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.
The only time to see the wild Oreos up close is evening time in the coop. They are handsome looking now, and not so much filling as cookie these days – they´re turning out raven black, with the blackest glossy legs.
Later on she scraped up all the hay in the coop, and made a lovely, perfectly round nest with high walls. When she flattens out and dozes, you can barely see comb over the sides of her nest.
No idea how many eggs she´s got. Easily 20. Perhaps a chicken egg got in there too. In fact, she could be due any day. I don´t know about guinea terms, but she´s got to be close.
And since there´s only three birds walking about yet, I suspect those three are the boys, and the other hen has found her own nest site somewhere in the woods. May she walk out healthy one day with a trail of chicks.
While I´m delighted that she´s pleased enough with the coop I made them to brood in it, there are some things that I did not consider. Such as, what happens when they hatch?
She hasn´t lifted off that nest for a moment, so I´m thinking as soon as they hatch she´ll be ready for a snack. And then day old guinea chicks will start pouring out of the coop, six feet off the ground? If they do bounce, then, how about when mom goes back to bed? If I lift in the chicks, she´ll come blazing out, the chicks will follow her out…this is a circular vision.
I decided to put a screen door on the coop so I can keep them all in there a couple of days, or something.
Applying the screen door was fine. When I set a dish of food and water inside the door, however, whoooweee!
She is terrifying! She opens her mouth like a cobra, spreads her wings wide and full, so she looks like a flat feather wall, and stares. Then one piercing squawk, and wham! cobra strike. She gave me a good chomp. Same when I refilled the water, after she tugged the dishes in close to the circle around her nest. Then I had to reach in even closer to her. I didn´t risk the food dish.
And then four hens decided to hang out in the woodshed, even though it wasn´t raining.
No one expresses the joy of summer quite like the Silkies. They sunbathe hard.
A bunch of white snowballs wriggling in the dirt or spread out flat like they´ve deflated.
Or for variety, going for a hike.
Sometimes the red hens get right in there too for a bath.
What I wonder is, songbirds take exuberant baths in puddles all the time. Chickens are birds. Why don´t they like the water?
The biggest Silkie news is that the oil of oregano treatment is totally the cure for Scaly Leg Mite! So exciting! I´ve got a few drops of oil of oregano in a bottle, and I shake that vigorously, and pour some of the mix in their water dish, not even every day, just enough to get a bit of a rainbow on their water. Their legs and feet are obviously so much better, although I haven´t been doing Vaseline treatments. Just the oil of oregano, or OOO, as I call it. I´ve got plenty around for human health; now recommended for chicken feet health. The layer hens have entirely cleared up – their feet look so good now, and I´m sure the Brahmas will respond too.
Another hen is boxed, with more pretty blue eggs. Broody 2, 2017. I have a special variety of hairless chicken that seems to go broody first. I don´t know if broodiness goes with molting or not – do they need the long break of setting to reset themselves and regrow after a molt?
Hens are usually pleased to go in the box, and get their private trough. This one is just attacking the food. I of course provide a buffet during their confinement; in the wild they would be able to pop out for a snack when they got peckish but not so in the box.
There is an important rule though: Thou shalt know the difference between sloth and broodiness.
They might be doing this:
They might be in there all day. They might slam their wings down and growl if you try to take eggs, but they may not be broody. They might be laying an egg, or just thinking about it.
I was impatient to set someone on eggs and boxed one I thought was broody – she was NOT. She was pleased at first with the snack, but upon finding herself trapped, she loudly registered her outrage, drawing the Colonel to pace at the screen door, and effected a dramatic eruption out of the box, after kicking all the eggs around. A broody will be thrilled to have eggs, and keep them in a tidy group.
So I´m waiting for one to turn. They´re just having too much fun outdoors right now to think about motherhood.
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.
Chick death by hanging from the mother’s underfluff is a very real risk, as bizarre as I thought it was the first time. I saved three chicks from this hatch from hanging. I found two at once being dragged around by the neck. What a fate. Her underfeathers were glued together at the ends, poop no doubt, and chicks had their heads stuck in the loop, probably from burrowing under her. I saved them, phew!, pulling the feathers apart, and feeling for other knots. I suppose the solution would be combing their bellies shortly after hatching. You first.
It’s a bit like 101 Dalmatians around here now. Chicks everywhere. In the greenhouse, in the chickeries – I’ve lost track of how many sets there were this summer. Some hens went broody twice. There are a lot of chicks scampering around.
The last remaining greenhouse setter is good as gold in her broody box, but she loves breakfast. She eats nearly her whole bowl of food every day, and she goes at it enthusiastically the moment it’s given (as opposed to other broodies, who eat a bowl of food every week or two, and pretend they don’t care about food when you put it in with them).
Outside, it’s cooling off. The birds come tumbling down the ramp every morning, and then, ugggh!, halt on the ramp to hunch their shoulders and fluff out. Sometimes they just go back inside. Not ready to greet this day.
There are two ways to identify roosters. 1) Even very small, they start beefing with the other baby cocks. They lower their heads and stick their necks out, then stand up really tall on their toes, beak to beak. If that doesn’t settle it, there’s some chest bumping. 2) Baby cocks hero-worship the rooster. I’m gonna be just like you someday! They are first to arrive when he does his food clucks, and they tag along with him, everywhere.
I came home to Snowball out of the Silkie paddock, who knows how or why, and whaddya know, Wannabe Jr. is out there with him. Note unflappable (harharhar) white hen looking on.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)