Baby Princesses with Princesses watching
Joanna’s Babies with Joanna and the South Coop watching
The first week in May, we picked up 23 one-day-old baby chicks at the Post Office. 15 of them are Ameraucana chicks, but we call them the Baby Princesses. 8 of them are Buff Orpingtons, and we call them Joanna’s Babies.
When the baby chicks arrived, we had six broody hens who had been broody for two to six weeks. One of them was Joanna who hatched 10 eggs last year and raised the baby chicks. The other five were Cuckoo Marans. None of the Marans had raised baby chicks, but they were very, very broody.
We took Joanna one of the Buff Orpington chicks after the babies had had a chance to eat and drink to recover from their overnight journey to our farm. They had been at our farm for four hours. We placed the baby chick close to Joanna, and she looked at it and the baby looked at her. Beak to beak. Then Joanna reached out with her wing and swept that baby under her. We took her two more, and she swept them in. And then three more. As we put the last two down by her, one ran to snuggle under as she swept the other in.
We were very smug about our success with matching babies to a mama. We took a baby chick to one of the Marans – I won’t tell you which one but just be aware that Rhoda is not mama material – who gave the baby chick such a wicked peck on the head that it sent the chick reeling. We waited a bit then tried another Marans, Mary. As we were moving her towards the Maternity Suite, she heard the baby chicks peeping and she panicked. She let out a loud DANGER-DANGER cry that ended up setting off the entire chicken yard. 45 squawking chickens. Definitely a No Go. After everyone settled down, we tried a third Marans, Chloe. This time we took the baby chick to her so it wouldn’t sound so overwhelming with 15 peeping chicks. We sat the baby chick down close to her and she flew out over my head and past me, almost knocking me over, with a terrified squawk. We didn’t even try the other two broody hens. It was getting close to the end of the day. We decided we’d just watch Joanna and raise our 15 babies the same way she raised hers.
It didn’t exactly work out like that, though. Joanna took her babies outside for a walk around the run when they were three days old. We weren’t that brave. We took our babies out of the brooder and the coop to explore their run after a week. Or so.
Joanna took her babies out to free range when they were three weeks old. Our babies haven’t been out to free range yet. They are outside all day in their run, but we haven’t gotten up the nerve to let them out to explore the big wide world called The Farm. Joanna has much better control over her babies than we do over ours.
All the babies are on their own now. Joanna moved back to the South Coop and started laying eggs again. Malfoy, the South Coop rooster, welcomed her back, so there was no drama with reestablishing herself in the pecking order. Joanna’s babies are in the North Coop and all the South Coop chickens can see them through the hardware cloth. In fact, Joanna keeps a pretty close eye on the babies.
The princess babies have part of the Castle for their home. They are separated from the Princesses in the Castle by a wall of hardware cloth. There are two Castle runs – one small for the babies and one large for the Princesses, but the runs are also separated by hardware cloth. The Princesses have been given visiting hours in the princess babies’ run several times with no drama. The Princesses keep a close eye on the princess babies. I’m not sure if it is concern, curiosity, or just watching to see if they get any treats.
And we watch. And we learn.