I’ve got another broody hen, so now the eggery is a duplex.
The first broody – the most tolerant little girl who was keeping the orphan guinea warm for a few days (that little keet expired after all) – is due any day, if she was successful. Her attachment to a daily meal may have left her eggs cold for too long.
I haven’t really thought through the extra occupation of the the chickery, but I’ll probably release the first set of chicks into the greenhouse jungle when they come.
The new broody is the biggest of all the silkie hens; she’s easily covering 9 eggs.
The first broody has stuck to her daily break time throughout her term- a new quirk, and the box inside the chickery has worked perfectly. She comes out, eats, poops, and then creeps back into her box, talking to her eggs the whole time, which is adorable. I’m coming back…here I am.
I have a long-running ad on Kijiji to divest of Silkie roosters, rather than axe them, and sometimes I sell hens and eggs. Keeping the flock manageable.
I think it´s simply hilarious to put them in EGGS boxes. No one else thinks it’s quite so funny. “It’s like the chicken and the eggs…which came first? The eggs are going to come out of the box, but not right away?… Oh never mind”. Also it´s like the Boxtrolls.
Anyway, two hens went for a long drive (they made hardly a peep), and got a major lifestyle upgrade. I got a text late in the day reporting that the hens had loved every minute of a shampoo and warm blowdry (I bet they did. I bet they’re simply gawgeous. ), and they also enjoy being held and petted. We’re not on the farm any more, Dorothy. They’re probably hoping I forget to pick them up from this spa weekend. It´s the bouff I´ve always dreamed of! I’ve always wanted a good blowout. I can´t even imagine how fluffy they got.
I did choose two of the shyest, most anxious and retiring chickens, because I had a feeling they were going somewhere to be pets, and they could appreciate the lifestyle upgrade. I didn’t know it was going to be a spa package upgrade.
Coming soon to a neighbourhood near you: purse chickens.
Unfortunately, she decided she was NOT done sitting on the rest of her eggs, and insistently refused to get up and start mothering, for several days (!).
I attempted to adopt the lone chick into the clutch that hatched four days earlier. Four days makes a difference – the newer chick is significantly smaller. I moved the chick in the night and put her under the other hen, but in the morning, I saw the hen pecking the intruder on the head! Yikes! Adoption not successful.
What to do? Take the eggs away? That could mean killing chicks that are almost baked, as the setting hens usually seem to know when their eggs are alive or not.
Luckily, the mother finally got up off her eggs and got about the business of early chick education.
The only chick and mother in the chick cycle rotation. Upgrade to the chickery.
I go to put them out in the morning, and she’s laid an egg! This hen is so ready for more chicks.
The fount is in there for the determined broody who was settled in. I thought I’d try out letting her set in the coop. It’s not going well.
My Silkies are trying. Very trying.
The last of my originals are the good rooster and the little white hen, who is smaller all the time (shrinking)- a little wraith of a chicken- but still feisty, cranky, and laying. The other hens are all former chicks, hatched last year, who are now trying to figure out how to become mother hens, but are rather bad at it and do not accept instruction.
First they all went broody one after the other, in March. A little early, Missy’s, but, if you must… They decided to pile up together right at the top of their ramp, a small-brained decision. Eggs roll, after all. And the roosters would step on them on their way into the coop.
Then, the egg-thieving began. These Slkies are champion egg thieves. It’s an ongoing problem. At first, the let-no-egg-go-untended ethos seemed good, as when any of the sisters left for a drink or a quick bite, her eggs were promptly grabbed and tucked under a hot furry chicken breast.
Curious how they moved eggs around as they obviously, frequently do, I’d wondered about their egg-rolling methods until I saw them do it, right under my hands. It turns out the beak and the egg are perfectly adapted to each other when it comes to rolling. I was shuffling irritated hens around to see what was under them, an egg came into sight, and whisk! The hen (in my hands) stretched out her beak and flick-rolled that egg into her own collection as fast as a blink. OK, then!
