A Miracle Egg (and Kate’s a Mama)

Day 40 of 365

I have be eluding to a miracle egg in the last week or so because I didn’t want to jinx my wish that an egg I had under Kate might hatch. I am quite superstitious.

A couple of weeks ago, when Kate and the adopted babies rejected each other, there were five eggs under Kate that she had been sitting on for two weeks. When I switched the eggs for the baby chicks the night we tried to give her the adopted babies, I put all of the eggs in a box near her crate. I wanted to candle the eggs, just to see if our rooster was doing any good work in this department, as he is wonderful but quite old.

I couldn’t carry all of the eggs at once, so I carried in all I could–four eggs–and just left the other in the box in the garage. I candled all four eggs, and they were all duds. I was sad about our rooster but glad I had bought new babies from a good breeder.

Of course, the next morning, Kate and the babies rejected each other, as you know from my earlier post. Kate was so confused and so devastated she lost her eggs. She kept looking and looking for them. In a sad state that morning, I grabbed that egg in the box that had sat in the chilly garage all night.

“What are the odds that egg is developing?” I asked myself. Of course, then I had to admit, even if it was fertilized, it had sat out all night without heat. I had heard of eggs making it for some hours without heat, even though my standard rule is 1 hour. I thought for a moment. “9 hours,” I said out loud. I sighed mightily.

But it wouldn’t hurt to try, and if it would help Kate get to motherhood more quickly than starting all over, it would be worth a try. I took the egg in the house and candled it. There was a baby in there that was quite developed. I said all the bad words. I won’t share those, as I know some children read this blog, but I said all the bad words. I was so mad at myself for not checking the egg the night before. I could have kept the egg warm in the house, just in case Kate rejected the babies.

But there I was–with nothing but a hope for a lot of luck. It would take a miracle.

I put the egg under her and made a wish as I did. Again, I am very superstitious. I also grabbed three eggs from the coop and thought maybe she might get one baby out of those. I thought poor Kate deserved to be a mama. Seeing her get so upset about losing her eggs that morning broke my heart. So, within half an hour, Kate was back in business. She had eggs back under her. Worst case, she would have to go 21 more days with the new eggs from the coop. Best case, one week with the miracle egg.

But a week passed, and there was no hatch. I took the abuse from Kate and grabbed the egg to candle it. I thought maybe it had developed further than when I had seen it last, but I wasn’t sure. It had been a week and though I tried to make a good mental note, I doubted myself. Still, “a few more days, just in case,” I said to Kate when I put the egg back under her.

A few more days passed, and there was still no hatch.

Yesterday, when I woke up in the morning, I told myself “today will be the day I’ll dispose of that egg.” I needed a miracle, but I researched my odds. I understood my chances were small; still, I was melancholy about it.

“After tea,” I told myself. Every morning, after morning chores, my husband and I sit and try to talk for at least half an hour. We won’t see each other much until dark, so we try to touch base every morning.

We had just finished tea, and Ron headed outside to start his work for the day. He came back to find me and said, “Guess who is a mama?” My eyes widened!

“I heard Kate purring and couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” he said. When he went to look, there was a little baby chick. I could tell he was so happy for Kate too. This is one of the many reasons I love that man.

I ran to the garage, and there, right in front of Kate was her little mini-me. Not only did that baby hatch, five days late, but that baby also looks just like Kate did when she was a baby. It’s almost too much cuteness to take.

First Field Trip

Day 32 of 365

The first few times we raised baby chicks in a brooder, I was worried every second, just like a new parent, I suppose. But I followed all of the rules for temperature, and every time one was sacked out, I was terrified it was dead. Then, I watched a mama hen raise baby chicks. Those babies were out on field trips at just a few days old, even in cooler temperatures.

Of course, the babies could snuggle up to mama any time they wanted, but I was surprised, based on all the things I had read about the fragility of baby chicks, that the mama would have them out and about so young. And then I watched how the mama would boss the babies with her gentle pecks that sometimes were not so gentle.

I began to realize that baby chicks were tougher than I had thought. I mean, they are still tiny fragile things, but they are much tougher than you might think.

Of course, I still worry, but not as much as I used to. Mainly, I worry now when I am raising chicks because I know, by comparison, I am a terrible substitute for the real thing. Truly, there is nothing more magnificent to me than watching a mama hen raise her babies. She devotes herself to those babies 24-7. Of course, she only has to be a mama for six to ten weeks. As a human mom, I do have to pace myself, but I admire her work.

Our current chicks have to settle for me as a mom, which means they only get to come out of the brooder and play once per day, but I try to play with them at least an hour. Mostly, it’s just running around my grown daughter’s old bedroom, which seems to be the safest place to raise baby chicks away from our cats. But, today was a big day. Today, the baby chicks got a real field trip outside in the sunshine.

One of the baby chicks immediately took the sunbathing pose. That was the dark gray chick named Faure (after the composer). The others were more nervous and stayed close to their traveling box for a long time. Finally, they started to feel a little brave and ventured a few feet from me and the box. It was lovely. I had time today to hang out with them a long time. We sat in the sun long enough that my neck got toasty and the baby chicks got too chilly and tucked themselves into my arm pits.

It was a beautiful day. I think we all enjoyed ourselves. My son has a recital tomorrow, but after that, I think the baby chicks will get another field trip.

