My little chick passed away.

Yesterday, Ruby took her babies out for the first time to play in the grass and scratch in the dirt. As I watched, I noticed that my little baby chick was maybe not growing as much as the other two, but she was still doing well, it seemed. She ate and drank and ran around and peeped.

This morning, I found that little baby in a heap in the back of the crate. I took her in and did everything I could, but she passed away in my hands. She sang a sweet little song right before she passed.

I’m not doing very well from this. I’m probably going to take a few days off from writing. What a tough deal. You can’t fight Mother Nature. She will do what she will do.

A Boudica Story

Yesterday, early in the evening, we had either a hawk or owl attempt to get one of the ducks. I didn’t see enough of the incident to see what happened. I just heard the epic quick (I have learned what some of the quacks mean, and you just know the epic one) and dropped what I was doing and headed outside.

I was slow, but Boudica was already on the case, as she was outside working. I couldn’t tell if it was a hawk or an owl, but I saw the ducks make way for the shrubs and the porch as fast as they could. Interestingly, Anna Maria spent the rest of the evening under the elderberry bushes. She never came back out until I got her at bedtime. I wonder if she had been the target.

Anyway, Boudica chased the hawk or owl into the trees, barking all the way, and then just kept looking into the trees for a good bit. As soon as I counted all seven ducks, I made a big fuss over Boudica. I am so grateful to that dog, and I told her all about it. How magnificent is she?

But here’s the most interesting part of the story: When Ron came outside and I told him what had happened, Ron was like, “Huh, that’s interesting.” I asked him why, and he said that Boudica had been trying really hard to get him to come outside for the last 15 or 20 minutes. He just thought she wanted him to come outside to play, so he told her he was busy.

He said she did that exact same thing the last time there was a hawk attack on the ducks. I guess she knew it was there both times, before the attack, and was trying to alert Ron. I don’t know if all dogs have senses that seem supernatural to me, but Boudica sure does. She has a senses like Superman.

How magnificent is she?

My baby chick is still alive!

I wrote yesterday about hatching an egg, so there was no way I couldn’t write tonight with at least a quick update. It’s been a busy day with both work and chickens, but I had to let you know that my baby chick is still alive! I am surprised, though I had a little hope when I saw the strength of that baby trying to help me hatch her. Still, the odds aren’t great, but I am a little bit hopeful.

This is the strong, pretty baby. She runs circles around everyone else and is just the perfect little gray chick. She’s pretty black on her back, though you can’t tell very well in this photo.

The thing that makes me hopeful is that my baby chick keeps improving. She’s still behind the strongest chick, but I think it might be a little ahead–at least even–with Hector’s other egg that hatched perfectly fine. She’s so cute too. So yellow. Okay, so I have to be sure to not get too attached through, right?

Oh, and I have to tell you something that is going to sound mean, but I mean it in the dearest way. The second Hector baby chick is the ugliest little chick I think I’ve seen. I mean, she’s still cute, but I thought something was wrong with her at first. Then, I realized she just has coloration that makes it kind of look like she has an oddly wide mouth. Kind of like a baby bird, I think.

I think. I only saw her for a few seconds. She hatched last and is running a little behind. She won’t leave Ruby’s feathers very much. I’ll try really hard to get pictures tomorrow.

Poor Ruby, she’s a saint. I watched her for a long time today, and those baby chicks crawl all over her, under her feathers. I can see little waves in Ruby’s feathers as they crawl around on her.

Today, I hatched an egg…

Day 21 of 21

Ruby made it to the end, though she looks a little worse for wear. Right now, she has three babies, but I have only had a good look at two. It’s very chilly outside, even in the garage, so all of the babies are tight under mama.

Both of Hector’s eggs hatched, and Bianca’s baby chick just couldn’t hatch all of the way. So after promising myself last night that I would only help a little and let nature take its course, when I saw the egg this morning, I thought it was worth a try to help. It looked like it may have been just stuck in the egg because the egg cracked and the membrane stuck to the chick (though I am not sure if there wasn’t some earlier issue). Still, that seemed fixable–maybe.

I had read some years ago about how to carefully hatch a baby chick from an egg, but I was pretty nervous about it. Baby chicks have skin so thin and fine. It’s very easy to hurt them. Plus, there is the sad reality that most chicks you have to hatch will not make it.

But in this baby’s case, I could see some strength. I thought, since it pipped and Friday and still had some strength on Sunday, maybe there was hope. So, this morning, while Ron did all of the morning chores, I sat in the bathroom light and, with tweezers, hatched a baby chick.