So these broody sisters were playing egg-snatchers, and sometimes a hen would have no eggs, another would have too many. The egg arms race.
I tried to move three of the most committed birds into a shared broody box (still in the coop), but they were having none of it. Two escaped the box and returned to their original precarious choice (top of the ramp), leaving one heroically topping a mound of abandoned eggs.
I was reluctant to take any of them out of the coop because it seems cold to be away from the familial body heat.
I let them have it their way. It did not go well. Eggs vanished. One hen decided to set a clutch way too big for her under the ramp, and when I culled her holdings she restored her stock from who-knows-where.
Eventually all the hens but one gave up and moved on with another phase in their lives. That one, so determined, sat and sat. She’s a classy polite little brown lady, like her mom the first brown hen. When it went far too long for anything to be alive under her, I took and broke her eggs, and sadly, half of them were almost finished before they died. I don’t know why; there must have been some event. The others were horribly rotten, gah!
She’s so fixed though (I’m hatching a damn egg if it’s the last thing I do!), that I gave her four new eggs, and, worried for her body weight, her own snack bar, which I think she ignores but the other hens polish off.
A few days later, I was tucking fresh hay around her and peeked- seven eggs! Sigh, here we go. I suppose she’s taking them from the other side of the coop where the other ladies are laying and leaving these days. I have to watch these little birds, but they do not make it easy to help them.
(just after this I resorted to sequestering each hen with about seven eggs in a box of her own in the greenhouse, and the Silkie population is now burgeoning)
Just when I was starting to worry- she’s been sitting on those eggs forever- HW comes in in the morning and says Have you looked under the brown hen lately? Oh, you’re gonna be excited!
FIVE chicks! Five healthy, brown and mixed (spider markings) chicks. OMG, so, so SO cute. And an egg with a tiny hole in it. I didn’t even know she had six eggs under her.
I peeked at that egg later in the morning and it had a slightly larger hole in it. A whole day behind the others, though. Will it hatch?
At coop-closing time, I wiggled my fingers under her to see if there was still an egg, or a shell to pull out. The hen firmly pushes her wings against the floor, making a barrier (while growling, a most amusing sound). You can only nudge in under her chest or butt. All underneath her was tiny legs and little squirming bird bits. She contains multitudes. The egg was there, intact. I pulled it out.
It’s not every day that an egg, in your hand, shouts at you. It’s disconcerting. CHEEP! The bird inside was very much alive. Although still all crammed in its box without hinges, key or lid, it let me know- it’s alive, and busy. Put me back! I swiftly tucked it back in to the mom furnace to finish hatching.
Wow. A 100% turnout from the brown hen. She’s smaller, but smarter.
Yay! Three chicks from the white hen (although two are from stolen eggs)- far better than I expected, and equal to her productivity last year.
I’m pretty sure that will be it for chicks from her, although I’ll leave her her eggs a few more days. She would know, I think, if there was any life in the remaining eggs and stay on them. After the first chick, she got even more fierce about sitting on her eggs, as two more were close to done then. Now she seems to be losing interest in the eggs, or else she’s just very hungry now.
All four of them are in a confinement box now for a few days.
Ah, yes, the little brown hen is now officially broody. I’ve been wondering if she’s on her way, as she’s been spending some time every day in the coop, but it seems she was just taking her sweet time laying eggs.
What’s been very amusing is that she’s been shuffling her eggs every day. At three eggs, I made a clean straw bowl and put the three scattered eggs in it. The next day, she moved all three a foot away, and laid another. The next day, she moved them back. The next day, relocated again. Now, she’s back in the “nest” I made, and is settled down.
We really need a chicken cam, to see what goes on in there- all this egg shuffling. How do they do it? How long does it take?
It’s kind of cool that they took turns going broody. Snowball (the rooster) agrees. He gets SO bored when there are no hens to hang with, and then he starts getting into trouble, deciding to take charge of the red hens, or something.
