Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stay of Execution

Chick #6 is on his feet. He will live.

The Orphans

Picture shows chick #5 (with stripes) and chick #6, 24 hours younger and not having an easy time of it.

Sunday morning I got a surprise: chick #5 was flapping around. He was almost dry--probably several hours old. I picked him up and tried to place him under Mama Buff. She wanted nothing to do with him! Hackles raised and grunting in warning, she finalized her rejection by pecking at the chick. We moved him to a cardboard box with a brooder lamp.

Sunday afternoon I tried once more to "graft" the chick onto MB. Another failure. I kept #5 with me for the rest of the day, in hand, on my lap or cuddled between my chin and chest as I lay on the couch. It was hard putting him back in the box for the night! Sunday we also observed an egg breached from the inside. Another chick was coming! Monday morning we awoke to peeping from inside the brooder. Chick #6 is grayish/buff...possibly a product of a Bozo and XO, the Cuckoo Maran rooster. The Bozos are a group of chicks given to us last year on the 4th of July. We ended up keeping the two females. They're a White Leghorn - RI Red cross. But it's possible that #6 is a Buff Orpington - Cuckoo Maran cross, like chick #3. Chick #4 is pure Buff Orpington for sure. Chicks #1, 2 and 5 are all either RI Red - Buff Orpington crosses, or Patridge Rock - Buff Orpington crosses. Time will certainly tell. That's the problem with mutts. You're never really sure...

Chick #6 did not have a good first day. I thought he was paralyzed on one side or something. He was definitely not showing the spryness of chick #5. I was almost ready to euthanize him, but Zack persuaded me to give him one more day. Zack did erect a cardboard partition to separate the two chicks in the box. Chick #5 was treating #6 like a tasty morsel. If #6 was going to have a prayer at being normal, he'd have to survive his box-mate.

The Family

After chicks #3 and #4 hatched and were mobile, Mama Buff left the nest for good and settled down on the floor of the garage. Emilie lent me an incubator to which I moved the remainder of the eggs. The eggs had been cold for many hours. I wasn't sure how many would actually hatch.

Saturday afternoon I loaded the family into the dog carrier, sans eggs and refreshed with clean bedding, for their first foray into the wide world of the backyard. Mama Buff was extremely alert for predators.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lil' Peepers

I'm a chicken grandma!

Mama Buff has been sitting on about 14 eggs. How they all got in there I can only infer from something I observed a while ago: another hen joined MB in her boudoir and sat down as if to lay an egg. I bet what happened is over time the egg pile was increased hen by hen, day by day, until for some reason MB decided that she'd reached her maximum.

At the end of last week I visited MB at her post and heard her grunting rather rhythmically. That was new. I'd never heard that before. Sunday afternoon I went to check on her and saw a little chick looking back at me. It was mostly blond but had stripes. I ran to get the camera to document the joyous occasion. Zack and I got a separate pen ready immediately. I know that chicks are fully fed and hydrated for three days after they hatch, but I had no idea how long #1 had been out of the shell. We moved the doggie carrier into the new arrangement, and I proceeded to wait on Mama Buff like a the queen she is.

Wednesday I arrived home from town to see that MB was off the nest to the front of the pen. Oh! She's taking the baby for a "what to eat" lesson, I thought. No. Baby was OUTSIDE the wire, unable to figure out how to get back in. I felt the eggs while mama was off the nest--they were not warm. I have no idea how long she'd been gone. I don't know if that's a deal breaker right now. But yesterday's adventure revealed chick #2. I don't think they even come out from under her for at least a day.

I couldn't bear the thought of Mama Buff having to make the choice between her unhatched chicks and a chick in trouble. We made the decision last night to situate the brood in the garage. The little paddock is made of chick-proof wire. Lil' peepers can't go AWOL again.

This morning I discovered chick #3. It has no stripes like #s 1 and 2. That means he's all Buff Orpington. I saw him when I chanced to pass through the garage this morning. Mama was off the nest at the waterer with 1 and 2. I crouched to look inside and saw the teeniest, gangliest chick, dry, but still curled in the shell. Must have hatched early this morning. Who knows? There might be even more hatching right now. The peeping volume is going up every time I check on things. Mama Buff continues to grunt; she's saying "I'm your mother" over and over, no doubt.