Our hens that were hatched in March are starting to lay! Everyone is so excited!!
The eggs are so teeny tiny (and cute) but they will get bigger over time. Only time will tell if the hen will lay small, medium, or large eggs.
Most of the eggs were hidden under the roost in the poopy mulch. New layers don’t always know where they should lay and try to make their own nests, lol. Thankfully the Buff Orpington laid her egg in the nestbox this morning. Hopefully the others will follow after her and learn sooner, rather than later.
Today is the 21st day of the hen sitting on her eggs. Which means – the babies are on their way!
This morning we already have 2 baby chicks! Several other eggs have peeped (meaning you can hear them chirping inside) and others have pipped (meaning they poked a hole through the shell). We are am just waiting for them to unzip – cut a line all the way around their shell. This is where things get tricky sometimes and they need help. But you must not help too soon or too late. So today and tomorrow we are all on egg duty.
So what does that mean? Well, for us it means we have one less hen laying eggs. Sometimes farmers will try to break their hen of being broody because all broody hens do is sit – almost all day. They barely eat or drink. They just sit in the nesting box (where other hens want to lay!) and squawk at intruders. But we rejoice when a hen is broody and use her broodiness to our advantage by sticking eggs under her. Then we cross our fingers and hope for more baby chickens!! There’s nothing more cute than a fuzzy baby, whether it be a puppy, kitten, or chicken.
I also love the fact the new chicks are essentially free, and taken care of (for the most part) by the hen, instead of me. Baby chicks are cute, but they are needy! They need to stay warm. If raised by a human, they are often put under heat lamps or heat mats. Lamps are cheap and cover a large area compared to a heat mat. They cost more to run and are more of a fire danger. Yet it is something people have used for decades. Elevated heat “mats” are new, and cost more up front, plus they only cover a small area. So the more chickens you have, the more you need. Plus they will get poopy. Baby chicks poop all the time, but they also start hopping on things pretty quickly – thus everything gets pooopy – the waterer, in the water, in the food, and on the mat if you buy one. And poop sticks – bad! And of course it stinks, so a mat, while it has some advantages, also has some downsides. But a good mama hen, only needs food and water. She will keep her babies warm. She will teach them what to eat, how to forage, etc. And this hen was a good one last time. She abandoned her babies a little early last time, but she did most of the work for us.
The hard part is waiting and learning what to do. Thankfully we have the internet to research but sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, until something goes wrong. We are hoping we learned from our mistakes last time and have a higher hatch rate, but only time will tell and waiting is just so hard!
Mama hen keeping her babies safe, even from me, by running into the the open, but short pen. On the other side of the pen are the “teenage” chicks that were trying to eat but when mama came – they ran! They know who the boss is.
The hope is that some of the plants will grow into the chicken area, but not be decimated by the voracious chickens.
Via various online sources and trial and error we have learned about broody “mama” hens and hatching eggs. Unfortunately, we lost several babies while still in the egg but we were able to help 2 babies hatch. That makes a total of 3 baby chicks born on the farm! 1 little one appeared to have a bigger body and feathers like a rooster, but time will tell.
For now Mama Hen has been busy taking care of her babies too. She lets them climb over and under her anytime they are cold, scared or wanting to play. She shows them where the food and water is and even how to dig for food that has spilled out of the feeder. She does a great job keeping her babies safe from the other chicks that are 1-2 months older too.
It’s been very rewarding but emotionally exhausting!