I was raised in Eastern Oregon on small farm and on the outskirts of a small town. We had chickens on the farm, but they were egg sources and food, not pets. We had geese in town/outskirts...they were pets. Not sure I remember why they eventually left our possession over time. We moved to small ranch/farm in 10th grade and again we had chickens...for eggs mostly, but we did eat the occasional extra rooster or older hen. I never thought of chickens as pets.
Then I moved to the city. I lived in Portland for well over a decade with cats and parakeets for pets. My oldest daughter came up with the idea of using my mother's old incubator to raise chicks from eggs as a science project when she was in 6th grade. I have been "momma hen" ever since. These chickens we hatched are family. They may live out back in their pen and coop, but to this day if we leave the gate and door open, the first one we hatched will walk in as if to say "what's for lunch?" I have found that the ones we incubated/hatched are more socialized and friendly than the ones we got from feed store as baby chicks. Even though the bought chicks got handled and loved from the time we got them, none of them are as friendly as those we hatched.
Unfortunately that was 6 years ago and the poor old dears are slowing down. We have lost 1 out of 3 original ones we kept. Some of our bought chicks have come and gone for various reasons. I miss the fresh eggs. My mom gave me 3 younger banties who have been laying like little troupers, but they are wild and not at all friendly.
Ok....the scene is set, background given....I miss the farm and all the animals, but I still live in a city. My friend I have known since college shows up and starts talking about hatching some new chicks.....somehow I find myself agreeing to "hen" them for her with a few of them staying with us in end. I am excited. My children are excited. My husband...tolerant. So I turn the eggs 2 times a day and cluck at them and make others noises I have heard my hens make....(my husband laughing quietly the whole time!) and keep close watch over the babies in the incubator. Out of 21 eggs, we drop to 13 after I candle them. The others were all just yokes and one barely formed chick.
Two days before they are due to hatch I bought a new heat lamp, bulb, feed pan and water bottle and chick feed. I will pull out the cage tomorrow I think as I go to bed that night. In my defense, it has been several years since I have had babies, but I was still surprised at the loud peeps that woke me at 4:30 a.m. Friday morning! Dawn had decided she needed out now! My husband was out of town and the kids asleep as I dragged myself downstairs and out to the shed to find the cage an hour later. First hour I wrapped her in a dishcloth and cuddled her and talked to her. Yes--I was imprinting. The cage was easy to get to...thanks to my organized husband!....but needed cleaned. Sigh. By the time I had it cleaned, set up and ready another chick was making its arrival known!
By 1:30 Sunday morning the last chick was hatched. Only 9 made it. Not sure what we did wrong with others, 1 was never viable, but 4 just didn't make it out of the shell. :(
See photo albums to see our new babies as they grow. I am ultimate momma hen I guess, cause my friend "convinced" me to try another 36 eggs. Two days in and I am frustrated at trying to get incubator to regulate right. Eggs showed up 2 days before we expected them and I had turned off incubator to clean it. Cross your fingers for us.