I believe that one of the benefits/reasons for having chickens is to teach your children about the circle of life and where food comes from. I don’t want any of our chickens to die, but the fact is that sometimes they will, whether it be from predators, illness, accident, or old age. Both kids are well aware that foxes and hawks are the main threats to our chickens here, and we’ve had several chickens die. Having the baby chicks is their first exposure to the beginning of the chicken life. I think it’s pretty cool that we are able to watch side by side two different sets of babies, same age, and see what differences there are (if any) between the ones who we watched hatch and are with their mom, and the ones contained in a metal container under a heat lamp.
So here’s the update since yesterday:
The hatchery chicks got settled into their container and ate and drank and slept. When they sleep they look dead and I spent a lot of the day saying, “I think that one’s dead” and then watching it wake up. Also much of the day in making sure Tabby didn’t pick them up too much. They are adorable, but by the end of the day I was tired of the stress of thinking they were all dead. And then, one died. And another one just died now. I suspect that two out of 26 is not a terrible death rate, especially given that they traveled on their first day of life, which must be somewhat stressful. It’s still a bit sad, though, and I am anxious for the rest of them. The tiny breeds in particular, look so frail.
Mother Hen and her three chicks seem to be doing well. I watched her a lot yesterday because I was very concerned that she might leave the newest weak chick behind while her other two are busy exploring and eating. As of this morning all three look very lively. And now we get to observe some of the most delightful chicken behavior–the mother hen finding food and clucking to her babies to show it to them, and the tiny chicks pecking and scratching just like the big chickens. (The hatchery chicks are provided with food and I have seen them scratching a little, but it will be some time before they are out and about in the dirt.) Last night I watched her three times fly up into the coop to go in for the night and call to her babies. Of course they cannot get up there, so finally she settled on the ground with them and it began to rain.
And yes, I meddled with Mother Nature again and tried to build a shelter around her. A few minutes later I turned my back and she took the opportunity to run under the coop with them. So, she’s apparently not as stupid as I think I really ought to back off. We are keeping the gate to the coop closed, though, due to some very unfortunate excitement. Our dear Pippin, who has never been anything but kind to the ducks and chickens, apparently has never actually seen tiny fluffy peepy chicks. I found him in the coop barking at the weak one, which was desperately trying to hide in the weeds. Mother Hen had pragmatically saved the other two and was hiding under the coop. The chick was drenched in Pippin drool, so he either tried to eat it or lick it like crazy. Either way we are keeping her in there for a while and him out. So this was the second time I snatched up the weak wet chick and shoved it under the mother hen. I was relieved to see him out and about and fluffy just a couple hours later.(not the chick pictured below.)
And now, on to a day of baking and prepping for Paul’s birthday, which is today. We were both treated to a charming breakfast in bed, stealthily prepared by Clark and Tabby and consisting of cups of water, old oranges, a handful of dry roasted peanuts, and a few crackers. On the menu tonight will be a classic yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting and chicken croquettes (which I have never made before.) Oh, and I’m baking up some more sourdough bread this afternoon.