Whatever Happened to Jenny’s Eggs?

Posted by on Jul 8, 2011 in Farm Blog, Turkeys | 72 comments

It has now been a month since we last updated on our turkey hen, Jenny, who at the beginning of June was busy producing her second clutch of eggs for the season.

Jenny, our Red Bronze heritage hen

Although two chicks hatched from the first clutch, neither survived due to some misguided curiosity on the part of our Tom, and the remaining eggs were damaged as a result of him repeatedly running through Jenny’s nest, while attempting to chase off intruders.

Jake, our Red Bronze Tom

As it’s completely impossible to reason with a Tom Turkey, once Jenny starting laying the second clutch, we did some creative rearranging of the turkey pen so we could separate Jake and Jenny.

Last we updated, Jenny was working on her second clutch of eggs

We expected the second clutch to be smaller than the first, but Jenny still managed to lay 17 eggs in this clutch!  We found one discarded shell the week before the Fourth of July, and from the appearance of the shell membranes, it never contained a chick.  As for the remaining 16 eggs, all we could do was watch, and wait.

We had calculated that the earliest Jenny’s eggs would hatch was the Fourth of July, 26 days from when she started hard incubation (sitting on the nest full time, day and night).

For 26 days Jenny incubated this clutch, only getting off the nest once a day

On Sunday afternoon, the 3rd of July, while Jenny was up taking a brief stretch, I was quickly able to count the eggs, verifying there were still 16.  There didn’t seem to be any overt signs of impending hatching, yet, but we hoped we’d see something soon.  It was miserably hot, and as Jenny wasn’t getting up, even to drink water, we left some slices of watermelon in reach, which she seemed to appreciate (just in case you notice a few pink wedges in some of the following photographs).

The morning of the 4th of July I spent a little time with Jenny in the pen, and just before noon, if I listened very closely, I could just barely hear a faint peeping coming from underneath her.  Was someone about to hatch?  Had they hatched already?!  Jenny wasn’t telling.

Then we saw two opened egg shells in front of Jenny, who was suddenly very defensive...

After a number of visits to Jenny that day, late that afternoon we finally saw an egg shell at the edge of the nest in front of her, with the large air-cell end of the egg perfectly removed.  The membranes were discolored, just as we’d expect, and it seemed that someone, somewhere under Jenny, really had hatched!

Jenny wasn’t revealing much on that first afternoon though.  The chicks were still damp, and huddled very close to their Mother to keep warm.

Our first peek at the occupants of those eggs (red arrows). So new, their feathers are still wet...

Cameras clearly were not welcome, and Jenny hissed at me to let me know to leave her alone.  I respectfully gave her some space, but by the very end of the day though, we could see the first little poult peeking out from under Jenny’s feathers, giving us the first good look at one of her tiny chicks, all fluffed out…

Jenny's first chick...an adorable little redhead! (click any image to enlarge, you know you want to)

Just a few hours old, this first little one looked like he or she was going to be a redhead!  Jake and Jenny are both Bronze Reds, the offspring of a Bourbon Red tom, and a Standard (Heritage) Bronze hen, and we’d expect most of the offspring to be either Standard Bronze, or Red Bronze in coloration like Jake and Jenny (more on why in a later turkey feather color genetics post from Mr. Curbstone).  However, it was also possible for them to produce Bourbon Red colored chicks. 

So at least we had one chick, but wait…

…here’s another peeking over an egg…

TWO!

…no, a miscount, it’s three! 

Suddenly the poults seemed to be popping like popcorn, there's number 3!

By dark we had seen three, but had no idea how many more were to come.  The next morning was a chilly 48F for July, so although I was anxious to see if anyone else had hatched, I was glad that Jenny was keeping her eggs and chicks snug and warm beneath her.  I left for a while, but by the afternoon of the 5th, with the temperatures well into the 80s, during one of my numerous visits past the pen door I realized that Jenny was standing up.  I peered through the fence, and all the eggs were gone!  There were just shells, and this…

"are these all mine?"

…a profusion of poults!

I was completely shocked, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing through the fencing.  There were peeping poults all over the place, huddled in little piles in the warm afternoon sun.

A day old, and sunbathing already!

I almost felt guilty relishing in so much adorableness, especially as Mr. Curbstone wasn’t home, and missing all this!  I thought I was going to burst!

