New Babies!

What seemed to me as just a hole in the barn wall became a home and nest for one of our broody hens. Diligently, she laid a clutch of 10 beautiful blue eggs in the barn wall where one of the boards had come loose and fallen off. This hen is an araucana which lay blue and green eggs. Hens lay only one egg a day and so it took her 10 days to lay all of her eggs. Once she was satisfied with the size of her clutch she began the long process of sitting on those eggs.

For 21 days she sat on her clutch not getting up unless someone approached and she felt threatened by them. Then she would stand up, bristle all her feathers out and raise her wings as if to say, “Back off or else!” My curiosity would get the best of me at times and I would proceed with caution trying to lift her off the eggs to get a glimpse of them. I always jerked my hand away as she would viciously peck at me. I would take the hen food and water to nourish her as she sat.

Finally, three days ago, while trying to get a peek of her eggs, a little head poked out! She had one very tiny new chick. All day I kept going back to the nest to see if others had hatched but always just one head would peek out from under mom’s wings. The next day, when I went out in the morning, there were three heads!

Yesterday, I guess the hen decided that the other eggs would not hatch as she left the nest for the first time taking her little chicks out for a stroll in the yard. This made me quite nervous as I watched our barn cat peering at them as he lounged in the sun and as our dog Tess eagerly ran up to greet the new babies. I encouraged mom to take them back to the wall.

Later in the day, while mom had the chicks out for another walk, one of the other chickens in our flock attacked one of the new chicks. I had hoped that the mother hen would protect the chicks well enough with the other chickens around. This little chick must have gotten far from his mother’s wings and under the feet of the other chickens. After this attack, we moved the mother hen and her chicks to an unused bunny hutch for protection until the chicks grow a little larger and a little stronger. Unfortunately, the little chick that was attacked did not live through the night. So now the mother hen has only two chicks out of her clutch of 10 eggs.

I felt badly about the little chick that was attacked. My husband kept reminding me that it is the survival of the fittest on a farm. This little chick wasn’t able to escape the beak of the other hens in the flock and so it didn’t survive. I will however, try to allow these other two chicks to gain in size before returning them to the flock!