A few days ago the white broody got really deep into it, no longer leaving the coop in the morning, and assuming a very deep meditative state. I gave her a bento box and water, and she snacks on it, but at this stage she must must get very serious about her mission.
The cardboard has worked – no more egg thieving. Her due date has come and gone, and I expect the worst, that she’s lost them all for being too ambitious. Yet, I hope for some hatching.
I’m waiting for her head to come up, I remember it from last year. When she starts looking awake, it will be because there’s something going on beneath her.
Where’s my egg? I left it RIGHT here! That’s the sixth one this week!
I don’t know anything about any eggs. I don’t even like eggs.
What’s really funny to imagine is how the white hen is collecting them from the other side of the coop. Does she roll them over with her face, or dribble them with her feet? I’d like to see that. But sometime during the day while the others are out, she leaves her eggs and scoots the red hen’s egg across the coop into her pile.
And why? What goes on in her little poofy head? Does she think OMG; how did one of my eggs get over there? Or, An egg, all by itself, how sad. I should adopt that!
At any rate, she now has six of the brown hen’s eggs under her and four of her own, which would be nice if they hatched, but it’s very likely she’s compromised the whole batch by having too many and not being able to keep them all warm.
I had to put up a cardboard visual barrier in the coop, so the little megalomaniac can’t see any of the brown hen’s eggs, and therefore shouldn’t be collecting them any more.
The new hens have integrated pretty thoroughly now. They don’t completely mingle with the old hens, but some spend their days with the big sisters, and they go in the woods, and all forage outside like they were meant to. They love being invisible in the shrubs during the day.
Their combs are growing, and they are filling out, and the dark brown that they all used to be is lightening a little. Aw, they’re growing up.
They are laying like nobody’s business, perfect, small brown eggs.
And they are developing their own quirky chicken habits.
MJ has taken to hopping over the fence and hanging out with the Silkies.
She’s like, I’m white, too, this is obviously where I belong.
It started with her being an enterprising food thief and a good flyer, while the flocks were still in the greenhouse. She would cross the divide to steal food, because the Silkies eat like, well, birds, and never finish their ration.
But she seems to prefer the company of the Silkies, and is often to be found of an afternoon lounging with them under the pine tree.
We filled the greenhouse with wood chips to cover the bare and compacted “soil” in there, until we can get to it, so it smells like a sawmill in there now.
For now the birds are allowed in there still, and they shelter there when it rains.
It’s getting exciting! The red hen is almost due. We did a night mission to candle her eggs, as per the chicken bible. We were later than the midpoint he describes, but what we found: two eggs that look exactly like a normal egg (were they unfertilized?). An egg with a black dot in it (this must be an egg that kindled then died in very early stages). An egg opaque with darkness but with an angle in it like a water level (a mystery). The rest – opaque. The book says there should be a network of red veins through the egg, and there are dire warnings about dark eggs, that they are rotten and will smell horrendous. But…what if at this stage, the dark eggs are the ones with chicks in them? Because we were working fast to pull some out at a time and stuff them back under her before they cooled, we made no decisions, although I think we should have removed the eggs that look unfertilized. The results were so confusing I just left her all the eggs. Then I was lamenting that they have probably all failed, so H.W. got to gleefully tell me not to count my chickens before they hatch.
In the interests of continuing to let the white hen do her own thing without interference, we did not look at her eggs. My money is on her doing better, sans meddling. All we’ve done for her is lift her and put some layers of cardboard beneath her for insulation. The nights are cooling off. The days are blissfully bug-free and perfect for working, but you can feel the approach of winter. It’s late in the year for chicks, but I won’t argue. If they hatch, we’ll do our best to assist them in staying warm.
I feel like I put too many eggs under the red hen. The book said you can put 6 normal size eggs under a banty mama, so I thought 6 bantam eggs would be conservative. However, a couple of times I’ve seen an egg leaking out from under her, like she’s having trouble staying on them all.
