Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A small miracle of motherhood

The eggs I told you about never developed. So I ordered baby banties from, and they arrived today. I split an order of 15 with the Winner family. Most hatcheries send you a few extra chicks just in case some don't make the trip, and so we got 18 in the box this morning. Sure enough, one wasn't doing very well. When I opened the box, the poor little chicks were all in a pile to stay warm, and he was at the bottom of the pile. I got him to drink right away, but he kept falling asleep while all the others quickly figured out the water dish and food bowl and were galloping around exploring.

When Mrs. Winner came over to take her half of the chicks, she took a good look at him and said he probably wasn't going to make it. I told her I wanted that one in my half. (She is a pragmatist. I know you're just supposed to toss those defective chicks, and I suspect that is what any normal person would do, but I can't stand to do it.)

I have a broody hen at the moment: Eowyn, my birchen cochin banty, has been sitting on fake eggs for a couple of weeks now. Louise, the red frizzle, who if I remember correctly has never gone broody in her silly little peabrained life, suddenly decided she wanted to set the eggs too, just a few days ago, so they are both squashed into the same nest shoving each other back and forth and stealing fake eggs from one another. I put Louise in another nesting box and stuck the sickly little chick under Eowyn's chest. As I pulled my hand out I scooped the fake eggs out too and then I gave them to Louise so she would stay in the other box.

Eowyn didn't act any differently than she usually does when I mess around with her fake eggs: She puffed up and growled at me, but that was all. I couldn't tell if she felt that little feller underneath her or not. After a few minutes I peeked under her to find that little chick standing up on his feet so that he could get up close to her, between her feathers. He looked much more lively than he had before! He needed a real mommy!

Inspired by his success, I got the box containing the rest of the chicks and one by one put them under Eowyn. She settled herself around in her nest, kind of shuffled around, but other than that she didn't react much. Toward the end, I put a chick just in front of her, not under her, and she looked at it, very gently pecked at its beak a little bit and then tucked it under her feathers. All 9 chicks are out there now, cuddling underneath Eowyn, and so quiet. They were peeping like crazy in their box. Now they make soft little whispery happy chick noises but no crying. Eowyn is just sitting there. When a chick tries to peek out, she tucks it back in again, but other than that she just sets there with them. It's so cute. She thinks they hatched all at once, I guess.

My concern now is that she will realize that they need to eat and drink. They are already 2 days old, so unlike chicks that she really just hatched herself, they are at an age where they are starting to need nourishment. The food and water are very close to her nest, so she can guide them to it if she figures it out. I'm going to check on them in another hour or so.

Meanwhile, Louise can see Eowyn's nest from her new one, and every time a baby chick peeks out from Eowyn's feathers, Louise growls at it. I am a little worried of what she might do if one gets too close to her "eggs." Hopefully Eowyn is a tough enough little mama to protect her little family.

I don't know if that one weak little chick will make it, but at least he has a fighting chance now, and if he dies, I know at least he feels safe and warm in his last hours. He knows he is where he belongs, underneath his nice warm mama.

UPDATE (didn't take long, did it?): The chicks have gotten warm and comfy under their mama and are getting more rambunctious, trying to escape. She doesn't much like it when they come out. I scattered food around near the box and they are finding it. The sickly baby was nearly dead when I checked; looked like he was squashed. I took him out and ended his life. Like I said, I know his last couple of hours were spent under a nice warm hen and that has to be a good thing.

I took some pictures:

Here is Eowyn getting to know one of her blue cochin babies.

More babies. The black ones with yellow blotches on their heads are barred cochins.

She has a couple of partridge cochins in there but they won't come out to have their pictures taken.

Finally, here is Louise and her fake eggs that she no longer has to share. She looks pretty fierce, but it's all show; she isn't actually even keeping them all underneath her, so it's a good thing they are not real.


Kim said...

awww I hope your baby chick makes it - that is such a sweet story!

Northeast Iowa Mom said...

Thanks Kim! I updated... He didn't make it, but his last hours were probably the best of his life. Poor little thing. I do not do well accepting the realities of animal life AT ALL.

Mrs. Mac said...

I hate to ask, but are all the chicks pets ... or do you ever "dine" on them (forbid my asking ... should they be only pets lol)

Northeast Iowa Mom said...

Mrs. Mac, I have to admit, we did make soup out of one old hen who was just plain nasty. So was the soup. It wasn't worth bothering with. So now when we have to euthanize a chicken we put it to sleep with ether. (No, I'm not kidding.) And we bury it with full honors in the rhubarb patch.

There's not much meat on a banty anyway, and it's very hard to eat something that has a name!