Peepers the lone chick

My chick Peepers
My chick Peepers

We wanted to get more chickens. My uncle gave me a really old incubator, that I believe was my Grandma’s.  I remember her hatching chicks when I was a very small child, so this thing is very, very old.  We attempted to hatch 11 eggs, and started incubating them at the end of December.  A day later, we realized one of our hens was being broody – she was sitting in a nesting box and wouldn’t come out when we were in there, even for treats.  I found out she was sitting on 2 eggs.

Eggs take about 21 days to hatch.  Around day 15, our incubator stopped working – the temperature should be around 99 to 100 degrees, and it was at 70 degrees. I tried fiddling with it and couldn’t get it to work.  So I candled the eggs to see if there was anything in them, figured out 5 were empty, and took the other 6 eggs and put them under my broody hen.

On the 22nd day since I started the incubation, I went in the morning to feed the chickens and heard peeping under the hen.  I took her out and saw one completely opened shell, but no chick.  I looked around their coop and found a dead chick across the room – I don’t know if it fell out and the other chickens killed it, or if it died because it was cold, or what exactly happened (I know they moved it, because there is no way it would have moved there on its own at that age).  I went back to the nest box and found the peeping sound was coming from an egg that was pipping  – pipping is where the chick is just starting to come out – they’ve made a hole in the egg.  I didn’t want it to hatch and get killed so I didn’t want to leave it under her.  I took that egg, and left the rest in under the hen, since they didn’t show any signs of hatching yet.

I had set up a box for the chicks in my house, and I put that pipping egg in the box under a heat lamp.  I opened the shell a tiny bit more, but figured the chick needs to do it on their own, so I left the egg there. Then I had to leave for work.

That night, I got home and the chick hadn’t made any progress, and I was worried because it looked like the egg was drying to his (her?) body where the heat lamp had dried it.  I helped the chick out of the egg the rest of the way, and started rubbing him to wake him up more.  He peeped a bit and seemed to be alive and healthy, but still needing help. I was worried the heat lamp may not be warm enough, but my body temperature is about what an incubator should be so I just held him the rest of the night in my hand while he fluffed up. He was doing well by the end of the night, and would even drink a little water.

I named him Peepers.  None of the other eggs hatched, and a couple days later I opened them all to see – the two the hen had originally sat on were not fertilized, and all the others either had dead chicks in them or were half developed or just gross old eggs. So Peepers is all alone.  I have a toy chick in his box with him and he seems to like his “friend,” and he’s been growing well.  He’s now 2 weeks old.

Peepers and friend
Peepers and his toy chick friend.

I probably won’t know what sex Peepers is until he’s an adult. I found out a way to see based on length of wing feathers, but you have to look when they are a day old, and that has passed. I heard that at industrial chicken farms they squeeze the chicks to see what sex parts come out (I guess a rooster will have more of a nub or something) but I wouldn’t want to hurt him.  I’m hoping he’s actually a she, because I don’t really need another rooster, but we’ll see what happens.

We still would like more chickens, so we will need to buy a new incubator soon.  For now I just have my little pal Peepers.

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