…in other news, we have four brand new baby peepers which Dapple Doodlebug and Jo have proudly hatched in the last week. Dapple has been the one sitting the nest for the past three weeks, but the eggs are mostly Jo’s. Jo squished into Dapple’s nesting box two days before the first baby peeper hatched. Since the nesting boxes are off the floor, leaving the baby peeper high in the air without access to food and water wasn’t the ideal. So, the room I just cleaned out in the barn, in which I planned to store all of my books that won’t fit into the house, is now the baby peeper room again.
This is the first time our chickens have hatched their eggs since we got them. The baby peepers we got in the fall–Snap, Crackle, and Pop–were won in an auction for the parents’ church. We had another egg that was close, but when we went away for Thanksgiving, the neighbor girl watching the animals collected the egg. Oops. She never told us if she opened it or not. In any case, we now have three baby peepers who are .25 Rhode Island Red and .75 Silky, and one baby peeper who is half silky and half Cuchin (if that is how one spells that type of chicken).
It is very exciting to have new baby peepers around. I wasn’t actually expecting the eggs to hatch, even though I candled them two weeks ago to make sure Dapple wasn’t sitting for nothing. So, last Friday when I went in to take Dapple a cheese snack, I was rather shocked to hear a wee little peep coming from her box. Then the little beast snuck around Dapple to have a look at me before ducking back under her feathers. Figuring out what to do with the two moms and the babies and how to split the chickens and make sure the peepers could get to food resulted in more than a few mistakes on my part.
We set up the baby peeper tub in the barn room, complete with heater and heat lamp, but it felt wrong taking one lone peeper in there and leaving it to fend for itself. Although I showed it the food and water, and got it to eat and drink, I couldn’t just leave it there peeping alone. So, given that baby peepers don’t really need food and water for 48 hours (according to my research), I gave it back to Dapple to keep warm.
The next morning, we cleaned out the rest of the stuff stored in the barn room so we could move Jo in there with the baby peeper. That was a comedy of sorts as well. The peeper moved fine. Jo was not as thrilled with the process. However, we brought her one of the eggs I had checked upon which she could sit, and she settled down long enough for the baby peeper to cuddle in. Apparently the baby wasn’t too picky about who its mom really was. And, since this one was hatched from one of Jo’s eggs…it seemed ok to let Jo take over. After all, Dapple still had eight eggs upon which she was sitting!
It took two more days for the next two eggs to hatch. I only felt slightly terrible as I ripped the baby peepers out from under Dapple Doodlebug, tucked them into the transfer box, and hustled them in to the warm room with Jo. Now, having gotten myself more prepared for additional peepers, I had read that if I took Jo out of the tub (giving her a snack in the process) and let the baby peeper she knew peep up a storm, I could slip the two new chicks into the tub and mama would be so happy to get back to her previous baby that she wouldn’t really notice the addition of two more little beasts in the process.
So, since everything one reads on the internet is true (ahem), I decided to try this chick transferring tactic. When Jo was strutting around fluffing herself up and bocking at me in a highly offended manner, I slipped the two new peepers into the tub with their older sibling. Jo must be a pretty smart chicken, because when she got back into the tub, she apparently counted better than the person on the internet who gave the advice I was following. So, when she gave a little peck to one of the new peepers, I did the only thing I could think of in the moment. I grabbed the egg she was sitting on and moved it.
In her offended hustle to scoot the egg back under the warm recesses of her fringe of feathers, the two baby peepers were able to sneak under those warm feathers as well. They have since been a highly happy huddle of chickens. Which left me with the problem of Dapple. And my biggest mistake in the baby peeper saga.
Mom texted her friend who kept chickens to ask how she raised the baby peepers. (Yes, something we should have done as soon as I candled the eggs…but again, I didn’t think they would actually hatch!). She said she had the moms and eggs in a separate space so they could be warm and safe and the babies could get to the right kind of food. So, I went out and grabbed another tub for Dapple Doodlebug and prepared to move her and her clutch of eggs into the warm room.
Now, it wasn’t until after I got home and arranged the room and moved Dapple and the remaining eggs that mom mentioned that another friend said that if chickens are moved, they may abandon their eggs. ACK! So, while I had waited until Dapple had explored the room and then settled down on her eggs before leaving her. I was not totally surprised to find that, when I returned to the barn after mom’s news, Dapple had left her eggs and joined Jo and the babies in their tub. In the process knocking over their water and toppling the half cover into the tub.
Once I had assessed the situation and determined that the babies were neither eaten or squashed, I yelled at myself (silently of course) for a good few minutes as I figured out what else to do. I moved Dapple out of the tub with the baby Peepers and showed her the food again. By the angry way she pecked at her adult chicken food, I knew she was not at all pleased with me. I then moved the half lid from Jo’s tub over to Dapple’s and tucked Dapple back into her space. I had a piece of cardboard I used to make Jo a half cover so she had a place to nest that made her feel more secure. I figured that if the cardboard was knocked down again, there was no chance it would squish a baby peeper!
I then turned my attention back to Dapple and used another piece of cardboard to make a flap to keep her tucked into her tub. Since each tub has its own food and water, I didn’t think that making her feel as if she lacked escape options was a terrible thing to do. Luckily, she settled down, resat on her eggs, and set about feathering her new nest. Whew. The waiting began.
After all, Dapple had done all of the work of sitting on the eggs, and she had no baby peepers of her own. Sure, the eggs which had hatched were Jo’s, but try telling that to a chicken who just spent 21 days sitting, and sitting, and sitting! Luckily, after four more days of waiting and hoping that at least one more egg would hatch for Dapple, I found a broken shell in Dapple’s tub this Friday morning. I didn’t want to disturb her, but I rearranged her half lid to give her more privacy, and made sure she got her cheese snack. Then I did a happy dance down the hill to tell the parents.
I suppose I am highly grateful that I didn’t totally mess up this whole first chicken and egg scenario. Dapple is still sitting on five more eggs, so I hope she gets another baby or two. Three of the eggs are white Jo eggs. One more is a brown egg, possibly Dapple’s. Since the chickens tend to lay every other day, and only the Cuchins and Jo tend to let the roosters any where near them, I have doubts that the Americuna eggs will actually hatch. Since the shells are too thick to see through, I will give them until the middle of next week to make sure.
It is amazing how entertaining chickens can actually be. Since Mom’s iBrance failed this month, and all of her cancer is active again, it is nice to have something to keep her entertained. She managed to walk up the hill to see the new baby peeper. I hope she will get to see them grow up. As long as I don’t mess things up again, they have a darn good chance of making it! Mom, on the other hand, doesn’t have such a great chance. She started Chemo pills on Friday. She has to have radiation next week. Her lungs are slowly filling with fluids again. I may be a horrible grump about not working since I came home from China, but I suppose I’d much rather have spent this time with Mom than with keeping my savings account at a stable level.