Friday, 26 October 2012

Baby Chicks and a New Author

Yay! We officially made it to 30,000 page views, so Deefer Dawg has now officially handed over the keyboard to her "Dad" (me, Matt). Well done, Deefer and congratulations on keeping this show rolling on for 6 years. From this post on "I" will mean me (Matt), "Mum" will take her real name, Liz, and everyone else will keep the same names. Perhaps all the readers will end up a bit less confused. Let's hope so, anyway.

So, along with the 'new' author, we also have a success story of baby chicks to relate. At the last post we were still waiting, but 'Broody Betty' didn't keep us waiting too long. On the Monday morning (22nd Oct) Betty turfed out of the nest this obviously hatched and empty egg, although she was keeping the tiny chick well hidden under her skirts. We knew we were onto something. The next day there was another egg and we also started to see our first baby chicks peeping out from under her feathers and we could also hear the peep-peep noises of more than one chick.

The following day there was a third and we were amazed by the way the little ones changed 'shape' in the first 24-48 hours. Newly hatched chicks are very 'baby-bird' shaped even when dry and fluffy. They have big, wobbly heads on narrow necks, tiny bodies with sticky-out wings and big bums. By Day 2 they seem to change shape completely, with no neck, and almost spherical body and head, as in these pictures, like a child would draw a chick. Their wings seem to vanish into the body-fluff.

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

1 comment:

Mr Silverwood said...

Yay, well done, and also well done to Deefer for keeping this going for so long, you will be missed but I also know your dad will do the blog proud, here is to many more years of interesting reading.