Hey Chickie baby!

Welcome to the world little fluff balls! Mumma Hen was hatched 7 of her 17 eggs. The chicks are now a few weeks old and growing like weeds! And, after the rainy winter we’ve had I’m a expert in weeds.

It was Mumma Hen’s first hatch, and at 4 years old, she’s a senior mum and she’s doing great. Farmer Bob and I learned a lot from this hatch and hope that we can increase the success rate in the future. Our hatch rate was 7 live healthy chicks, 4 hatched but didn’t survive, 1 broke through the shell but didn’t make it out and the remaining eggs didn’t hatch at all.

Chicks hatch on 21 days. Mum sits on the eggs getting up a few times a day for food and drink and then settles back in. For most of the time she’s in a trancelike state staying quiet, still and somehow flattening herself on the nest to get the most coverage for the eggs. It’s quite amazing. I even had to assist hatch one of the babies. This is not advisable as sometimes it can injure the chick, but in this case it was help out or the chick was not going to make it.

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Because Mumma Hen had gotten off the nest to look after he hatched babies, the egg’s membrane dried out making it stiff and leathery. The chick didn’t have the strength to break through. I wet the membrane with a damp tissue and the shell bits flaked away.

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I gently pealed the membrane away being sure to stay clear of the eye and back end. They eyes are easily damaged if the membrane is not damp enough. The yolk attaches to the chick near the back end of the chick. If this is pulled before it is ready to detach it can disembowel the baby. Care is needed!

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I love the little egg tooth on the end of its beak. This is what it uses to break through the shell. It falls off in a few days. And now, we’ve got two more hens sitting on a total of 18 more eggs.

What we’ve learned is this:

  • Separate the hen sitting on eggs from the rest of the flock. Out Mumma stole eggs from surrounding nest boxes and rotated which nest she was sitting on. So many eggs! Because of this, we had an extended hatch over 5 days. This confused the hen as she was trying to sit on eggs and teach the hatchlings to forage. I think this is why some of the eggs that didn’t hatch and why the 4 chicks that hatched didn’t make it.
  • Mumma hen knows best, let her lead the hatch. We got worried that she wasn’t eating and took her off the nest to make sure that she ate and drank. Hens have been hatching eggs for many years… just let nature do her thing.
  • Don’t interfere unless you absolutely have to.
  • Photograph them when they are little as they grow very very fast!

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