Tag Archives: broody box

A fleet of broody Silkies

Everyone is outside today!  First day out for Foxy and her full-size chicks.  She’s overdue for it, but it’s been rainy.  Cotton and Daisy know all about out, but have also been in for a bit due to weather.

Look who’s sniffin’ around – the Colonel

Ten to one one of these hens (Cotton) is going to fly out and go big world today.  And tonight, one set of them has to go to the big house – move in with the other hens in Silkieland.  That means the hens will all scrap to sort out their order again, but the chicks will like that a lot.

The greenhouse looks a little different with the vacancies!  Can actually walk through it again, now all the chickeries are outside.  Inside, there are now only broody hens parked:  an astonishing five of them.  Outside, Silkieland is a little sparse, with all these girls in setting on eggs.  The most recent two were settled in a nest box together, apparently broody, but without eggs.  I gave them the interference test (Touch them.  Do they puff up, stick up their tails, and screech-growl?)

Grrrr! Yes, we’re broody!

They’re broody.  I thought, they went broody together, I can put them in a box together.  They’ll be like sisters, and hatch their eggs together, and the chicks will grow up together– won’t that be cute?

No, not cute.  I prepared a box (the very well used Apples box that has done a lot of time by now), and settled the two of them into it, giving them each a few eggs.  I came back in a few minutes, and both of them were in there in full fury, puffed up, heads down, beak to beak, snarling at each other.  One had promptly stolen all the eggs and had them under her, and the other wanted to be on them and was trying to bulldoze in.  Ok then, individual boxes.  And Ursa Minor also went broody again at the same time.  The little star.  I can just plunk her in a box, middle of the day, she doesn’t skip a beat. Long as there’s some eggs where I’m going. 

Some hens need to be coddled or they’ll break up.  I had one Brahma broody in the coop  (a Brahma!  So exciting!), and tried three times to move her into a broody box (an XL one), and she wasn’t having it.  In the morning, she’d be off her eggs and freakin’ out.  Finally I tried to make a better nest in the coop, a raised dais of hay, and just that broke her up for good.  Touchy.  I’m a little Brahma chick!  I think there’s only one, but I can tell it’s a Brahma.  The Brahma behaviour, and the feathered feet, are emerging.  Adorable!  I like the big pillowy Brahmas.

The other two hens in the covered wagons are due soon.  Fiesty may be hatching now.  Her head was up and she didn’t try to bite a piece out of me this morning.  She’s a terror.

She doesn’t peck.  She’s gone beyond that.  She pinches – grabs a piece and pulls, and she recently integrated a twist.  I bet she was Miss Popularity in the chicken schoolyard.  She’s the only hen to have drawn blood from me, and she has a knack for hitting the skin between thumb and forefinger or on my wrist.  She snake strikes from the dark recesses of the broody kennel when I reach in with food or water (I squawk.  I’ve been tempted to throw it at her).  Every morning, I get thanked for breakfast like this . Until today, so I suspect something is different.  Other than the savage daily attacks, she’s a good sitter.  I like it when they settle on their eggs and stay, without too much rummaging around, moving them around – that increases the chances that they lose one.

Daisy’s chicks are in scruffling stage- feathers sticking out in all directions

If hens were dwarves:  Fiesty, Cranky, Dopey, Whiny, Lazy, Screechy, and Fluffy

Broodies and brooderies

First order of business: a broody box for Perchick (smaller than a chickery, but big enough for a big hen mom – wow!  I have broody layer hens!)

While I was making a broodery, I made another chickery, because I’m sure I’m going to need one real soon.

Note helper chicken, Apples, stage left.

Cream Puff is still freakin’ out!  She’s being good, diligently staying on her eggs, but she’s on high alert and looks very concerned, like she thinks she’s losing her mind, and no one told her this could happen.  What’s happening to me?!  I’m feverish!   I have a compulsion to snuggle with eggs.  I can’t Google these symptoms because I don’t have thumbs!

If I crack the door to her box to reach her food she flips out! and makes a wild flapping break for the door.  Then gets back on her eggs a minute later like nothing happened.

It’s nice that it’s easy to peek in at her.  Her guard is never down though.  No matter how quietly I sneak up to peek, she’s looking right at me through the gap.

Perchick made a smooth morning transition to her broodery though.  With the help of a cloaking device.

She seemed to like to be covered.  She pancaked right out while I sorted eggs and stuffed them under her.   I figure the disruption of being moved is nothing compared to being hassled by the other hens trying to lay an egg on top of her.  Puffcheeks is a real squaller.

