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Saturday, 14 May 2016

The dustbin chicks

One of Solly’s hens (one of only 4 left after a mysterious disease killed about 20 of his chickens) hatched out six little chicks, leaving another 11 eggs un-hatched when she left the nest at about 6am. About an hour later, I saw a tiny chick stumbling from the nest, still wet from emerging from the egg. Mommy and her crew of six had already disappeared somewhere into the garden, so once again I had a little chick to tend to.


I brought her inside and kept her warm in a basket of grass with a hot water bottle and a towel throughout the day and that night. Early the next morning I saw Mommy and her babies just outside my studio window and quickly rushed outside with Dottie (she has two little black dots on her head) and put her down in front of Mommy, who immediately clucked encouragingly and little Dottie quickly responded by running towards her and under her warm tummy.

Dottie (top right) with some of the other chicks 

Mommy and all seven babies enjoying the lawn

I kept watch for about an hour until I was satisfied that she was able to keep up with the rest of the clan, feeling relieved that it had all worked out well. Sometimes chicks imprint on me too quickly or the mother refuses to take it back, then it’s a case of looking after a little chick for many weeks before it is ready to join my girls in the garden. Over the past two days they've all grown in leaps and bounds and Mommy is an absolutely perfect mother, calling them to the food I put out and first letting them have their fill before she has anything herself.

Mommy calling the chicks for a tit-bit 

Now, here's the thing. On Tuesday afternoon we disposed of all the other eggs that were left over and threw them in the dustbin in the back yard. Two days later, as I passed the dustbin, I heard peeping! Looking inside, I saw that two chicks had hatched. I was gob-smacked! Upon closer inspection of the rest of the eggs, I noticed that one had a hole in it and heard peeping coming from within. I gathered up the two babies and the egg and rushed inside, immediately getting the two chicks onto a towel with a hot water battle. The egg was still peeping, so I carefully removed all the shell and found a perfectly formed little chick struggling to get out. I gently cleaned it and also put in on the hot water bottle with the other two chicks.

The two "dustbin chicks" with the one I took out of the egg warming up on the towel and hot water bottle

The three little "dustbin chicks" getting warmed up 

The chick in the centre (I named her Snoodles) is the one I took out of the egg

I constantly checked the temperature inside the towel to make sure it was not too hot also often stroking the third little chick and talking to it. After about half-an-hour it raised it's little head and opened its eyes! I was thrilled! It also struggled up to stand, stretching its little legs for a second or two before settling down between the other two chicks again.

After about four hours it was dry and quite alert, moving about and taking an interest in its surroundings, snuggling close to the other two.

I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, Mommy will accept the two older little dustbin chicks but the one I took out of the egg still has a long way to go and I doubt that it will be able to keep up with the much older chicks, so it looks like I've got a few weeks ahead of me tending to this little one.

Hens lay eggs over a period of time and sometimes those laid first, hatch first. When she left the nest, some of the other eggs might have been on the point of hatching and I think the dustbin acted like an incubator, it was standing in the morning sun with the lid on and it was quite warm inside. If she had stayed on the eggs just a day later, probably some more would have hatched.

Well, I DID put the first two dustbin chicks back with their Mommy one morning and she accepted them immediately. Of course they were cold and she immediately called them under her warm feathers. I will keep an eye on them to make sure they keep up with the rest of the crowd. The third little chick which I took out of the egg is still a bit weak, so I doubt she will be joining the flock, ever.

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