Our first attempt at incubating chickens came when we had a broody hen , Fergie , who had to be kicked off the nest because she had a manky chest and a funky foot, due to laying there for endless days and hardly ever moving off the nest. Now, Sue and I had discussed earlier, that it would be nice and practical to increase our little family of hens to buff up egg production, and to share this experience of all things cute ( which chicks definitely are ) with children and their parents and talk about the practicality of owning chickens ( as the previous owners did ) and thereby being even more self sufficient along with fish and vegetables. We share a belief that it is essential that children know that these oval shaped things, don’t just begin at the supermarket and end at home.
Now that we had this plan in hand, we began to gather eggs from various other nesting boxes, and very carefully placed them under our brooding girl Fergie. Little did we know that she would be so dedicated to hatching all of these potential little cheepers, that she would jeopardise her own well being in order to see them through to their 21 to 25 days. So after checking her over and assessing her condition, we decided that she had to come off the nest, and we had to purchase an incubator post haste. It was at this time that we also noted that two chicks had already hatched and had been crushed. We located a great little place in Baldivis called WA poultry supplies and coast to coast vermin traps,(www.wapoultryequipment.net.au) where we were able to purchase the perfect piece of equipment that we needed. We viewed the eggs with the aid of a cardboard toilet roll cylinder and a torch to work out which eggs we thought may be viable, and placed them into the incubator. Days just seem to pass with no activity at all and we pretty much assumed that we had missed the boat in this instance.
We replenished the water in the incubator, and headed off down to the farm to prepare the property for the summer months. On our return, we were over the moon to discover that we did indeed have one little cutie that had hatched successfully. It was black/dark grey and a ball of fluffy feathers, and there they were, as large as life it’s self, the biggest pair of feet we’ve ever seen on a chick. So, after getting over the shock of the feet, we started to research what’s the story with old big foot, and there it was, our gorgeous little chick was likely a cockerel. We settled on a name for him/her and Arnie was used for the interim until we could figure out if this little bundle was a cock or a hen, and figured we could always change it’s name to Annie if indeed we did get our wish for it to be a hen.
Arnie helping in the growbeds when he was two weeks old.
Weeks passed, and Arnie was growing at a rapid rate, and just when we thought that those feet couldn’t get much bigger, they did. He followed us everywhere, and had pretty much hijacked poor old Cheidy’s bed right out from under her. Cheidy is such a tolerant girl, which is lucky for Arnie as I don’t imagine that too many dogs would tolerate getting pecked the way Cheidy was by him.
Arnie getting to be quite a big lad.
Now Cheidy is an inside dog, and like Cheidy, Arnie liked to consider himself an inside chook. He would move off Cheidy’s bed and jump onto your lap and sleep whilst we’d all watch TV. You’d have to place a towel on your lap to catch the poop, and very gingerly pick it up and flick it outside. I decided that enough was enough, and outside to sleep he would go. Endless pecking at the door and pleading eyes didn’t win me over, as I’d decided to stick to my guns. He refused to go in the pen with the girls as they would gang up on him and he would run around the pen like a screaming banshee, so I managed to get him used to sleeping in the garden shed eventually, which he seemed quite happy with. He really was part of the family, and had extended his liberties to drinking Sue’s wine and my sisters diet coke when they weren’t looking. Try and move either one away, and the heckles were up, and the fight was on. Fights were getting more frequent. Towels flapping in the breeze on the line, and he wanted to have a go. Your shoe if it moved in a direction that displeased him and it was on. Oh and fella’s visiting the shop, you’d better ditch your boxers, and put on your whitey tighties just in case. I reckon if we were to take him to the pub, he would announce on walking in that he wanted to fight the biggest man in the bar, with one wing tied behind his back. But put him with the other chickens and he runs almost flailing his wings and screaming like a big ole sissy. On our very first hot summers day, he couldn’t handle the heat so inside to the air conditioner he came, along with the panting budgies. And as for our food, “I’ll have some of what you’ve got thanks very much”
Arnie sleeping on Cheidys bed in the airconditioned office
It was time for our, not so little Arnie ( who is without a doubt a cockerel, despite all of our wishful thinking ) to move to work and mix with all the other chickens. The car trip was pleasant, as he obviously just considered it just another day at work where he would also come home again like he had done for several weeks. Now, all we had to do was go about finding a pen that we thought Arnie would be comfortable in. We figured that we should perhaps just put him into a pen on his own for a few days, just to get him used to being here for an overnighter. We put him in a pen that we usually set aside for the Mothers and their offspring, and I went about repairing the hole in the wire fence in the pen along side, as this would be Bruiser’s and Maggie’s pen. However, when we arrived the following day Maggie was in with Arnie, and this went on for several days in a row, until we decided that we may as well leave Maggie in that pen all the time.
Arnie and Maggie are still shacked up together several weeks later, and seem to be getting along just fine. Bruiser has started crowing in an awkward sounding fashion, and is a tiger when it comes to the girls. His turnover of mating with hens is more impressive that Mac Donalds turnover of cheese burgers, and he’s finished with 3 of them before poor old Hamish has realized what the hell is going on, and has gone to sort out the virile interloper.
This post has been a long time in the making, (which reminds me of someone who will remain nameless ) and on this very overcast and sticky day, our big boy Arnie has let out his very first strangled sounding crow.
He still enjoys his creature comforts and runs after us in some sort of a crazy loyal fashion, if only just to give you a peck. We do love our Arnie, even though he was born with a silver spoon in his beak, and the biggest pair of feet I’ve ever seen on a baby chick.