It’s hatching season again

New arrivals

A little belatedly, hatching season opens here again – and this time, with guinea fowl eggs. I have received some as a gift, and apparently a couple were already in the incubation process, because they surprise hatched after only a week.

So far, we lhave these two adorable keets. One looks like the standard coloring and the paler one could be lavender.

This little one had huge trouble getting out of the egg. I ended up performing an assisted hatch and peeling nearly all the shell. I was really apprehensive, but after a couple of hours it was already running around the brooder! So don’t give up on those chicks who are struggling to get out. They may be perfectly fine and just require a bit of assistance to start out in life.

Best friends

By the way, did you know guinea fowl are kosher? I have only discovered this recently. We don’t eat our birds, but I’d love to try some guinea eggs.

Finally, a predator-proof coop!

Last week, we had a sad incident, in which a fox got two of our chickens. I admit I have grown a little careless, as I wasn’t aware there were any foxes in the area.

From my previous experience with foxes, I knew they never give up until they’ve eaten all the chickens in a coop OR until they realize it’s impossible. I knew my old coop wasn’t fox-proof. And I knew I didn’t want to race outside with a hammering heart every time a hen started clucking.

So for a week, I overnighted my chickens in boxes inside the house, and meanwhile, I commissioned a secure and convenient stainless steel coop.

New home for the hens!

Although it isn’t as pretty as some of the rustic style coops I’ve admired on Pinterest, it’s by far the best coop I’ve ever had. I can’t believe how much I paid to have it made, but I’m happy 😊

A housewarming party 🎉

It has two handy shelves for nesting boxes, and a lower section for our quail that can also work as a secure space for a broody hen (of course I would put the quail elsewhere).

Now I’m just waiting for this fox to come again so I can laugh at it 😁

When it rains, it pours

From last season

During the previous couple of weeks, we’ve had such lovely sunny weather that I was finally tempted to go out and start planting some things. Yesterday and today, we’ve had a sharp overturn toward torrential rains and howling winds, and now I’m afraid all my poor seeds will be washed out. Reminder to self: never trust the weather at this time of year.

What I’m happy about is having had time to line my chicken coop with a nice, thick layer of dry leaves prior to the rains. I expand on this in my latest Mother Earth News post:

Using dry leaves for chicken coop bedding has numerous advantages:

1. It’s free: just grab a bag and haul all the leaves you want.

2. Leaves are plentiful and readily available

3. It will entertain your chickens: a bag of leaves will always contain tidbits like seeds, grass stalks, bugs, and other edibles your chickens will enjoy unearthing. 

I’m also proud to say that my post about preparing your chicken coop for the spring has made the latest MEN newsletter:

Our chickens pick up the cue of longer days and generally resume laying around February, even though it’s still cold. The young pullets hatched at the end of last season – say, September or October – are generally ready to start laying in February or March.

I can hear some of you laughing hysterically, saying “Cold? You guys don’t know what cold is”. True, we rarely get any snow, but the shorter winter days still affect our egg production. Come spring, I look forward to:

  1. Having all the omelets we want
  2. Raising baby chicks
  3. Planting
  4. Hiking

I’m not looking forward to:

  1. Passover cleaning.
  2. Uh… no. Nothing else. Just the cleaning. 🙂

Stay snug and warm, everyone!

Naughty roosters

Sadly, a couple of days ago we had to re-home one of our two roosters, because the duo was simply making too much noise for our long-suffering neighbors. As hard as it was for us to part with one of our guys, it’s better than having to give up chicken-keeping entirely.

We have an excess of roosters every year, and it’s never possible to keep them all – and always hard to say goodbye.

This coincides with what I wrote recently in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“It’s hard to be totally pragmatic and just weed out as many birds as possible when you have raised them from an egg. Plus, cockerels are fun and often so handsome it’s hard to part with them. It can be tempting to keep a “backup” rooster or two in case something happens to your alpha roo. 

The problem around here – and in many other backyard flocks – is that we always end up with too many roosters. We hatch chicks every year, and around half are male. This year we had about 60% male chicks.”

Little peeps

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So guess how we have been keeping busy lately? Check out some of our new arrivals, just hatched yesterday and overnight. We have a few more eggs in the incubator in various stages of hatching and are hope all the chicks make it out fine.

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And here is a quail chick – unfortunately, out of the batch of quail eggs, only one proved fertile. You can see this tiny bumblebee-sized chick next to a chicken chick for size comparison. We hope to get some more quail chicks, but so far, it seems content with its larger companion and they snuggle up nicely together under the heating lamp.

Hope everyone is doing well! We’ve finally had a break from the heat and enjoyed some refreshing rain this morning.

In need of fluff

Latest Mother Earth News post is up, this time talking about chick season, which is not as far as it may currently seem:

“Though it may be hard to believe, spring is coming, and chick season with it. If you have never hatched your own chicks before, you might want to give it a go this year.”

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Above: a picture of one of our broodies with her chicks from a couple of years ago.

Some would say, and rationally they would probably be right, that the owner of a little urban flock doesn’t need to hatch chicks at all. It’s time consuming and messy, there are countless hurdles a chick faces on its way to adulthood, and some of the young birds will inevitably be lost at some point.

It’s easier and more convenient to just keep 3-4 hens for eggs and buy point of lay pullets every couple of years to replace the aging flock. It would probably be cheaper in the long run, too. But nothing compares to the magic of another “surprise egg” cracking and letting out a fluffy new chick. The way the children’s eyes light up when they see it, too – it’s so beautiful every single time. ♥

So here’s to full incubators, busy broodies, and a spring and summer full of fluffy peeping chicks.