A Story of Springtime Chicks.

April 28, 2011

Over the past couple of years, we have introduced new chicks to our original group of "ladies" and each time it goes over....not so fantastic.  The old ones are really mean to the younger ones.  Like mean in ways I don't want to tell you about because you may not like chickens so much anymore.  But I guess "pecking order" and "hen-pecked" are more than just old cliches.  We decided to take matters into our own hands and breed a few (supposedly chickens are more likely to be accepting of baby chicks that are their own).

Step one: get a rooster.  Obviously.  We got one a few months back from our friend Eric the Bee Guy (i.e. he helps B with the bees from time to time, a real character, physicist Hindu yoga at 4 a.m. guy, someone who really deserves his own post....but I digress).  The rooster was instantly beloved by our family.  We have never named any of the chickens (although they are beloved as well), but the kids started calling him Rocky right away and it just stuck.  Rocky was very sweet.  He didn't pick on the hens (as I guess many roosters do), he didn't crow at crazy early hours (we didn't think so anyway), and he really completed the whole coop community down there.  Very handsome too, that Rocky.

Now, you probably noticed I have been referring to Rocky in the past tense and that is never a good sign.  But it's probably not what you're thinking (coyote, fox, dog, etc.).  No, a neighbor didn't like the crowing so we had to get rid of him pronto.  Good neighbors first, chicken keepers second.  I must admit, I shed a tear or two the day our gardener took Rocky away.  We were afraid to ask what his future would be, but B is pretty sure he is living on a nice property somewhere up in Escondido with no neighbors to bother.  Fingers crossed.

Since it was springtime, we figured some of the eggs would be fertilized and potentially ready to be hatched after a bit.  Unfortunately, none of our hens were very good "sitters" (I think I just read the kids a Beatrice Potter story about a chicken that was a bad "sitter," sound familiar?), so we had to take matters into our own hands.  Which means B ordered an incubator like this:

{are we serious or what?!}
We set it up in the guest bathroom right by B's office and put about 25 eggs in it. The kids turned the eggs several times a day (in theory anyway). They marked "x's" on one side of the eggs and "o's" on the other to know which way to turn them. B made a big chart with 21 days on it, and the kids would draw an "x" through a number each night. We all checked throughout the day to make sure the temperature was right at 100 degrees. It really was the ultimate at-home science experiment (homeschoolers, take note).

About 18 days in, B was home alone, sitting at his desk and heard the tiniest "peep peep peep" and a little tapping. Sure enough a little crack appeared shortly thereafter in one of the eggs, and then another, and then another. Luckily, the kids and I got home in time to see several of the baby chicks push their way out of those shells. It was amazing. As B says, "they go from breakfast to a living creature in 18 days?!" I'm kind of crazy about watching or reading about any birth (as you know), but I was surprised how moving it was to see a little feathered creature find it's way out of a shell. Charlie informed us that baby chicks have an "egg tooth" that is there just to help it crack the shell and then disappears within a couple of weeks. Gotta love those Charlie tid-bits.

Here's what a seconds old baby chick looks like. Kinda dinosaur-like:


After a couple of minutes, the kids got to move the chicks over to the "nursery" that B had set up (a plastic box with a heat lamp, some food and water). The chicks almost immediately fluffed up like this:
{it really doesn't get cuter than this, does it?}
Thirteen hatched. Two didn't survive. We are told this was statistically a very, very good outcome. I was still pretty upset by the two that didn't make it. I could never make it on a real farm.

As you can imagine, the kids are over the moon. They slept downstairs in the guest room for almost a week to be close to the chicks and to be able to check on them first thing in the morning. Take a look at them going crazy for these tiny birds:

{sweet little chick face, plus two sweet daughter faces}
{i love the expression on her face...and don't worry, she's not squishing it!}
{mr. careful}
{she holds them so expertly, and they are very content in her hands}
{showing the chicks to her curious baby sister}
{smiles all around}
{a closer look}
{daddy thought it was cute to put the chicks on the girls' heads; little e isn't quite sure what to think}
{c-man had just made this bird feeder at school...he sawed oped a coconut, sanded the wood, nailed it together, yadda waldorf yadda....it was perfect for the chicks!}
{a girl and her free-range chicks}

Pretty cool, eh??  :-)


24 comments:

  1. Lucky. Pretty cool, for sure. I'm so jealous. I love chickens so much. I miss having them around. I had chicks when I was small and I miss that experience.

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  2. Wow. That is amazing. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Chicks are the cutest, but your sweet kiddos have them beat X1000 on the cute-o-meter! Enjoy those babies...all of them!

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  4. Love this story! I had no idea they only incubate for 3 weeks. That's crazy. Juju really does look like a natural little farmer. So cute! :)

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  5. I love this post! Looks like you guys have been having a LOT of fun.

    Can't wait to hear how the chicks integrate with the chickens this time around!

    PS your kids are adorable!

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  6. Oh my, your rosy-cheeked kiddos are adorable. Thanks for sharing these pictures - it looks like they are really enjoying the little chicks!!! How fun :)

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  7. Sooooooo cool! And your tenderness towards animals just makes me love you more!

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  8. Love every single tiny bit of this post. Now, this is *living*.

    Passing it along to my SIL, who wants to do the same!!

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  9. oh. my goodness. this is most fantastic!

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  10. Cutest. Ever. Especially the chick on E's head.

    www.makehappyblog.com

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  11. That is such a cool story! your kiddies are having a magical childhood!!!

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  12. That is totally awesome! Thank you so much for sharing. Those photographs are so happy and sweet!

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  13. So cool! Someday in the future, we are going raise chickens but need to feel confident that the dog will leave them alone first! :)
    Katie

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  14. Very cool! How many do you have all together now?

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  15. It sounds idyllic there, all right. What good parents you are.

    lol at "yadda Waldorf yadda." : )

    jbhat

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  16. I just came across your blog and it's great! You have a beautiful family and your posts are quite funny. I'll definitely be following!

    Heidi
    http://heidimarkstyle.blogspot.com/

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  17. Sigh.... i'm in love with those chicks are your sweet babes. This is so cool. xoxo

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  18. It's a birth story - only for chickens! :). Love the pictures.

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  19. Where did you get juju's sweet little star necklace?

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  20. Okay, upon first read of the first paragraph, I hadn't seen the chick photos yet and I honestly thought you were talking about your group of friends and that this was some sort of large metaphor. As I scrolled down the second paragraph luckily, I saw the chick photos because I thought the story was getting a little strange ha!
    ps your kids are adorable!

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  21. Impressive. Better than any class in school.

    PS: that little pony tail is the cutest

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  22. I was talking about this post to a friend who is raising chicks. She has a friend who was having trouble introducing new chicks, so they are trying something new: they have a smaller pen area containing the chicks that they've placed inside the regular chicken pen area so all of the chickens can get used to each other and there's no pecking going on. I'll have to keep you posted on what happens next!

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