It was both terrifying and magnificent. When I had first eye free and it saw me, it definitely gave extra wiggles. Truly, it helped the whole time though, which makes me a tiny bit hopeful in a fairly hopeless situation. That baby wiggled and wiggled while I carefully peeled back shell and egg membrane one tiny piece at a time with a warm, wet paper towel helping when the membrane was dried and stuck. I hurried as fast as I could, but since I had to be so careful, I am worried about how cool it got–I mean on top of everything else.

We will see what happens. It did manage to fluff out, which is a good sign. However, it is not moving around like the other baby chicks. I am pretty sure it will not make it.

Ron asked me today what I thought its chances were.

“Maybe 50-50,” I said but then thought better. “Maybe just like 70-30.”

I didn’t have to tell Ron which side was 70. He knows. That little golden chick is an underdog for sure, and I always love the underdogs. I’m trying not to let myself love this one though. I am realistic about what will likely happen.

But I am happy overall that Ruby has her babies. She has had a tough broody period. I am glad for her to finally be a mama. This morning, she started eating the baby food and just ate for a bit. Thank goodness!

Pips but no babies!

Day 20 of 21

Well, last night, one of the baby chicks pipped but has been very slow in making progress. It’s a bit of a worry. It’s definitely possible all is well, but usually, once they pip, if they are healthy, strong chicks, they are out within the day. I am a little bit worried about Bianca’s egg. I believe Bianca is Rooster’s girl, and he’s a pretty old boy. Anyway, we’ll see, but I am trying to think positive thoughts.

I also helped the hatching a tiny bit. If you have to help a lot, something really bad is wrong usually, but I have helped a tiny bit many times and know how to be careful (though this is not generally recommended). I helped Beatrice (Kate’s miracle egg) hatch. She’s going strong now. It will be interesting to see how long she lives though. Hopefully, she has no issues.

The good news is that one of Hector’s eggs has pipped tonight! I told Ron we just need Ruby to get at least one baby to help her move on from being broody. That hen cannot handle any more time being broody! She needs to start walking around and eating and drinking again.

I hear cheeping!

Day 19 of 21

I just went to check on Ruby, and I heard cheeping! I was so excited. I went inside to grab the flashlight and investigate. No babies yet, but I can definitely hear some cheeping! Oh, and when Ruby settled back down on her eggs when I was done peeking, she just purred and purred to those babies. I love that purr so much.

Anyway, I will keep you posted. Hopefully, we’ll have some babies by tomorrow morning!

Ruby is better…and other stuff

Day 18 of 21

I think Ruby is better. Well, at least her eyes look good. I really, really hope those babies hatch soon, but I took extra good care of her today. It was very hot today, like 94 degrees, so I fed her grapes and other treats throughout the day. I fed her grapes five times today. She ate them all every time–and ate some bread and eggs as well.

We had baby chicks arrive at the post office today, but they are Freedom Rangers, for food. This is hard for me, but my family eats chicken and my dogs eat chicken. And because I know how chicken are treated if I buy chicken at the store, I commit to being the best meat chicken caregiver I can be, though my heart will be broken in the end. These chickens will be treated so well every second of their lives, until they have one bad moment, and Ron and I researched and researched (talking to both a vet and a neuroscientist) about the most humane way to cull a chicken.

That’s a hard thing to write about. It’s a hard thing for most people to think about. In fact, I think most people don’t think about it at all, but I think it’s important.

Ron and I have talked about going completely vegetarian when our son is grown, but we will always have at least one Great Pyrenees–and they need meat one way or another.

Also, today, on my way to get baby chick food, I saw something on the side of our road. When I got closer, I could see it was a baby raccoon! When I got closer, I could see it holding its little hand out toward nothing, like just this reaching out for anything.

I pulled over and could see the little baby raccoon was in really bad shape. Just as I was trying to figure out what I was going to do, my neighbor, a farmer and a Forest Ranger, pulled up and hopped out of his truck. He had gloves and a box. His wife had seen the baby on her way to work and called him to come get the baby. I was so relieved. He said, “”Something must have happened to the mama.” Then, he added, “Don’t worry. I know what to do. I’m a farmer.” That’s really what he said! I just smiled and nodded.

Anyway, he said he knew of a rescue in Portland, and he would make sure the baby got there. He said we should look to see if there were others–and there was one more! This one was hiding in the tall grass about five or six feet away. When my neighbor picked up this baby, I could tell this one was in much better shape.

I had just a little hope for the poor first baby when I saw the sibling snuggle up. The first little raccoon really did perk up a bit. You could see relief come over his or her little body. I sure hope that baby makes it. It’s a worry though because it was in pretty poor shape.

