The highs and lows of hatching

The main brooder post-cleaning is definitely a photo opportunity. It is soon covered in droppings
The main brooder post-cleaning is definitely a photo opportunity. It is soon covered in droppings and food!

At the weekend we really appreciated the extra time we had to clean the chicks and simply watch them for a while. Leaving the house early as we do Monday to Friday gives us a slim window in which to fit in the essential tasks of de-pasting, feeding and watering. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, there is also a little time for reading, so I picked up an American title, called Chick Days by Jenna Woginrich, to glean tips. I always seem to learn something whenever I choose a book from our small poultry-themed selection and sure enough there were a couple of gems. First: continue to feed chicks a little hard-boiled egg alongside their crumb as it helps digestion and prevents them pasting up as readily. Second: Give them a small perch to play on.

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So I reserved some of the mashed-up boiled egg that I was already preparing for the two little ones and dropped a piece on each pile of the cereal-based miniature pellets, buffet-style feeder. Before they breakfasted, though, we needed to transfer all the chicks to a high-sided plastic box (lest we get an escapee) so we could inspect their bottoms and clean them with warm water and cotton wool, which also gave us a chance to change the corrugated-carboard lining in their brooder. We returned them as quickly as possible and they soon devoured their egg-topped breakfast.

Later that morning, we chose some small, smooth twigs which we felt would make an ideal climbing frame and James fixes them to the wire of their cage with cable ties. We are yet to see the gang using it, but who knows what they’ll get up to today while we’re out. All was well when we bade them goodnight on Sunday evening – in fact, the two smallest chicks in the DIY brooder were eating voraciously. But yesterday morning was a different story. We had heard some loud cheeping as we woke and knew something wasn’t quite right. I walked in to find one of the two tiny chicks dead and lying on its side, while the other stood by it loudly vocalising. We don’t know why he had suddenly died, but it reminded us that we had taken the risk of hatching it out ourselves and that it was not likely to live. James scooped up the tiny body and the remaining chick was left by itself. I raised the temperature slightly as he no longer had his sibling to huddle with. As I was working from home yesterday to write a feature, I could sit by his brooder while I ate my lunch, but I’m not sure he really counted me as company. I’m now willing him to grow a bit more – and have introduced him to chick crumb as well as egg in a bid to increase his size – so he can join the bigger brood soon. Feathers crossed!

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