Good Bye Rooster, Hello Chicks
So I did find Mr. T the rooster but not in the way I had hoped. He was eaten by a raccoon. Likely the same raccoon that ate our other bantam hen, Brown Hen. The very same raccoon that apparently spent the winter in the pile of old corn stalks in our loft. They've been up there since we bought the property and while I had considered rats and mice might move in, it never occurred to me that it might be ideal for something like a raccoon. We are in the process of trying to trap the raccoon but so far it has emptied the box trap four times without tripping it or being caught. I am bummed to be sure, because I REALLY liked Mr. T he was an ideal rooster in every way. He looked after the hens, crowed at dawn, and did his duty.
How do I know? Because last Wednesday our last bantam hen began to hatch out little chicks, Mr. T's offspring, that will hopefully carry on his good traits. Creamy, the hen, had gone broody so I moved her nest into a a dog crate that I closed and locked up at night because she was on the floor of the barn and I was worried something might eat her (a very legitimate fear as it turned out).
Creamy ended up with 19 eggs and I was pretty sure they were mostly fertile. After 24 days though I began to think perhaps I was wrong, when one morning when I opened the crate to let Creamy run out, stretch her legs, and do a bit of scratching, when I suddenly heard peep, peep and a light tapping noise from the nest.
Over the course of the next four days ten of the nineteen eggs began to hatch. Three never made it out of the egg, we are not sure why, and we lost one of the seven that fully hatched also not sure why.
After the first five had hatched we decided to put Creamy and the chicks into the brooder we had built for our hatchery chicks since they were still tiny fluff balls and we felt Creamy needed a safer place since she was out in the barn. The brooder Mike built is very nice, well built and raccoon proof with hardware cloth screwed down over half the lid. When we went to shift her to the brooder from the dog crate (after 3 days of eggs slowly hatching) we realized that two more were beginning to hatch but Creamy seemed to be ready to shift into caring for her chicks and kept leaving the eggs. SO we brought those two inside put them under the heat lamp and in just a little while two more chicks had hatched but the chicks were not okay (probably why Creamy had abandoned them).
The two little chicks, we'll call them Crook Foot and Crook Neck for now, were very weak and both of them had feet that were were so clenched they couldn't stand. Crook Neck also had what I believe is called "wry neck" and couldn't seem to uncurl from the "in egg" position. We did some rapid internet research and learned this could be due to vitamin E and magnesium deficiencies. So off I went to the store to buy liquid viatmins and vitamin E caplets, in addition we made tiny little braces to help them stretch out their feet and neck. Crook Neck had collar of bubble wrap and scotch tape and both of them had little squares of cereal box scotch taped to their tiny feet. It was the saddest sight you'll ever see, BUT it worked! By the next afternoon both had straightened out and were able to get up and walk like normal chicks. Crook Neck still looks a little sad because the feathers on the head and neck are kinda strange and thin and spiky, but otherwise it seems fine. The next night we were able to slip them in the nest under Creamy and she took them back with no problems. I'm not sure how they'll fare once they get to free ranging but they will have a shot at it at least.