We are expecting!!!! Baby chicks that is!
Thelma the *silkie hen (pictured above) went broody a couple weeks ago. Fiercely. Every time we went into the coop, she had horded all the eggs to a corner and would screech at us when we tried to pull them out. Full fledged banchee. She was ready to be a momma hen (must be something in the water at our house....).
After a few intense egg-nabbings from Thelma, I convinced the Homestead Husband (HH) to leave her with a few silkie eggs just to see what would happen. Quite honestly, I really did not believe we'd be all that successful... But, we do have three roosters, and Thelma was persistent!
Upon *candling the eggs on Sunday, we had four - I repeat FOUR - confirmed chicken embrios! You could see them partially formed through the lit shell! I was astounded. Nature had gone forth and created new life just under our noses.
We will have to keep a keen eye on the eggs and the momma hen for the next couple of weeks until they hopefully hatch. Broody mother hens have a tendancy to be a bit rough with their young, and we want to avoid any chicks getting hurt. As soon as they do hatch, we will collect them and move them inside to a cozy, warm *brooder where they can grow until they are ready to return to the outdoors.
My goal is to keep (at least) one of the chicks, if sexing them is possible - not a simple task with chickens. It can be very difficult to tell a hen from a roo until the *pullets or *cockerals are a couple of months old. At this time, I can only hang on to hens. The remaining ones we will find happy homes for... Unfortunately, I believe 3 proud roosters is all we can keep up with.
Being that the eggs are all *fairy eggs, I am really thrilled about these chicks. Our *bantam *bearded silkies are my favorite, and the only ones who lay the fairy eggs. I would be very proud of breeding any babies of Thelma's or Louise's (her twin sister). We have two very handsome silkie Roo's, and one bantam Roo, so chances are good that these chicks may turn out to be full fledged bearded silkies!
*Here are some chicken vocabulary words for you:
Bantam - Small breed chickens. Some species, like the silkies, are considered bantams as they are smaller than the average egg laying hen.
Silkie - An ornamental chicken species, originating in Japan. Not known for egg production (though they do lay eggs) or for meat in particular, but are more considered the "lap dog" of chickens. They are pleasant, and sweet additions to a flock. Some even make good housepets, for the craziest of chicken ladies. Often used as show chickens at poultry shows.
Bearded/Non-Bearded - A trait of the silkies. Either they will have fluffy plummage under their beaks, or they do not. Bearded silkies have an overall fluffier appearance.
Fairy Egg - Silkies and other bantam chickens lay smaller eggs, relative to their size, than the average. They are nick-named "fairy" eggs.
Brooder - A warming box/container/shelter that is tempurature controlled, and considered a safe environment with both food and water for raising chicks or young poultry in place of a mother hen.
Candling - The process of shining light through the side or bottom of a fertilized egg to identify whether there is a chicken embrio or not. Originally done using candle light.
Pullet - A young hen, less than a year old. Cockerals are young roosters.
Tips on identifying pullets and cockerals:
While many of these may be unreliable "old wives tales", some folks are firm on these tell-tale signs. It can't hurt to test the theories!
-The simplest method is: If it crows, it's a rooster. If it lays an egg, it's a hen.
-Rooster combs are slightly larger or more pronounced than hens'.
-Hackle feathers on the neck; A rooster's hackle feathers are long and pointed, and a hen's are more rounded. On silkies, these long rooster feathers are often referred to as "streamers".
-Feathers in general on a rooster are more vibrant, and they have larger tail feathers compared to hens, as well. You may also notice "saddle" feathers on a rooster, which sit where a saddle would, on the rooster's back. The saddle feathers will have a similar appearance to the hackle streamers.
-Legs & feet can somtimes be a determinator. Roosters grow spurs on the back sides of their legs, where hens do not.
-Roos are a bit more assertive while hens may come across a bit more shy.
Here are some photos of the potential silkie rooster baby daddies:
TOP: Painted/Splash Silkie Roo, "Brooks" (of Brooks & Dunn)
BOTTOM: Partridge Silkie Roo (turned side-looking), "Joe" (was originally thought to be a "Jolene"... hard to tell for a while!)
If you have any other chicken sexing tips to offer, we'd love to give them a try!