Well, it has been quite a day here on our little oasis in the metropolis of OC.
A nervous day.
A sad day.
Lets start at the beginning.
Oldest son, finally home from latest trip, decides yet again to raise baby chicks. The last two times he has done this, he gets them started, then heads off for another continent, leaving you know who in charge of raising the babies!
But this time is different. There are no plans to go anywhere. And we have a broody hen to ‘mother them’ so we don’t have to do all the work. Or at least that’s the plan. She has been broody for a few weeks and it should be an easy thing to ‘graft’ the new babies to the mommy hen.
He buys the chicks at the feed store. Just 4. He gives them a heat lamp, chicky food and water. So far so good.
Late at night, he sneaks out there to quietly, stealthily tuck the baby chicks under the hens tail feathers.
There was squawking, pecking, flashlights, escapes.
There was confusion in the dark and danger of stepping in dog bombs. But he finally got them under her more or less. Then he lay in bed all night straining to hear if the babies needed help, which they occasionally did. One somehow fell under the coop and had to be recovered. Others were wandering around in the dark. He was pretty bleary eyed this morning.
But come morning they were all alive and perky! The mama hen was not being very motherly toward them though. She ignored them at first and still stayed in her nesting spot, as though the little critters did not exist.
I checked on the several times today and at one point all four chicks were under the coop, wandering around, scratching and exploring their new world. Problem with that is we want them to bond with mommy, even a reluctant mommy. So I tried to finagle them out from under the coop, at one time calling my son to get home and help catch them! But by the time he got home, they were caught again and sitting innocently by mommy dearest. Here are a couple of pictures I caught.
Now as a side note, the whole hen area has been torn down to be rebuilt. The coop is intact, but the fence is down and the ground will be leveled, the coop moved and new fencing put up. it should be pretty sharp when we are done.
Then it happened.
It was our Rhode Island Red. She is only 2 years old and very pretty. I had her picture posted on “workday chicken pic” before. I had noticed her running across the yard in the sun looking pretty when not 5 minutes later my son came in and said she was looking sick.
“What? No way! I just saw her not 5 minutes before. She laid an egg this morning. She has been eating.”
“I know, but she is laying down now”
I went out there and before our very eyes, she twitched a couple of times, went belly up and closed her eyes. She was dead! As though an invisible arrow had pierced her heart! Did she choke on something? There was no indications. Heart attack? It wasn’t that hot out, maybe low 80’s. There seemed to be no earthly reason for her to just drop dead like that in the space of 3 minutes.
I went on the web, of course, to see what other people had to say. Only questions, no answers. Others have had similar deaths, but no one know why. It is the great “Sudden Chicken Death” mystery. I doubt Sherlock could even tackle this one.
She laid the biggest brown eggs too. On the other hand, I had seen her eat the other hens eggs before, just not recently. I suppose an old farm wife would have said something like “well, its chicken on the table tonight boys!” but we buried her instead. Or at least my son and his friends did. I was frowning at my computer screen wondering what went wrong.
So far the other hens seem fine. I certainly hope it isn’t catchy. I think its time to check on the babies too. Make sure they haven’t wandered off. Tomorrow, before the mega-heat of the day sets in, we will dig and build and try to move the coop. No more drama, thank you very much.
Good by Red, and thanks for all the eggs.