Thursday, August 8, 2013

Nine Bantam Dorking Chicks Hatched

Hens lay eggs with, or without a rooster.  If there is a rooster present the eggs should be fertile and will hatch only if a hen sits on them for 21 days to incubate them or if the eggs are placed in an incubator.  Not all breeds of hens are broody, which means not all breeds of hens will sit on their eggs, however Dorkings are a broody breed and our hens sat on their eggs without any encouragement.

The first hen was on a large brood of eggs but only two hatched.  This may have been due to the awful spring weather at the time.

Our second Dorking hen started to sit on a smaller clutch of eggs in July, and on August 2nd they hatched out. There were nine chicks total. One egg never showed any signs of hatching and one egg had just started to hatch but the chick died while still inside.

Our bantam Dorking chickens are silver grey, which is a color that indicates male and female chick right at hatching. The hens are dark or black, and the cockerels are lighter, often with stripes. Because of this we were able to determine that four of the tiny chicks are hens, including one who is chocolate brown, and five are cockerels (males), including two which have very pronounced stripes rather like a chipmunk.

These chicks are tiny. Bantam chickens are smaller than regular, or standard, chickens. These little chicks are only about two inches (5 cm) tall. 

The hen stayed in the nesting box with them for the first day but the next day we found her with a few of them on the ground. Four more remained in the nesting box area, unsure of how to get down, they huddled together. I picked them up to put them down with the hen.

Young chicks are amazingly smart. Recent studies have suggested that young chicks are as smart, and capable of doing things, as a two year old child.

Mother hens are always clucking to their chicks, making different sounds to indicate different things; “Come here”, “Danger”, “Let's eat”, “It's safe to wander around, but here I am just in case you want me”.

The rooster wanders around and makes sounds to alert them to danger or food (as when I throw in some chicken scratch or small bits of brown bread). He will not harm them and acts as a guardian, even though he is pretty small too.

For now the chicks stay very close to their mom. She sits down with her wings spread out to make room for all of them to find shelter and warmth underneath her body. As they grow they will continue to follow her and learn from her. They are already “scratching” the ground to find food. The chicks will start growing different feathers and will not be as fluffy in a few weeks time.

Update.  Sad news, the brown chick died two days later.  We found it in the nest, not sure why it did not survive.

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