Two Bourbon Red, and one Heritage Bronze chick, enjoying some warm afternoon sunshine

It took me at least half a dozen attempts to count everyone, which was eventually made much simpler once the poults finally succumbed to a nap attack. Sixteen…there were SIXTEEN!  Really?  No.  Count again, can’t be right, they couldn’t have all hatched, surely?  In less than 36 hours, every single egg HAD hatched!  My umpteenth count was still 16!

"Let's count again...one...two...three...SIT STILL! ...four...five..."

Compared to Jenny’s disastrous first spring clutch, to have all 16 eggs hatch was completely unexpected.  Very welcome, very exciting, but so very unexpected!  That said, young turkey chicks are very fragile in their first few weeks of life.

As cute as they are, and as strong as they seem, young chicks are vulnerable, but Jenny's a diligent mother, and we're hoping for the best

The first afternoon alone I’d already given myself a half dozen minor heart attacks when I found upside down turtled chicks in the pen that were tired from struggling to right themselves, laid out in the sunshine.  Fortunately, a quick flip right side up seemed to set everyone back on their feet just fine.  You’ll see in this video, around the 1:30  mark, when a little Bourbon Red chick gets bowled over by a boisterous bronze sibling, and is briefly turtled until Jenny reaches over to help out.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with a grin as wide as the Cheshire Cat’s, suffering from a full-on case of cute overload.

"Mama, make them move over! There's no room!"

Jenny however, just seemed to be taking everything in stride.

"Mama I'm sleepy...zzZZzzzz"

Good grief, how on earth will she keep track of 16 tiny poults!?!  Yesterday, watching all the poults scurry underneath her for a mid-morning nap, I couldn’t help but wonder how long they’re all going to fit under there, and the whole scene was reminiscent of watching clowns pack themselves into a clown car…

Honestly I’ve succeeded in getting almost nothing productive done all week!  Would you?

I'm spending entirely TOO MUCH time sitting in the turkey pen...wait...socialization, that's it, I'm socializing the chicks!

Jenny though has been busy, keeping track of everyone, leading them to food and water, providing a shady place for naps, and stealing naps herself whenever she can.

"I just need...a...minute...Zzzzz"

Occasionally she’s been able to sneak in a dust bath too.

Now the rain has stopped, we should put sand back in the pen...dust bathing in gravel is a challenge

Note to self, a dust bath in 1/4″ drain rock can make taking photographs inside the turkey pen potentially hazardous to camera lenses!  Oh well, it might be worth sacrificing a lens, or two…

Photo number 299 for the week...and counting...

So despite the failure of Jenny’s first spring clutch, this clutch of eggs has proven to be an amazing success.  The chicks have quickly figured out where everything is and are regularly seen going from naps to the feeder and back again, and seem savvy enough to snooze in the shade in the hot afternoons.

Snack Time!

The poults are now 4-5 days old, and growing by the minute.  Already they’ve lost their little egg tooth at the tip of their beaks that helps them hatch out of their shells.

The tiny white spot at the tip of the beak (yellow arrow) is the last remnant of this chick's egg tooth

After a few days, the chicks lose their egg tooth

Growing though, as fast as turkey poults do, is hard work.  It’s important to get plenty of rest…

...ZZzzzzzZZzzzZZzzzz....

A little Bronze bobblehead snoozing in the sun

Growing is hard work!

Is it possible to have too many chicks?  What a problem to have!  It’s certainly made for a truly fantastical Fowl Friday…

...don't go far, we'll be back!...

…with many more to come!

72 Comments

  1. Oh my.. beyond adorable. Love the last few photos, dozing in the sun.

    Of course you have to socialize the poults… can’t imagine doing much of anything else.

    (Any chance there will be a turkey pen expansion in your future.)

    • Socialization is critical in my opinion, especially as we’re letting Jenny raise the chicks. We don’t want the turkeys to be skittish of humans in flip flops :P I think a turkey pen expansion in the very near future is a distinct possibility!

  2. YEAH!! She is a great mom. I am so happy to see Jenny with poults. After such tragic first clutch this must be so much fun. Here’s to crossed fingers and positive thinking.
    Spencer´s last post…Hose, herbs, and holiday

    • Us too! It’s such a contrast to how spring started out for us. It proves that Jake’s presence was the problem!

