Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Springtime chicks.

Nothing says spring on a farm like spring time biddies.

Now there are three approaches to baby chicks.

One is that you purchase some... you order up some or accidentally purchase some at the local feed and seed store.

Or your hen goes broody and you allow her to have her way.

Or you set them off in an incubator.

I'm a fan of that last option.  Really.  You end up with the chicks of your choice, the timing of your choice and chicks who imprint upon human beings, and for me, are easier to manage.

This year, I failed miserably at the 'plan'.  The plan this year, was not to have any little ones.  To skip a year, and allow natural attrition to cull the barnyard flock to a reasonable size for household of what is sometimes one and sometimes two people.

What ended up happening is some mixture of the last two options.

Back in February, I had a little hen go broody. 
And for whatever reason, I neglected to break it up.
I just let her go for it. 

I mean, she was so cute and ridiculous,
sitting in the corner of the lowest coop,
all fluffed and temperamental.

The rooster kicked into being 'a real boy' about that time, giving me all kinds of fits, but making me very unwilling to make lunch of him until I'd determined what kind of genetics he carries.  (He, being my sole survivor of a batch from option one (purchased) last year. I purchased 'hens' and 1/3 of them failed to be hens). He's all kinds of weird colors, but supposedly carried the 'blue egg' gene.

Anyway, things went well for a couple of weeks, until I came home one day to find the nest broken up.  Eggs broken everywhere.  Not sure, exactly, what happened, it was further assurance that I needed a summer off from having baby chicks.

Fast forward to April.  She did it again.

Again, I go to get in eggs and feed chickens and there she sits...
tight as anything on a large clutch of eggs, carefully hidden from my daily treks to the coops. 

Ok... so I'm busy... working two part time jobs... I let it continue.  

Until one day about a week ago, when I was in the area working and heard a commotion.  I went to see what was going on and every chick in the coop was out of sorts, squawking and flapping, I was flogged soundly by the rooster when I entered the coop (a very significant rooster 'no-no'), I discovered her pecking and breaking eggs.  Half developed chickens were oozing out of the nest, I was being flogged and the other hens were hysterical. 

I grabbed the rooster, stuck him in a feed sack and hung him on the wall.

Ok, so that's not what should have happened, but it did...

I grabbed the hen and tossed her.
I gathered the warm eggs into my shirt, being rather stunned to discover that one of the problems was over-production... and the fact that eggs were still being laid into the nest.  So much for not separating her from the coop...

I run to the house,
put the eggs in a basket,
grab the incubator and plug it in. 
Put the eggs in the cold incubator and hoped for the best. 
NO idea when to expect biddies, no idea of whether or not the incubator would come to temp or go over and kill the remaining developing chicks.

Again, significantly distracted by other life issues, one day this week, I head to the laundry, and while I'm putting clothes in, I hear... something scratching... in the incubator.  No peeping, mind you, only scratching.
And sure enough... there's a peep.  Oh, my...  again, I am unprepared.

I have a great brooder. It has thermostats and lights and ventilation... the works.
Is it ready?  No... Is it even clean?  No.

Soooooooo.... chick goes into a box, with a desk lamp.

Due to stupid chicken management on my part, we have continued to have hatching on 12 hour intervals. 
Up to the point of 10  uhm. er 12 chicks. 

And what we can determine about the rooster is this,  he is definately a mixed up fellow.
Little bits are the biggest mixed up blend of chickens I've ever seen. 
Some have the telltale 'muffs' of an Americauna (what the rooster is 'supposed to be').
Some have olive legs, some have bright orange legs, some have black legs.
Every color and hue.

What remains true...

There's nothing like baby chicks in the spring...

It's going to be a colorful barnyard mix, for certain.

We ARE having new chicks this summer.

Which may be a good thing, since I've lost two hens to what is likely a weasel in the last two days.

Ahhhh... barnyard drama...

A sure sign of spring.

For my Facebook peeps, I've put up a 'meet buttercup' video, which gives a new hatchling a once-over, up close and personal!