Last year's learning curve with hens, roosters, wee chicken, was high and I start now to understand how the community functions. 5 chicks were raised and 4 turned out to be cockerels. At one point, the laying ratio of my 'poules de Herve', rare ancient local breed, was so low that I decided to get two laying hens from our local shop. These ladies integrated very well and rather quick into the flock and we had again enough eggs for ourselves, Herve eggs being white and the others are laying twice as many brown eggs.
In beginning of winter, the problem with the young cockerels started. 5 male and 8 female is not a good ratio. When the first bloody fights started, there was need to act. The chicks were born rather late, from 6th of June onwards and the cockerels matured right when the first snow arrived. Very bad timing to find a new home. Two were separated in the small caged area and I went through every house in the neighbourhood who had hens. Eventually, I found a home for my best-preferred rooster Monty, he was a real sweet and tame pet. The lady was scared of roosters but the husband always wanted one and we agreed to give it a try, if it did not work out, I would take him back. The deal was agreed with a bottle of wine on top so that they had now the 'coq au vin' ;-).
It worked out fine and Monty is happy guard of 4 hens.
The two other grey cockerels, Ike and Churchill, went with the farrier who has more than 40 free ranged hens and they have well integrated with the two other cockerels he had already. The black one, Patton, stayed, as he is a gentle nature and did never want to dominate his father René.
The last picture above is from last year: the youngsters first day out, 2 1/2 months after hatching.
Initially, I did not want any chicks this year due to the fact that it is so difficult to find a home for the male ones. But then, the wee cat became, again, very ill and had to go to the vet, escorted by his big friend, the chocolate dog. It seems that, despite worming,(every animal here is wormed regularly) he had vomited a tape worm and this caused his illness. The vet gave him injections explaining that worms get more and more resistant to what pharma industry invents. Chatting along about the other animals on the farm, I explained him how difficult it was to find homes for wee rare breed cockerels. He gave me the tip that the vet in another village is always interested in them for exhibitions.
The wee cat started next day to become lively again and all was well.
As if Yvette had heard it, she got broody and would not leave the nest anymore. When it was certain that she was sitting like glued, then I started putting a maximum of white eggs from the 'poules de Herve' under her. Some days later, I moved her into her private section and she sat and looked quite happy. First hatching day was April 29th but nothing happened. I just left the 12 eggs there, had never candled the eggs (mistake!) and had not put a date on them (another mistake!!). Only on 2nd May I heard it beeping and soon a broken shell indicated that one had hatched. Ouff! I read, that sometimes due to cold weather, the hatching can happen only 24 days later.
Three days later, there was a cracked shell and I took the egg to inspect together with EG. The shell looked like a cooked egg... Inside was a ready chicken, mature and big, looking very strong but could not hatch because the membrane was like leather :-(. Researching on the net, I find out that there must have been something wrong with the humidity in the air. Were those eggs in an incubator, the problem might not have happened.
Getting the hen off the eggs, inspecting all the remaining eggs, we find another egg looking as strange. By carefully opening, another dead creature appears. I spray the other eggs with warm water and let the hen sit again. But our hope decreased with every hour. On Sunday, well overdue, I hear an egg beeping and get it from the hen. There is a tiny tiny opening but inside is very small activity. Despite all what is said, we decide to try to rescue the chick. EG takes tweezers and starts the operation to peel the shell so carefully as if he had always been a micro-surgeon! Eventually, the wee chick has a half shell totally open and can free itself out but looks more dead than alive. We give it immediately some water with a pipette and put it under the warm red light. There is not a lot of activity in it but after some hours, it starts to get lively. In the evening, it hops out of the cardboard and we decide to wait until darkness to put it under the hen.
I could not watch, when EG peeled the egg, I was so nervous but so certain that he did a perfect keyhole surgery there. Inspecting the egg shell it is evident, that the membrane is by far too dry and thick for a chicken to hatch out.
Next day all is well, the new chick is adopted and EG goes to work saying, 'you know what you have to do if there is another egg beeping'.
2 hours later, by cleaning out the chicken house, I think to hear another wee voice. I inspect every egg and find one, same scenario than the day before, a tiny hole but no more activity. The beeping gets weaker and I decide that I have to act. Oh boy, if anybody had seen me! After having started to carefully opening the eggshell, peeling first layer, second and then waiting to see if the wee one inside is still alive.... I had to stop several times because I was shaking like a leaf.
Eventually, I thought 'coûte que coûte' - 'alles oder nichts' and finished the whole peeling job. I started panicking when I saw blood. I took the more dead than alive creature and gave it water with the pipette, wrapped it in the towel and put it under the lamp. For hours I thought that it would not make it. But when EG came home, the wee chick was a bit recovered and the hope that it will live increased by the hour. I carefully inspected it to see if there was any damage but all looked fine.
The last picture is of the last born.
Eventually, later at night when it had also hopped out of its box, I gave it under the hen and now all is well which finishes well.
For me, the two rescued ones show no sign of weakness or that anything is wrong with them. Sometimes, it might be good to listen to the own instinct, especially when such a great midwife like EG is handy!
The other eggs were or not fertile or only half developed.
Farm life is an emotional roller coaster but I would not have it any different.