Henhouse updates

Welcome to new (and existing) subscribers to the Trueheart Petite Sirah blog!  You’ll be reading about our adventures growing petite sirah grapes, honeybees, chickens, lemons, olives and kids, grandkids and nieces and nephews – as well as making a delicious, elegant wine, on our two acres of heaven in Sonoma.  Please join the conversation and let me know what you think!

Now – meet “Little Sister” (named as such because she was the lone hen among her many rooster siblings), and her four little chicks. This is the first new family of 2012, and regardless of how many little chickens we’ve seen hatch, we get a total thrill every time.

Some people just buy eggs and put them under a heat lamp until they hatch when they want baby chicks.  A baby chick does not require its Mom to live, like mammals do. The mother hen doesn’t feed or sustain her chicks, but the moment after they hatch, she starts clucking a new and special cluck to call them to her.  She picks up the food she wants them to eat and clucks, leads them to water and clucks, goes into the nest and clucks, scratches in the dirt where bugs might be and clucks, hides from dangers and clucks.  The chicks follow her pretty closely for the most part.  Little Sister’s chicks are about a week old in these photos, and too adorable for words.

What did I tell you?  Cute, huh?

For the first several weeks, we cannot tell if a chick is going to grow up to lay eggs (a hen) or fight and seek “romance” (a rooster) every day of its life.  I guess there is a way to figure it out, but we don’t know how to do it, so we wait, and guess, and make up crazy theories that always prove wrong. One of my early theories was that if the chick had a black spot on its head, it was going to be a rooster and the spot was the beginning of his comb.  Then, I realized that all the chicks have spots.

None of our chickens like being picked up or held.  They will tolerate it, but not very happily. I’ve read that if you hatch the eggs without a mommy hen, the chicks are more likely to bond with you and will therefore be a little less afraid when you pick them up and hold them, but we love watching the mommies raise the little tykes.  The mommy hens are very fierce protectors and will “attack” you by pecking and biting, and flying up a bit on you when they think you are threatening their chicks.  “Little Sister” is fairly tame and relatively relaxed around us, but she did try to whack me several times when I picked her little one up for his close up.

This little fella is only one day old.  I wish you could see a better size comparison with the photo above, because this little guy is about 1/5 the size of the one week old chick in the previous shot.

This little one’s Mom is Daphne, and she’s a wonderful hen.  We only let her sit on two eggs, and this one’s sibling didn’t make it, so it’s an only-chick.  Sometimes I think the mother hens are better if they have lots of chicks – they are surrounded by so much peeping chaos, it’s impossible for her to get distracted by her own needs or desires, so they focus more closely on their chicks.  Could be another of my cockamamie theories – I have lots.

This is another reason we love letting our hens sit and hatch their own eggs – this view of Little Sister and her chick right here.

And right here – you do see the little head peeking out, don’t you?  OK, that’s the round up of the chickens for the night.  Next up – an update on the petite sirah vines!


3 responses to “Henhouse updates”

  1. avatar Vickie Bates says:

    So exciting to read about all the new life on the Trueheart estate! I had no idea tiny chicks displayed distinctive wing markings at such a young age – learn something new every day.

    Enjoy all the peeping chaos!

  2. avatar Wendy says:

    Thanks for your post! Found it by searching baby chicks because we had our very first hatch today in three years of keeping chickens! Very exciting! We aren’t doing much, just letting the momma’s watch over them. Yes, there are two, one who brooded and now the bantam who is caring for them. The other hen is still setting on the rest of the clutch. Hopefully more will be hatched my morning! Loved reading your posts, thanks so much!

  3. avatar Trueheart Vineyard says:

    Hi Wendy – a new hatch of baby chicks is always exciting, but the FIRST is unforgettable, congratulations! Our Moms have always been so great with their little ones. Be sure to provide an easy to reach supply of fresh shallow (we had one chick who drowned) water and chick mash available for the little ones. Hope you get more chicks in the morning! Good luck and thanks for writing ~~