I have exciting news to report – our very own Millie hatched out some baby chicks! You may recall I had written about Millie wanting to be a momma for quite some time in a previous post, Momma Wanna-be. Well, after she started camping out in the nest box for extended periods this spring, we decided to grant her wish of motherhood. Millie has never met a rooster in her life, but her breed is well known for making excellent mothers so we put three fertile eggs from the farm under her a few weeks ago. It takes chicken eggs 21 days to hatch. We were away for most of the day on day 20, and wouldn’t you know that had to be the day that one chick hatched a day early. We don’t know what happened, but unfortunately the first chick to hatch didn’t make it and I found it dead on the floor of the run. We are speculating that it may have followed the other adult chicken, Coco Puff, down the ladder that leads from the coop to the run and then the chick didn’t know how to get back to the coop and the warmth of it’s momma and so it may have died from exposure. I was horrified to find that first dead chick, but I was soon relieved when I opened the coop door and found Millie sitting in the nest box with a live chick under her and one more egg left to hatch. The following morning she had two adorable peeping chicks.
Coco Puff has been sleeping in the nest box with Millie the entire time she was broody and then during the whole time she was incubating eggs, and now that the chicks have hatched we decided to give Millie some alone time with her new chicks. We installed a screen inside the coop to make separate quarters for Millie and the chicks and to also prevent the chicks from leaving the safety of the coop and their momma. Millie appears to have spent the entire first two days after the chicks hatched in the nest box with the chicks. Then on day 3 she moved the family from the nest box to the food and water station we set up for the chicks and began giving them lessons in eating and drinking. To teach the chicks where the food is and what it looks like she makes a series of quick clucking sounds while picking up pieces of food, dropping the food in front of the chicks, and then pecking at it. The chicks seem to have figured it out and have been pecking hungrily at the food I sprinkle on the threshold of the nest box to lure them out from under Millie. Millie is doing a great job as a momma, and we are going to let her raise the chicks in the coop rather than raising them in the kitchen as we have done when we bought chicks from the store. We will need to be attentive to socializing the chicks to people, as chickens that are hen-raised are known to not be as friendly toward humans as chicks that are regularly handled while they are growing up. Today was the first day of socialization, and it did not exactly go smoothly. I was able to slide my open hand under a chick and pick it up without much objection by the chick, but when I lifted the chick up off the coop floor, Millie flew at me in full attack mode. Luckily when a two pound fluffy bantam chicken goes into attack mode it’s really more cute than it is intimidating! I can tell that Millie is going to make a great mother hen, and I’m already looking forward to having her hatch out more eggs. Now let’s just hope we are lucky enough to have at least one of the baby chicks grow up to be a hen and that we don’t find ourselves with two more roosters on our hands. Besides, I’ve already picked out their names – Daisy and Daphne – which are not very well suited to roosters!