  3. Soooooo cute that it’s almost demented. This is a very happy outcome. (Will you keep any of these for a breeding flock? Do you have housing for all of them?)
    lisa´s last post…A Butterfly Emerges

    • Hehe, it is dementedly cute ;) We definitely want to keep some for breeding. I’m hoping one of the four Bourbon Reds is a hen. We’d also like to bring some new genetic stock in next year too, perhaps from Porter’s Rare Heritage Turkeys. At the moment, no, we don’t have housing for all of them once grown, so either we’re building more enclosures, or will need to find homes for some…or both!

  4. I forgot to ask if you were going to band the birds, in order to tell them apart.
    lisa´s last post…A Butterfly Emerges

    • When they’re bigger we may, it would make it easier to keep track of who is who, and if we end up selling some poults, we’d at least mark the one’s we’re keeping so they’re not accidentally sold!

  5. Tell them I died of cuteness exposure! Amazing! Adorable! I guess you’ve gone from turkey dabbler to bonafide turkey farmer! Seriously, what are you going to do with 18 turkeys?!
    Christine´s last post…Tiny Monsters

    • There does seem to be an epidemic of cuteness exposure going on…the trouble is, I don’t think it’s curable! :P I seriously don’t know what we’re going to do with 18 turkeys, but we have a few weeks to figure that out…

  6. Thanks for the terrific update, I feel the love! Haha, and this is SOOO much more compelling than pix of human babies!!!!

    • Seemed like a great way to kick off the weekend. Who doesn’t want to stare at adorable baby birds all day long? :P

  7. Oh how super cute, the twins loved watching the mini movies. Thank you for shareing with us.

    • I’m glad the twins enjoyed the videos. The chicks are cute in photos, but so much more amusing in movies…even better in person! Hopefully they’ll get to see them in person very soon!

  8. Squee! Cuteness overdose here! I am so happy for you and for Jenny after the last sad outcome. This is thrilling, and I’m looking forward to seeing them all grow up big and strong. They are a wonderful sight to behold.
    Alison´s last post…Fertilizer Friday — Peony, Hardy Geranium, Dianthus and Others

    • As we didn’t raise chicken chicks this year, I’m really happy to get my chick fix with Jenny’s little ones. It’s a little strange having all these tiny peeps around in summer, but I’m not complaining :P

  9. They are so cute! Glad Jenny was able to have 16 babies! That’s pretty amazing.
    Catherine´s last post…Catching up.

    • All the eggs hatching is rare, but a testament to Jenny’s good care, and our improving weather too. The owner of our local feed store was rather flabbergasted, but no doubt happy that we’ll be buying a LOT more turkey food from him in the very near future! :D

  10. Hi,

    Ok, I think I’m officially all squee’d out now… They’re far too cute and I can well understand why you’ve got no work done for the past week! :)
    Liz´s last post…Wordless Wednesday – Bouquet from the garden

    • My weeds have definitely had a reprieve this week ;) I’ll get back to them eventually…weeds just aren’t as interesting to look at!

  11. OMG SO MUCH CUTENESS! YAY! Jenny!
    Rachel´s last post…Sometimes When You Hear Hoofbeats It IS a Zebra

    • Almost too much cuteness…if that’s possible. It’s so fun watching them zip around. The poults last year were already about 5 weeks old by the time they arrived, so we missed out on this phase. We’re making up for it now though LOL :P

  12. I would be just like you, never leaving the turkey pen. Worth the time to just sit there and smile all day. Glad your note said to come back Friday. What a treat to see the little ones.
    Donna´s last post…The Monarda Speaks

    • I think Jenny is more relaxed than me. I’m so nervous for the little ones, I worry about them when I’m not in the turkey pen, and every time I go back I’m not happy until I’ve counted all 16! Jenny is definitely better at this than I am ;)

  13. I’m so happy for you and Jenny!! I wouldn’t have gotten anything done, either! :o) They are super cute!!
    Casa Mariposa´s last post…Not Quite Wordless Wednesday

    • They need to grow up quickly, or productivity around here is going to be stuck at zero! :P

  14. pretty cool
    Greggo´s last post…Xeriscape Demonstration Garden Part 2

    • We think so ;)

  15. OMG talk about cute overload! That is the most adorable thing I’ve seen in a long while. I giggled like a small child as I looked at each picture. I bet you are so excited!

