June 17, 2021

Going Broody

There is a chick living under my husband’s desk.

How it got there is a long story.

Two things happened a few of months ago: my brother-in-law asked if we wanted his friend’s silkie chickens (which turned out not to be the COVID pets she had been hoping for) and Samantha started collecting abandoned duck eggs from the pond, hoping she could get some of them to hatch. (Yes, they were truly abandoned. No nest raiding involved, I promise!)

We took the cute-in-a-scraggly-way teen-age silkies and added them to our flock. Urban homesteading at its best! Samantha started trying to engineer an incubator for the duck eggs.

When our neighbor heard about Samantha’s interest in ducks, she sent her husband up into the attic and then over to our house to deliver their old incubator. Weeks of anticipation followed.

We didn’t quite have the incubator figured out, so the duck experiment, sadly, ended up being nothing but a smelly mess and a lesson in partially-developed duckling anatomy. Samantha took it well and was very good about cleaning it all up. We considered where to store the incubator.

Meanwhile, we began to realize that two of the three silkie chickens were a little different. Bigger combs. A tendency to jump (like goombas, I kid you not) and fight. And finally, they crowed.

Our lovely hens were roosters.

Mario…or Luigi. I can’t actually tell them apart.

This is an age-old tale, and we probably should have been more savvy. But just you wait, Henry Higgins, just you wait. It gets better.

I started looking for someone who would actually want silkie roosters, and was shocked to have quick success…but my friend wasn’t ready to take them just yet. So we waited, and hoped the neighbors didn’t mind the crowing too much.

Meanwhile, the roosters and hens did what roosters and hens will do: provided live Life Cycle lessons for anyone wandering through our backyard. So Samantha did some more research, and started absconding with our would-be breakfasts and starting them in the incubator.

The incubator is under my husband’s desk because, well, we have a small house. The footspace under the desk was (usually) unoccupied.

We ordered a new thermometer so the eggs would have a fighting chance. More weeks of anticipation. And Wednesday night, we started hearing peeping. Which, I now know, is what chicks do before they hatch.

Then we watched one of the eggs wiggle around for a while (it is really strange to watch). And right before breakfast today, while no one was looking, out the soggy little darling popped, to be rhapsodized by one and all. A black-and-gold Ameraucana/Silkie mix. I suggested naming him (Joseph) Pieper. I had to explain the joke to Samantha. (Given his coloring, maybe Drew Brees would be better…)

Samantha and her dad made a quick run for chick food and bedding, and she has spent the last two days fashioning a brooder out of detritus from the shed.

City dwellers that we are, we’re already at our legal limit for chickens, so the next project is finding someone interested in silkies, or Ameraucana/silkies, or Black Australorpe/silkies…you get the idea. This was not an organized breeding experiment. We’re holding out hope that the Ameraucana mix will lay tiny green eggs, but who knows!

(At this point in the writing, I had to take a break to watch chick #2 hatch.)

But as I was saying, none of this was planned. One little serendipity followed another, until we had a peeping, wriggling bunch of mutt chickens under my husband’s desk. I thought I had avoided this fate when we chose to live within the city limits…but Samantha has farming in her blood and she had other plans. We sat back and watched as she nurtured her little brood to life.

I’m sure Pieper and his new friend are grateful.

Pieper (top) and his/her first sibling.

Update: In the time it took me to finish this post, two more chicks hatched. Craig’s desk is getting to be quite noisy.

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Christina is a writer and mother of five who usually has a book in her hands and dirt under her nails. Grab a cup of tea, and come join the fun!

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