“I Speak Chicken”

Day 27 of 365

It was a bit of journey to go get the baby chicks that were intended for Kate. I had to drive about an hour and a half each way, so I asked my son, who is 12, to go with me for the trip–and to help with the box of chicks on the way home. I knew their crying in the car would make it difficult for me to drive. I am not a fan of driving anyway.

Some context on my kiddo: He’s not a huge fan of the farming life in general. When he was very little, he seemed to love it. On his first day of pre-school and then again for Kindergarten, we did the little board kids hold for a picture with a statement about what they want to be when they grow up. For those two years, he wanted to be “a farmer” and then it was “a farmer and a scientist.”

Then, when he was 7 years old, he started playing cello. One night, as we tucked him into bed, he started to cry. When we asked him what was wrong, he said he didn’t want to disappoint us but that he didn’t want to be a farmer like daddy when he grew up. He wanted to be a cellist. Of course, we explained he certainly did not have to be a farmer.

In the years that followed, we discovered he didn’t like chickens once their “poop got big,” didn’t really like dirt, and had a pretty big aversion to insects. These things are definitely problematic for life on the farm. Of course, you gotta let your kids be who they are, but on the inside, I’m always a little sad when my friends share stories of their kiddos raising chickens, milking goats, driving tractors, and just being overall little homesteaders.

Of late, he’s been going through big stuff, mostly the stuff of growing up in a mad world, I think. His generation has so much on their shoulders, I feel. He’s fairly sheltered since he’s homeschooled, but he’s very smart and also an empath. He’s aware of the world, and it takes a bit of a toll on him.

I brought snacks, the Beatles CDs, and thought the road trip to get the baby chickens could be fun break from the routine. It was. On the way home, he held the baby chicks, and, as expected, they cried.

“What can I do?” he asked.

“Talk to them like a mama hen does,” I said.

“What does a mama hen say?”

“They purr. Hey, you can roll your R’s really well from all of those language classes. Roll your R’s for them.”

So he did. He turned it into kind of singing, and you know what happened? They sang back!

For about an hour on the trip back home, that kiddo sang and talked to those baby chicks, and they sang and talked right back.

“I think this is something I can put on my resume. I speak chicken,” he said.

“You speak chicken quite well apparently,” I told him.

For real, when I saw that the baby chicks were kind of rejecting Kate, which was leading to her rejection of them, I had to wonder if somehow they were hoping for my kiddo’s songs. I am sure that’s not the case, but it turns out they are going to be getting my kiddo’s songs anyway.

It was between the hours of about 6:30 and 7:30 AM on Saturday that I kept trying with Kate and the baby chicks. Of course, you get to the point where you realize you are pushing your luck, and you don’t want the mama hen to accidentally kill the babies. So I pulled them all, as you know if you read my post yesterday.

My son was still asleep during all of this, but when he woke up that morning, I met him with a chicken book and a coffee milk.

“Congratulations, you’re a parent!” I said.

I explained the situation, and he seemed great with the idea of helping me. In my long day yesterday of getting a brooder set up for the babies, that kid helped me the whole way, carried the heavy stuff and helped me with the drill. It’s going to be a journey. It’s been several years since we raised a brood of chicks by hand, as it’s always easier when a mama hen does all of the work.

But there are pros to raising them by hand. You get to be closer to them, and they are closer to you. Plus, it can be good for the soul for an empath living in a mad world.

Ruby is a mama!!!

Day 21 of 365

I am sitting on our deck as I write this, and I am listening to the baby Eastern Phoebes softly cheep for their parents. I have watched both parents go out, catch bugs, and come back to the nest all afternoon. Apparently, both the mom and the dad work hard to feed baby Eastern Phoebes, and I am thankful for all of the bug catching. But both parents are away right now, and I can just barely see movement from the rim of the best. I long to see more, but I remember my promise and keep my distance.

It must be in the air. Our Eastern Phoebe babies hatched yesterday, and then, today, when we got home from our son’s cello lessons, I thought I heard a faint cheep in the garage. And then I heard a mama hen purr, and I knew for sure! Ruby is a mama for the very first time today! She seems to be over the moon, and I am over the moon for her.

So far, two of her seven eggs have hatched, and they are a day or so early, which seems to happen a lot. One baby chick seems shy. The other seems curious about my voice. Thankfully, Ruby is being great about me taking some peeks, and I am so grateful to her for that. She pecked me a bit when I lifted her a little just to see what was going on, but it wasn’t too hard. I do need to remember to give her some space, but it’s so great when the mama hens let you in a little bit.

I honestly haven’t had a mama hen be this gentle and open in quite a few years, and this surprises me about Ruby. She’s generally a pretty grumpy girl. Not today though. Today, she’s a proud, loving mama. It’s magnificent to see.

Ron is working in the garden doing big work today. I helped for a bit but had to head inside for teaching work. Of course, every time I finish a little bit of grading, I go see what Ruby and the babies are doing. And, of course, every time I do this, I find it necessary to go out to the garden to give Ron a report. Ron is not nearly so interested though.

Our wonderful neighbor came outside to her garden (our gardens are adjacent), and Ron was like, “Why don’t you show her the babies.” I got the hint and was so thankful she came over to “ooh and ahh” with me over the babies. I will try to get a video soon, so you can “ooh and ahh” with me too.

And I have to give a quick shout out and thank you to Why Not Farms in Maine. This is where the Salmon Faverolle eggs that Ruby has been sitting on came from. I am so thankful!