Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Overrun with babies, real and imaginary

peep peep peep

In the last few days, the various hens (so far all Buff Orpingtons) that have gone broody and started stashing eggs all over the farm have begun reemerging with chicks in tow. So far, it's been three hens and a total of 22 chicks. The mommas vary enormously in their maternal instincts. The first one, with eight chicks, didn't evidently have these very strongly. She kept stepping on the babies, and on the second night a predator got most of them. After that incident, she abandoned the survivors. I rounded up the two I could find and moved them to the brooder to raise myself.

Considering the fate of that first clutch, we decided thet we should consider just taking chicks away from the hens preemptively. But the second momma turned turned out to be a whole different kettle of feathers. She is fiercely protective and attentive. Anyone who approaches too closely gets attacked. So we've let her keep her four babies. The third momma just turned up with ten chicks this afternoon. She seems intermediate in temperament, so I took four of her young to the brooder and am letting her try her hand at bringing up the remaining six herself.

Because we have roosters of four different breeds, the chicks are a multicolored lot. The parentage seems pretty clear from the look of them, especially since the mothers are all Buffs. Purebred Buff is classic yellow puffball, Buff X Black Australorp is solid black, Buff X Auracana are various shades of yellow or tan with assorted spots and stripes, and Buff X Dominiker is a smooth mousy brown with a pale forehead, echoing the shades of charcoal and grizzling on purebred Dom chicks.

They sure are adorable, those big yellow momma hens with those flocks of multicolored balls of down following them around.

And in the meantime, psycho bitch (Ruby the Rhodesian Ridgeback) has reached the zenith of her regularly-scheduled false pregnancy. She is insane, whimpering and pacing, out of her head with worry over the welfare of her imaginary whelps. Sigh.. just another week or so, I hope.


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