The first chick of the year

Let’s try this again.

I had a hen go broody.  Try as we might to break her up, she was determined.   Kick her out of whatever corner she was trying to warm eggs in and she’d march around in full turkey mode, every feather flared and growling, until she could sneak back in another coop.

Then Cheeks started making eggs again, and I could give this hen something to do.

Instant turkey

What does she do?  Halfway through the process, she jumps up off the eggs, bursting out of the coop one morning and not returning.  Done being broody.

Luckily, I had Silkies handy and I popped two of them in on the eggs to save them.  I didn’t know if either was serious about sitting, or just laying an egg.  One was just laying an egg (Why’d you lock me in here?), but the other stayed on the eggs.  For a few days.

I popped another Silkie on them.  Another one.  Finally, I got one serious about the job, and she stayed, flattened out in the broody trance they go into.

Then one morning, she nonchalantly hops up, determined to leave.   I quit.  And her eggs are hatching!!!  There’s a big hole in one and it’s cheeping, and there’s another egg also cheeping.  I do what I always do with infant bird emergencies – stick them in my shirt, and finish opening procedures.

I didn’t have any other broody hens!  The coop was empty at breakfast time – no one to adopt these eggs that are in the act of hatching!  Without a mom, these chicks have no future.  I could only hope that one would get broodyish in the same day.  After at least 6 moms keeping these eggs alive til now, it would all come to an end?

I held the five eggs against my skin and got a hot water bottle to put on.  Alas, the cheeping egg ceased to cheep without cracking.  But the cracked egg finished hatching.  In my shirt.

I learned that chicks don’t exactly peck their way out of an egg.  They push.  They peck a crack around it, the same line we would crack around the top of a boiled egg before taking the top off with a spoon.  But the coming out of the egg is a very physical, full-body effort.  They push their way out of the  shell with their feet.  Kicking and kicking, straightening themselves from the tight curl they were in, and very much using their legs to kick the eggshell away from them.  I had eggshell bits all over, falling out the bottom of my shirt, but the chick was this dynamic little thing.  Immediately active, pushing its way around with teeny soft toenails.  It dried out.  It napped.  It stood on my hand.  It flapped.  It peeped when it was cold.

By lunchtime there was a hen settled in enough that I put the unhatched eggs under her and hoped for the best.  I did not think it was safe to give her the chick (Surprise!  Instant hatching), so I kept the chick in my shirt all day, planning to put her under the hopefully broody hen at night, when she’s dreaming, to give the graft the best chance.

day old chick falling asleep
Hot water bottle nap

It was so much fun!  Fun you don’t want to have every day, and recording was out for the day, but  it was just a magical experience, to keep a chick warm its first day of life.  I put my bra on the outside of my sweater, so the chick couldn’t fall out the bottom of my shirt, and got on with my day, careful not to lean on stuff and to put a hand to the chick every time I bent over.

Hello

The chick was happy.  Sooooo happy.  Tiny, but a vigorous life, optimistic, fearless, trusting.  Just joyful to exist.  Nimble and very mobile. Quiet, until it got cold.  It liked best to be up in my neck, but would also burrow into an armpit, and I’d have to restrict movement with that arm for the duration of the nap.

So many problems that can be solved with a cowl neck sweater.

Chicks can last comfortably three days without eating or drinking, in nature allowing time for all the eggs to hatch, and not in nature, to allow chicks to be mailed around the country.  Happily for me on this day, this means they don’t poop either, until they start eating.  Eating starts their digestion up.

Happy outcome: the hen accepted the chick overnight.  Better not be a rooster:)

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