Also, the book says the broody hen, although her appetite is greatly reduced, will get off her eggs periodically to eat, poop and bathe. Not so the red hen. She seems so determined to never lift off her eggs she moved them (twice) to where she could sit and reach her food and water dishes at the same time. Maybe because she “knows” she has too many to keep warm properly? And she eats, copiously! Every day she empties her little dish. This means corresponding pooping, and she won’t get off the eggs for that either, so there’s a wall of poop behind her against the side of the box. So much for conventions. The moment chicks emerge, if they do, we have to snatch them all out of there for a clean box!
The rooster is just bored out of his mind and won’t shut up.
The white hen got us worried a few days before her due date by appearing outside the coop. But she got back on her eggs after a dust bath. I just can’t take another day without a shower!
The little red hen was settled down on the coop floor again, clearly broody, so I got busy. I made her a cardboard broody box that fits in a third of the Silkie coop, full of grass and supplied with food and water. There’s a slightly elevated but shallow next box that I’ll put her and the eggs in. There’s room for her to get off and eat.
What eggs to put under her? Hoping hard that I got a couple of eggs from the poor black hen, I chose six eggs to put under her, including two of the original three she was setting on, which I assume are her own, also which are possibly non-viable, if she was on them long enough to quicken. All are labelled with their possibilities. The likelihood is practically an algorithm, but there’s a chance of 1-3 from the black hen, 2-4 from the red hen, and 2-5 from the white hen. Overall there’s a good possibility of 4 chicks. If she hatches one chick, I’ll be thrilled.
In the night I set her onto her clutch. Exciting! When I lifted her up I felt another egg under my fingertips in her belly feathers; I moved it with her. I’m not entirely sure now how many eggs are under her. In the morning she hadn’t budged. She’s deep in broody chicken trance, motionless and flattened out wide over her eggs. Yay! The end of August is late in the year but I think still ok. I wanted these Silkies for their broodiness, and now, they deliver!
Oh no! In the afternoon I looked and she was settled down on the floor of her box in front of her food. No! I’ve read they can have a hard time finding the right nest to get back into- hence the isolation of the broody box. Not only that, but she’d brought some of the eggs over with her, leaving three behind. The three left were still warm, so I just lifted her with the eggs she was holding and put her back on the others through some mild protestation. Her belly was hot! It seemed bare, too, like her feathers were pulled out or else spread out, so her skin was directly on her eggs. Now I worry. Does she know better than I do what eggs she should be setting on, what eggs are viable? Should I not be adjusting her?
After two days on all the eggs I come back to look at her in the afternoon and she’s back on the floor of her broody box, and this time she’s brought all but one egg with her. (H.W. is again heartily wishing for a chicken cam. “They have no hands!?”). Hmm, she doesn’t seem very good at this. Fine, she wants to stay there. I check the egg she left behind and it’s cool. Sadly, it’s marked as possibly one of the black hens. I don’t remove it then for some reason, thinking I’ll wait until the evening to further disturb her- I have to feed and water her in the night anyways. At night I go to minister to her and she’s collected that last egg out of the nest and put it under her!! Good possibility now that three eggs have been killed by cooling, but she’s in charge, and I’m trying not to meddle.
The white hen has simultaneously gone broody, bedding down in the floor of the main coop where the red hen did at first. Her I’m going to leave completely to her own devices. I don’t know how many eggs she’s on, but they must all be her own. There’s only the two hens now so they don’t need another separate compartment. I caught the cock sitting in a nesting box, presumably watching over his broody hens, solving the mystery of who’s been leaving feathers in the nesting boxes. The hens don’t use them, always laying on the coop floor.
The rooster has been crowing a great deal more, and even going on adventures. H.W. thinks because he’s awfully bored now. There’s nothing for him to do with two hens setting. He even ventured around the field, got in a fight with the big rooster, lost and retreated, got lost, hid under the house, and H.W. had to fish him out and catch him to return him to his domain, knowing I wouldn’t take it well if I came home and another Silkie was lost due to negligence. He figured Snowball had nothing to take care of on the home front so he came across the field to “regulate” over there.