    • I’ve felt a bit like a kid all week myself. I think there’s something about baby poultry that just brings the child out in all of us :)

  16. OH me, thanks for sharing. Now I’m having a case of cute overload! Looks like persistence paid off for all involved.
    villager´s last post…Eight Things To Do With Zucchini

    • Persistence, and a pen partition. I’ll have to stop by and read your zucchini post…we’re about to be inundated :P

  17. Congratulations! Definitely the winner of cutest post contest! Poor Jenny. I can’t imagine caring for 16 offspring. She does seem to be handling it well, though. At least she doesn’t have to nurse them!
    debsgarden´s last post…How Not to Kill a Dwarf Alberta Spruce

    • LOL, true! She just has to keep them warm, and walk carefully around the pen ;)

  18. Popcorn poults! What could be better? Nice to know that a beak makes a good prop, for when you get sleepy. Beautiful pictures.
    Zoe´s last post…Three Flowers

    • I swear, Orville Redenbacher had nothing on these eggs :P The chicks are so fun to watch sleeping. They always look like the person at the back of the bus with their head bobbing back and forth while they snore!

  19. Clare, I know it’s already been said — but they are absolutely adorable. Congratulations to both you and Jenny! I can imagine your excitement. The time a wild turkey hen came through my garden with 11 chicks that were still young enough that they kept falling forward on their beaks when they tried to run, I felt elated for days!
    Jean´s last post…The Yellows Are Coming!

    • These little ones are definitely still at that trip-over-your-feet stage. :P We are thrilled though, they’re so much fun to watch them.

  20. Wow, amazing! It’s really hard to believe they all fit in, love that movie.

    • Isn’t though? It’s amazing they all find room under there! ;)

  21. This is a totally awesome post. How cool and cute. :) And what good are baby animals if you can’t spend all your free time ‘socializing’ them, I say.

    ps. I can’t believe it was 49 degrees in the morning! wow. Sounds so nice!
    pps. I’m still not over my Bee discovery of this afternoon, but I’ve been waking up on the wrong side of the bed all week, so hopefully some perspective will come about by tomorrow!
    Jess´s last post…You Know What I Hate?

    • Exactly, and in all seriousness, as they’re not being hand-raised as chicks, it is important that they become as accustomed to humans as possible.

  22. Very cute, Clare, congratulations!
    Sue Langley´s last post…Summer native discoveries

    • Thanks Sue! :)

  23. What a fantastic achievement for both you and Jenny! Obviously separating Jake and Jenny helped enormously and then Supermum Jenny did the rest. All the photos were just wonderful and I must admit I scrolled up and down several times admiring those gogeous chicks! Such a great post full of great news.
    Bernieh´s last post…Winter Garden Happenings … My Downunder Dry Tropics Garden Journal … Week 26, 2011

    • All I did was put up the fence, Jenny was the trooper that sat there for 26 days. She’s turning out to be a very protective Mom too. She just chased me out of the pen, but in all fairness I think she’s a bit freaked out by the two juvenile red-shouldered hawks that have buzzing by the pen roof the last 24 hours. It’s making me edgy too!

  24. What a ridiculously cute blog post. I was so sad after the loss of your last chick that I am almost afraid to read updates from this point on. Maybe I’ll just stop following your blog and assume they all live happily ever after.

    Just kidding. I’ll be back.
    Kaveh´s last post…Revisiting Kew

    • Any losses here are too much, even for us, but farm life isn’t scripted, and things can happen. So far though, except for a brief panic when one of the poults escaped, all is going well. The great explorer has been returned to the inside of the pen though, with strict instructions to stop being so brave and curious ;) I predict that one will be a Tom…

  25. I am so happy for you Clare – I can just imagine how exciting the past few days have been for you. Those pictures are wonderful especially of the little ones snoozing and 2 great videos aswell. She certainly is going to be one busy mum……….. what about Dad – how is he reacting from the other side of the fence?
    Rosie@leavesnbloom´s last post…Tips on having the best looking planted containers

    • Jake seems curious, confused, and interested. Fortunately though, he can’t reach them. He seems content to stand puffed up next the fence, staring sternly down his snood at the chicks. I’m glad the pen is divided. It seems quite obvious that his curiosity would get the better of him otherwise.

