The hens had been up and gone with the new chicks. All through the day the nests sat empty except for unhatched eggs and the stench of rot. We decided to start cleaning. The only problem was that the hens and chicks were back for the night. Something had gotten into the eggs though, and a few were laying scattered about. We picked up one egg, laying far off from the nest and the children fought over who got to throw it into the dump.
8 won by refusing to relinquish his grasp on it. He threw it and it bounced off some boards and fell to the ground. My daughter told me it was bleeding. I thought we might as well look at the chick that hadn’t made it and get a bit of a biology lesson from it. But the chick that hadn’t made it… had.
Up until then he had been just fine. There amidst the broken egg shell was a perfectly formed baby chick. Egg yolk not yet absorbed and vessels not yet hardened off. He wasn’t dead just not ready to hatch yet. We had killed him, he just wasn’t gone yet.
I picked up the gasping chick and held him in my hand. Instead of, or as well as, a biology lesson we got a lesson in morality. I told them how all babies, even, or especially, those about to die needed to be held and loved. I nearly sobbed over this poor dyeing chick. The children looked at it and looked at me. Then they wanted to know, when could they throw more eggs?
Now that I knew there were at least a few of the eggs in the nest that were still viable I called my friend who is hatching geese in her incubator. She very kindly offered to let me put my chicken eggs in with them.
I covered myself fully with long sleeves and gloves and went to fetch the eggs. Reaching under attacking hens, blindly grasping for eggs I was afraid I would smash chicks so I picked up the yellow hen and set her next to the nest. As I did so chicks fell out of her like large rain drops. Plopping to the ground around her. I foolishly thought the hens set on the chicks, I didn’t realize they burrowed into her like worms. Or ticks, big fluffy ticks.
At my good friends house we turned the children out to play in the yard while we went down to the basement and candled the eggs. She started out doing it but the stench of rotten egg was making her sick so I took over. Out of around a dozen eggs the first few we did were bad. I was beginning to feel like an idiot for rushing these rotten eggs to her house to save. Then we found a good one, then another. The last one I was starting to say was yet another bad one, look it’s cracked, when she broke in that it wasn’t cracked! It was starting to hatch! Couldn’t I hear it?
Listening for a moment I realized that I could hear the tiny peeps coming from inside! We left it there to do its thing, scrubbed our hands, and took the goslings out to play with the children. That egg and one other has hatched. Repulsed by the lingering smell of rot she re-candled the eggs and found two more bad ones and with those gone it smells much better in her hatching facilities. There are still two more to go. Are they good? Will there be four extra chicks? We are waiting to see! And here I thought the excitement of the saga of the hens ended when the first set hatched.
They hatched Tuesday. Eight in all. Beautiful little pale yellow and white chicks with brown highlights on heads and backs. Both mothers are clucking after them worriedly. Yesterday they finally took them away from the nest and out to explore the world. When we checked the nest they were gone. As we crawled in to look at the remaining eggs we spied a little ball of fluff hidden in a corner.
One of the chicks got left behind.
We picked it up, cuddled it, and loved on it, as we went in search of the hens. They had found a good soft spot in the dirt and were proceeding to show the chicks how to scratch. Although they cast a wary eye on us as we got close we were able to sneak in close enough to set the chick down and send him off towards them. The took him right in not noticing he hadn’t been there all along.
Back at the barn things smelled of rotten eggs. After being set on for two extra days as the chicks got big enough to roam the remaining eggs hadn’t hatched. It was time to clean house. And that was where the drama began….
We finally got the garden started. No potatoes in the ground by Good Friday this year. It’s been too cold for that anyway. This year the tomatoes and peppers went in the greenhouse at the same time that the potatoes and cabbages and even two rows of corn went in. We also went out on a limb and planted beets, swiss chard, and zucchini. The Goblin Child was actually a big help this year. 8 Still not so much. We planted a corn/sunflower house for them again this year. No maze this time. It never did work out as well as it sounded. This year we just did a circle, with a double row of corn and a wire panel trellis as the entry way. They have already started enjoying it.
Over on Rusty’s page I’ve spent the last few weeks playing with all the strange ways I could think of to get on my horse. No particular reason. Wanted something fun to do and I had seen a couple of ways that looked cool to try. Turned out I didn’t, couldn’t, do those but did come up with a few others. Rusty was a willing and enthusiastic participant who takes my strange ways in stride.
We worked on lots of little thing and put them together into a couple of big things. I can’t begin to say how proud I am of him and what a fun and enlightening trip training him has been. Not just this part but all of it. Normal horse training drives me insane now. When I see people round penning and desensitizing horses, the pointlessness of it nearly makes my head explode. Desensitizing in my biggest pet peeve at the moment. Why in the world would someone chase a horse around until they get tired enough to accept what ever you are trying to force on them when you could, without ever making the horse scared in the first place, show them how fun it is to chase and play with things they once considered scary?
No, Rusty is not perfect. Far from it really 😉 But he is the perfect example of clicker training and it’s effectiveness. Using traditional, natural horsemanship methods, I got exactly nowhere with him. He still ran me over. He still bounced off the end of the rope.
Now he works off a rope most of the time. He’s nipped my fingers a few times being over enthusiastic for food but has not crashed into me once. He now comes when called, I can’t even begin to think of the vocal cues he knows, walk, trot, canter, whoa, bow, lie down, step big (Spanish walk), and the list goes on. Not to mention being light and responsive to ride.
A quick intro to this video turned into a bit of a rant. But anyway, here is the end result of our little training exploration. All put together into one short video.
They are still sitting. Most of the time. When we’ve been to check on them the young yellow hen will be off sometimes getting a snack and a drink I always picture the older spotted hen being somewhat disapproving of the young mother. I see her clucking in dismay as she ruffles her feathers, that yellow hen, she should be here with her chicks, not off roaming around, humph. She’s a young mother and not settles enough to raise chicks.
But we looked today and both hens were off roaming together. They appear to have settled their differences and the older experienced speckled hen is going to put disapproval aside and mother these chicks together.
Hopefully, the eggs do hatch. I see one of them got broken. They are dark when candled, with only the air sack showing light through. My more experienced friends tell me that is a good thing. Shouldn’t be to much longer now if they are going to do it.
The school year is nearly done. Less then a month to go. The kindergarten teacher came down to the preschool class to test the kids on their letters. See how much everyone knew and get an idea of where the class will be for next year. When The Goblin Child heard that she was going to see if they knew their alphabet she loudly, and confidently informed the teacher that she didn’t need to test her, she knew all her letters!
And how well she did.
Not sure if that’s a good sign or bad for next year. I think she’s adorable though.