Monday, April 30, 2012

The story of E.B. and her 3, 4, no, 5 chicks


Once upon a time, Echa, a Turken hen with an attitude and the indisputable queen of our laying hens, hatched a chick. 
Echa and E.B. in August 2010
It was her second time at being a mama hen.  The first time ended badly as she lost the days-old chick to a skunk.  The next time the baby chick survived and we named her E.B., short for Echa's Baby.  When Echa decided her work as a mother was done and dropped E.B. at a couple of months old, we moved her back to the portable chicken pen with the other laying hens and she returned, quickly, to being "top chicken."

Usually we move the pullets to the portable pen once they start to lay but E.B. grew into a pretty black hen and established herself as one of the backyard flock.  Even DH, who's always pointing out the backyard flock isn't supposed to increase in number but instead serve as a chick brooder staging area, couldn't bring himself to move E.B. 

We've observed that the hens who are hatched and raised by a broody hen are more likely than the hatchery-provided ones to go broody themselves.  So when E.B. (with Mrs. Badger's help) hatched Solly last year, we weren't that surprised.  And DH had noticed E.B. was showing signs of being broody again this spring.  But when he went to gather eggs at lunchtime on Thursday, he was little surprised to find E.B. sheltering three baby chicks in a corner of the backyard coop.  (I'd swear it was only 10 days ago that I saw E.B. out on walkabout in the front flower bed with Bronwyn...)

DH was in a hurry as he still needed to eat lunch, have a shower and pack his supper before heading off to work but he took time to prep the dog house and chain-link dog pen we use as a brooder and move E.B., her three chicks (two black and one chipmunk) and the rest of the eggs she had underneath her into their new home.  DS and I were off working on backdrops for an upcoming play he's participating in at our homeschool co-op and got a call from DH to let me know we should check out the new arrivals when we got back home later that evening.

But there was more to come.  When DH was back in the kitchen preparing his food, he kept hearing a sound, like a cheep-cheep, coming from somewhere in the kitchen.  While he'd moved the eggs E.B. was sheltering into the brooder with her and her hatchlings, he'd taken the eggs from the other corner of that coop and carried them into the kitchen in a basket.  Turns out the cheeping was coming from one of those eggs.  So he tucked those eggs back under E.B., hoping the one, at least, would go ahead and hatch out.

It must have worked as Friday morning we had four chicks. Then, Saturday morning E.B.'s sporting five chicks under her wings. 

E.B. is very protective of her chicks.  Her tail feathers stay ruffled and she continually makes a sort of low growling sound the whole time people are around.  Makes for interesting times changing out the water and feeder.  To get these pics I had to bribe her with treats (crumbly cornbread, this time) because she prefers to keep the chicks in the house if someone's outside the pen.

So far, then, on the "good mama scale", she's scoring high.  But writing this post reminded me of last year when she and Mrs. Badger hatched Solly and E.B. gave up mothering way early so she could re-join the backyard hens in roaming the yard.  Hope we don't have a repeat as Mrs. Badger can't be counted on to pick up the slack this year and I don't want to raise five chicks...

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