grandson helping wake up the chicks

grandson helping wake up the chicks

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Winter comes and so do the brooders!

My last post was in November and quite a bit has happened since then.  With a winter cold snap, we unfortunately lost several of our "girls" including "Nugget", our little Naked Neck Turken. She will be greatly missed as we loved to have her greet us and eat out of our hands whenever we were in the chicken yard. We lost a few others as well including "Lady Gaga", the beautiful Americauna that gave us a lovely olive green egg; and "Betty White", one of our first hens from when we started our flock. It was a sad couple of weeks that just emphasized the reality of our new life with animals and nature.

Even though we've been fortunate enough to "bring back" a couple of hens that were close to death in our time here, the reality is that often nature will take its course despite what we try to do.
In the meantime, now we are down to 24 chickens in the flock including our two roosters, Blue and Chaz. They seem to have found their "space" and get along fairly roosters can lol.

Our flock is doing well and enjoy their times ranging in the entire yard. They especially enjoy stealing bird seed from under the bird feeders in the yard. They make a b-line directly to the feeders when they are let out to range (especially Victoria, our blue Andalusian) and will clean up any seed the towhees and chickadees leave behind.

As we have acclimated to the new, smaller flock, we suddenly notice that not one, but two of our "girls" will NOT get out of their nesting boxes! Are they cold? Are they being harassed? What is the deal?  I got out our chicken books to investigate and discover they are BROODY! Are you kidding?! It is winter and we have TWO hens deciding to get ready for babies! Unbelievable! Such is life at the Coopers!

Gary became very annoyed at the hens and both of us actually tried to take them out of their nesting boxes prior to the realization that they were on a mission. After more reading, I discovered that a hormone will cause hens to "go broody" and there is nothing anyone can do about it! They will be broody for about 21 days, and either hatch baby chicks or give up.  It looks like we're in for a long one.

Julia Roberts doing her broody thing.

Joan Jett being broody.

Julia Roberts broody and Lucy (our old girl) taking up the laying box.
In the meantime, Gary had been removing the eggs from these girls each day. I decided we may as well make use of what nature was providing in the natural incubators so I started to mark eggs and put them back under our hens.  I also read that broody hens should be kept separate from the rest of the flock due to the fact that the other hens will harass them and force their way into the nesting boxes to lay in the same box.

We did find hens in the box with the broodies at times and they were leaving eggs behind but they seemed to be okay other than that. We continued to keep watch each day and remove the extra "unmarked" eggs while carefully checking the "marked" eggs to leave them under the hens. As we did this, we remembered that the eggs should not be moved after day 15 of the 21 days of incubation. is that going to work with other hens adding eggs each day? That's something to contemplate. I'll get back to that later.

Simultaneously, we noticed that "Bette Davis", our Spotted Suffolk, was missing. I had looked all over the yard and even called to her, but to no avail. One day, however, she did run out to us from somewhere in the back of the property to get a treat. But then she disappeared again. Where could she be?

Deep within the blackberries, I am kept at bay by the brambles. Bette Davis is in the top middle of the picture.
I decided to investigate as we had lost one of our hens to some sort of a critter a few weeks before. As I searched the yard and got to the back fence area where the blackberries were trying to take hold, I spotted a few eggs by a bush and low and behold, our little miss Bette Davis, on a nest.

She blinked and looked at me but did not move. As I looked at her, it started to snow. I decided that I needed to move her to a safer spot for weather. So, I began to cut away at the brambles to have access to her. As I removed her from her "nest", I discovered she had accumulated almost a dozen eggs and had been very carefully setting on them.

I carefully removed the eggs, two at a time, and relocated "Bette" to our small hen house. She settled in and appeared to be very happy about her new arrangement.

Feeling very confident that the "moving of the broody hen was a good idea, I decide to move the other two to the small hen house. That seemed to be a good idea for New Year's Day, right?! Well, I got them moved and right now, this very second, they are not real thrilled with me. The three of them have gotten a bit out of their trance and I gave them a little outside time before returning them to their new temporary home. I checked on the girls just before dark and the status was as follows: no hen on Julia or Joan Jett's eggs but Joan Jett was on Bette Davis' eggs. Silly hens!

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chicken house1

chicken house1
Our masterpiece ready for the chickens