The stories, travails, mistakes, successes; the journey of a change in lifestyle for two would-be market farmers and permaculturists.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Little Peep's First Egg

Unless you already know us, you would not be aware of the existence of Little Peep.  Little Peep is a special chicken, because she was born and raised here; the progeny of Reggie, our no-longer-living-with-us Chantecler Rooster, and Buckwheat, our precocious Wheaten Ameraucana.  The Chantecler hens spend most of their being broody, which means they have an overwhelming need to incubate eggs and mother chicks.  This hormonal urge had me at wits end because the whole purpose of having these darn birds was to provide eggs to eat, and if a hen is broody, she's not laying.  For a long time.


However, there was something appealing about the idea of hatching some chicks the "natural" way.  Up to now, I had purchased pullets, which are young hens approaching laying age.  I had chicks ordered, but heck, here was a way to see how Mother Nature handles things.  I saved some eggs from the Chanteclers, since it seemed like a good idea to have some "purebred" hatchlings running around.  (At that time, we were still in love with Reggie, who had been a good flock rooster and gentlemanly to all.)  At the last minute, before I put Bridgette, the chosen mother, into her dog crate for the duration, I found Buckwheat had just laid an egg, and I decided to put that one under Bridgette as well.

The next 21 days were an experiment as everything has been so far.  Getting Bridgette to stay on her eggs was a challenge at first, because she wanted to go back to her coop, where she was sure there were ping pong balls that needed her attention.  (More on that later)  We finally locked her in the big dog crate, letting her out from time to time, and she soon realized there were real eggs for her to mother and returned to the crate after being let out.  As time progressed, I became curious, and was sure I needed to start candling the eggs to see if they were developing.  I made a homemade candling apparatus using a toilet paper roll and an old slide projector for its strong light.  The idea being that if you held the egg on the end of the toilet paper roll and shined the light up from below, you could see the developing embryo.  This worked great, except I had no idea what I was looking for.  In my obsession to figure out what I was seeing, I dropped one of the eggs down the roll, only to see a big crack when I retrieved it.  Heartsick, I broke the egg open only to see a developing embryo.
Needless to say, I controlled myself for a few days before I tried to candle any more eggs.  But, when I found a smashed liquid mess that used to resemble an egg in Bridgette's cage, I felt I needed to look again.  Supposedly, a hen gets to know when an egg is not viable, and will roll them out or otherwise destroy them.  This time, I was more careful, and used a flashlight instead of a slide projector.  According to my research, well, I still had no idea what I was looking for.  A few days later, one of the eggs was outside her nesting box, cold as the cold spring, and I took that one to the house and broke it open, only to see.... nothing developing.  At this point, there were only two eggs left, and I decided to just let Bridgette do her thing.  Around about Easter, after Bridgette's 21 days of incubating were over, I decided I needed to at least look under her, and to my surprise a little chick of utmost cuteness was there!  There was still one egg left, a chantecler egg, which meant that the hatched egg was from Buckwheat and Reggie.  After another day, the chantecler egg was still intact, so I removed it, broke the shell and saw that the chick had died somewhere along in the incubation process.  So, one chick it was for Bridgette.

Bridgette and Little Peep

My ordered chicks arrived at about the same time as Little Peeps entrance to the world.  However, cute as there were, none held a candle to Little Peep.

Peep at 4 days
Bridgette was so proud, she fluffed herself up when any other chicken came near her pen, clucking and scratching and putting herself in between any comers and Peep.  She taught her to eat and drink, and she kept her warm during the cold spring nights.

Little chicks grow up amazing fast.  It is hard to believe it has been over 5 months since Little Peep was first hatched.  She stayed with mom for about a month, before we decided she needed some friends, and we introduced her to the big group of baby chicks that were growing up in the garage. At first, we were concerned that she wouldn't fit in, but she did just fine.
In with the group

Getting Feathers
And now, here she is, full grown and larger than most of her flock-mates.
Little Peep all grown up

And today, she laid her first egg.  This had been a long awaited surprise, because we did not have any idea what color the shell would be.  Buckwheat's breed, the Ameraucana, lays a blueish colored egg.  Reggie's breed, the Chantecler lays a pinkish egg.  Little Peep's egg is green.  The photo below shows a Chantecler egg on the left, Peep's egg in the center, and an Ameraucana egg on the right.  Now that she has come into her own, she is also starting to display her mother's curious and outgoing personality, chortling loudly when upset, begging for goodies and just being an all around great chicken.  Congratulations, Little Peep!

Little Peep's First Egg

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