Hatching Chicks

Mum, Pearl with her two new chicks

I love this time of year with various broody hens sitting and hatching their chicks. I bought some hatching eggs off ebay and have had varying success with them – some proved infertile. I now have three small sets of different aged chicks.

The garden has finally been sectioned off so that I have a chicken-free zone mostly because I was fed up with the amount of chiken poo I was having to clear up on the terrace (I have around 40 chickens!).  I can now grow some flowers in pots, improve my herb garden and bring on vaious vegetable plants without too much disturbance from scratching hens.

Pearl's chick having eaten part of my cucumber plant

The only hen allowed in this inner sanctum is Pearl who is mother to two chicks. It gives her and her chicks some freedom, rather than stay cooped up in a small run. The drawback is that she has taught her two little ones all the tricks of the trade. The chicks get into the pots, scratch up the earth around newly positioned cucumber plants and eat the plants as well while Pearl stands by and keeps guard. They’ve been taught to nibble at anything tastly and green such as lobelia bedding plants, nemesia, fuschia and pansies.  They’ve been under netting to eat rocket and pea shoots, have dug up my newly planted thyme and eaten my lemon sorrel down to the stalks. Despite the havoc (all can be remedied) I have to admire the teaching of such skills. The chicks take their own dust baths and now mostly forage on their own – they are not yet six weeks!

Pearl's two chicks having a dust bath

In contrast my four eight week old motherlss teenagers (hatched in a friend’s incubator) have no idea aout tasty green plants, barely know how to dust bathe and can’t even manage to climb a small ladder to their sleeping quarters (I have to put each one to bed every night!).

Chick still wet and unable to stand

The third set of chicks were hatched by mother, Ophelia. She hatched two chicks, several eggs were infertile but one last egg had a live chick inside. We helped the chick out of the shell but by this time Mum was up and about and unwilling to sit and keep this chick warm. So we put it in a little box in some straw and my son looked after it, keeping it warm in the sunshine or by blowing hot air on to it from a hair drier. That night once Mum was settled, the chick (still not ready to stand) went back under her, and miracle of miracles the next morning the third chick was not only accepted by Mum but dry and fluffy and on its own two feet.

I definitely think natural incubation – ie. mother sitting and raising her own chicks is the way to go which is whyI don’t own an incubator!