Thursday, 24 May 2007

Chickens and chicks



I arrived back from London last night tired and cross and with lots of work to do today. There is an email from my friend who is hatching the chicks: fifteen out now, would I like to come and look? So this afternoon I left my computer muttering to itself and went up to see.



A few weeks ago we had a beautiful drive through the spring green and the trees down the Welsh border to a farm near Chirk where we chose four breeds of chicken. We came back carefully nursing egg boxes on my knee with twenty six fertilised eggs for hatching. Fourteen went into the incubator in P's dining room and the rest went under a broody Buff Orpington and we held our breath.



Ten days ago they began to hatch, the eggs shaking gently and cheeping away like little toys. The ones in the incubator did better than the ones under the hen as the hen was inclined to get up and wander away, not the most attentive mother. One of P's Welsummers also became broody so she took some of the eggs from the Buff and now we have fifteen survivors. Some of the eggs from under the Buff Orpington had got too cold and didn't hatch at all and of the others some hatched but didn't survive beyond a day.



So we now have five Welsummers, five Fresians (little Dutch bantams), three Cream Legbars and one Rhode Island Red. The chicks are divided between the two mother hens in coops in P's orchard. The Welsummer is a great mother, scratching in the dust, gathering her chicks around her, clucking irritably at their great tabbycat, Sid, who is lying casually along the front of the henhouse roof looking down through the mesh. She has the Fresians, tiny little pale yellow bundles of fluff, two of the Welsummers which are brown and beautiful and the solitary Rhode Island Red, a fat little ginger ball on legs.


The Buff Orpington has the Cream Legbars and three of the Welsummers. She is a scattier creature all together, rushing off up the ramp first with the chicks squeaking behind her when P's black Labrador puppy comes lolloping across the grass to see what is going on. In her haste to retreat to the covered part of the house she leaves one of the chicks lost and cheeping under the ramp and P has to retrieve it for her.

We won't know for a few more weeks how many are hens and how many cocks so we may only end up with two or three. The chicks can leave their mother at about nine weeks old so there is plenty of time for Ian to finish building the coop and the run, an ambitious prototype, constantly being redesigned for my latest bit of reading. I have two chicken books by the bed and am immersed in chickcrumbs and red mite and protection from foxes. By the time we have bought feeders and water holders and grit and layers' pellets the eggs, if we get any, will be about £10 a time. Not the point, not the point at all.

10 comments:

  1. Oh, what a lovely interesting blog. I wondered how they were doing and you know how interested I am in anything to do with Chickens (with my Chicken Licken connections!!)

    Loved the labrador puppy lolloping across the grass-my labrador old man still lollops everywhere-that's exactly the term I use for him.

    warm wishes
    Chicken/Angelx

    ReplyDelete
  2. I couldn't get the picture to load - does it show them? I'm impressed at what you're doing. Would love to see them but I don't think I could cope with the responsibility! Elizabeth, as it happens I've just booked myself on a Welsh course this July - it's another 5 day job at Aberystwyth. Apart form anything else it's very cheap which is another attraction. It's a pity we're not a bit closer, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gosh it does all sound a bit complicated for me! It must be so satisying having all those littel chicks though, I will do it one day!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I remember reading about your drive and wondered how the chooks were ahtching. I swear one of our new ones ia an eagle it has a hooked beak adn a very beady eye and an odd way of raising its wings out...scarey or what!

    ReplyDelete
  5. lovely jubbly chicks, see you tomorrow..xx

    ReplyDelete
  6. Keep on top of that redmite - nasty little buggers and I am on permanent rampage against them particularly in the heat!
    Lots of water, lots of fun and yes eggs are expensive aren't they!!!!!
    Look forward to hearing more...

    ReplyDelete
  7. How exciting to see the chicks hatch, hope those that have hatched & survived do well.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Well, it sounds as though the chicks are of to a good start. We have 40 chicks - meat birds in the new coop. They will stay inside where it's warm for some time yet and then out into the wired-in run. We take them up to a mum-and-pop processing plant about a half hour away because they have a health inspector there and we like to be careful. I don't get at all attached to these birds - not like my layers, who go into genteel retirement when they can no longer lay. I figure they've earned their rest and relaxation after serving us so well!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Buffs aren't the greatest mothers, I agree. We hatched out 3 of our own chicks 3 years ago now and put 5 eggs under our broody hen. 1 didn't come to anything, she squashed one that hatched so we removed the remaining 3 to the incubator. A far safer bet! Exciting times for you.xx

    ReplyDelete
  10. The chicks looks good. Great job!

    from
    Sam

    Buy Hatching Eggs

    ReplyDelete

Comments are the best thing and the conversations they produce are the whole purpose of blogging for me. Do tell me what you think!