Big news of the day: Whattt? A bantam egg?! On their 51st day here, when we’re past expecting them to ever lay, the Silkies get in the game and come out of nowhere with an egg!
Perhaps all the fertility going on is contagious. As tiny as it is, it surprises me that’s it’s that big, because the petite handfuls that the Silkie hens are are SO much smaller than the big red hens. It’s translucent and pointy, but with a firm shell.
We go to town to buy fencing (urgent due to chicken depredation) and end up doing many other things. It’s too wet for the big chickens to venture far from the coop (ie. do much damage to the garden); they cluster under its shelter, and at night, there are three staying up later than the others, and one nestled in the grass nest again. They traipse upstairs irritably but with much less drama. No eggs outside, that we can find, anyways; seven laid inside (good girls). We can assume the lobster-hen is out of commission at the moment and the others take some days off. I notice that they shift some nesting material and the plastic eggs from box to box; H.W. reiterates wish for a night-vision chicken cam. “What do they DO in there when no-one’s looking?”
Their going to bed by themselves is going to have to be close enough. I’m not sure how they’re getting out, but they have announced their readiness to free-range by a mass breakout. I let them to it, intending to keep an eye on them.
Uhoh. A couple hours later I go to look in on them, and there’s not a chicken in sight. Crickets. I start walking around the field, down the driveway, where I’d expect them to go, into the cool trees. See and hear nothing. No chickens, anywhere. I find them right behind the barn demo site, in a grassy depression just out of sight. Phew.
Now they are free, what really strikes me is how far they readily range. I guess I imagined how much the Silkies range, only proportionally increased. So, 5-6x as far. No, much farther. They are roaming farther, faster, than I expected. They were nearly across the field, and I headed them off, uncertain how an encounter with the resident puny poultry would go.
A little later:
The rest of the hens are back at the barn, rooting and bathing at the sandy edge of the barn rubble.
Bedtime. Hens are gathering in the vicinity of the coop, that’s great. After a little longer, they were all under the coop, so I closed the sides. Oh wait, not all. Bet I know which two are missing.
These two were wandering around all day together, which worries me. That’s cool they’re besties, but if every day is girl’s day out, they could get picked off. HW read over what I wrote about picking them out and choosing “a couple outliers” – ohhhh. Yeah, that’s them. The other four are super attached to the rooster, and go everywhere with him.
I chase the rooster, and he bleats, and the hens all come running behind me down the path.
Five eggs today.
The chickens are fascinated by the rubble, and that is not ok. There’s a mountain of broken glass and styrofoam beads everywhere. I was working cleaning it up and the hens all gathered around, and then crept in closer on me, very excited about what I was exposing by raking. HW noticed fresh peckmarks on some chunks of foam, and then the rooster was trying to pick something out of his foot, so we tried to chase them away from the barn. They went into the garden.
They are not yet into the greenery (what there is of it), but they are very excited about the mulch, and need to shift it all to eat what’s underneath. Chased them from there. They like to follow our paths, and many paths lead to the garden.
They’re back at the barn. There’s a huge field of salad to explore, but they’re all over our work zones. H.W. says they are definitely lively chickens, and it’s nice that they’re so interested in being around people. It’s true, I love curious chickens, but the barn is a hazmat zone. We decided to tarp the barn area, to cover everything dangerous. The chickens were getting determined, sneaking from behind to get the “good stuff” while I was running others off in the other direction. The loner girls are integrating better today, which means more sneakers on the scene.
I had the area more than half covered when one hen ran in on a mission to gobble on a a piece of styrofoam, beads flying. I chased her off, yelling, and she was off in the grass again with the others, totally busy. I walked the 50’ to the house for more plastic and come back- gone about a single minute, and there she is in the middle of the heap again, maniacally attacking the foam. Nooo! Why is white styrofoam chicken crack? It much be the crunchy, popcorn texture.
Tarping the whole area works, and the chickens are safe again (in the woodpiles, under the truck, around the house).
