Our Japanese bantams have done it again! So anxious to be mothers, the Japanese bantams have hatched some chicks just in time for Easter. People talk about Silkies being the best broodies, we do keep Silkies and whilst they are determined would-be mothers, the Japanese bantam wins hands down for us.
Their peculiar habit of hatching and brooding as a co-operative team, whilst very endearing, is not the most efficient way of doing things. On this occasion, the team consisted of 4 females, who squabbled all the time when brooding the eggs. Originally, there were 10 eggs, that dwindled to 8, as 2 were not fertile. A later candling revealed 4 had died during development. This breed have what is called a lethal gene which affects the developing embryos, very often this can affect 50% of the hatch. The particular gene in question is responsible for their very short legs, the shortest of all chickens.
Hatching was spread over 3 days and produced 4 chicks. The maternity wing was provided with food and water at floor level and we kept the pop-hole shut most of the time. I had to let in females who wanted to lay and the hole was promptly shut after their exit. It would be so easy for a chick to wander near the open pop-hole and fall out into the run with disastrous consequences. Whilst the work of teaching the chicks to feed and water themselves was divided equally amongst the 4 mums, as the end of the day got nearer just one female on the floor brooded all the chicks. The remaining 3 mothers spent the night as a tight scrum in a nestbox.
Our love of Japanese bantams revolves around their good nature, reliable egg laying abilities, their longevity (often more than 10 years) and their fantastic good looks. To see Japanese bantams in a group on grass is a wonderful sight, their beautiful fan like tails (huge in proportion to the bird itself), they seem to move around on castors, so short are their legs.
The chicks (finally 4 in number) are now around 10 days old and made their first foray outside today with their mums. The short video below shows them enjoying the evening light. The brown hen is Solitaire, a Belgium bantam. Show Solitaire an unattended egg and she’s on it in a flash, one of the best mothers we have ever had.