A few years ago I was looking through the eBay listings for hatching eggs and I spotted that there were cross breed eggs available. These cross breed bantam chickens laid well – almost all year round. They were tough little birds. I assumed that like cross breed dogs they were generally stronger than pure breeds. I dilly dallied over my choice for several days and in the end plumped for brown leghorn bantam hatching eggs. Queen Zeb and her Italian brothers hatched from this batch. Mysteriously that were all standard sized chickens that hatched from bantam sized eggs.
Anyway, at home I referred to the mixed breed birds as The Shmuks. To me the word sounded like small feathered egg laying friends - I tought that I'd made up the word. I had no idea until today that this word is a derivation of the Jewish slang for male genitalia or a fool. Nor did The Chicken Lady or her husband S.
TCL and S have been champion chicken breeders. They have won prizes and awards at chicken shows. They must have been pretty confident that they knew every chicken breed under the sun until the day that I mentioned my dilemma about The Shmucks.
S went very still for a moment and then remarked,
“Shmucks? I haven’t heard of that breed.”
I explained that it was just my shorthand for the mixed breed eggs and he looked relieved.
Our attempt to rear new chicks this year have been a bit miss and miss this year. We have the Pekin bantams from Sue and they are a joy. When Hope flirted with broodiness and Venice took over her nest Danny declared.
“Let’s give Venice a chance. Let her sit on a clutch of our own eggs. A few may hatch out and then we’ll have our very own Shmucks.”
Today I opened the lid of the field hut. There was a broken shell beside a very protective Venice. I couldn’t hear any baby chick chirrups. Was the chick dead?
Not wanting to move the angry Venice, the Duchess I motored slowly into Newmarket for chick crumbs and gravel for the temporary run. Chick crumbs help newly hatched chicks build up strength quickly and protect them from the killer disease – Coccidiosis.
On my travels as a decorator, I’ve seen many chicks suffering and dying slowly from this terrible disease. I used to point this out,tactfully, to the clients. If they couldn’t bear to kill the chicks I did it for them. A horrid task but I couldn’t bear to hear them cheeping in vain for a mother hen that had rejected them because they were ill. Nature is not always as cosy as we imagine it to be.
Spreading gravel is a good idea if the chicks are allowed to range in a confined outdoor area as their excreta can be washed through the gravel with a watering can each day. Cleaning the nest is obviously very important too.
On my return from the Newmarket, I decided to move Venice out of the field hut as she had fouled the nest badly. Wearing my thorn proof gauntlet gloves, I lifted a furious Venice off the nest and discovered our first home grown, cross breed chick. Cheeping loudly for his/her mum.
We are both thrilled. This is our first home bred chick – full of life - a small and joyous fillip in a rather wet and dismal summer. It's too perfect and beautiful to be called Shmuck.
Any ideas for a name for this precious chick?
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