On July 23rd, 2018 the first chick was hatched at the Harper Homestead.
Let this day go down in history.
What. A. Milestone.
I meandered out to the coop to water and feed the flock, and when I opened the door I saw this teeny tiny sweetheart bopping around by the mother hen. I was awe struck - kind of like finding an egg the first time your chickens lay one, but x10 because it was actually peeping and the most adorable tiny cotton-ball with legs that I had ever seen.
Upon initial review, it appears to be a bearded bantam silkie, grey/blue in color. Born with 5 toes, foot feathers, and black skin - true silkie traits! I have a great feeling about this little one!
I brought it inside, and got it situated in a miniature home-made brooder. The Homestead Husband had to run out to the local feed store on his way home for chick food, as we were not prepared! Oops. You'd think with the number of feed bags kicking around this place we woulda had some on hand... There are days like this though. Sometimes the "homestead" tells you what you're doing, instead of the other way around.
Little one is getting around just fine, and chirping non-stop. Music to my ears. It would be a very strange day to walk into my house and not hear the sweet peeps from a baby bird of some kind.
After sharing the news of our new silkie baby with family and friends, I was asked a few questions that I want to go over again here... When we first started with our original 8 chickens, we had SO MANY questions, too. We did tons of reading and asking questions to chicken groups and fellow chicken owners. The thing about chickens though, is that they are the gateway to farm animals - the more we learned, the more we collected, and now we are just swimming in livestock. It did not take long. So, potentially interested chicken ladies (and gents), beware.
Q: How Long Does It Take to Hatch a Chick?
A: On average, 21 days. The better part of a month.
Q: What Does Going "Broody" Mean?
A: Going broody is when a momma hen decides to hatch an egg. Her hormones, similar to ours, tell her that she is ready to become a mothering hen, instead of just a laying hen. All hens are capable of this, but some are better known for it than others. Silkies make excellent mothers. A mothering/broody hen will hover over an egg for weeks, keeping it warm, and allowing the fertilized yolk to produce an embrio that will grow into a chick. During this time, broody hens may not lay any additional eggs, so many chicken keepers do not appreciate broody hens, unless they are looking to hatch chicks. You can make efforts to stop the broodiness by cooling down a chicken's bottom side in some cool water. Other methods are out there, but none are necessarily fool-proof.
Q: Are There Such Things as Fertilized & Unfertilized Eggs?
A: Yes. In order to hatch a chick, the egg must be fertilized by a rooster. Both fertilized and unfertilized eggs are still edible, and have no change in exterior appearance. Inside a fertilized egg, it will also predominantly look the same, but the yolk may have a small white dot. You may not even see it, it is so small. Without cracking an egg, you will not know if it has been fertilized if your chickens (roo & hen) are mixed in the coop with others (as opposed to being paired off an cooped up alone). You can identify if an egg is hatchable, by "candling" the egg with a light after about a week to see if an embrio has formed after sitting under the heat of a mother hen.
Disclaimer: I am not a vet, professional chicken breeder, or show-chicken judge (there is such a thing). I do not have a degree in agriculture. I am not Martha Stewart, or The Pioneer Woman. Our knowledge is experience-based and results may vary.
Note: You can hatch chicks without a broody mother hen, using an incubator. You can purchase these off the shelf, or construct your own at home with some careful planning. We are not well versed in building these yet, nor have we had the spare funds to buy one. So, instead we tried things the old fashioned way in the true spirit of the great American homestead.
If you have any other questions, I would be happy to provide insight! Leave them in the comments box below.
We are still waiting on 2 more silkie chick eggs to hatch. In the meantime, we will be found cuddling this new little feathered friend, and checking our coop every five minutes to try to catch the others taking their first breath.