I have a Tupperware full of crickets in my refrigerator right now.
This is one of those moments where you picture your life a few years ago, then picture your life now, and go… well, this is surprising. Kind of like the part of my life where I catch myself napping with Nugs in my yard…
So, let me tell you a story. This is, by far, the most random chicken-related thing that has happened to me yet…
A few weeks ago, one of my older Nugs went broody (meaning she started sitting in the nesting box 24 hours a day, trying to hatch unfertilized eggs. It doesn’t work.) This isn’t the first time, and one night I was like, shit, she wants to hatch some eggs so badly, why don’t I just let her hatch something? Like guinea hens, maybe.
I’ve heard mixed reviews on guinea fowl, but my main interest is that they eat ticks. A lot of them. So I decided (maybe after a bottle of wine) to by some fertilized guinea fowl eggs online and let her hatch them.
I bought them. My hen remained broody.
I waited. My hen remained broody.
Two weeks later I had no word on my guinea eggs, and was concerned that my hen might night be eating or drinking, so I put her in a separate pen for 24 hours (I call it Chicken Jail) just to make sure she was getting some nourishment. I use this pen to break her of the broodies, and it usually takes about a week of being in jail for her to go back to normal. In this case 24 hours later… no longer broody.
You know what happened next… I get a call that the guinea eggs are on their way.
Sooooo… now I have a dozen guinea hen eggs about to show up at my house and zero hens who would like to sit on and hatch them? That’s nice.
The eggs show up on a Thursday.
I consider buying an incubator at $100 or so, but the fact that I could have bought pre-hatched guinea keets for $5/apiece and I already spent $50 on the eggs made me very frowny about spending more money on this endeavor.. I happen to talk to my dude about this as he’s on his way to a bachelor party downtown.
I decide to abandon my plan of hatching the guinea eggs.
Two hours later, I get a text from my dude: “So. I was talking to this girl at the bar… SHE HAS BROODY HENS THAT WILL HATCH THE EGGS!”
I’m all… “You’re kidding, right? You went out for a bachelor party, ended up talking to a girl who happens to have broody hens that will hatch my eggs?? Did you at least buy her a drink first?!”
That’s my guy.
So I took the eggs over to these super-awesome people the next day, and they did, in fact, have two broody hens that were more than happy to sit on my guinea hens.
Totally random, right?
The timing of it all could not have been better. Now I’m expecting guinea keets in the next 20 days or so, which means I need to have a new coop built soon-ish. (Totally cool, it’s not like I have one or two hundred other projects going on around here.)
So… that’s the story of my guinea hens, for now.
A less awesome story is that last week I also lost one of my older Nugs to a neighbors dog. Not my awesome neighbors, but someone down the street who thought it was a good idea to walk their dog off the leash. The dog attacked this girl, and after some hasty first-aid we had high-hopes she’d pull through…
She made it through to the morning, but not much after. And while I completely accept that losing a Nug or two to natural predators is a way of life, it kind of pisses me off that this could have been prevented if those people had their dog on a leash.
To make matters worse, it just so happens that when I checked on the rest of the Nugs in the morning there were a couple dead barn swallows on the barn floor as well, and I was like WTF? WHY DOES EVERYTHING KEEP DYING?
Which probably explains what happened next.
Two days later I found this little guy (still alive, obviously) on the barn floor.
I put him back in the nest, and he stayed there for the rest of the day. But the next morning?
The problem is… the Nugs will happily eat baby birds. I was hesitant to put him back in the nest where he could fall into their clutches, so we did a lot of this…
(Yeah. It only opened it’s mouth if I made that ridiculous chirping noise first.)
Then I put it back in the nest with its siblings at night. I went to a wedding, and when I got back… and not one but two little guys were sitting freezing on my barn floor when I got home around 2 AM.
I know it looks like I’m holding a limp little bird in this picture, but he was actually gripping my hand with both feet and wings at this point. The little guy was so cold, I think he was trying to get the heat lamp on as much surface area as possible.
I haven’t seen the mom or other babies all day, the local bird shelter won’t take them, and I just don’t have it in me to have more things effing die on me this week.
So that’s why I have a Tupperware of crickets in my fridge.
The farm has made me pretty good about letting nature take its course. Sometimes baby birds don’t make it… they become food for bigger birds, and those bigger birds are sometimes food for other things. And I don’t think I’m a legitimately good substitute for a bird-mom… I know there’s no way these guys get the right balance of heat and nutrients and other baby bird-related things. But I also don’t seem to be able to let them just starve or freeze right now.
So every couple of hours they get some mini-crickets I’ve collected from the field, or a mixture of dried meal-worms mixed with electrolytes and water…
And they hang out with me while I do my work for the evening.
I know. I’ve completely gone ’round the bird-lady bend. But we all do what we have to do, I guess.