Today is the 17th and my Baby Bird is 17 months old. She has been a toddler for quite some time. Running, coloring, eating PB&J and saying “no!” (All at the same time.) I suppose it is past due that she get a promotion. From this point on she will now be called “Little Bird.”
She is not our only baby bird growing up. With the passing of Steve, “Bebe,” the chick in our banner and Facebook profile picture, who we watched hatch from an egg, is now our senior hen. She is a proficient layer, laying a large, light brown egg daily.
Although we don’t have any roosters, we were lucky to watch Bebe and her sibling hatch and grow. A few years ago my husband noticed that one of our hens, Butters, a sweet and social Buff Orpington, was broody. “Broody” hens sit on the eggs all day trying to hatch them. In the wild this is obviously a necessary characteristic in order for the eggs to survive. However, most laying hens have the trait of broodiness bred out of them as it can disincline them to lay more eggs. For the purposes of egg production they simply need to lay the egg and move on.
When picking up our organic, soy-free, Modesto Milling poultry feed and scratch from White Mountains Ranch, Papa Bird chatted with the owner about how to get Butters to stop being so broody. She surprised us by suggesting that we let her! She graciously gave us four fertilized eggs to take home and let her sit on. Butters was a wonderful foster mom. She sat and sat and sat and sat…
And finally, one day in the spring, we had babies!! Two of the eggs hatched. Give me the meanest, grouchiest person, put newborn chicks in front of them and I guarantee they will just melt. There is nothing cuter.
One chick was strong and healthy. Since the baby bird had black feathers, well black fuzz, Papa Bird kept the South Park references going and named the chick “Token.” The little one we called “Bebe.” Unfortunately, little Bebe was born with a club foot. Her foot curled in and didn’t open up properly. She couldn’t put weight on it or walk properly. I imagine that back in the old days, on a large farm, such a deformed chicken wouldn’t get the chance to survive. Then again, in modern, large scale egg production the chickens live in cages and aren’t really allowed to walk around. So who knows what they do.
Papa Bird did a little research and decided to try to splint her foot. I was so proud of him and his All Creatures Great and Small skills. As I played nurse and lent extra hands, he experimented with various splints for Bebe. First he tried a little piece of cardboard and some medical tape. Unfortunately, Butters kept pecking at the white cardboard. We were worried she would hurt the poor baby’s foot. Eventually we found that what worked best was just a bandaid or two. Fortunately, after about a week her foot worked well, if a little smaller at first. Now you can’t even tell!
Token, on the other hand, had a different problem. You see, he ended up being a “he” which is illegal in the City of San Diego! We took him to White Mountains Ranch later that year so he could enjoy the spoils of country life.
Click on any photo in the gallery to enlarge.