The survivor, by Michelle Dunn
You might think that a day-old chick is one of the most vulnerable things there is, but you would be wrong, says Michelle Dunn
One of my bantam hens hatched four chicks from a clutch of six eggs, leaving two unhatched eggs behind. Later that day I noticed a small hole in one of those eggs as though the chick had been trying to hatch. The egg was now stone cold, but I know from experience that unhatched chicks can survive for quite a while in their eggs after they have cooled.
I heard a story once about a pheasant farmer who had 200 pheasant eggs in incubators. Two days before they were due to hatch the farm had a power cut and all the eggs went cold. The farmer poured the eggs into a dustbin of ash from his log-burner ready to get rid of them. When he opened the bin the next day there was an explosion of chicks — the heat in the bin had warmed the eggs and the chicks had all hatched.
Anyway, back to my egg with the hole in it. I put the egg on the side of the Rayburn to warm up and forgot about it. Three hours later it cheeped at me. The chick was alive. I carefully helped it out and later that night I slipped it back under the bantam hen. The following morning she was fully integrated into the group.
She was still small and weak, however, and found it difficult to keep up with the others. Later that afternoon I went to check on her and found only four chicks with the bantam. I searched everywhere and eventually found my poor chick, cold and lifeless on the floor. I knew there was no hope, but I picked her up anyway and held her in my hands.
After 15 minutes there was still no sign of life and I was about to give up when I saw a tiny flicker of movement. I held her for another 10 minutes and then her beak opened. It took another half an hour before she was thoroughly warmed and back to normal. Once again I returned her to her mother and from then on she thrived. I was worried that she might have been damaged by that long period of cold, but no, she’s just perfect. A fluffy little superhero.
The bantam with all five of her offspring
Young chicks can be incredibly resilient