When I got back into the car and drove to get the baby chick food for the new chickens, I cried–the hard kind of cry.

A Ruby Worry

Day 17 of 21

Last night, I heard Ruby talking to her eggs. I love this part. I love the way the mamas and babies communicate with each other before the hatch. It’s fantastic to witness. When we used to incubate eggs, I would sing to the babies in the last couple of days. Poor babies though. They probably hatched and thought, “well, this is the worst mom ever, but we’ll have to made do.”

But I am very worried about Ruby. I fed her eggs this morning and feed her some kind of breakfast every day, but she’s not eating or drinking enough still. She’s a thinner bird anyway, but she’s very thin right now. Then, this evening, when I went to check on her, one of her eyes was stuck shut.

I scooped her up, found two new Juliet eggs underneath her (Juliet is a little cowbird), but the fertile eggs were fine. I carried Ruby around forever, trying to find Ron for help holding her, as Ruby is not a good patient. When I couldn’t find him, I checked her eye as well as I could, and I pried it open. Once I did that, it seemed fine. I am not sure, but think she is so dry and crinkly that her poor eyelids stuck together. Poor Ruby! I have to feed her more each day. She’s a little picky though. I just have to keep making scrambled eggs, I guess. Sometimes, with work and everything else going on, it’s hard to make Ruby a separate breakfast every day, but I had better figure it out. Poor Ruby has me worried.

I am worn from the worry about her and Anna Maria and Antonio and now Schumann’s bumble foot is back, which means I didn’t get it taken care of well enough the last time, and we have so many broody hens. So many. So many. Sigh.

I gave Ruby a duck egg for dinner, and I left cut-up grapes in her crate. I also made her walk around and get some movement. Hopefully, things will be better tomorrow. Cross your fingers those babies come early!

It’s alive!

Day 16 of 21

A couple of weeks ago, my son and I embarked on lessons in baking, and I am loving it. He seems to love it too. He has been asking about cooking more things (he can cook some basic things), and I told him I wish someone had taught me bread when I was younger and that I would teach him bread next. He loved this idea, and we have been having fun ever since.

We have made some batches of french bread, some sandwich rolls, and we started a sough dough starter–only we had troubles with. I had been gifted a sough dough culture from San Francisco and tried to get a starter going with it. I loved this gift so much because the first time I ever had chowder in a sourdough bowl was in San Francisco for an academic conference. We were out for lunch, and I had originally bought a hot dog from a street vendor, but a seagull stole it right out of my hand. I was both grumpy and in awe of the creature. It just ate the hot dog whole! I didn’t go back for another hot dog and bought soup in a sourdough bowl from a different street vendor, and it was the best ever to me.

You can see why I really needed that sourdough culture to work. First, it was a gift from a dear friend, and second, it was like the universe was giving me my first sourdough experience again. I followed the directions on the packet exactly, but it was too dry. I posted to Facebook for help and got some suggestions. Mostly, people offered recipes to start again, but others pointed out that it was too dry but that the cultures can be pretty resilient and to keep trying with it.

So I did, but I was reminded of reading Michael Pollan years ago when he wrote about his trouble overthinking his sourdough starter. Of course, I would be the same way. I overthink everything.

But it lived! I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I was! I hollered from the basement: “It’s alive!” in my best Dr. Frankenstein voice

This morning, we made our first breakfast rolls from the sourdough starter, and I am over the moon that my son and I are learning how to do this together.

My Little Friend

Day 15 of 21

This chipmunk has decided to make itself fully at home. The last few days, I have noticed it camped out at our bird feeder–for hours! I see the birds try to come and get some food, but this little chipmunk has claimed the feeder. I eventually have to go out there and wiggle the feeder to get the chipmunk to leave. I have to wiggle it hard. This chipmunk means to stay.

Yesterday, I saw a Blue Jay trying to harass the little chipmunk into leaving, but the little chipmunk was like, “nope.” The Blue Jay even grabbed the little chipmunk’s tail, but the chipmunk was steadfast.

After witnessing that, I decided to let the chipmunk stay awhile, but like two hours later, it was still there! It was not afraid of me in the slightest, which made me wonder if something was wrong with it, but when I finally wiggled the feeder enough, it took off. I saw it again today, doing pretty much the same thing, so I guess it’s okay.

Also, Ruby is doing better about taking her mom breaks. She gets out of her crate every morning now. She drinks and drinks and eats a little. Thankfully, she is nearly done. I have seen chicks hatch as early as Day 18 and 19, so we are very close.