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Are You My Mother? Part 1 October 6, 2006

Posted by Laura in Family, Farm.

Our two Royal Palm turkeys (George and Martha) are coming along nicely. They have grown quite a bit over the last month or so since they were moved to the original chicken tractor. Given the oncoming fall, though, it is unlikely that Martha will begin laying eggs before spring.


We are still interested in starting a flock for meat use, so I bid on and won more eggs from a different breeder last month. This would ensure a diverse enough genetic pool to produce healthy offspring we hoped. We had one more broody hen left, so I tucked the eggs under her about the second week of September.

The Barred Rock hen dutifully set them for about 3 weeks, and then we had a spell of evenings where the temps got into the low 50’s. She decided child-rearing was behind her for the year and trotted off back to the henhouse leaving those precious eggs to chill in the brooding coop alone.

I spotted them the next morning when making rounds feeding all the various pens of chickens. I rushed them into the house in hopes of saving them and promptly decided the time to finally buy an incubator had come.

I put the 6 eggs in and turned them for several days. When we got a few days short of the anticipated hatch date, I stopped turning them. This was to allow the poult (or chick) to position itself for hatching.

One morning when I went up to check on them, I noticed an unpleasant odor and brown ooze seeping out of one of the eggs. No doubt that one was rotten. I VERY CAREFULLY removed it with layers of paper towels and sealed it in a bag, then cleaned up the mess. The others I let stay in hopes of some that survived the chill.

Yesterday (Wednesday) morning, I went up to check the humidity level and temperature again. I noticed one tiny chip out of an egg and a chirping coming from it. I was delighted! I periodically went up and encouraged the little one to keep at it and more pieces of shell fell away.

By dinner time, there was a definite crack and I was getting really eager to see the babe inside. It was so hard not to “help,” but I know that is something it has to do alone.

After church, I rushed back up and saw that about 1/3 of the shell was pushed off and a little head was visible. I quickly called the rest of the family and we watched as the balled-up baby pushed itself out into the world (well, at least into the incubator). It was one of those proud parent moments that get you misty-eyed.


Rachel danced around and cheered for it and I stood amazed at the sight. It was so delicate- all wet and uncoordinated, having never before stood or used its little wings. At the same time, I marveled at the strength and determination of that tiny thing that it had persevered in pecking away at that shell for HOURS and had finally emerged victorious.

Each new life that comes into this world makes it only after clearing countless hurdles (most we never know about). At so many points along the way, one small thing could go wrong and it would never be born, yet all the tiny details are coordinated seemingly effortlessly by God. His power and majesty never cease to amaze me.


We let the newborn spend the night in the incubator so it would be warm, could get dry, and might rest in the darkness after its hard work. This morning, I moved the tot to an improvised broody area, sans the usual mama hen. I talked to him a lot, stroked his little head and back, and told him how sorry I was that none of his siblings had made it. I knew he would be very lonely. He was pretty calm and watched me carefully as I talked to him. I’ve always heard about “imprinting” and that the first creature a baby animal sees it will assume is “mother.” I wondered if that would be the case here.

I had cleaned out and prepared our old stock water tank with a heat lamp and wood shavings. I put the little guy in there with some food and water and watched for a while. He wandered around and around the perimeter of the tank chirping and calling for mama or at least siblings. Several times before leaving home for the day, I went in and talked to him and held him for a while. That seemed to comfort him some, but the oval path around the tank picked right up again when I put him back in. Despite my encouragement, he wouldn’t eat or drink- just staggered around and around.


I went right back to him when I got home and he was still okay. At some point during the day, he had tired out and lay down under the lamp to rest. He picked up his nomadic journey when he heard my voice again.

There is more to tell, but this has gotten quite long and the hour is getting late. If you are interested in reading the rest, check back in another day or two.




1. One Stange Bird « The Farm Chronicles of Blessed Acres - December 19, 2006

[…] Remember that dear little lone turkey poult that was the only hatchling from a clutch of eggs a broody hen had been setting?  When she was big enough and feathered out, I moved her into the henhouse and she settled into a low, yet peaceful, place in the pecking order.  Having been tended by me twice daily for so long, she became my little shadow when the birds were released to forage.  She would fly across the yard when she saw me and land on my shoulder, singing “Tweed, tweed, tweed!”  It was so cute and endearing! I became very fond of her. […]

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