Traffic jam in the nest box

I set her up in the greenhouse, and am just committed now to that being the last end of a row I get to plant.There’s a kennel vacancy.  The broody Silkie was faking it.  Well, probably not, but for whatever reason she was broken up and frustrated this morning, Why am I in a translucent mailbox?!  so I put her back into gen pop.  She was a new hen, so I’m surprised she even went broody.  I figure those hens are still calming down and learning to chicken, not ready to level up.

Last frost tonight.  Says me!  The forecast says not even, so it may have been overkill for me to run around in the dark for an hour, to cover everything and bring in the seedlings, etc etc, but it smells like winter this evening, and I’m not taking chances.  I am definitely ready for that aspect to be done – the frost shuttling and the frost blanketing of the plants already in.   I was excited for tonight to be the last night of that. So are the guineas.  They do not like the row cover.   Or someone keeping them up when they’re ready for bed.

*It did frost

The little chicks change every day.  The brown one is getting browner!

morning sunbeamThe other is still a mom sitter.

Two down

Brown bonnet is broody, the second hen to go.  That means it’s time to renovate the covered wagon, since my original design proved to not hold up to chickens jumping all over it, and the “door” broke off from metal fatigue from all the bending. So it got a new wooden front, and a flapping door held on by twist ties.

Back in the greenhouse, BB was waiting in the box she’d been put into so I could make renovations.   She’s not a nervous first time mom.  She calmly rolls with anything, even being put in a little box.

I’m in a box

She just barely even fits in this box.I made the best nest I could in the kennel.  Looks inviting to me. Then put her in it.  Again, calm under scrutiny.And then draped her with canvas.  The lighting is really nice in the kennel.  A dim glow.  Bright enough to see by, but just.  Gotta see what you’re eating.  As soon and she got her broody snack bar, a bowl of water and food, she was most pleased, and tucked right in.The looky-lous want some.

I can see you eating in there!

Hers and Hers

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.

Eye wide open

Eggery

I thought the hens would go broody like bowling pins, but not so; they’re all having too much fun outside.  Now the first two hens have chicks out in the wild, nearly grown up, another is finally broody (Only three more yet to brood this year!).  She has Silkie eggs under her, for a change, to replenish the flock (I sold more than I meant to).

Most times when a hen goes broody she sits on the eggs and doesn’t get up.  I can put them in a cramped box with a water cup and snack bowl and they don´t budge until the eggs crack.

This hen is different.  I was sure she was broody, but I kept seeing her outside every mid-morning for an hour or so.  I gave her some eggs, and thought that would change, but six days later, she was faithful to her eggs…as long as she had a breakfast break.  Different.

So I repurposed the vacant chickery, and made a hen apartment in the greenhouse. 

It´s like a little suite.  She has her dark egg room, but she can come out for a drink and scratch, or a dirt bath if she wants.  She even has her own sunflower for a houseplant.  It’s draped over with some canvas to keep it cooler.

Plus there will be no transfer when the eggs hatch.  They will already be in the chickery and just get moved outside.

She’s SO in the zone.  You’d never guess she will shake off that trance for awhile every day,  then return.

Yes, they are fine to get off their eggs periodically, even for hours, especially in the summer.  Brief cooling may even be good for them.  The hen knows best.

 

First boxed hen

I´ve put the first broody hen of the year to box.  She´s been determined to brood for a couple weeks, daily protesting the removal of her clutch.  I´ve relented, and put her on three pretty blue eggs (Ameracaunas).  I hope she can do it;  she´ll be the first of my Silkies to sit on a clutch of alien eggs.  If it works, it will be an ugly duckling situation.  My last attempt at egg swapping was rejected – they rolled the big eggs out and down the ramp.

She´s not a very good-looking hen; in fact, she´s an unusually ugly little lady, but she´s feisty and single-minded, keeps her eggs tidy (not allowing them to spill out),  and has been steadfastly resisting my attempts to break her up, so she might turn out be a great mother.

Chickens in a box- lockdown!

Since the most determined little brown hen got up off her eggs for the second time, right before they were due, toasting another clutch, I finally listened to HW and removed her from the coop and locked her up.  This is her third nearly-complete round, and that’s a long time for her to be sitting and mostly not eating.

Another brown hen went broody at the same time, and I got to them just in time, as each already had an eight egg horde- a little ambitious, but it’s summer, so I let them keep all eight.  Now they are boxed.

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HW and I went back and forth- I have had bad luck when I interfere with them, but it has also not gone well when I don’t interfere with them.  They find ways to screw up; it’s very frustrating.  He told me “just take them out of the coop entirely, then there’s no distractions, no more eggs to steal”.  This means I will have to reintroduce them to the flock, and learning how to go in and out of the coop may be that much harder, but we’ll cross that hurdle once we get some chicks, I suppose.

