Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hatching Guinea Keets, Missing Ducklings, Surprise Chicks and MORE!

In theory, there was a system. We went over it to make sure everyone understood it. And, yet we were constantly surprised by our hatching chicks and guinea fowl this year.

At the beginning of summer, our 14 year old, Meaghan, took over egg collecting duties in order to earn herself some additional spending money. We agreed that Meg would be responsible to collect the eggs from the various nests, wash off any unwanted debris on them, and sort them into egg cartons for our customers. Conscientiously, Meg looked for eggs a couple times each day in the main coop nest boxes, our breeding chicken coops, and in random nesting spots in and around the barn. She took pride in her work and did a terrific job for us.

This broody Australorp adopted several
chicks to love. ♥
Several of the hens became broody and the time came to set the eggs that we wanted to hatch into chicks under them. Our first attempt to hatch chicks this year was puzzling. We set a group of 10 duck eggs under a chicken. For a while, all was well. It was easy for Meg to distinguish between the duck eggs we wanted to hatch and extra chicken eggs laid in the same nest by determined hens. After two weeks, I trekked out to the nest box with the intention of candling the eggs to see how they were developing. Imagine my shock and horror when I discovered NO DUCK EGGS in the nest. My very first thought was that one of our egg customers had inadvertently been provided duck eggs... developing duck eggs! I talked with Meg to clarify which eggs she'd been taking. Meg was certain that she'd only collected chicken eggs. I talked with our customers and thankfully, no one received the eggs. So, what happened to the nest of duck eggs? No one knows. They just disappeared. I suspect a small rodent might have stolen them and had themselves a feast, but I have no evidence to support that.

It was sad that we did not hatch any new ducklings, but the time had come to set Guinea Fowl eggs and Cochin eggs. And, we did. One nest box was marked for the Cochin eggs and the other was marked for the Guineas. Like clockwork, 21-28 days after putting them in the nest boxes, chicks hatched... just not in the manner we anticipated. The Cochin nest hatched without incident. The Guineas were a little more interesting. Meaghan reported that there were "chirp chirps" coming from the nest. When we explored it, we discovered that the nest of 12 eggs I set had grown to include about a dozen chicken eggs, too; four of which had hatched into chicks! We candled the remaining eggs and discovered that most of the eggs were fertile and maturing, but at differing days of development. In the days that followed single chicks hatched randomly. I do not recommend this process! But, we learned that even marking the nest boxes and setting eggs that I would have thought to be easily identified, it is still necessary to mark the individual eggs in the nest. A little smiley face now adorns any egg we plan to try to hatch a chick from. Lesson learned. :)

We couldn't resist adding a couple new breeds of chickens to the farm this year. These will add some color to the flock and in the eggs in our cartons for our customers. We breed Cochins, Americaunas, and Aracaunas. But, we also are home to Australorps, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Silver Lace Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, and Easter Eggers. We decided to add a couple Silkies and a couple Swedish Flower chicks this spring. They were born the week of June 21st and if they don't start laying this year, will be ready to begin laying eggs for us come spring. They are filling out nicely, but are still at the awkward tween stage. I really love the little poof on their sweet little heads!

We were told these chicks were both Swedish Flowers, but their feathers came in completely different to one another. The little red and brown chick on the left has feathered pale legs. The one on the right has variegated feathers and bright yellow legs without feathers. At some point, I will do some research to see what we have here, but it has not been high on the priority list.

In addition to new chicks and keets born on the farm this year, we have recently become home to a lovely and oh-so-vocal(!) Ring-Necked Dove. Sean found one in need of a home unexpectedly mid-August. Our intention was originally to find him a suitable, forever home, but over the past couple weeks, I have become attached to him. His coos and trills make music in my studio and I enjoy holding him and petting him. So, I think that we'll be searching for a female to keep him company instead.

We call him Love Dove because it is just too precious not to.

Other unexpected visitors to the homestead showed up in our garden beds. Though they look a little like the garden pest, Tomato Hornworm, we went online to do some research and discovered that our guests are Black Swallowtail Caterpillar which will, in time, morph into lovely butterflies. They have been enjoying our dill all summer long and I don't mind a bit.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Image
from Butterfly Fun Facts Site
You can read all about their life cycle here: Butterfly Fun Facts Site.

The rest of our garden is doing wonderfully well this year. We have enjoyed bumper crops of string beans, peas, cherry tomatoes, cukes, and herbs this year. The rest of our veggies are producing, but are growing a little slower than we hoped. Still, we are very pleased with the amount and quality of the heritage vegetables provided to our CSA share customers. Our goal next year is to, once again, increase garden space so that we will be able to preserve more food for our family's needs.

 Thanks for visiting with us today, friends. Your company matters to us.

~Sonja ♥


  1. Let's see if I can comment. Love the dove and those red tomatoes look luscious!!!