It was Day 21. THE day.
It seemed like forever since I placed my order for hatching eggs, waited, got the package, waited another long day for them to “settle,” placed the eggs under a grumbling and growling Idee, and marked off 21 days on my calendar.
Each day I made a big “X” to mark off another day of setting, I wondered if this was an exercise in futility. We got Idee in a batch of eight day-old chicks straight from a hatchery. How could a hen who never knew her mother, or any mother of the avian variety, know how to pull this off? The setting, the rotation of the eggs, keeping everybody properly warm?
Then, if we had any chicks, what would she think? I mean, shucks, minding hard, dry calcium ovals is one thing. How would she react if they transformed into alien creatures? A newly hatched chicken is an ugly sight. I think I might run screaming if I didn’t know what it was. Would she embrace the little beggars or freak out?
It was a lot to ask of Little Orphan Idee.
And none of them would ever look like her, either. It would be a very “blended” family. None of the eggs were Buff Orpingtons.
It was early when I went out to the coop. Dew covered my shoes as I walked across the too-tall grass and reached the coop’s screened door, listening carefully. If there were cheeps they were drowned out by the early morning cacophony of songbirds in the hedges and trees. I would have to go in there before I knew.
I went up the steps and into the coop hesitantly, fearful and hopeful at the same time. Idee sat in the same spot she had inhabited for over a month, counting the pre-egg phase when I knew I had me one broody hen and took the leap of faith and ordered her some “real” eggs.
She was hunkered down as usual in her “leave me alone” position. This time, though, I knew I heard something.
“Chip-chip-chip,” tiny squeaky whistly peeps. A chick! That was a chicken peep. There had to be at least one chick! Oh! Congratulations, Idee! You did it! Good girl!
But still I saw nothing. In the dim light, I drew closer. Idee bristled a little and stared at me warningly. Her feathers moved strangely. She seemed to be poking out in odd places. She shifted somewhat uncomfortably. And then I saw it.
A beak. A tiny, teensy beak, pale and hesitant, it poked out from Idee’s buff-colored feathers near her tail end. Then it was gone, my first glimpse withdrawn. Ack! I waited. The peeping continued. Was it just the one, or were there more? Now that I had sight of one, I wanted there to be more!
The head that first poked out peered out again, but just for a few teasing glimpses, then went back into the fluffy, feathery abyss. This continued for a while, then, sure enough, a different head appeared. Two chicks! Yay for Idee!
Idee was basically immobile, except for some wobbling as her undersides moved and peeped beneath her. She continued to glare at me, but was there a tinge of self-satisfaction in her gaze? Or was that exhaustion?
Idee was taking it in stride. The otherworldly transformation which had taken place beneath her downy, warm bosom seemed to be all right with her.
By now, chicks were popping out in multiple places. Were there three, or were they just very maneuverable under there, dodging and darting aft to stern? Was the hatching still in progress? The chicks I saw were fully dry, fluffy perfection. I wasn’t going to reach under there and see. The mystery wasn’t over yet. I would have to wait for a final count.
And, oh, I almost forgot. I wasn’t alone in the coop. I did actually take my camera: