Three hens sitting on eggs, five raising chicks and more to come. Yup, muddy valley hatching season is in full swing.
My genius plan this year? Let the hens do the work. How? Each time I move a new broody to a private nest, I throw a few eggs in the incubator. Once her eggs hatch, I add a few more chicks. Chickens can’t count, and that’s what I’m counting on. I won’t hatch 400 chicks like last year – it was too much work anyway.
Black Silkie has three Cream Legbars and an olive egger. Hers are almost old enough now to go in with the flock. Thank goodness, because I’ll need her brooder for new tenants soon.
Silver Pencilled Rock is an absolute star at taking new babies under her wing, her motley crew of eleven Silkies, Marans, Wyandottes and Easter Eggers ranges in age from three to six weeks – her chicks, my chicks and AF’s classroom chicks.
White Silkie has eleven foster chicks too, a mix of Muddy Valley Farm breeds plus three little imports – Rhode Island Reds from Saskatchewan.
Then we have Brownie the bantam Chocolate Cochin, into her fourth year raising two broods per year. Brownie hatched a legbar girl and a couple olive eggers and received six extra Marans.
We also have two Marans hens quietly getting on with it, due to hatch in a couple weeks.
And then there’s the Silkie twins. Partridge Silkie One and Partridge Silkie Two are White Silkie’s daughters and first time broodies. Since Silkies are the best broodies on earth I didn’t foresee any issues, but PS#1 surprised me by presenting a new (to me) problem.
She hatched two silkies, white and partridge, and in the evening when I moved her out of her delivery nest and into a private brooder, I added eight little Marans. In the morning when I checked on them, PS#1 was at one end of the coop, her two silkie chicks peeking out from her skirts, while eight sad little black chicks huddled together at the other end. Uh oh.
I was shocked. In all my eight years of chicken keeping, my broody hens had never refused chicks. These birds were not “of a feather” with PS#1’s hatchlings; that must be why she rejected them. Oh dear, do I have an intolerant (alt-right?) hen?? She is certainly on-trend with world events, could it be that the rot is seeping even into our quiet muddy valley?
Gathering the little rejects and taking them inside to warm up under a heat lamp, I pondered what to do next. I could pop these ones under White Silkie and Brownie (and that’s what I did), but how to get PS#1’s family size up? My genius plan depended on more than two chicks per broody!
A day later three silkies hatched, and reasoning that PS#1 might take a chick that looked more like hers, I selected the strongest white silkie and after dark, crossed my fingers and slipped it under her.
In the morning all was serene. Three little silkie chicks peeked out from PS#1’s skirts. That night the other two hatchlings went outside and in the morning five little silkie chicks peeked out…you know the story…
Today six more silkie chicks, all the way from Alberta, hatched in the incubator. Partridge Silkie Two is on day 20/21 (hatch expected any time now). The plan is for the little immigrants to go out to her in a day or two.
Considering recent events, I’m a touch worried. These silkies look a bit different…thanks to their showgirl/silkie fathers, most have naked necks. I hope PS#2 doesn’t discriminate like her sister did. As with all irrationality, one can never tell how far intolerance will spread…fingers crossed that love will trump fear in PS#2’s brooder. And elsewhere.