Stop the press! Hold back the Tagasaste and Vegetable posts (yes I have at least two more in store) – the chicks have hatched! They literally hatched the day after my previous post. Nature doesn’t care about publishing schedules – not that I’m the most routine-bound creature either.
Well, ok, initially only two hatched. Two beautiful little fluffy black and grey balls (with claws, beaks and a poop generating device). Let’s hope they are both hens. My word, the kids already wanted to give them names.
So Patricia moved the whole nest down from the lay boxes to the ground, so that chicks won’t fall 2ft down and get injured either on the ledge or as they hit the straw at the bottom, but more importantly, so that they can get back to their mother hen after feeding. Brave move, I’d say, but she pulled it off and they settled on the eggs and fussed over the chicks as they should.
But the two hens are not the brightest. The next morning when I took their feed, there the two little chicks were huddling together on the ground nest, while the two mother hens were nice and snug back in the lay box. Needless to say, the hens were instantly put back on the ground nest and the lay boxes were covered. Fortunately we have a cover on stand-by behind the coop to cover the nest boxes at night when they get broody at the wrong time, or when they start sleeping in the lay boxes. We won’t talk about the huntsman that had made the cover its home in the meanwhile… Luckily the chicks survived – something between being tough little buggers and it wasn’t such a cold night. Although our temperatures still drop to about 8C some nights now.
The next morning we observed Missy’s behaviour closely – that’s what my son says the “surrogate mom” is called. He insists he knows them apart, but to me the grey hens all look the same. Free-rider would be a better word – I think she just partakes in the laying process because it’s a good excuse to avoid Flappy’s advances (the rooster). Anyway, it turns out she is quite disruptive. She cares less for the chicks and blatantly just gobbles up their feed. Her co-laying, mostly half on top of Blacky, the real mother hen, isn’t the politest either. Therefore Missy is now banned from the coop during the daytime – at dusk we let her and Flappy in to sleep in the coop, which she does on top of the other one of course. I though it would be a process in the morning to get her out, but Missy is a bit of guzzler – she always abandons the chicks and eggs for food, so that made it easy to identify her from Blacky, the real mother. A bit of Solomon’s wisdom applied.
And then there were…
We thought after that night without the hens we should take the remaining eggs out and turn them into compost. Luckily we didn’t as two more chick were hatched over the next two days. So, then there were four. Let’s hope they’re all hens!
By the way, do you know how hard it is to get hold of a natural organic chick feed? We’ve got some on order, but with the virus everything is delayed. Patricia drove to the other side of Geelong just to get one small bag; that’s all they had in stock. Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t get eight chicks.
More chicks (hopefully)
In the bottom of our garden in a small Macadamia nut tree, we discovered a little New Holland Honeyeater’s nest too. So my son is unobtrusively watching that development too. He loves birds a lot – so some interesting developments are underway – watch this space.
It’s interesting that their nest is close to the beehives, but contrary to their name, they don’t eat honey, or bees, really. For your reading pleasure, straight from Wikipedia: New Holland honeyeaters obtain most of their carbohydrate requirements from the nectar of flowers. Consequently, they are key pollinators of many flowering plant species, many of which are endemic to Australia, such as Banksia, Hakea, Xanthorrhoea, and Acacia. New Holland honeyeaters may also consume honeydew, a sugary secretion produced by members of the family Psyllidae. Despite feeding primarily on nectar, New Holland honeyeaters are not strictly nectarivorous. Nectar does not contain protein, so New Holland honeyeaters must supplement their diet with invertebrates, such as spiders and insects that are rich in protein. They sometimes feed alone but usually gather in groups.