Chick Dreams, Plan B
I guess it’s true what they say about the best laid plans. In January I had carefully planned out the two month long process that I would implement to ensure a new batch of chicks would be hatched out in early March here at the farm. I entered every step that would be needed along the way into my icalendar, and I was fully committed to the project. The only problems were Mother Nature and a bunch of chickens with other ideas in their little heads besides the Chick Dreams that were dancing in my head.
Step 1: Separate Brown Rooster from the ladies for two weeks so that I can be relatively certain that their eggs would be fertilized by Ramon and Reuben when I introduce them to the ladies. Check. Step 2 was ready to be implemented – put the desired rooster in with the desired hens in the fenced off section of pasture and let them do what comes naturally, when what should happen, oh just a foot of snow falling in 24 hours rendering the mating pen a useless snow-covered expanse. Hmmm, okay I thought, the snow will melt in a day or two and we’ll be back on track. Wrong! Six more inches of snow and a week later and the snow had finally melted enough to implement Step 2. Reuben was put in with the three black australorps, and Ramon was put in a separate area with four Easter Eggers. I hovered anxiously waiting for the romance to begin…nothing. I waited some more, and nothing. I began to wonder what had happened to these two formerly overly amorous roosters who were so zealous in their mating last year that I had decided to move them to their own bachelor pad to give the ladies a rest. Well, I guess it was payback time for me, and the God of Scorned Roosters was not messing around.
I kept up my attempts to play matchmaker for four days, and I finally figured it was time to progress to Step 3 – put hopefully fertilized eggs under a broody hen. This step actually was initiated a week before Step 2 in the hopes that by leaving a pile of eggs in one of the nest boxes in the coop, a hen with some motherly instincts would step up to the task at hand and start setting on the pile of eggs. Once a hen was committed to the task, I would swap out the unfertilized eggs she was sitting on with the fertilized eggs I has been carefully storing. By now you can see how my plans were going, and Step 3 was no exception. Apparently there was not a motherly instinct to be found in any of our twenty hens! Two weeks had passed with not one hen expressing any interest in hatching eggs.
By this time I was desperate, so I resorted to my one tried and true momma hen, our little banty hen Millie. I had wanted one of the larger hens to set on the eggs, since they can hatch out a dozen or more eggs with ease under their large fluffy bottoms. But that wasn’t happening anytime soon, so I put five of the fertilized eggs in Millie’s nest box, and within a week she had set up camp in there. By this time, the fertilized eggs were two weeks old, that is if they were ever fertile to begin with, so the odds of these eggs hatching is probably about 50/50. Millie has been devotedly sitting on them for 18 days, so in three more days they’ll either hatch or they won’t. I hope at least a couple hatch, and we can be entertained once again by Millie’s excellent mothering skills, and the baby chicks’ confused reactions to Auntie Coco Puff’s somewhat clumsy attempts at lending a helping hand.