Four eggs today. Each hen is laying 3 eggs every four days.
At night we go out to get three more hens from the same place. It’s dark and they are sleepy and come home in the tub again. I pick the third hen of the former trio of “outliers”, and we take two more from the same perching spot as before, hoping they are more of our rooster’s hens. The “third hen” is a sorry critter. She’s moulting or pecked so her whole back and shoulders of her wings are bald, and she’s got a horrible sunburn. As bad as the one H.W. came back from his bike ride with. I’m hoping she will recover and do better in the smaller flock.
This is nine hens now.
We deposit the new chickens into the coop, after slathering aloe vera on the sunburned chicken, despite H.W.’s protests: “You are not going to put aloe on a chicken…I am not participating in that…I don’t believe this….you better not tell anyone about this”. Her bumpy chicken back is dry and hot, and the aloe must feel good for her, like anyone with a sunburn. Oddly, none of the chickens are roosting now. They are all settled down on the floor of the coop, and in the nest boxes. Weird. They look comfortable though, and there is still a load of space.
Assuming the reunited flock would be managed by the rooster and the new arrivals would follow the example of the others, I let them all loose in the am. Never assume. Midmorning screaming from the rooster and I find it’s because the flock is dispersed. Three hens missing, surprise surprise. Two hens are by the downed trees and I herd them towards the path to the coop. As soon as they’re on the path, they break out in a run and haul chicken butt back to the flock, and the rooster greeted them and went quiet. Turns out it’s the same imminent danger call for a lost hen as a threat to the flock. BaBWOCK, BaBWOCK! BaBWOCK! and the hens join in too, hollering. Last time that alarm went off the Silkies were being menaced by the tabby cat that used to come around here.
I take off looking for the sunburned hen, and find her deep in the woods. She’s cunning and it’s a long, scratchy chase through the undergrowth with her little tail disappearing far ahead of me, to get her back up to our civilized area and back to the flock.
An hour later, she’s gone again, and I can’t find her. I launch a massive henhunt in the afternoon, and find all kinds of interesting things but not her. Perhaps she is dying of shame with her naked back or is unwanted by the flock due to her wretched looks. Perhaps, H.W. says, “she thinks you’re going to put aloe on her again.” Finally I wrote her off, thinking maybe she’ll be fine – there’s a great many places to hide out here, and maybe she’ll find her way back in a couple days, or when her feathers grow back. I thought heavily of the dreaming hen. I’m also thinking, she’d better not turn out to be a few feet from the coop all day and make a fool of me. Clearly, she’s the low bird, and she’s determined to leave, deliberately getting lost. I’m sad though; once lost, however deliberate, she might not be able to find her way back is she changes her mind.
Now there are nine hens, I’m hoping for 7-8 eggs a day. Hmmm, only five in the boxes.
A couple hens and the rooster are suspiciously interested in a patch of tall grass, and there’s a lot of purring going on. I suspect egg-laying might happen there.
Today the chickens find their way into the garden several times, and H.W. chases them out, hollering and throwing his hat at them. This puts the fear of god into them so he only has to appear, yelling, and they flee, guilty and squawking from the garden. We need a fence, asap. The two loner hens follow much more closely to the others now, and the two that got lost in the morning are careful not to get lost again.
Night time, I go to put them to bed. At first glance, all appear to be upstairs on their own, except for one:
She jumps away when I go to grab her and runs into the grass nest where I found an egg today.
How many birds are still out? Hey, there’s the naked chicken! She made it back! H.W. comes out to help after he hears squawking. The sunburned chicken is very resistant to getting in the coop and runs all over the place before I catch her. Her sunburn is looking a bit better. Nice that it’s a run of cloudy, rainy days. We get them all in and do a beak count. Each nest has a hen sleeping in it.
Then, we find the day’s seventh egg in the grass, glowing like a pearl in the light of our headlamps. Ohoh, we don’t want to have an Easter egg hunt every day. I’ll try keeping them under the coop a bit longer in the mornings.