Harriet has been a most dedicated little mother, sitting day in and day out on that clutch of 9 foster eggs. She’s taken her job most seriously. And, for her reward, she’s hatched a family. (If you want to read the first parts of the story, see here, and here.)
I got up early for chicken chores yesterday morning, in anticipation of babies. When I opened the coop door and peeked inside, I didn’t see anything, but I heard peeping. I gently lifted up Harriet’s wing and out tumbled a fluffy yellow bundle of cuteness. I don’t know how ANYONE can resist a baby chick! They’ve got to be the cutest thing in the animal kingdom. They’re completely adorable.
I pulled out the cracked shells throughout the day, keeping tally on the growing chick population. First, possibly a Buff Orpington hatched. Next two Rhode Island Reds followed by a Araucana. In all, six of the nine eggs hatched. Harriet was a good sport with all my probing and picture taking. She’d let a baby peek out for a moment before she gently tucked them back in to the ‘chick nursery’, under the cozy down blanket of her protective body.
Isn’t it just amazing that in 21 short days an egg can go from a potential breakfast ingredient to a full-fledged chick? (I bet some of you mothers out there are totally jealous of that timeline!)
When a hen starts laying eggs (in preparation of sitting on them) she’ll collect a clutch for up to two weeks. (This is their inbred tendency, although most domestic chickens probably aren’t often allowed this hoarding behavior.) Hanging out in limbo for up to two weeks doesn’t hinder the egg’s ability to produce a chick, which I think is most fascinating.
When she finally finishes collecting the eggs in her nest, she’ll hunker down and keep them warm, rarely leaving the nest. She won’t sit on them for long periods before she’s ready to commit to the clutch because she wants them all to hatch on the same day, 21 days after she starts keeping them warm.
Once the chicks are born, the mama will be anxious to leave the nest to teach her babies how to eat and drink. Because of this, it’s important for the chicks to hatch on the same day. If a chick or two hatches a bit early, there’s the risk that the late hatchers will be abandoned (left without a heat source) while the hen runs off to teach beginning living skills to her new family.
It was a super soggy, completely gray, hail, wind, thunder, soak-you-to-the-bones kind of day yesterday, but the chicks are here! And the excitement of their arrival totally overrides the stormy weather! (Even though I had to climb on the roof of the coop during the storm, with my power drill and add some screws to re-attach the corrugated roofing that blew off the chicken run!) I’ve been anxiously awaiting hatching day with the patience of a kid waiting for Christmas! I’m so glad it’s only a 21-day wait. The anticipation has been killing me.
This morning, I checked on the little ones and found another added to the flock. Seven new chicks from nine “questionably” fertilized eggs—apparently, daddy Bufferin was more of a romantic than he let on—and I’m thrilled with the results!
Welcome to the world, little ones. I’m very excited you’re here! (And THANK YOU, Debbie, Bufferin and the hens for the great eggs!!) Harriet appears to be taking on motherhood in grand form and I think she’s gonna be awesome!
PS Springtime is a PERFECT time to get your own little chicks. You don’t have to hatch them, you can buy them at the feed store. If you’d like help on getting started, check out the taking care of new chicks on my website.
WORD OF CAUTION: It’s TOTALLY addictive…once you get chickens of your own, there’s no turning back…you’ll be hooked!!!