Babes and her new family

Babes has been a very patient sitter and she has been rewarded with two adorable little handfuls of fluff.  Little Mack named them promptly:  Puff and Silk.  Puff hatched on Sunday afternoon, and Silk made her appearance sometime later that night.  Here are a few pictures for you.

A broody hen will sit for 21 days or more, almost motionless, to keep the eggs underneath her at just the right temperature and humidity to hatch. She’ll also turn them carefully during the day, so they’ll develop properly.

Babes is so tame that she doesn’t mind if we visit her often, or even if we inspect her eggs or hold her newly-hatched chick.  We try to be quiet.  But we’re pretty much in awe of the whole deal, and very excited.

Here’s Puff.  See the egg tooth at the end of his beak?

I discovered an egg with the little “pip” made with the “egg tooth” of the chick inside.

This egg has started to hatch.

If you tap very carefully on a “pipped” egg, sometimes the chick inside will peep back at you.  It’s a deliciously sweet sound.

The chick inside (Silk, as it turned out) answered my tapping with urgent peeping.

Malachi knows to be very careful with a new chick.  He loves on little Puff while I check on the other eggs.

Amalia has really been having fun with my camera . . .I like this picture.  Thank you, Amalia, for all the pictures!

Babes sat faithfully on her remaining eggs as Puff and Silk got more and more active, climbing up on their mama, exploring a bit.  After two days, Babes got up, left the remaining eggs, and started to teach her chicks about being chickens.  She started teaching them how to eat, how to drink, and that pecking mama in the eyeball is not a good idea.

I had been afraid that this might happen.  It’s not uncommon.  There were still six unhatched eggs in the nest, with one already pipped.  Puff and Silk needed care, so after a good bit of time, Babes decided that the eggs under her were duds, and got up to care for her chicks.

“Ah, well,” her attitude seemed to be.  “Two’s better than nothing.”  Being a Midwestern chicken, she does not count her chicks before they are hatched, and she is grateful for what she gets.

It was cool in the coop this morning when Mack went out to check on the new family.  The remaining eggs had already cooled.  I had explained the situation to him the day before:  that if Babes got up off her nest to care for the chicks, that the chicks in the remaining eggs might die.  He ran, yelling, to the house.  Shrieking.  Caterwalling!  We all jumped into action.  I hurried out to the coop and scooped the eggs up carefully and carried them to the house.  I didn’t hear any peeping from the pipped egg, and my heart felt heavy.  If only we had discovered them earlier!

Amalia ran to Bryan’s shop and found our incubator, which we hadn’t used in a few years. We found a good spot to set it up, and we put in a bit of water for humidity and a thermometer, and hoped for the best.  Within ten minutes of the incubator reaching nearly 100 degrees, we heard the first bit of peeping, from the pipped egg.  We were ecstatic.  We didn’t know if any of the other eggs would hatch, but we could see a tiny pointed beak moving in the pipped egg, creating a bigger hole, and peeping.

Little Mack set up a chair next to the table with the incubator, to watch the progress of the chick in the egg.  Amalia and I were busy in the kitchen, making dough and baking for Farmer’s Market the next day, but every time the chick made a movement or peeped, Mack would shriek for us to come and look.  He was very excited indeed.

This is the way the entire afternoon went:

Mack:  (earnest and flushed) “Mom!  Amalia!  Look!  THE CHICK IS HATCHING!”

Amalia:  (rushes to him)  “Mally, he’s just moving his beak a bit.  It might take him awhile.” (trudges back to kitchen)

Mack:  “Mom!  Amalia!  COME QUICK!  THE CHICK IS PEEPING MORE NOW!  I think something’s wrong!”

Mom and Amalia:  (race to the incubator)  “Oh please, Mally, he’s fine, just be patient.  It’ll probably be awhile.  Relax.  How about if you go watch Gilligan’s Island for awhile?”

We didn’t get much accomplished in the kitchen, after all.  But we spent a lot of time watching that egg.  And checking up on the chick’s progress.  There wasn’t much of that.

Whoa.  I just had a flash-forward, of Mack as a young husband, earnest and flushed, in the hospital with his wife, who is in labor with their first baby.

Darling Wife:  (groans softly)

Mack:  “Darling Wife!  Is it time?  IS THE BABY COMING NOW?”

Darling Wife: “Just another contraction, Dear.  These things take time, you know . . . oh . . . ohhhh . . .” (groans)

Mack: “WHAT IS IT NOW?  Should I call the doctor?  PLEASE DARLING WIFE IS IT TIME?”

Darling wife:  “Oh please, Mack, I’m fine.  It’ll be awhile.  Just be patient.  Relax.  I think I saw Gilligan’s Island playing in the lobby. . .”

Nothing brightens a fella’s day like snuggling with a new chick or two.

As of this post, the chick is still entrapped in that egg, and we are waiting anxiously for it to make its appearance . . . there’s a whole raging controversy about whether it’s okay to help a chick hatch, but that’s a story for another day.  I’ll keep you updated, Gentle Reader(s).


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