Goats, rabbits, chickens (pages)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Operation Adoption

As it turns out Mater did not make a good mom so I reverted to my original Plan A--try to get my broody Jersey Giant--Millie--to adopt the chicks.

I was nervous about trying it as I sure didn't want anything to happen to the chicks. Millie was sitting on her nest in the chicken house. I waited till evening chore time--it's pretty dark in the chicken house by this time. I nabbed up two little chicks from the brooder house and walked quietly into the c-house, crept over by the nests so as not to rile up the other chickens loafing around and spoke softly to Millie. (As I tell the grandkids--the farm motto is SPEAK SOFTLY MOVE SLOWLY)

Millie is used to me getting eggs out from under her--the other hens jump right in there with her to lay. Brooding hens don't lay; they sit. I gently put my hand under her and released the chicks. Millie immediately perked up when she heard that little peep peep peep. I backed away and prepared to keep vigil until I could determine if I had put the chicks into friendly or hostile territory.

Millie started clucking--that adorable mommy cluck meant for babies. She craned her neck under her body to have a look. The chicks had stopped peeping but Millie kept clucking; she stood up a little and did a quarter turn, looking and clucking. Then she sat back down and made content little noises. She looked out at me as if to say Look--Babies!

Stage 1 complete. Now all I had to do was give her a little alone time with her new arrivals and wait till it was a little darker outside.

I put all the other chicks into a box and put the lid on. I turned OFF their heat lamp. I wanted to chicks to go to Millie for warmth not stand under the light and bask in artificial mom-heat.

I went into the c-house, got the 2 chicks in one hand then got Millie and tucked her under my arm and headed back to the brooder house. I sat Millie on the straw and one by one put the chicks under Millie. Millie was excited so she didn't stay seated. When she began to walk around it scared the babies and they went flying (figuratively) to the far corners of the enclosure. I stepped outside and watched. The chicks cried and squawked; Millie walked around confused trying to console them with her clucks but they would have none of it.

Millie jumped out of the enclosure (but still in the brooder house) and hopped back in several times; the chicks were scared and screaming--I was beginning to worry that this was not going to work. I resisted the urge to go back in and "help" them.

Then Millie jumped into the enclosure and sat down uttering her little coos and endearments. The chicks settled down and huddled around her but did not go under her.

I left them to their own devises until it was good and dark--the kind of dark in the country where you cannot see your hand in front of your face. When we first bought the farm there was a yard light here that came on automatically every night. Now why would we want that? It interferes with the natural rhythm of things and besides, you can't see the stars with it on.

Me and my flashlight--which I never shined directly onto Millie--went into the brooder house. The chicks were all piled up IN FRONT of her--it gets in the forties here at night--way too cold for chicklets. One by one I stuffed them under her--all twenty. She is a huge chicken so they all fit. Now if they would just stay under there to keep warm.

After a couple of hours I went out to check on them; all ok. Another couple hours--yes, they were all still under her. So far so good.

The next morning I went out right at daybreak and watched as they slowly peeked then ventured out from under Millie. All twenty had survived the night. Millie started pecking and calling them to eat; they all gathered round for their first breakfast together.

By the second day it was as if Millie had hatched them herself. They crawl all over and under her and are completely smitten with their new Mommie, as she is with them.

I am SO happy! They are so cute as a little family and the chicks are being taught to be chickens. My other batch that I hand raised last year slept under a heat lamp 24/7--totally unnatural but they have to be kept warm. Then when they were old enough to be moved out to the chicken house they were afraid of the dark!

Here is Millie loving being a Mommie at last. She's probably thinking wow, I didn't know I had THAT many eggs under there! (That little green marble is actually a tomato for Millie!)
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