  26. So exciting, congratulations, I feel like you are the grandmother.
    Carolyn @ Carolyn’s ShadeGardens´s last post…The Weird and the Wonderful

    • I suppose in a way I am, although I’d like to think I was too young for that ;)

  27. Congratulation! How exciting! Jenny seems like a great mother. I hope all the chicks do well. Darling pics!
    Holley´s last post…Little Delights

    • Thanks, so far they’re growing faster than my weeds :D

  28. Great news. We had such fun when our chickens were chicks.

    What are the dimensions of your turkey pen? We’re thinking of getting turkeys this coming spring.
    Jason´s last post…Happenings

    • I think it’s about 16′ x 16′ x 8′ high. That seemed ok for 4 turkeys, but I think we’re going to opt for something quite a bit larger further down hill. We’ll probably keep 4 or 5 of these youngsters, in addition to Jenny and Jake, but it would be too crowded in the current pen. I see another construction project in my immediate future, and the greenhouse construction will have to wait…yet again ;)

  29. Savoured every fluffy moment – a happy ending for Jenny and Jake which has been pure pleasure to share. Rare moment to see you with your feet up, Clare!
    Laura @ PatioPatch´s last post…Disgruntled of London

    • Haha! I know, I felt quite guilty spending so much time sitting down in the turkey pen. Was worth every minute though. Weeds be damned ;)

  30. Oh WOW!! I am beyond excited for your new little additions, what cuties!! And gosh what a surprise to see how many hatched. Your post on this was so exciting to read, as if I were there, anticipating the arrivals! Off to share this with my kiddos they will love it! Cheers =)
    Julia@PolkaDotGaloshes´s last post…Its the little moments….Stop & Enjoy!

    • I hope they enjoyed the videos. I’ve been working on some more for this Fowl Friday, but they’re so active, it’s a challenge to keep them in focus! :P

  31. I read this post days ago and I could have sworn I commented. I came back to take a second peek at the fluffy chicks (darnit they are adorable) and realized I was so enraptured with the videos I forgot to comment!
    Marguerite´s last post…Triumphs and Tragedies

    • That’s funny, I find myself watching the videos over and over again. To see them now, almost a week later, you’d hardly recognize them! Glad I caught them on camera when I did, they grow fast!

  32. They are absolutely adorable! I wouldn’t get anything done either…too busy watching the show. They are so beautiful and have such different colors.
    The Sage Butterfly´s last post…Another Use For…A Strawberry Jar

    • As they’re starting to feather in, their color differences are becoming even more apparent. It’s hard to believe how much they’ve grown in the last few days!

  33. Love your videos! And the little sleeping Bronze is adorable!

    • I swear, that little bronze was almost snoring. Honestly though, the only thing missing was the drool. They’re so adorable when they fall asleep, and their little heads bob back and forth. It’s a good thing turkeys don’t stay this cute for long. Productivity here has crashed :P

  34. This is so amazingly adorable!!! Thank you so much for sharing!! I am so wishing one of my hens has a couple of those sweet chicks!! So precious!!!

    • We had some seriously broody hens this spring. If we needed more chicken chicks, we could have easily hatched some out under the girls. You watch, I’ll want to get some fertile eggs next spring, and I won’t have a broody gal in the bunch :P

  35. Congratulations to you and Jenny! What an adorable clutch! Love the videos.
    Jackie´s last post…Serendipitous bean crosses

    • Hi Jackie! I agree, they’re just too cute…although I might be a bit biased. How are your gals doing? I haven’t seen an update in a while!

  36. I’m late to the party here but had to join in the chorus of awws and ahs – what a wonderful happy burgeoning bunch! Jenny seems to be mothering really well. Yesterday I got to see a 3D ultrasound image of my grandchild’s face at 36 weeks into my daughter’s pregnancy. Major wow! Kinda similar feeling in a way, to watching these chicks and their momma.
    Country Mouse´s last post…Creating a Habitat Garden

    • Those 3D ultrasounds are quite fun! Here, we just settle for 3D, in person ;) I do admit to feeling terribly proud of Jenny though. She’s just doing such a good job with the chicks. I swear she never sleeps, but then again, what new mother does?