And, to go right along with the posts from the last couple days, here is an appearance by my husband. I’m putting it up for him because he hasn’t wandered into the world of Blogger.
Evan was bummed because one of his hens went missing a few weeks ago. When looking in the barn through the junk that resides there, Tiffany discovered the AWOL hen in a nest that she built between a plastic tarp and a big wheel toy.
To avoid a chickie blood bath when they hatched (cats in the barn), Evan and I waited until the middle of the night and moved the hen to a protected nest that we put together. Boy4 picked up the hen and I picked up the….. 4 hatched chicks, 2 half-hatched eggs and remaining 14 unhatched eggs. The Mama hen was PO’d about the move, cussed at us in chickenese the entire time, threw the straw that we arranged out and redecorated the nest.
What hit me as truly amazing is that, what this “dumb animal” does based purely on God-given instinct, is very complex and difficult for us humans to replicate. When we want to successfully hatch a batch of eggs, we have to:
- Collect eggs for a time, keeping them within a few degrees of 72F so that they remain in suspended animation (don’t develop, don’t die)
- Put eggs in an incubator for 21 days, keeping the temperature between 98-101F. Small variance can be catastrophic
- Place a wet sponge in the incubator and sprinkle the eggs every day to maintain proper humidity
- Turn the eggs an odd number of times each day so that they warm evenly and don’t spend every night on the same side
- Hope that most of the eggs hatch. Success rate is not usually very high and is completely dependent on a) egg fertility, of course b) diligence and accuracy in care
- After hatching, we have to adjust the temperature to keep the chicks warm and dry, shove their little beaks in water and food, hoping that they learn how to eat
- After a few days, we guess that the remaining eggs are duds and dispose of them.
- Lays an egg a day and sits on them for the exact number of minutes/hours it takes to keep them right around 72 degrees until she decides that there are enough eggs (in this case, exactly 20). I’m going to change her name to Mrs. Dugger
- When she has enough eggs, she ceases producing any and changes the length of setting to maintain the 98-101 degrees it takes to develop the embryos
- Dips her beak and sometimes chest in water to maintain the exact humidity rate required
- Turns the eggs regularly around the clock so that each side receives the same amount of time “up”
- When the chicks are ready to hatch, the hen actually “calls them out”. They can hear her and she can hear them and she does this weird trilling/singing thing to which the chicks respond and start pecking their way out of the egg
- After hatching, the chicks remain under the Mom (perfect temp) until they are dry, then venture out onto her back and cluster around her neck. They move nearer to the underneath part of their Mom whenever they need to be warmer. Our hen looked like she had on a chick necklace last night.
- Mama hen knows which eggs are duds and will either abandon the nest after all viable chicks are hatched or will kick the duds out of the nest.
- After hatching, Mama hen will teach the chicks to scratch for feed and to drink water. Whenever there is danger, she will command them to sit under her and will give her life protecting them.
All boring farm stuff but…. pretty amazing. I’m sure that this all “evolved”, right? ;)