Our Eight-Day Hatch

On the farm, from day to day, you are truly never for certain what events will take place like this incident.  Back in the spring I purchased five barred rock chickens for my Outdoor Classroom kids to view. For those unfamiliar with the term, “barred rock, ” it is a breed that resembles a piece of black and white checked gingham fabric.

A box-full of chicks. 
 In that purchase, I bought four pullets—a   young hen just starting to lay  eggs. Their eggs, initially, are significantly smaller than the older hens. And this breed lays brown ones.  And though I had no plans to have baby chicks, I got a rooster, meaning…. well everyone knows what that means, right? It means at daybreak I will hear the familiar,  “Cock-a-doodle-do. It’s a new day, time to get up,” crow. For that reason, and only, that reason, I got a rooster with my girls, but what follows I totally wasn’t expecting.  
On the farm, chickens and eggs go hand in hand. I love gathering eggs and so does Avah, my granddaughter, a carbon copy of myself—lover of farm animals and Nature. Much to my surprise, one day, in August, as we opened the nesting box door to gather the eggs, one of the hens was still on the nest, puffed up and purring when I started to reach under her for the eggs. “Oh my goodness,” I said to Avah. “Want to know what that means?” Of course she said with enthusiasm, “What?”  I smiled, “It means she wants to set on these eggs and hatch baby chicks.” Of course, those who have raised chickens know I could have easily foiled her plan by taking the eggs away and removing her from the nest until she gave up on the idea. After all, spring was well past when most hens hatch baby chicks.  
Truly,  it was so cool every morning to look in on these chicks, in a box on my counter top.
That I do believe means you are a true farm girl! 

But for Nature’s sake and especially for my granddaughter’s education, I decided to let Nature take its course. When the hen had eight eggs under her, I marked the calendar “setting.” Counted forward 21 days and wrote, “hatch.” As instructed, Avah   put an “X” on each egg so if the other hens rooted her from her nest, we could remove their new egg.

When the first hatch occurred, (go figure, two days prior than my calendar entry,) she tried to corral it back to the nest, but it kept wandering off. Knowing her job of keeping it warm as well as the nest of eggs she must have been torn as to what to do. I could see how those other eggs would soon chill and the eight-egg hatch would become a one-egg hatch if I didn’t intervene.
 In the kitchen, (where everything cool happens in a farmhouse) I made a make shift brooder with a cardboard box lined with newspaper with a small light bulb for heat. I stole the chick and brought it to the house. Every morning, even before I had my coffee, I scurried to the hen house to check for more chicks. “We have another one,” became the phrase of the day.  All told, one-by-one it took eight days for all the chicks to hatch. (Go figure!)  By the time the last one hatched the older ones had little checkered tail and wing feathers growing in such a short time.

Absolutely Amazing. I held it to my ear before it hatched and I could hear it chirping. 

Some would have said, “I have no time for this, let alone maintaining a make shift brooder, or having    it on my kitchen counter top!” But I tell you, “What an education you would miss out on.  I wasn’t doing it for me…I was doing it for the poor hen and the grandchildren’s  education, and for Nature’s sake.”
Now, that we had a successful hatch with no casualties, it was time to return them to their momma. We made a special nursery box from a large dog kennel box. At first she pecked at her babies, especially the older ones, but soon became welcoming by puffing up, walking gingerly trying to gather them with a low, continuous clucking.
That evening, before bed, I dashed out to check on them, one more time. I couldn’t see any chicks since she was nestled in the straw and puffed up twice her size in the back corner, where they were keeping warm. “Good girl,” I told her. And as I closed the door I marveled,  And no one had to tell her how to do it. She just knew!”
So Here’s the Thing…I don’t know why the hen went broody in the Fall as opposed to the Spring as usual, but I couldn’t be any happier for the education it bestowed upon us and to have been an instrument in the miracle of birth (or hatch in this instance.) The miracle of life, to this farm girl, always is, absolutely amazing! In all things…Take Joy!


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