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Week 7 - 14th May 2006

On 17th May, Fidge - our Blue Tit hen - had been incubating the eggs for 14 days and the first chicks started to hatch an hour or so after midday and are continued to hatch into the evening. At the end of the day, however, there were still 3 eggs.

The following day, there were only two eggs visible at 6AM, so a chick had hatched from one of the remaining eggs earlier that morning. Another chick hatched later in the morning, but the last remaining egg was still there at 11PM that night.

The next morning, the egg had vanished but we have yet to count 10 chicks - among the tangle of bodies we can usually manage a total of 8 or 9! There could be 10 chicks, but it is possible that the egg has either been pushed into the nest material or the chick hatched during the night and died shortly afterwards, at which point the parents would remove the corpse.

As a chick hatched, Fidge stood over it and helped the chick out of its eggshell. Once fully hatched, Fidge either ate the eggshell - to replenish the calcium her body has lost during egg production - or removed the eggshell from the nest, flying some distance away from the nest box.

During the first couple of days, Fidge was brooding the chicks and incubating the remaining eggs a lot of the time. Occasionally, she left the nest for some food, but this was worrying because she returned sodden with the cold, persistent rain and this could have chilled the chicks. Fudge is continually entering the box whereupon he stands beside her on the nest rim and passes her a caterpillar or two. In turn, she feeds the chicks, though occasionally both parents feed the chicks.

By the third day (19th May), Fidge would brood the chicks on and off through the day, but more so in the cooler mornings. The rate at which the chicks are growing is amazing - compare the photographs of the 17th May and 19th May! The chicks are starting to hold their heads up more as there neck muscle develop, but much of the time they form an untidy scrum in the nest cup.

When one of the parents enters the nest box, they utter a short call and several gapes open, begging for the morsel of food. Usually, after being fed, the chicks will raise their rear end and eject faeces. The chicks' faeces are wrapped in a gelatinous coating for easier removal and conveyance by the parents. The female will sometimes eat the faeces, which still contain quite a lot of nourishment.

Late on the 4th day (20th May), the 10th chick was finally spotted - quite a bit smaller than the rest, but a feisty little chap that I'm sure will survive.

17th May - Fidge Eats An Eggshell
17th May - Fidge Eats An Eggshell
17th May - Fudge Passes Food To Fidge
17th May - Fudge Passes Food To Fidge
17th May - 6 or 7 Chicks, Two Gapes Showing
17th May - 6 Chicks, Two Gapes Showing
Both Parents Feeding Their Young
17th May - Both Parents Feeding Their Young
18th May - 2 Eggs Remaining
18th May - 2 Eggs Remaining
18th May - 1 Egg Remaining
18th May - 1 Egg Remaining
19th May - At Least 9 Chicks
19th May - At Least 9 Chicks
19th May - Feeding Time
19th May - Feeding Time
20th May - 10 Chicks
20th May - 10 Chicks
20th May - Chick Defaecating
20th May - Chick Defecating (bottom of photo)

 


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