3.19.2012 Dewey Defeats Truman . . . Well, the Apriori Farm Version

As it turned out, the demise of that entire batch of eggs to the vagaries of incubators was greatly exaggerated.  I had so many things going on I just left the botched  eggs in the hatcher.  I was very, very surprised to find a chick in it on Thursday evening.  By Friday morning, I had three.  They went into a large plastic tub in the family room.  Brooding chicks inside a house is not a great thing to do.  They produce a lot of dust and dander.  However, the mites and lice are so very bad outside, I really don’t have a whole lot of choice at this point – if I want the chicks to survive.

The Sussex chicks are large and came out of the shell hungry and thirsty.  They started stuffing their faces within 24 hours of hatching.  The oldest of them are now four days old and already, they are starting to feather out.  And did I mention – they are big – for chicks.  So far it looks like I chose wisely with my breeding stock.

The hatch continued throughout Friday and Saturday.  10 Speckled Sussex in all, but not a single Dorking.  By Saturday evening (48 hours), I thought the hatch was over  and went to clean out the hatcher, but a Dorking was just then pipping its shell.  So I left it a while longer and was rewarded, with not one, but two Dorkings.  Maybe Dorkings take an extra two days to hatch because they have an extra toe on each foot.  Then Sunday evening, when I went again to clean out the hatcher, a third Dorking was chirping, “I’m not dead yet!”  I gave her a few hours to find her way out, but she made very little progress.  Since I have another batch of eggs that will be going into the hatcher on Tuesday, getting it cleaned up and sterilized is kind of important.  I was out of time.  So I peeled the shell right off that last Dorking.

She was wet and her “umbilical cord” was still attached.  I couldn’t drop her into the brooder like that; the other chicks would have pecked her bum right out.  I would not put her back in the hatcher to dry.  After more than 72 hours of hatching chicks, it was a nasty, nasty place.  What to do?  Play mother hen, of course.  So for the first couple of hours of her life, she dried off and kept herself warm while nestled on my chest under a towel.  Then she really started squirming.  Little chicken toenails don’t feel very pleasant on bare human skin.  So for the rest of the evening, I put her in a Tupperware inside of the brooder.  The heat lamp finished drying her off and the Tupperware kept her safe from the two day old Sussex who were more than twice her size.  Aside from being disappointed in the percentage hatch on the Dorkings, I am also not very happy with the size of the chicks.  My breeding Dorkings don’t lay large eggs like they should.  They are medium sized and thus chicks are undersized.   I have got so much yet to learn about breeding chickens.

I also have a lot to learn about broody hens.  I lost my sole broody hen today.  She was so devoted to her clutch that she absolutely refused to attend to her own needs.  Even when I put food and water right in front of her, she refused to eat or drink.  After two weeks on her eggs, she died today.  Was it lack of food and water, or was it the severe case of lice that did her in?  Probably a combination of both.  I just don’t understand how chicken lice can get so bad so quickly.  I dusted her before I put her on the nest.  I put the nest in a location where chickens had never been and used bedding that had never been near a chicken.  Still, she was swarming with lice.  I did not have this problem at all last year, but last year we had a pretty brutal winter.  This year not so much.

The Sussex hen with the crop problem continues to hang in there.  I check her daily for lice and mites and keep her cage clean and spray with Poultry Protector (potassium sorbate, yeast and citric acid).  She just doesn’t seem to make any progress.  I gave her a bath today partly because she stunk like a sick chicken and partly because I’ve found being clean gives birds a psychological boost that encourages healing.  Afterward she seemed to be resting better, but she still lacks any real motivation to do anything for herself.  That means I still have to tube feed her.

Michael and I set up the irrigation system yesterday, and the garden is nearly ready for planting.  The sole surviving bee hive is buzzing with activity and I really need to pay it a visit.  With the run of luck I’ve had over the last month, I half expect that they swarm and I will lose them too.  But the nectar flow has started, which means I need to get my honey supers on.  Maybe tomorrow.  So tired.  Playing midwife and nursemaid to chickens has worn me out.

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