June 20, 2013

One Big Happy Chicken Family

The first egg hatched yesterday. I was out there giving Zed his 2 p.m. bottle when I heard Mama Buff clucking softly. I listened closely, and heard, "peep, peep, peep." Of course, when I drew near to take a better look everything became silent, and I wasn't allowed to see.

At milking time I saw one chick head, a few hours later, there were two. That night I slipped the mail order chicks into the nest. Not exactly under Mama, but next to her and behind her. All I could do after that was pray she wouldn't be the wiser.

The next morning....

It is with great relief that I can announce all is well.

I haven't gotten in for a really close look, but it appears she hatched two of the original eight eggs I gave her. I had to remove extras a few times from buttinski hens who pushed Mama out of the way to lay their eggs. There were ten the last time I was able to check. In a day or so I'll remove the unhatched eggs.

[UPDATE: 11:30 a.m. While removing the leftover eggs and shell remnants, I discovered one more chick. At first I thought it hadn't made it, but when I picked it up, it cheeped! Its feet were bound up in the sac, so that it couldn't free itself. It was cold so I brought it into the house, dipped its beak several times in water, and put it in a box under the heat lamp. It's a hardy little thing but having trouble standing properly, perhaps from being in a "squashed" position for so long. Perhaps we can give it a fighting chance.]

[2nd UPDATE: 12:30 p.m. It appears Mama hatched all 8 eggs! I counted 7 yellow chicks in her brood, along with the greys and browns. One, however, has some stripes, so likely it's only half Buff Orpington.]

It's interesting that these mail order chicks, Silver Laced Wyandottes and Speckled Sussex, have stuck close to Mama. When I did this before, with Buff Orpingtons, they were out and about from first light, every chick for themselves. Breed personality, perhaps?

Introducing the mail order chicks is a big hurdle and I'm relieved it worked out well. The next hurdle will be integrating all the chicks into the flock. Hopefully everyone will grow well and the next transition will go smoothly.

[UPDATE: 8.00 a.m. 21 June. My little chick appears to be doing very well. It's legs are still weak, but it's walking around, eating, drinking, and peeping. I honestly didn't think it would make it. Now I wish I'd taken a before shot, but at the time it wasn't something I wanted to remember: stiff, cold, hunch backed, legs straight out, one wing bent, with tiny down feathers plastered to bare red skin. It chirped so pitifully when I tried to move its legs that I thought one of them was broken. The wing too. It's a remarkable recovery. Hopefully it will be getting around well enough that I can put it with the others tonight.]

[UPDATE: 8:30 A.M. 22 June. Success! For details and a photo, click here.]


  1. Fantastic! I hope your lucky trend continues. They're adorable little fuzzballs.

  2. Those Buffs are such good moms. We had one that actually stole chicks from another mom...Gradually, she offered her help with the 'children' and one by one she took them for her own, it was very interesting to watch.

    Have a lovely day. xo

  3. I so want some chickens and super bad!!!!

  4. Wow. Mama's got quite a brood to watch over! Glad things are working out.

  5. Love your comment about not being able to comment. I've been in the same place for months on my own farm blog! But today I visit and comment. Love the babies! last year we were able to "graft" a couple peachicks onto a mama duck. They grew so much faster than the ducklings but mama cared for them all. If only humans could be so generous with their love.

  6. Heh, she looks like a proud momma hen there, for sure. As always, seeing all of your peeps makes me wish we lived where we could have more than three hens!

  7. Cassandra, thanks! We haven't fared well with flock integration in the past. I'm hoping that being kept in the coop will help. Before, I put the mother and chicks in the goats' kidding stall. That happens to be occupied at present, but this may be a much better option.

    Sherri, they certainly are. How funny about the one hen stealing chicks to adopt as her own. I've heard of goats doing that too.

    Serenity, aren't they irresistible? The only problem is, they grow up to be chickens! So far, the Buffs and Welsummers have turned out to be outrageously noisy!

    DFW, she'll certainly have her wings full. :)

    Donna, that is so true. We humans are terribly stingy at times when it comes to love.

    Badgerpendous, the chicks are the best part! So cute and so much fun.

  8. Hurray for the doubly good news!

  9. I love home-hatched chicks most of all - and it's not easy to get all the elements right. Congratulations to you and Mama hen!

