Because things weren’t complicated enough with a new puppy and a broken arm, right? Life must go on, and Bella was broody. How broody? This broody:
And once Bella goes broody, she goes fiercely, stubbornly, decidedly, indubitably broody. She sits on those golf balls in the nest 24/7, hunkered down and willing them to hatch. We thought it over and decided it would not be a bad idea to “salt” the flock. Ginger is getting a bit long in the tooth at six years old, and Bella, Nugget and Ava are going on four. June is two, but nothing to write home about as a layer, so why not give Bella a couple of buns in the oven?
Not so fast. I discovered that it’s almost impossible to acquire baby chicks in California right now due to a Newcastle’s Disease quarantine. Newcastle’s is a virulently contagious respiratory disease that has decimated flocks in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The good news is that there are signs that the outbreak may be contained by this fall. The bad news is that in keeping with the quarantine, the USPS, which flock keepers have depended on for more than a hundred years to deliver live chicks, is not currently delivering baby chicks to California zip codes. So, for the moment: no rooster, no chicks.
But then I heard whispers through the chicken grapevine that a local feed store was going to do a gonzo drive to a northern California hatchery and return with a load of day-old chicks. Limited numbers, and limited breeds, but it would do. They arrived yesterday afternoon and we headed over to pick up two little peepers.
“They’re pretty stressed from the drive”, said the feed store manager. But fragile as they might seem, these little girls are resilient. We settled them in with a heat lamp and soon they were happily eating and drinking.
Under cover of darkness, we slipped them under broody Bella’s wings last night, hoping for the best. There’s always that chance that a broody hen will reject the chicks, so I crept into the coop with just a bit of trepidation this morning. By the light of day, Bella discovered that those golf balls had turned into fluff balls!
So far, so good. Bella is already clucking gently to them and admonishing them to stay underneath her fluffy warm tent of feathers. We’ve decided to name the little girls (we hope – 90% guarantee of females but there’s always that tiny margin of error…) after two of our favorite authors. The little Salmon Faverolles on the left is Willa, and the Buff Orpington (just like her mama) is Edith. Welcome, little ones!
“Where there is great love, there are always miracles.”
— Willa Cather