Saturday, December 12, 2009

Peep show

A long time hobby at our house has been raising silkie bantams. WHen one of the hens turned out to be a rooster, and the eggs started to come fertilised, we decided to try and hatch some out.
The natural method resulted in the broody hen dying from heat exhaustion on a 43 degree day so we decided to try and incubate some. Yo uknow once you get this idea in your head it is hard to dissuade yourself from doing it. The kids wanted baby chicks, so I reeely wanted ot make it happen.

Incubator was bought and eggs installed - they need turning every few hours, its crazy stuff. And although you can see them moving in the egg if you candle them, you never know when they will hatch and most of the time you cant tell if they are alive or dead. So you turn them for ages and then kind of almost give up on them..


After a few false starts some of the chickys have FINALLY hatched out of their eggs.

At the moment we have 5 alive and 4 that died. Watching them struggle out of their shells, chests heaving and wet feathers sticking to their little bodies, feet splayed and head trembling with the effort, is a reminder of how hard it is to get born. Watching some of them suffer through inevitable hardships and misfortune, to die within their first few days of life is a stark lesson on how precious life is.

I am not sure that I expected them to all live, but there seem to be so many ways to not live that it is somehow a miracle any of them manage to live at all.

The first chick to go to god never even made it out of its shell. It peeped and peeped and pecked, but somehow never made it out of its concrete like egg tomb. RIP little black chick which did not make it. Everyone was sad :(

2 days later another struggled for over a day to be born only to simply die from what looked like exhaustion a few hours later. RIP black chicky number 2 :((

Number 3; made the mistake of leaving some eggs under the chook - since that is the way nature would have it ( The incubator was more of a back up plan). The one chick who did hatch out of the egg was swiftly attacked by its mother, and mercilessly pecked by the rest of the chooks too. So much for the farmyard image of big mama and her baby chicks trailing happily behind. As soon as the little thing was noticed it was rescued but too late. The pecking had shattered a wing and left a hole in its neck, so that one went to god too, with a little help from a shovel. More sads :(.

The one having trouble getting out before unfortunately was not alone. This seems to be a recurring theme with the little eggys turning into little chickys.

When number 4 was having trouble making its way out. Jack gave it a little bit of "help" . After some picking and tipping the little thing was messily liberated from the shell, but its neck was all wrong. Instead of holding up its head and looking around, this chick could not manage to do anything at all with its U shaped neck and was permanently upside down in the head department. This left the poor thing permanently disoriented, and it often would crash into things and tumble over backwards. at about day 4 we found it in the .5cm of water, drowned. This one had been named, so got buried rather than binned. I do hope the dog doesn't find it.

But all is not lost because we still have 5 little chickys peeping and getting stronger all the time. The newest one is black, and he is a few days younger than the other blonder ones. I am hoping being black doesn't mean he/she will die like the other black ones...

During this time googling revealed the folowing facts :

  • Silkies have no skull over a good part of their brains, leaving them vulnerable to head injury
  • Silkies have black bones which some cultures will grind up and eat for good luck ( not for me thanks)
  • You can apparently more easily sex a chicken by looking at its wing feathers than its undercarriage
  • Silkies sometimes are too big to get out of their eggs because they cant move around enough.
  • Baby chickens are called peeps
  • the peep of a peep sounds a lot like a favourite squeaky toy my dog had once had
I made a video the day the first chicks hatched - complete with kid comments

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