As Little R would say “Queen Anne is a mummy!” Queen Anne is our Silver Laced Wyandotte hen (silver laced – Queen Anne’s Lace, in case you are wondering about her name.) Her brood hatched out last Tuesday/Wednesday. Six out of seven eggs. I’m not sure why but I had been preparing myself for it not to work. When I went in to check on her and heard the tell-tale peeping I was quite excited. Nature! It works!
It’s quite different having a mother hen with chicks than buying chicks on their own. Of course, I’m a little bit more familiar with chickens this time round, but you do worry less since it’s her job to look after them – keep them warm, protect them from danger, find them food. I opened the door to her broody box and gave her access to the outside and she took them all out. It was sunny but certainly way colder than I could have imagined comfortable for chicks, but they were fine, and she stayed out with them for hours. (Guess it helps she was scratching around in front of a south-facing wall, a pretty good micro climate.)
We couldn’t find any chick starter crumbs because I guess these little ones are two early, so we’ve been somewhat cavalier in offering various alternatives; some ground up grower pellets, millet, rice and such. I would have worried much more about this last year but since they have a mother who is busily foraging for them, and showing them to do the same, I feel more confident that they will be alright. And I give them some boiled egg sometimes too.
Queen Anne is an excellent mother. It’s amazing to think it’s all instinct. She will let me handle the chicks but isn’t happy about it, and I’m fairly confident she would defend her brood from a predator, without worrying that she’s going to tear me to shreds! Little R and I were in checking her every day while she was incubating the eggs so that may have helped her feel a bit used to us.
I love watching the chicks with their mother. It really is quite a different beginning than life in a box. It might be a bit harder to hold and play with the chicks when they have a mother, but I think it is made up for by being able to watch them following and learning from Queen Anne. They aren’t even a week old yet,so I suppose I should wait to expound on the ease of raising chicks this way. I know there are various tragedies the could befall these chicks….but I guess I’m trying to remind myself again that nature works, and we’ll just have to see how it goes.