One of the great pleasures of chicken-keeping is watching a hen hatch out a clutch of fuzzy little chicks. As you can see, we had that pleasure this week. It was the end result of many long weeks of waiting and wondering.
It generally takes about three weeks for chicks to hatch once you have a broody hen and make the decision to let her sit on some eggs (rather than having them for breakfast). But this process took far longer and used way more eggs, because Indigo, a Blue American Orpington, couldn't make up her mind to actually sit. She would gather a pile of eggs in a nest box and plump down on them for a week or so and then, with no apparent reason, she would wander off and leave the eggs to get cold and worthless for anything except dog food. That meant no omelets for several weeks.
In truth, it was our fault for not paying closer attention and moving her to secluded quarters as soon as she had a sufficient number of eggs. Certainly, we should have figured it out after the first time she abandoned her nest. But we were too slow to pull the trigger not once, but twice, so we lost two clutches of eggs and several weeks in the process.
We finally wised up and followed the procedure recommended by Gail Damerow in her book, Hatching & Brooding Your Own Chicks. As soon as Indigo gathered her third clutch, we quickly moved her to a separate coop and blocked off all the other nest boxes, so there was no one to bother her and she had no choice but to sit on her stolen eggs.
We still didn't know if any of the eggs would hatch because we couldn't be sure she had been reliable enough about keeping them warm in the days before we isolated her. Fortunately, at least some of them survived her capricious mothering instinct. Three of the 11 eggs hatched over a period of three days before Indigo decided either she was done or the remaining eggs were no longer viable.
In any case, three was all we got. But three is pretty good. Now we have to wait to see what their colors turn out to be. The dad is Oscar, our Lavender Orpington. The moms are Blue American Orpingtons and Buff Orpingtons. So they won't be pure lavenders or blues, but they should be interesting.
Now the question is the future of Oscar. He’s a beautiful bird, although not show quality, with dove-gray feathers and a bright scarlet wattle and comb. But he’s also been getting too aggressive to have around when our 18-month-old grand-daughter comes to visit. So, having done his part for the future of the breed, Oscar may have to move on to his next assignment, whatever that may mean. Stay tuned.