Most animals choose to have their babies in spring. So this time of year nature is deluged with baby fever. We have had the great pleasure to receive our share of little ones recently too.
Charlotte, one of our oldest hens, went broody in March and stayed committed to her post on the nest. A few weeks ago she hatched out several Buck Naked babies. Last year, another veteran Lily hatched out our first on farm chicks – who all turned out to be roosters. Tough choices to be made. We aren’t quite sure who is who in Charlotte’s brood this year but it does look like proud papa Patton has fathered a full blooded Buff Orpington cockerel (baby rooster). Spaghetti wants to name him Ike. But there appears to be a couple of pullets (baby hens) in the mix too. Yea!! Homegrown Buck Naked Ladies! These little ones are growing up old school, free ranging on the farm with mama. Dangerous (we lost 1 early on) but all natural.
As Charlotte sat on her nest, other hens would drop by to visit and leave an egg with her. I cleared most of these out but after a communication lapse, we ended up with 6 eggs in Charlotte’s nest that had started developing but were no where near hatching when she got up to care for her newly hatched babies. What to do? I candled the eggs and could see movement. There was life there. Left alone in the nest, the embryos would die. So I took them home.
I don’t have an incubator. Just haven’t gotten around to spending the money. But I had read some vague stories online about the possibility of using a dehydrator to incubate eggs. An incubator has to hold a steady temperature (around 100 degrees) and a high humidity (50%+). A dehydrator can do them temperature but it removes humidity. Not an exact match. But I was desperate. The eggs couldn’t cool off for long. So I make-shifted a setup – covering the fan, adding a pan of water, and surrounding the eggs with wet towels. And waited. 2 weeks.
2 weeks of waiting, refilling water pans, turning the eggs, and wondering what nonsense I had started. I was up early one Saturday morning typing away when I heard a bird sound, nearer than a wild bird should be. Couldn’t be….. A very confused floppy chick fumbling about in the dehydrator. I was elated! It worked. The darn thing worked. I tapped the other eggs for sound or movement, but nothing. But the eggs didn’t smell rotten so I kept the faith. And sure enough, for the next 3 days, 4 more little ones hatched out of those eggs. Against all odds. Against all the rules and standards in the books. Life found a way. I was floored.
I’m sure I couldn’t do it again: beginners luck for sure. And it wasn’t all glory. One egg failed to hatch and one hatchling died. Gripping sad stuff. But I took a lesson from Charlotte. She knew when to sit patiently and when to move on to care for her brood. So I am delighted to announce that Buck Naked Farm has had 2 successful hatches of Buck Naked babies this spring. (For those who care: 1 Buff, 1 Welsummer, 1 Speckled Sussex, 1 Ameraucana, and 1 ???? All crossed with either Taco or Patton.)
If all goes well, these new additions should be grown and laying by August. Maybe even some new egg colors for the cartons. And while all this is going on in the coop, another group of babies hatched out on the pond. Our annual Canada Goose visitor finished her nest sitting with 6 baby goslings. With another goose nest in the pasture, the babe keep rolling in. A real spring baby blitz.