Eragon, my first chick hatched from one of my chickens, has been missing for three days. Saphera, without her chick by her side, has rejoined the flock. Eragon is nowhere to be found. While there is a chance that she may turn up somewhere, there's a good chance that she will never be found.
Saphera sitting on her clutch of 18 eggs behind a broken window and several pieces of tractor equipment in the garage. She was missing for two weeks before we found her (to our great surprise!).
Exactly 21 days after Saphera went missing, the farm crew was working in the garage when I heard a "peep peep peep!" coming from the corner. The new chick hatched on August 2, 2011, and I became a grandmother!
Saphera was VERY protective of her new chick. She attacked me when I tried to go anywhere near them, using her newly grown spurs (females can grow spurs in the absence of a rooster for the purpose of self-defense). After sitting religiously on her nest, I'm sure she was very excited to be able to leave for short periods of time (though we were still keeping our fingers crossed that another chick would hatch). I spotted them crossing the driveway on the chick's second day of life and threw them an ear of corn, which they both happily ate. Though most chicks raised in a hatchery aren't fed until 48-72 hours after they are born (they can survive off the yolk, which is why it is possible to ship day-old chicks across the country), he sure seemed hungry!
Being a grandmother caused lots of worry! I stayed up late one night to paint this "SLOW - CHICKEN CROSSING" sign to warn passing farm vehicles to watch out for the new chick. I realized shortly after that there was no need, the chick's little legs moved as fast as lightning!
After a few days without a healthy chick hatching, I removed the rest of the eggs from Saphera's nest, which smelled HORRIBLE. I cleaned the nest, treated for mites (which were rampant), and hung fly traps (which were almost as bad as the mites). It was well worth dawning goggles and a face mask and soliciting helpers - armed with snow shovels and rakes for protection from the very protective mother.
I was sure that the new chick was a male. The yellow legs and yellow splotch on the back of his head were indicators it was a male in the dominique breed (though the chick was a cross, so it wasn't for sure). There were also increased odds that it was a male...I hadn't been feeling very lucky (keeping a second rooster on the farm would not be possible). After soliciting name suggestions from everyone I know, I named him Eragon Dayton-Saunders Augustus-Peep. Eragon, for short.
New chicks grow so quickly, especially with so much love and attention from mom! At just over a week old, Eragon already had wings and tiny tail feathers peeking through!
At two weeks old, with warm August nights, Eragon and Saphera abandoned their nest and moved outside - sleeping at night in the large forsythia bush near my house. Under Saphera's watchful eye, Eragon spent most of the day foraging around the yard. I loved watching him learn how to fly (including onto the garage roof!) and watching him communicate with Saphera through peeps and coos. It's was amazing to see how strong and capable he was living outdoors, especially compared to the chicks I brooded in my house.
The little guy at one-month old, sporting a fuzzy hairdo while his real feathers begin to grow in.
Saphera and Eragon survived Hurricane Irene outside, but under the cover of the bush. I was shocked to see them emerge after the storm unharmed.
At eight weeks old, it became clear: Eragon was a GIRL! She looked just like Saphera and had all of the physical characteristics of a female pullet - straight tail feathers and hardly any comb. Both of them had begun to eat and spend time with the rest of the flock.
Saphera and Eragon