They are in ventilated boxes next to the door of the greenhouse.  I’m a bit paranoid of them getting too hot in there, and how secure are they in the GH at night?, but so far, so good.  There is always a healthy cooling  draft through the GH.  They each have a fount with their poultry vitamin supplement (chicken Gatorade), and a little bowl of food, which they both consume a little of every day, I’m glad, and I sometimes have to scoop their poop.

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There are four more sister hens and the original white hen (outside), who is a little old lady now.  She seems to have shrunk, so tiny when you pick her up.  Still cranky though.  If any more drop into the broody trance, I’m going to have a whole lineup of bird boxes.

White chicks

We’ve got some new chicks!  Little white autumn chicks, from the white hen’s second setting.  It’s late for chicks, I hope they make it.

I made another mistake to add to the bank of learning experience.  Next time, put the hen in the broody box before the chicks hatch!  I was keeping a close eye on her near the end, watching for signs of imminent hatching, but I didn’t put her in a box.  At night I’d seen that all the birds snuggled in around her in her fixed broody position, and I figured that was nice and cozy for her.  It’s getting colder at nights.  I didn’t want to isolate her yet.  Besides, the chicks always stay under mom for 24-48 hours before they start looking out at the world.

But the chicks hatched in the night, and they did not stay under mom for a transition period.

I checked her at night, no hatching.  The next morning when I open the ramp the chickens start filing out, the white hen among them.  What?  Oh no. Look inside the coop- mayhem.  Some older chicks and brown hen huddled in a corner, apparently completely weirded out.  Three white chicks strewn around, one tumbled down the ramp to the bottom, one still on it, one dead.  White hen impassively eating breakfast.

Without thinking too much about it, I crawled awkwardly into the run from the pine tree end the way I have to do on occasion, snatched up the tiny chicks and put them in the kangaroo pocket of my sweatshirt, and  pulled the elastic waistband of my (full disclosure) pajamas up over the shirt and pocket, securing them in there.  Then I walked all over the property for the supplies to assemble the broody box.  Next mistake: have the broody box on deck when nearing the due date.  It took maybe 20 minutes.  The tenor of the panicked cheeping in my pocket changed pretty quickly, though, to a peaceful muttering, so I knew they were content and cozy in there.  The dog could hardly walk for trying to gain more information about what was going on in the vicinity of my belly.

Broody box installed and supplied, then I had to crawl back into the run, capture cranky mom, chuck her in the box and then give her her chicks and unhatched eggs.  2015-10-01 16.55.49

She did not sit on the remaining eggs again, so I cracked them, and they were just rotten eggs, never kindled.  She must have known.  She sat on the other eggs that had chicks, but that died before hatch, for a long time.  Eggs with nearly done chicks in them are much lighter than “liquid” eggs.  They must use up a fair bit of mass expending the energy of living.

The white hen seems to have a two-chick limit.  This time three hatched, one dead, same as last batch.  Now the Silkie flock is dominated by little brown birds, the white ones are the unique, endangered ones.  Hopefully they make it.  She’s in her box now, momming around.

Evening in the coop now:

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A whole crowd of brown chicks, rocking their Arsenio Hall ‘dos (circa 80’s).

Box upgrade for the Brown Brood

Still in small box, new big box at the ready.
Still in small box, new big box at the ready.

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She gets a big roomy box, too, for all that family.  They will stay in here together for a few days, and then the In’s and Out’s will begin again with her.  Now the white hen’s chicks have it all figured out- I can count on them to get in and out of the coop without assistance- I get a short reprieve before it begins again, this time with SIX chicks.

Moving mama.
Moving mama.

It’s nice they are all the same age, too, since she did it right.  I can barely tell the youngest chick, the late hatcher, but there is one a tiny bit smaller.

Two!
Two!
Four!
Four!
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You can see their tiny eggteeth.
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It amazes me that they are so tiny, a third or less the size of a “normal” chick, and yet, there are any number of songbirds that are no larger as adults. A hummingbird egg must be the size of my pinkie fingernail.
Six!  Look at those little wings!
Six! Look at those little wings!

I’ve given them a lovely first meal – quinoa with ground sun and flax seeds, finely grated (zested?) carrot and cucumber.  It was a big hit with the white hen’s chicks, also with chopped apple.  I couldn’t believe how much of it the four of them would consume in a day.  They are only tiny, but they’d polish off a cupful twice a day.  Quinoa is fast becoming the number one choice of bird food around here.

Settling in.
Settling in.

It seems to me that once hatched, the chicks spend at least 24 hours under mom, adjusting or something, before they come out and begin to eat or drink.  It’s not like they just can survive 72 hours on the energy supply from the egg, but that it’s natural for them to have a long transition from egg to outer world.  Even once they were all hatched, it seemed with both hens that it was two days before the chicks started to come spilling out and express interest in what’s beyond mom’s feathers.

Nearly hatch time (?)

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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!

Broody beginnings