Natural Living Des Moines


new Chicks! by sarahtar
June 16, 2010, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Urban Homesteading

Our 25 mixed-breed straight-run chicks arrived today! They’re fascinating to watch. Particularly because, already, they’re such lemmings. “Oh! Are we eating? Looks like we’re eating. It’s time to eat! Everyone over to the food. Go!” “oh, hey, it’s time to peck at this black spot on the wall. Peck peck. Everyone peck at the spot on the wall! Oh, now it’s time to peck at the green scrap on the floor. here it is! Peck at the green speck!”

I have a favorite. He’s the smallest, and he gets picked on, so I’m kind of afraid he might not live.

I’ve been anxious for the chicks to get here, because The Black Hen has been broody for about a month now and I kind of wanted to see if I could sneak some chicks under her. It sounds so straightforward – Hen sits on eggs. After 3-4 weeks, hen expects baby chicks. Remove eggs, insert chicks. Do it at night when everyone’s sleepy and they’ll probably be nice and bonded by morning.

Do I think this would really work? Yes. It was recently pointed out to me that I would not be fooled by this practice, but the differences between me and a chicken are numerous. My brain is bigger than a walnut, for example.

I have read FAR more successful stories about this than unsuccessful, but considering that I’ve never tried it before, I guessed my chances of success at 50%. This way, if I succeeded, I would get to feel like a Chicken Master. If I failed, it wouldn’t seem quite as bad. But it was really just a guess.

So I snuck out this evening around 11:30 with two baby chicks – black, in case the hen knows what color she is. And I don’t know if it’s me or if it’s just that Black Hen is a b*tch (a definite possibility) but she was NOT going to go for it. I think actually that I may have woken her up too much. The going advice seems to be that the hen HAS to be sleepy. But I discovered pretty quickly that our next box is ideally set up for fetching eggs, not so much for sneaking chicks under a hen’s butt. It was hard to reach in there with both arms – one for lifting her up, one for stuffing the chick in there. And then she pecked at me, and stood up and inspected the newcomer for a second before pecking at her.

However, I’ve seen her peck when she means it, and this was a pretty gentle peck, so I decided to just watch them for a bit (with a really dim flashlight). But she didn’t ever settle back down, so I took the chicks back to the brooder. Sigh.

Well, that’s a bit disappointing. I’m going to give it another try tomorrow night, and if I get the same reaction, then that’ll be that. Then my job becomes get The Black Hen off of that nest! If she’s not going to be a mother, she may as well be laying me some eggs instead of just eating my food and sitting around.

Lesson learned: next time I have a broody hen, I will move her to a different location. Then we don’t have her hogging one of the laying nests, and I can move her to someplace more easily accessible. Also, when the babies are “born,” she’ll have a private spot to watch over them. (Though most people who successfully got a hen to adopt new babies reported she was pretty aggressive about protecting them from the other chickens.)

I’ll definitely report back if we are successful tomorrow night. Considering that it’s supposed to be 91 tomorrow, and the chicks should be plenty warm outside, I might take a few out with me tomorrow and put them near the henhouse so they can hear each other cheep and squwak. Maybe that will help? Can’t hurt.


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