It all started with this little guy.
A few nights ago I was outside taking photos of the sensational sunset pictured in my previous post. Before coming inside I thought I would check on the veggie beds and found they were all quite dry, so decided to give them a water. Once I had finished, I turned off the hose, shut the gate and proceeded down the path to the house.
In the distance I could hear a cheeping sound like that from a chicken. As it was now dark, I quickly ran inside to grab a torch so I could see better. The chirping was starting to get quieter but I followed to where it was and found an empty chooks nest with lots of broken open eggs inside. At first I didn't see this little fella because he was black and blended in well with his surroundings.
So mother hen, the same one as last time, had done it again. Once more she sneaked away from the others to lay her eggs and sit on them. This time in a different location to the last.
She is a very shrewd girl as I had no inclination of what she was up to, although I had laid eyes on her a couple of times. What I didn't notice was her absence from the hen house (that's what happens when there are too many chooks and the bantams want babies all the time!). We had eight broody ones the week before we went away, so we isolated them from the nest boxes for a few days and they came off the brood.
Anyway back to the story. Mama hen had abandoned this little chicken as he was hatching because the ants started to move in. She moved the remaining ten chickens to safer ground and still I didn't know.
I picked up the chick all covered in ants and brought the poor little mite inside. At this point I was thinking that he had been abandoned because there was something wrong with him. He wasn't able to stand so I thought he may have crippled legs, not realising that he had only just hatched out of the egg.
I cleaned all the ants from his fluffy downy feathers and wrapped him up gently and placed him on a warmed hot water bottle. He stayed nice and warm all night and he had improved by the next morning. He was nearly able to stand on his feet...yay! I was so relieved.
Right, so off I go early next morning looking for mama chook. I looked high and low but could not find her. Thoughts of a fox started to enter my head, but I remained hopeful.
While I was headed down that same path to the house I could hear more cheeping coming from the empty nest, but this time it was very faint. My heart sank. Why didn't I check properly last night? Anyway I found an egg with a hole, and in it, was a live wriggling chicken, and heaps of ants running in and out of the hole...yikes!
So I brought the egg inside and warmed it up, this time using my heat bag and knitted cover. I placed the still moving chirping egg with the little black chicken, hoping the cheeping would spur him on, which it did do.
On you-tube I found videos of chicks being helped to hatch and the chirping coming from the computer seem to inspire this little chicken to keep trying.
I did give him a hand to get out by gently peeling away some of the shell to make it easier. I wasn't sure how weak this chicken was. Within an hour he was out and I tucked him in the warmth to rest and recover.
I am pleased to say that both chickens are doing well and are now back with their mum who eventually turned up with the rest of her brood. She now has twelve babies to contend with and there were three eggs that never hatched.
So this was my day on Wednesday.
The moment when mama chook turned up...there she was waiting for me to show up so she could get back in the pen with her babies.
Here she comes with the chicks.
Here are the last photos of these two ratbags before being returned to their mama...a sad moment for us both. They had become very attached to me, and me to them...
It is so nice to have a happy ending to this story. It could have been so much different. If I had not watered that night, the babies would have perished. If it happened last week when I was away, the babies would have perished. If it was cold...(if, that little word with a big meaning). I am so relieved things worked out the way they did.