Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chicken lover

Yes, I am a chicken lover. I can't explain it, but I've always had a fascination for birds, especially chickens. We built a fabulous chicken coop this summer for our house (so that we could have chickens in our back yard instead of at the farm). I ordered some chicks early last spring and they started laying eggs last fall. I like a variety of egg colors in my egg cartons, so I choose some hens for their attractive feathering, and others for the color of their eggs. Gold campines lay white eggs, cuckoo marans lay dark brown eggs, Welsummers lay dark brown eggs, and blue-laced red wyandottes lay light brown eggs. We also have a couple hens from our old farm yard henhouse and they are mostly mixed breed hens, but they are good layers. We have 19 hens and 2 roosters. We currently get around a dozen eggs a day and our extras go to family and neighbors.

So we do have a colorful carton of eggs.

The breeds we have are not known for being broody (willingness to hatch eggs), but every once in a while, you get a hen who is really in touch with her instincts and she gets the urge to set and incubate a clutch of eggs. We haven't had such a hen for several years, but this winter, one of my Welsummer hens decided she wanted to have her own chicks. So when I noticed her in the nest box all day several days in a row, we decided to give her some eggs and see if she'd hatch them.

I gave her a batch of 8 eggs that had been laid that day (not hers, a mix of the other hens), and blocked off her with a wire dog kennel so that other hens wouldn't interfere with her. I candled the eggs halfway through incubation and two were not fertile, but the others were dark. I threw out the unfertile eggs.

On Saturday, 21 days later, I was greeted by a chorus of cheeps!

Momma hen eyes me suspiciously, but she's actually a very trusting hen and lets me photograph them.

There are six chicks total, 3 are grey, 2 are brown speckled, and 1 is black. Our roosters are a gold campine and a blue-laced red wyandotte, so it is uncertain if any of the chicks are purebred or not, but it doesn't really matter. They are so stinkin' cute! And momma hen is doing a great job with them.

She pecks at food to show them what to eat, and they watch closely!

I threw a piece of bread in there to try to entice momma out so that I could get some pictures of her chicks, but she just reached out and pulled it close.

She ripped it to little pieces and dropped them in front of her chicks. They jumped in to feast. One little grey chick grabbed a chunk and ran to the next box over to swallow it in peace.

Even though he had a huge piece, he managed to gulp it down!

They are just so cute, and I am so excited to be able to watch momma hen nurture her babies.


Andrea -Mustang Saga said...

What fun! The chicks are adorable, and I love your colorful eggs.

I love chickens too. There's something really satisfying about watching them go about their chicken business. Especially the hens with chicks.

nikki said...

How adorable!!! I've always wanted chickens but don't know the first thing about keeping them. I'd also worry all the time that something would get them because of neighbor dogs and foxes. So cute tho! She looks like a good mother hen. ;)