome.  That left four healthy eggs, all of which hatched!  I consider that a great success and they have been a joy to watch in the days since.  The older 4 kids each claimed a chick as their own.  The first hatched, Tickle, is Gokey's.  The lone blue chick, Tinker, is Jilly Bean's.  The 2nd Marans chick and third to hatch overall, TicTac, is Squeaky D's.  And last and least in size is Tricker, X-man's chick.

An update on our house full of sickies and coop full of chickies:  It is now Sunday.  Mamacita and the chicks were moved down to a floor level brooder in the coop on Friday so the flock can get acquainted with the new members without posing a threat to them.  I did open the doors to the brooder today while I was there to supervise and let them explore the coop a bit.  The babies met their daddy and a few of the other hens in their new extended family.  They each received a sharp peck to the head by an aunt or two when they tried to sneak in to the feeder underneath them and would run back peeping to momma, but it looks like they will integrate just fine after a little more growing time.  As for the sickies...Ella Forever still can't kick this thing!  Yesterday Gokey, Jilly Bean and Declan were still nursing fevers as well, but they awoke without one this morning and so far so good.  Our ENTIRE spring break was consumed with illness.  Big bummer, but we have chicks! ;)


Tickle, TicTac, Tinker and Tricker

Ella Forever not sure how to feel about a very soft and tiny Tinker ;)

I caught sweet X-man just quietly observing the new little family after we
moved them into their new pen on the coop floor.

Poor Griffin Pickle really just wanted to sniff those chicks to his little
heart's desire, but everyone kept telling him to "go away!"  :(


  1. Oh. My. Goodness!! What an eventful week! So sorry about all of the sickies, but Jose chicks are sooooo cute!! What a great momma and chickie house mom you are. You inspire me!! XoXo

    1. Thanks, Jen! YOU inspire me, girl! Love you...