Dear Old Eleanor!

Last year I obtained a few Silver Gray Dorkings.  This heritage breed is endangered–as are many of the older breeds–by a monopoly of meat kings, and brown and white layers.  At any rate, they are beautiful, and are very good egg layers.  They also are willing mothers, as Eleanor has proved now for the second time.  She hatched four chicks and I had two hatch in the incubator the previous week.  I wanted to put the incubator chicks with the mother, but was concerned they would not recognize her as their mother, having spent a week under a  heating  lamp in my house, and bonding to me.  At first they were hesitant, but within half a day were resonding to her clucks to come and eat or follow her into their house.  So the coding in the wee brain of the chick is set to recognize the mother hen even if introduced later.  I wonder at what point they would not respond?  At any rate all is well, and Eleanor is doing a great job.

She is exceedingly tolerant and patient with them, even when they tug at her eyelids or ears (one chick does this at one point in the Facebook Turtle Hill Farm film clip on the topic).

They are housed in an A-frame style coop with attached run.  It has no bottom, and can be moved every day to fresh grass, so the “floor” is always clean, and they eat a lot of fresh grass and insects.  The sleeping part does have a bottom and a door, to keep them warm and protect from predators at night.  I stapled plastic sheeting to the run part to protect them from rain and drafts; they are fragile to cold, and Nova Scotia can be chilly in Spring.

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