Back in my August post, I mentioned that I isolated Molasses and the Dominique and Dominique cross hens in the stationary coop because I wanted to hatch eggs from that group. So, for about a month, I carefully gathered eggs from this grouping and set them aside in a “hatching eggs” box. Once I see how many eggs I got from the girls, I would remove the same number of eggs from the back of the carton, move them to the eating eggs, move all the eggs left towards the back, and put the new eggs in the front.
For a little while, I noticed one of the hens was giving me thin shelled eggs. One spot was always “off”. It would sometimes have a raised bump.
And other times that side of the shell would be so thin you could see the yolk through the shell in that one spot.
I started making sure that the chickens had oyster shell 100% of the time and that seemed to help with the shell thicknest a good deal.
In August, we decided to move the previous batch of chicks into the chickshaw with the Delaware and New Hampshire pullets. After a couple of weeks, all the chicks decided they wanted to sleep in the chickshaw with the older hens. This left the broody tote available as a nesting box.
The hens loved using this box, much more than the milk crates in the chickshaw. Towards the end of August, I was noticing that every day, when I would go out to collect eggs, that there was always this one buff pullet in the nesting box. She acted and sounded broody but would run away when I would reach in to gather the eggs. So I tried an experiment. I set up the pullet with the broody tote inside my 5’x 5′ PVC run with food and water and gave her 6 fake eggs to sit on and watched her for several days. This way, she wouldn’t be disturbed by other hens coming in to lay eggs and I could see how often she would get off the eggs. I work from home and the chickens were set up around the garden area between the two houses and there is a window behind my desk that overlooks that area. Over the course of a few days, she mainly stayed on the eggs but would get off every few hours to eat, drink and pace the fence for a little while. The one thing that was perplexing me is that she was still laying eggs, pretty much one every day. A hen that is truly broody will stop laying. So, after 5 days of watching her, I decided to go ahead and give her a dozen of the hatching eggs to sit on. The next day, I noticed that she hardly left the nest at all, and she stopped laying all together. She seemed to know that these were real eggs and decided to set on them. She was actually so tied to the nest that I had to go out once a day, and lift her off the nest and set her down next to a plate of food to so she would eat and not lose condition as rapidly. When I would take her off the nest, I would check and count the eggs. The day after I gave her the eggs, I noticed that she only had 11 eggs in the nest. I found some yolk covered wood chips and a shell remnant that was really thin. A few days later, I found another egg was missing and there was signs of fresh yolk and thin shell remnants. Apparently, the calcium supplementation wasn’t enough to make the thin shell problems for the one hen go away enough that the eggs could handle being hatched by a broody. When I candled the eggs at day 9, all 10 of the eggs had wiggly little embryos in them. When I candled on day 17, I saw all 10 eggs had wiggly babies. I was excited, but didn’t want to count the eggs before they hatched. On the morning of day 20 of incubation, we had some friends from our previous church in the city come visit us. They are farmers in earnest, and enjoy looking at other peoples’ animals. When they arrived, I decided to check on the eggs and saw at least 2 eggs had cracks in them! We visited and had a great time. When they were getting ready to leave, I checked on the eggs again and there were 3 chicks already fluffed out and 2 that had just hatched. It was fun being able to show the tiny babies to our friends.
By the end of the day, all 10 eggs had hatched, with no help. From the beginning, this hen was a really good mama. The next day, she had all her babies outside and was showing them how to scratch and peck for food.
Because of the parents I selected, all these chicks are Black Sex Links (BSL) and I could tell gender at hatch.
According to this article on Sexing Day-Old Chicks on Small and Backyard Flocks, unlike mammals, where the male genetics determines sex, in birds, the Female determines the sex of offspring.
Barring is a dominant trait, linked to the sex chromosome of the chicken. The article goes on to say:
“The sex-linked trait of barring has been used in such sex-linked crosses. When a non-barred male is crossed with a barred female, the resulting females will be non-barred like their father, while the resulting males will be barred like their mothers (see Figure 3). At hatch, both sexes have dark-colored down, but the males have a white spot on the top of their head. It is this specific cross that must be used. Crossing a barred male with a non-barred female will not work. Common breeds used as the non-barred male include Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire.”
This sex linking works with any barred breed hen and most solid colored breed males. The main exception is that you can’t put a dominant white male (like a Leghorn) over a barred female and get sex linked chicks.
As you can see in this picture, this chick, dubbed with the name penguin, is clearly a male because of the white spot on his head.
This is another little male, his dot is more defuse but it is definitely there.
This is a little girl and she has no dot on her head.
At first glance, I definitely had 4 females and 5 males, but one chick perplexed me. It’s down was a dark grey, rather than black, and rather than a spot, it had a slightly lighter patch on its head. You can see it compared to a darker female chick in the pictures below.
At that point, it was a toss up whether this chick was male or female. The only option was to wait.
Two days before the chicks were two weeks old, I got my answer, the dark grey chick was developing barring on his wing feathers. Because of the sex linking, it was clear it was a boy. At this point you could also see that the spot on the chick’s head is more visible as well.
Bay the time the chicks were a month old, you could really start to see the difference between the males and the females. Even though they still looked rather raggedy, they were starting to feather out nicely.
This is penguin.
Despite the feathers, they still needed Mama to keep them warm.
She also does a great job of teaching them how to forage for food.
The chicks are now 7 weeks old and they are looking like proper little fluff ball chickens.
They still need their Mama as well.
This little chick is rather interesting. All her sisters are pure black, but she has some red/buff feathers on her chest. I think her little bib is so cute.
I’ll post more pictures of the chicks as they grow up.