Scotland Farm has a new inmate. Her name is Mrs Balls and she is a Sussex Light/Rhode Island Red cross chick. Now the important thing is that although she arrived only 2 days ago, I know that she is a she and not a he. This is because this particular hybrid cross of hen is self sexing - the girls are born golden and the boys traditional chick yellow. Very important because its the girls we are after and the boys, well, they have to "go down the road". Most people dont know that sexing chickens is a highly skilled job and can take up to two years to master. So having a chick whose plumage gives the game away the instant it hatches is a big plus.
Now Mrs Balls is special in other ways. I bought 18 cross eggs off Ebay and popped them in the incubator confident of at least a 60% hatch rate. All was going well until we had a power failure. It occurred at 11.30pm just at the crucial stage of chicken egg incubation and I got alarmed. Called the power utility and was told the power would only be off for about an hour. Well in the wild, hens get off their eggs daily to eat and enjoy their morning constitutional so if the power was off for an hour, the eggs ought to be fine. Ergo I did not intervene and went to bed. The only problem was the hour stretched to two hours and then three hours. By the time the power was finally restored, the eggs had cooled off for 5 and a half hours. Not good. But I restored the incubator and let nature take its course.
Obviously something went very wrong becasue most of the eggs candled infertile. I debated with myself taking all the eggs out and chucking them but something made me hold back. The due date (29th August) came and went and nothing happened - no hatching, no peeping of little bird voices, no tapping of little beaks. Nothing. Then on 31st I walked into the bird room and the most nauseating, horrible smell hit me. Honestly this was a stench that made sheep footrot smell like Chanel No 5. After reeling backwards, I recovered, braced myself and made my way to the incubator to find green fluid leaking out from the bottom - clearly the source of the putrid aromas. There to my astonishment I discovered Mrs Balls standing in the incubator, having not so much hatched in any sense of the word but obviously her rotten shell had just exploded and projected her into the world. What an undignified way to arrive and clearly she was not happy. I grabbed some paper towel and mopped up as much of the green soup as possible without retching. I then opened the incubator and extracted the little scrap of chick. Books say leave chicks in the incubator for 24 hours to dry off properly but the gases and fumes in the incubator were so vile and toxic that I was sure the chick would simply choke and die.
She is an odd little thing - not quite right but she is toddling around in the brooder, eating and drinking. She has been joined by a more robust healthier brother - the only other egg that hatched out of the 18.
But why have I called her Mrs Balls? Well my South African readers will cotton on pretty quick. Mrs Balls makes the best chutney ever and its the golden brown colur of this chick's feminine plumage. The chick also had the balls to hang in through the power cut and then survived being encased in green slime - that takes strength of character - hence Mrs Balls.
Havent named her brother yet but it remains to be seen if both surive. Hope so.