Sunday, 3 November 2013

Elvis - A Mum Again!

On the last day of July 2013 Elvis had quite a surprise. For she hatched out some chicks with rather strange bills and rather odd habits, like constantly jumping into water and waddling around in a line.
For those of you not familiar with Elvis, she is our broody hen. She is a black Silkie and she was one of the hens we inherited when we moved in three years ago. Elvis has an incredibly strong maternal instinct. So much so that she rarely goes a few weeks between sending off one group of youngsters to fend for themselves and sitting tight on whatever eggs she can find.
At this stage, gathering eggs becomes a risky affair, as she will just sit tight and peck viciously at your hand. At all other times Elvis is a very affectionate hen.
We have now lost count of how many clutches of eggs Elvis has hatched, but after her surprise at delivering us six ducklings last time, Sue decided she could have some more chicken eggs to sit on. So she got a few of the blue Crested Cream Legbar eggs and a few eggs from the other hens. Sue gave her eleven eggs to sit on altogether.
By the end of week two, Elvis was somehow incubating seventeen eggs, so it was time to isolate her from the other hens. At this time of year, we are hardly getting any eggs from the chickens, so we could ill afford to lose half a dozen which were destined never to hatch.
Then it was just a case of waiting, and last Sunday as I locked the chickens away I could hear the tell tale high cheeps of newborn chicks. The next morning, Elvis had moved off the nest, leaving a very smelly poo (they always do this) alongside the unhatched eggs.
Unfortunately only four chicks successfully hatched. A further two were fully grown but hadn't managed to escape their shells. One of these was actually still alive, so Sue cracked the shell some more and placed it back under Elvis. But Elvis always knows the best thing to do and she had left this egg behind for a reason. Although it got out of the shell, it didn't survive much longer.
Usually we have a much better return for naturally incubated eggs, but I guess it's late in the season so some of the eggs may never have been fertilised in the first place. Also, Cocky is getting a little older now. We'll have to see how he performs next year.
As for those four cute little chicks, we have one archetypal pale yellow ball of fluff. Very cute! The other three are Crested Cream Legbars, the ones that lay blue eggs (the females, that is!). These are very unusual in that the chicks are autosexing. This means that there are clear plumage differences between the sexes.
The females are darker and have a dark stripe running down their back and behind their eyes. The males are lighter with a light dot on top of their head.
Unfortunately, I think we only have one Cream Legbar girl. But at least Elvis is all clucky again.


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