When I went down to check on Canasta yesterday, she was off the nest and strutting around with six fluffy chicks. Of the remaining eggs, which were all cold, three were chipped, so the chicks inside had tried and failed to get out. One had chipped enough for me to see the beak of the baby bird.
Rose and Boy helped me to move the coop, to give them a clean area with short grass. Then I took the eggs back to the house, lined a bowl with a cloth and put the eggs on top of the Aga. I’d heard a faint cheeping from the most chipped egg and thought it was worth the attempt to save them. If the eggshell is very hard, the chick’s “egg tooth” wears down and it can’t scrape its way out. I fetched tweezers and, taking each egg in turn, broke away a little shell, leaving the membrane and, as they warmed up, all three of the chicks started to move and cheep. It’s a nerve-wracking job and needs a steady hand. It’s easy to damage the baby. I got about halfway through each job and took a break for breakfast, it being about 10 o’clock by then, and Rose came through to see how things were going, took over and got the first chick out. Half an hour later, all three were in the bowl, cheeping but fragile.
I’ll cut to the chase. I didn’t think we’d be so lucky, but they’ve all survived. On Compostwoman’s advice, I put them all back under Canasta, when she was snuggled down with the other six – I’d been afraid she’d reject them and would have put them there after dark, but I bribed her with a few mealworms and tucked the chicks under her while she was distracted. I’d given them all a drink of water, and she’d teach them to peck food. And later, they were all staggering about, looking a bit bedraggled, but today they’re all fluffy and strong and I can’t tell which hatched by themselves and which were helped. I’m so pleased.
It’s been a sociable few days. After my book club supper on Thursday, I met Ronan for lunch on Friday and went to the winery in the evening and, yesterday, a friend called on Rose and they swept us up to take us to a local pub for dinner. Today, we went to the next village for their Open Gardens day. We didn’t get round all 17 gardens, but we managed a fair few, as we say in Norfolk, and included a substantial lunch and tea as we went. The planned casserole for this evening will wait. We’re not quite ready to do it justice.