Friday, 26 October 2012
Baby Chicks and a New Author
Betty seemed to be sitting on about 7 more eggs and quite happy, and we already know that some of the clutch were added later than the 1st Oct by both herself and by her sisters who hopped in with her all through the incubation to add 'contributions'. We decided to leave her be and let her decide when to move from sitting on eggs, to showing her babies around. However, this presented a couple of small problems. First, there was the risk of predation by kittens who had taken to prowling, inquisitive puppies and any rats that might still exist round here. Secondly, the nest box has a lip and a drop of 6 inches to the floor. The chicks were quickly able to hop over the lip but then couldn't get back up to the nest, so I had to rescue one or two of them a couple of times. It was time to rescue the family to the Maternity Unit where hutch-mesh would keep out the bad guys and all the floor was on one level.
Our 'mentors', Anne and Simon, advised to do this at night so that the dark would calm Betty and they could settle in the new quarters and then wake up gently to find themselves there. This we did on Wednesday night, moving Mum, 3 hatchlings, the remaining eggs and the nest, laying it on some new hay in the 'bedroom' bit of the hutch. It worked. There was a lot of clucking from Mum as we lifted her off the nest and a lot of anxiety and loud cheeping from babies as Liz gathered them up into a basket, but when we re-assembled them all in the hutch the babies quickly ran to be with the hen and the hen quickly hunkered down on the new nest, pulling all the eggs together under her. We left them to it, the babies all quiet and the hen clucking contentedly and that's how they all were in the morning.
Since then it seems to have all remained good, and we have put down 'chick-crumb' (special food) and supplied water, plus mixed corn and milled barley for the hen. The babies now sneakily explore the hutch space but race back to mum when we appear. We still only have three as far as we know but the hen is still sitting on the rest of the eggs, so maybe we'll get some more soon.
So, that's the story so far, and my first post on here as myself,
All the best