Thursday, September 4, 2014

::chicken farmer Lily::

Last year we bought a few red hens to keep big mama company since she found herself the only chicken on the farm to survive the foxes that year.  Those new friends of hers are sweet - not as sweet as her - but sweet.  Early this year Rural King had some really cool breeds of chickens.  I had to bring some home, which left me with a nice little flock of pretty ladies and two accidental roosters.  My rule with roosters is that they can hang out till they start attacking me or the kids, then they go in the pot.  The two roosters are Aracauna - which means if they where hens they would lay blue eggs and since they are roosters they carry the genetics for blue eggs.  Roosters are bossy jerks so I had moved them out of the hen pen and was letting them free range.  About two months ago one of our red hens went broody.  She sat in her nest box constantly and only left for very short food breaks, then rushed back to sit on her eggs.  She was sitting on blanks because there was no rooster in that pen.  Yet - her hormones and instincts where driving her crazy trying to protect and hatch those eggs.  

(side note - if you know how eggs are fertilized skip this.  A chicken lays about one egg per day.  She does not have a uterus to grow a baby like we do.  She lays her uterus and sits on it.  The baby grows in that egg from conception to birth.  Many people get confused about how the rooster gets in on the deal.  The male and female chicken mate in the traditional way - its actually fairly dramatic as the rooster holds the hen down and she screams the whole time.  It only takes about one minute but it is very violent and ugly.  Once he has placed his sperm in the chicken that sperm would join with the female egg cell.  That collection of cells would still be inside the hen and the hens body would surround it with a yolk and nutrients and finally a shell.  Then she would lay that chicken egg.  Remember - she does this almost every day.  It would be like a human having a full menstrual cycle every day.  Then that fertilized egg has to be sat on and kept very warm and humid till it hatches about 21 days after it is laid. Got it?  Google it if you need more deets.)   

Lily was fascinated by all this.  She kept begging me to let the hen hatch her eggs.  No amount of bird and bee's conversations could make it clear to her that those eggs would never hatch.  Finally it sunk in - then she changed tactics and begged me to put the rooster in the coop with the hens.  She asked for a book off Amazon about raising chickens.  She started a notebook tracking what eggs where laid what day.  She started writing on the eggs with pencil.  She had me with the notebook.  We worked together and caught our prettiest rooster and let him in with the girls.  We got rid of all the eggs before him and I let Lily keep three of the best eggs laid during a few day period.  Broody, as we where calling her, was very happy to have some eggs to nurture.

After careful research on her part she built a chicken nursery from on old rabbit hutch turned upside down.  It was actually very clever.  One evening, about 10 days after we removed the rooster from the pen, Lily gathered up the hen and her eggs and moved her in to her new digs.  Then we waited... and waited.  We experimented with candling eggs, which is where you shine a bright light through the egg to try and see the baby inside.  I knew we had at least one that was working, but I thought the other two where duds.  Every day Lily ran out to check her eggs.  She was so excited and I was so nervous.  I was just about to go to a chicken breeder and buy her some one day old chicks that I was going to put under the broody hen and pretend the hen had hatched them when one day after school Lily found this...     

 A baby!!  A real live baby.  
Lily has a little cell phone for emergencies and she text me the first picture she has ever sent me to show me the new baby.  
I was so relieved.  I wanted this to work for her, she had put in so much effort.  
But we still had two eggs that Broody was sitting on and they didn't look promising. 
 I just kept telling Lily, "At least you got one!"

Then the next morning I saw this!!!

 Mama started to teach baby how to eat while she was sitting on another egg that was hatching.
Already a multitasker - so proud. 

Papa was walking around feeling very proud of himself.  

And when the happy farmer came home from school she now had two babies!! 

 There is still one egg left under Broody.  We will candle it tonight, but I think its a dud.  Of course I obviously have no idea what I am doing.  Maybe I will just let Lily handle it since she seems to have the magic touch. 

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