  10. What a massive brood! So glad the hen accepted the chicks. I tried that once with a broody hen and she gave the first chick such a peck on the skull I never had the nerve to try it again.

  11. What wonderful news! Yay mama chicken. Do you think she really believes that she layed all those chicks?

  12. so much easier to have a mama hen take care of chicks than to try to keep them in a brooder, she always has her thermometer at the correct temp, and no worries of power outages.... just have to time mail orders with hatching dates. Good Job.

  13. She looks so proud and they're all beautiful, you (and Mama Buff) did a great job!

  14. LOL, they are very cute.I like the silver-colored ones. Peep-peep.

  15. Michelle, thanks! Much to be thankful for.

    Susan, this has been the best hatch rate we've had so far. Have to give credit to Cowboy the Rooster for that. :)

    Quinn, it is a huge brood! I never expected so many of the Buffs to hatch.

    Both times I did this I did it at night after her eggs had begun to hatch. It was too dark for the mama to see what was going on, and she was preoccupied with the movement beneath her. I reckon neither hen cared whether or not there were a few more.

    Renee, I wish I knew what she thinks! Fortunately, they don't seem to be able to count!

    TL, I so agree. She also keeps those pasty bottoms cleaned as well. It's heartwarming to see how well the foreign chicks have taken too her. They love having a mama as much as she loves having chicks.

    Jacqueline, I do believe she is very proud!

    Cecilia, I can't wait for those silver ones to grow up and feather out. They are beautiful birds. I should probably worry about hawks, but a hawk got a dark colored hen once too. (Fortunately the crows keep the hawks away).

  16. Leigh,

    There adorable! Would you recommend using a mail order company for chicks? Hubby and I are contemplating getting a few.

    Do you have any suggestions on a particular type that will be good egg layers?

  17. I love watching a Momma with her babies :) Congrats on the success of the hatching!

  18. hm, one big family - which proves that hens can't count:)

  19. Leigh, what a lovely little chicken family. I am rooting for the the chick your brought into the house - sounds like it will be just fine!

  20. She's a good mom. You too, for helping the poor little thing out. I'd do that too....

  21. Glad they are doing so well! I haven't tried this before, but I will in the spring! So cute!

  22. So happy to hear the "integration" (we may have to dub you Sneaky Pete when it comes to your great chick switcheroos) went so well.

    It always amazes us when a Mama Hen who hatches out her chicks will have them out seemingly happily grazing away in a cold, cold rain at a couple of days old when ones ordered from a hatchery need to stay under the brooder lamp for weeks . . . and then we usually lose one or two. Not so with those healthy, rough and tough little peeps hatched out and raised the natural way!

  23. Wow! That's a fabulous clutch!!! My goofy little hen left the nest when the first one hatched. She is a brown breasted black banty I bought specifically to be a mean ol' momma hen. She is four years old and FINALLY went broody, only to leave all but one of her eggs to chill. Maybe she'll do better next time.

    I hope you're able to slip your little guy in tonight without a hitch. :-)

  24. Sandy, I've tried three different hatcheries, but can't really recommend one over another. I had trouble with my Barred Holland chicks from Ideal, but they were very helpful and reimbursed me for chicks that were having problems. I got the Buff Orpingtons from Cackle, because they would let me make a minimum order of 15 chicks. I got these from McMurray, because they were the only hatchery that had the breeds I wanted. Plus they will ship a minimum of 15 during summer months, rather than 25 (which would have been too many!)

    I've only experienced a few breeds, but for a good list for ideas, check out Henderson's Chicken Breed Chart.

    Stephanie, thanks. She is a really good mama.

    Bettina, fortunately, chickens can't count! :)

    Martha, he's a miracle chick. Or maybe it's a she. Either way, I didn't think it would make it this far.

    Nancy, that's what being a good steward is all about. :)

    Matty, I've been fortunate!

    Mama Pea, it's amazing how it works, isn't it? Apparently chicks don't need that constant warm temperature, just it's availability when they want it. I agree that naturally raised chicks are the way to go!

    Michelle, I just took the littlest peepster into the coop and put him in with the rest under mama. She didn't make a move but it brought a chorus of peeping! It's up and walking around, but still a little slow, I think because it is still a little weak. Hopefully having brothers and sisters will be inspirational.

  25. Wow. Glad it worked out well for all the chicks.


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