The other day we had our first birth at the cabin!
(This is an iPhone snapshot. Seriously! And in case you were wondering that big pink spot on the chick is the thigh, nothing is wrong with it. Seconds later a big clawed foot popped on out, connected to that plump pink thigh.)
In my garage at the old house there was a hen sitting on eight eggs in a box in the back of the garage. I waited until the eggs started hatching to move her to the cabin because I didn’t want her to get panicked and abandoned half incubated eggs. That would be sad.
I’d lost track of how long she’d been sitting on her nest. (It normally takes 21 days for them to hatch.) The girls and I had been candling them every few days. Luckily the hen sitting on the eggs was one of our favorites Silver. She is very tame and didn’t mind me touching her nest as long as I came with treats (kitchen scraps) in hand. We could hear the eggs peeping and tapping one day.
Finally we showed up the following afternoon and they were beginning to pip! (Pip is when the chick uses its tiny tooth on the tip of the beak to pip through the air cell at the end of the egg and poke a tiny hole in the shell. If the chick doesn’t get through the air cell it will drown inside the egg in its own fluids. After the chicks are a few weeks old the egg tooth on the tip of the beak falls off or disappears somehow.)
Since the eggs were hatching Silver the hen was not about to leave her nest, so I was able to carry her entire box out and stick it in a huge dog crate. She’s now residing on the front porch of the cabin.
When we got here all the eggs had hatched except for two. One hatched out shortly after arrival! The second one never hatched even though it was fully developed and we’d heard it peeping earlier in the day. Not sure what happened there. I didn’t open the egg to find out. That’s why you never count your chicks before they hatch. Ever heard that saying?
A third chick hatched halfway then died. It had some kind of disturbing defect–a clear bubble over the heart that popped and left an open cavity. We could see its heart stop beating.
Never seen anything like that on a chick before. It was a mixture of amazement and horror. I didn’t even take a picture of it.
This is Silver, the mama hen.
(See the pale blue ear lobes she has? There are tan flecks on them..those are chicken lice. They catch them from wild birds. SO NASTY! But not contagious to mammals, thankfully. I found an all natural spray at Tractor Supply that actually kills lice and mites, but you have to repeatedly soak the chickens and clean out the bedding over and over to stop hatching eggs. Kind of a nightmare. Too many lice can make them anemic.)
The black rooster in the middle of this picture is the daddy of the chicks. His name is Mr. Big, or Big Foot as the kids prefer to call him.
Mr. Big takes his rooster job very seriously. He settles fights between the few other roosters we have and protects his hens with gusto.
Unfortunately that also includes attacking the kids if he sees them too close to his hens…he thinks the girls are predators or other roosters trying to mate with his ladies!
I usually get around this issue by luring him into the coop with scraps and shutting the door so that the kids can safely play with the hens inside the electric fencing.
The black speckled hen in the picture behind Mr. Big is the sister of the mama to the chicks. Her name is Trixie.
Trixie and Silver are Appenzeller Spitzhaubens. (I love that breed, super recommend them! They came from McMurray hatchery, I think.)
Another couple from the iPhone–
All of the chicks look similar to their daddy as a baby, except I think they don’t have as much white on their chests as he did.
(Yep, her nails are dirty from hours of digging in the dirt prior to the chicks hatching. Believe it or not I cut those suckers short once a week!)
Below is a picture of Mr. Big as a tiny chick!
Silver is on the right as a chick, but a few weeks old not newly hatched. Her sister Trixie is on the left.
It will be interesting to see what their offspring feather out to look like. So far based on the wing feathers that are sprouting the chicks all look to be growing solid black feathers.
Genetics are fascinating! I can’t believe a) All the chicks are identical and b) None have top hat crests, not even partially.
The last mix I hatched of Silver’s babies and a Cuckoo Marans rooster looked like this…weird poofs on the backs of their heads:
They feathered out to have the black and white cuckoo barring of their father with something akin to a rat tail hairdo. Isn’t it weird how the crests were on the backs of their heads? The Spitzhauben mother has a crest neatly on the top of her head.
So the chick in the picture above would be the half sibling to the chicks that hatched the other day.
I don’t have any of the half siblings left though. We killed and ate two of them (roosters, at the end of my pregnancy with Ada) and the others were oddly stupid and all died of random freak accidents!
Wasn’t a good genetic mix at all for some reason. Hopefully Mr. Big and Silver have made chicks that are more intelligent than Silver made with Lunch the Cuckoo Marans a couple years ago.
In case anyone is curious, the above chick turned into a rooster and this is one of his testicles from when we butchered him. My friend’s son is holding it. Chicken genitalia are all inside their bodies, they don’t even have penises. Weird, right?
And did you know the egg and the poop all come out of the same hole? It’s called an oviduct, but I prefer to call it the multipurpose shoot.
I don’t plan on butchering any of the current chickens we have since they are all pets with names, but it was an interesting learning experience to incubate, hatch, raise, and butcher your own. Full circle! (I’m hardcore, I even built the incubator we used for the eggs complete with wiring it myself. Bahahaha.)
I’m glad I know how to slaughter, pluck, and cut up a chicken now in case the need should arise for whatever reason. Honestly the worst parts were the plucking (it smelled awful when we dipped it in scalding water to loosen the feathers) and the unfamiliarity of touching warm raw meat since we’re so used to cold dead meat from the grocery.
And all of this while living in a suburb. Urban homesteading for the win, right? If I can do that in town IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES NOW AT THE CABIN!
I’m trying to pace myself over here.
Ok now that I’ve scarred you for life with chicken information, here are some cute pictures of the girls playing with the new chicks.
(Pretend my porch wasn’t having the weirdest lighting ever…)
She was looking at this:
Now it would be cute to say this chick is getting ready to take a flying leap back up the little ledge to get to its mama.
However, this is actually the position the chicks assume right before they squirt out a tiny poo…
No worries. They are still incredibly cute.