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A Very Long Post About Chickens

November 25, 2015

Things have not been overly busy chez Lind, but every day I still find a lack of hours in the day, or at least a lack of interruptions.  Ah well, between kids and people at the door, I suppose that’s normal.

So, how are we?  We are doing really well, though tired.  I’m tired mostly because growing one kid while caring for three other littles is actually quite tiring…I know it looks easy and effortless!  (<– sarcasm)  Matthew is tired because working in any cross-cultural arenas is simply that way.  Working in a foreign language, even if you are comfortable with it, is exhausting.  Working with a broken system and corruption at every external level is exhausting.  Working in a place where fear and fatalism are the primary motivators is exhausting.  (Like I’ve said previously, for up-to-date prayer requests for specific ministry things, please read our weekly email brief prayer updates written by Matthew – just send us an email if you’d like to receive them.)

Meanwhile, blogging kind of got put on the back burner.  It’s really not a lack of things to share – of course there are plenty, and I try to share snippets via photos and little quips on Facebook, but it really isn’t the same.  I hope to get back in the swing of all things blog-worthy and thought I’d start with an easy subject.

Besides the daily work of Matthew and homeschooling, my primary entertainment comes in the form of the chickens.  If you’re following me on Facebook or Instagram, you already know this…you’re already sick of it, I presume.  But, oh, the chickens and the follies of the little fluff balls and their caretaker (me).

There are twenty more eggs in the process of becoming chickens.  TWENTY.  I highly doubt we’ll actually get twenty more chickens, don’t you worry, but why this is the case when I PROMISED you (and myself and my husband and our poor workers who are tired of continuously raking the compost pile back into something less messy) is a giant set of misadventures.

You see, we planned on hatching two clutches…and clutches tend to be about ten eggs, with maybe six to eight chickens.  Then we’d have about 20 chickens and hopefully enough eggs to eat ravenously and even a few extras to give away or whatever.  So, we let the first hen who began laying set her ten eggs and, like she actually read the chicken’s textbook, nine hatched and eight survived.  Bam.  Done.

The second chicken to start laying laid twelve eggs, but only eight hatched and six survived initially..there are now five.  Because one got so thirsty it dove into a bucket of water and forgot it cannot swim or fly…sad.

The third chicken began to lay, about one a day, but not every day, and we rejoiced at finally having our own eggs to eat!  One a day!  So close, but so far from the goal.

Then we had friends visit – and because they offered to take the blame, I’m taking them up on the offer – and for five days I was distracted from my normal housewifery and chickens, gabbing it up for most of every morning while they waited for their driver to take them out for the day to their ministry – because he was very much on Congo time – and forgot to notice that one chicken had begun laying for the first time and had found the most secret of locations.

The day I noticed she was “missing” was the day she began to sit on the eggs.  And she was a terrible mother and was constantly moving her eggs out of the nest.  Or perhaps some weren’t fertile, because she was a new/young layer.  But, either way, out of nine eggs, one completely rotted out before its time and four hatched.  One died last week in a rain storm.  Oh the drama of having chickens.  It’s like a feathery soap opera.

So, knowing that another of the hens was about the same age I became vigilant (obsessed).  And sure enough, she was missing for about an hour every morning too.  So, while she was “missing” I hunted around the yard for her.  My guards helped.  I wanted those eggs.  We want to EAT the eggs!  I tried every day, knowing that once we got to ten days, we would likely miss the “window” and her hormones would kick in and she would sit on them, beginning the process of turning delicious egg-i-ness into baby chickens.

Day ten – I found her and her secret egg stash.  Right outside my back door.  *facepalm*  I waited a day, wanting to confirm they really were her eggs, and not the free loading guinea fowl we have loafing around, and on the eleventh day…she sat…for the day…and baby chickens began to form.  Bummer.  As I told Matthew, at least this is an edible error.

The following day, she left the nest and I couldn’t find her.  The day after that my guard found her and she was very ill.  It was quite apparent that this was it for her…but what of her eggs?  One egg had been smashed – the shell was thin and it was likely one of her first ever eggs laid.  It did, however, show that the eggs were beginning to transform into chicks.  So, not comfortable with eating them, I did what any nerd would do – I stuck a light bulb in a shoebox and ice cubes in a wash cloth and made my own little incubator, complete with a meat thermometer.  Why not?  The only thing I can’t control is power, but it had been decent lately, so it was worth the shot in the dark and certainly seemed better than just throwing them away.

Due to the sick chicken, which died before the day was over, we put the rest of the birds on antibiotics. We aren’t sure what killed her, so we didn’t want to loose a whole flock if we could help it.  However, the warning label on the antibiotics said not to eat the eggs they lay during or for a few days after the seven day dose.  Yikes.  Well, whatever, only that one chicken was laying eggs we actually ate.  Three hens had babies to look after and were on a laying-hiatus and the fifth and final hen was still too young.  So, I took the two eggs the chicken whose eggs we were eating and put them in the incubator as “controls.”

Then she stopped laying.  She stopped.  And she got broody.  “Broody” is when a chicken’s hormones “kick in” and she decides to sit on her eggs and be a mama.  Except we had eaten her eggs.  But, I did have this batch in a shoebox incubator in my kitchen, along with her two “controls.”  Should I give them over to a chicken who went broody a full ten days later?

There are too many variables on theses eggs to know what would have killed them if they don’t hatch…which I will be surprised if any do.

But, because we had power issues all this past weekend, I decided to try it and stuck them under her.  And she sat on them.  Incubation rules, though, demand that the eggs not be moved the last three-ish days before hatching.  When you grow them inside an incubator you stop turning them (normally you turn them multiple times each day).  When a chicken hatches them, she stops getting up for those last days (normally she gets up to eat once a day or so for an hour).  So, because this bird’s clock would be off, I took them today and put them back in the incubator…because they should hatch this weekend, Friday maybe, but who knows…we have candled them and know a few were growing something.  Maybe a mutant.

I left the two “control” eggs under their mama because I figure if she hatches them herself maybe she’ll stop being broody the normal way.  Plus, if she wants to be a mother, who am I to deprive her?

Meanwhile, the first chicken who laid eggs and, like clockwork, hatched eight surviving birds went back to laying eggs.  Her babies were six weeks old and the cycle has started again.  But these eggs we can’t eat because they were still on antibiotics.  So, we shrugged and let her lay.  And now she’s sitting on nine eggs, due to hatch in less than three weeks.

Because we’re crazy.  We have, literally, 21 chickens and get no eggs to eat.  And more birds on the way.  And today our worker cleaned up the compost pile and said the chickens immediately went to see what new things he unearthed while cleaning it up, thus completely destroying it again.

I shrugged and told him that was their work – they dig in the compost pile…and they add to it.

…to be continued…if something hatches…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. ricetd permalink
    November 26, 2015 0829

    Very funny post. Thanks. Tim


  1. The Miracle of [Feathered] Life & Electricity | The Linds in DR Congo with MAF

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