Thursday, June 2, 2011


I walked into the barn tonight to check on the Palomino doe's kits (looks like seven: four black and three spotted) and was almost shocked out of my Muckboots by the unmistakable chorusing of chicks! peeeep peep peep beepbeep chirp chirrrrp chick birp click chirp cheep cheeep!

"I knew it!" I exclaimed in the barn, jumping in the air like I just won the lottery, sounding as vindicated as a crow on corn. "I just KNEW IT!"

For weeks I had been noticing less and less eggs around the barn, the Ameraucanas and Pumpkins weren't anywhere to be found. With the daylight hours just right and those hens in a safe big barn, I just knew that somewhere there was a broody hen sitting on a pile of eggs. I just didn't expect it to be ten feet in the air...

These six home-brewed chickens were found in the hayloft of the old barn. After a few minutes of pouring flashlight streams under rabbit cages and moving feed containers I realized all that chirping was coming from above. A Pumpkin Hulsey hen had made her nest right below the loft's front window. When I climbed that rickety ladder and saw six little poofballs running around, I scooped them up and put them in the egg basket. There was no water, no feed, and a ten foot fall to freedom for these little guys. What was their mother thinking? So I brought them indoors and let them join the 57 meat birds and 2-week old laying hen chicks in the now very-cramped brooder. But a tightly packed, warm, food-and-water stocked brooder bet the roomier outdoors tonight. A cold burst is swiping through Veryork, and they are even calling for frost in the northern mountains....These little guys didn't stand a chance outdoors unless their mama could wrangle them back to the nest. Not trusting her judgement, I took a few more of the eggs she was resting on and brought them into the brooder as well. Maybe some would hatch right here in the farmhouse.

The new loft residents are a mix of Pumpkin Hulsey and either Light Brahma or Ameraucana. These are the sons and daughters of Winthrop and Upset, and I hope a few make it right to the roaster or laying stage. I'm pretty stoked to know the bird population can find a way to sustain itself. Let's hear it for those fine people at Greenfire Farms, raising heritage birds who know how to get the job done right!

What a wonderful surprise. What a damn happy thing. And what a fine irony that right before I went outside to do my night chores I popped a chicken for the oven for dinner! One life taken, and six more welcomed in its place. You just don't get that kind of awestruck grace every day.

Here's to new life. This place is lousy with it!


Blogger Kate said...

Wow, this is awesome! What a find! I didn't find the little guys at my house but they make me happy just the same.

June 2, 2011 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger daisy said...

Spring is a magical time, eh?

June 2, 2011 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Kitchen Mama said...


June 2, 2011 at 8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on the new additions! How many are you expecting for the class this weekend?

June 2, 2011 at 8:12 PM  
Blogger Katou said...

Wow, what a nice surprise! Real happy for you Jenna.

June 2, 2011 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

That's fantastic! Congratulations!

June 2, 2011 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

What a wonderful surprise!

June 2, 2011 at 8:37 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Congratulations! Can't wait to see them when I come for the workshop on Saturday! That reminds me, how old will the meat bird chicks be? I'll be setting up their brooder tomorrow night and want to get the heat lamp situated right.

June 2, 2011 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

they'll be about 5 days old?

June 2, 2011 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

and thanks to all for the kind words!

June 2, 2011 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Congrats! Those chickies are super cute, and such a happy surprise.

June 2, 2011 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger Coley said...

fuzzy butts!!!!

June 2, 2011 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Love those kinds of surprises, Good job, Jenna.

June 2, 2011 at 9:25 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

not good job jenna, good job pumpkin!

(thanks Lynda!)

June 2, 2011 at 9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweeet! CAF's first hatched chicks! I guess Cyrus & Saro's eggs didn't hatch, huh?

June 2, 2011 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger Anton said...

Congrats, but I hesitate to say you lost a great opportunity to have a chicken do all the work of raising chicks for you. I raise meat birds for market and whenever I can I let the chicken do the work for me. From a nostalgic point of view what's better than watching a mother hen march her brood around the farmyard? Hulsey's are known for being excellent mothers. Give the chicks back to mama! I bet she's devastated.

June 2, 2011 at 11:04 PM  
Blogger Ruth @ Hope, Joy and Faith Farm said...

My first broody hen would not move off the nest that was 4 feet up. I lost two of 12 chicks because they fell out. I finally locked her in a dog kennel with the remainder of the chicks until they were old enough to get around safely. How exciting!

June 2, 2011 at 11:39 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Well that is pretty cool. Maybe you should set aside a broody place to stash moms and chicks when you find them that's away from everybody else.

Congratulations on the new babies (all of them!) and many more.

June 2, 2011 at 11:58 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

So cool! I too am revelling in new chicks! But I hatched mine in an incubator. Will we get to see pictures of your new kits?

June 3, 2011 at 1:20 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Anton: I know, but they were in a desert up there. An abandoned loft 10 feet in the air means I would have to walk up there with food and water twice a day. Right now life's too busy to be feeding two brooder sites, but I wish I could too...

June 3, 2011 at 5:21 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Oh, and about the rabbit babes: they are naked, tiny, and covered in a pile of rabbit hair inside a wooden nest box, inside a wire cage! Right now taking them out for a photo would be a delicate job.... I'm waiting till their a little more active.

June 3, 2011 at 5:23 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

Congrats! That's an awesome find.

June 3, 2011 at 5:44 AM  
Blogger mmgreenough said...

Congrats Jenna!!!

