You’ve probably been wondering how many chicks we ended up with. If you remember, our hens went broody, and one ended up sitting on 17 eggs (which is way too many)!
Well, the first chick hatched out at 20 days, right on time. It was fuzzy, and yellow, and oh-so-cute! I anxiously waited for more chicks to hatch, checking the brooding coop several times a day.
The day came and went. No more chicks.
Two days went by. Three days.
Uh-oh. After three days Mama Hen is supposed to get off the nest and start tending to her hatchlings.
But there were 16 more eggs to keep warm! I decided to move the hen and her new baby chick to the other side of the rabbit hutch/coop, so that she would forget about trying to sit anymore and just care for her new chick.
I then picked up another broody hen from the big coop, and put her on the still warm nest, crossing my fingers that she would adopt the clutch.
And after a couple of minutes getting acclimated, she fluffed up her feathers and settled down onto the nest, gathering the eggs underneath her breast as if they were her own.
She sat there until four more days went by, and another chick emerged. It was so exciting to go out in the morning to find another fluffy baby! I think I was more excited than the kids were!
Once again, we waited for more. We waited, and waited, and WAITED. Ten more days went by before another little chick hatched. Good grief. Now I know why everybody warned me to write dates on the eggs in the nest! I had no idea how old the eggs were, so I didn’t know when to expect them to hatch.
A couple of days later, I found a fourth chick peaking its head out from under the hen’s wing. Four chicks total. And thirteen more eggs that needed to be kept warm.
I wasn’t sure how long to leave the eggs before giving up on them. I tried candling them, but had a really hard time distinguishing anything for sure. I was so afraid I’d toss out a good egg by mistake. I decided I’d just leave the eggs in there and see what would happen. She was still sitting on them, getting up throughout the day to eat and drink and show her chicks how to find food. I figured she was doing a good enough job multitasking.
But as the days went by I began finding half-hatched chicks, dead in the shell. After about 30 days from start to finish, all of the eggs had been cracked open. Out of 17, only the four survived.
I’m not sure why the hatch rate was so poor. Maybe they weren’t staying warm enough. Who knows. At least the chicks that did make it are doing great! I’m pretty confident that one is a rooster. It was one of the last to hatch, so it’s only about 3 weeks old now, but the comb is very noticeable already.
I thought it was funny that two of the chicks ended up being white like their father (a White Leghorn), and two of them are golden brown, like the hens (Buff Orpingtons).
I think I’ll take the hens out soon to return them to the rest of the flock. I’ve found out that having the two mamas in adjoining cages wasn’t such a great idea; they’re fighting through the wire! They certainly are protective of their babies! I’ll let the chicks get just a little bigger before I separate them. I’m thinking that once the mothers are out of the way, we can handle the baby chicks and get them used to us.
So, there you have it. At least letting them hatch out naturally was more successful than when we tried to incubate a bunch. And it was fun watching the whole process take place, for me and the kids!
I definitely learned something new. Next time around… I’m dating the eggs!