June 3, 2011 at 6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baby chicks from your own chickens are AWESOME!!! I don't think there's too many times I've ever been so excited as when my hens hatched a few batches of chicks. Mine are crazy crosses, but they lay waaay better than any of my purebred hens ever did. It's that hybrid vigor I guess. Your Ameraucanas will pass on the colored egg trait too as it's dominant (but you prolly already knew that).

June 3, 2011 at 7:24 AM  
Blogger Sarah Rachelle said...

Hooray! What a happy surprise!
Any goslings yet, by chance?

June 3, 2011 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

I second Anton! :-) I would have just brought them down and set them on the ground. Momma would know what to do from there. I love chicks, but don't care for having to raise them. I'd much rather leave it to the hen!

Congrats on the chicks and bunnies!

June 3, 2011 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

How exciting! I can't wait to get a rooster (I think I may have heard my questionable "chick" attempt a cock-a-doodle-doo this morning) so that the fam and I can witness the miracle of a mama and her babies. Congrats Jenna and Pumpkin!

June 3, 2011 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger Jamie Elfrank said...

Congrats Jenna! That's fantastic news!!

June 3, 2011 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

That is so exciting!!! That would be such a fun find, I wonder what Pumpkin would have done once they were larger to take care of them all the way up there? Yikes! Loving all the activities at Cold Antler this week!

June 3, 2011 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Courtney said...


Way to go on the homebrood! We let our broody 1 year-old Silkie mix hatch out a mix of eggs right in the coop. It was a stressful experiment to see if nature could take care of itself. And when they hatched I worried even more. But, after 3 weeks we have 4 healthy chicks following around after their vigilant and skilled mama. What makes it all the better is that we mama was one of our chicks last year. Yay for self-sustaining chickens and people!

June 3, 2011 at 12:18 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

I think Anton is on the money about giving them back to the hen. The chicks would probably have been coaxed into making a astonishling graceful landing on the barn floor. You could still give her back her babies and she will show them how to drink and how to eat not only chicken food but bugs and greenery. I've seen one of my hens acually scratch up bugs and step back so the chicks could eat them.

June 3, 2011 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Anton said...

To follow up, I didn't intend the chicks and mother to live in the loft because as you said that's extra work and I'm all about eliminating as much as possible. I intended to imply that the chicks could be brought down (as you did) with the mother and she'd take over from there. Mother hens are amazing caretakers of their broods though not always the best at picking a nest site.

June 3, 2011 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

Congratulations! I remember when my youngest was 6 (now 24) & she came running down the hill screaming from our duck pen right after she went to open the door. I was sure that a fox got in & caused a mass slaughter. Imagine my shock when following right behind her were Daisy & Ducky Boy and 12 little yellow puff balls. We were stunned, we thought those eggs she was sitting on were rotten. I still wish I had my camera handy.

June 3, 2011 at 9:40 PM  
Blogger eyesofblue said...

Isn't it great! About 5 weeks ago I realized that we were getting a few less eggs each day. One day I found one of my Rhode Island Red hens sitting on a pile of eggs in the roosting area. Weeks earlier I'd let a couple of hens sit on some eggs and it turned out to be a disaster so I wasn't going to let her sit but didn't want to waste all those I changed my mind. Two weeks ago when I knew they would hatch out soon and I needed to move her out of the main pen I saw this sweet little head poking out from between her wing and body. I lifted her up and out dropped 7 chicks...funny none of them were RIR like her. In fact some of them seem like a whole new breed. I have no idea what they might be. I have two roosters, a Buff and Barred, and hens that are Buffs, Dominiques, New Hamphires, Barreds, Blk Sex Links and Comets. I moved the new family to a separate area so the chicks would be safe. That Red has been an amazing mother and its been alot easier than me raising them. Now they all climb up in a nesting box at night to sleep. Sooo cute. Anyone know when I can let them out with the other chickens and my peacock? Don't want them to get picked on or killed...maybe after they are 10 weeks old?

June 3, 2011 at 11:11 PM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

Eyesofblue, I let my hens raise their chicks right along with everyone in the main coop. I don't have a peacock, but I have guineas who tend to pick on others sometimes. Momma hens are FIERCE protectors and will protect their babies from other chickens, human caretakers (lol), and old dogs who happen to walk by a little too closely (just ask my Scooter!). :-)

June 4, 2011 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger eyesofblue said...

Thanks Katiegirl!
If I let them out they will be able to free range outside in an area protected by netting. Do you think that will be ok too?

June 4, 2011 at 1:11 PM  
Blogger Anton said...

Eyesofblue: I keep my broody hens caged up with food and water for 3 days after all the chicks hatch and then I open the door. Sometimes she doesn't leave for a few more days but when she does the chicks are quite safe. If any of the chicks makes a loud chirp the mother hen attacks the perpetrator immediately. Granted, some mother hens are better than others and those are the ones you want to encourage to sit in the future. I meant to say earlier than another benefit of mother hens raising their own is that you don't have to buy chick food. Since they're out and about they get enough protein from all the bugs they get to eat. My hen-raised chicks always outgrow my brooder raised chicks. My French grandmother used to buy her chicks whole wheat kernels to eat and would mix those in with the feed the adults ate. The only problem I've encountered (2 twice in 3 years) is a chick drowning in a water bucket. Keep deep buckets up and away while the chicks are growing and switch to the large poultry waterers so the chicks cannot drown themselves.

June 4, 2011 at 5:16 PM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

EoB-Mine (chicks with momma hens) free range anywhere their little hearts desire! They're only in the coop at night. :-)

June 5, 2011 at 12:42 AM  

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