Friday, April 10, 2009

Chickens are sitting on eggs

Big Red has gotten broody and decided she wants to hatch some eggs. She has taken over the lower nest box in the coop, and has eight eggs under her! She is very serious about it all. I only know there are eight eggs because she gets off the nest once a day to go out and poo and have a drink and a snack, then comes right back and sits on them again. If I disturb her she fluffs up and hisses!

I have been told I need to mark the eggs with a pencil so I can tell if anyone slips an extra egg in there while she's off the nest, because if the eggs don't all hatch at once she'll abandon the ones that don't hatch once she has some chicks. Also after ten days I'm supposed to candle the eggs and get rid of the ones that don't have a developing chick in them. She has to sit on them for 21 days, and if some of the eggs are bad, they will go really bad and explode and leak nasty goop on the other eggs which might kill the chicks.

Of course my friend Martha has new chicks every year because her hens sneak off and lay their eggs somewhere, hatch them, and come marching back with a whole flock of chicks following them. So obviously it's not that difficult!

Her sister, Little Red, also got broody, but she kept moving from nestbox to nestbox. I had been taking the eggs away from her, but once it seemed like she was serious I gave her six eggs to sit on - I just slipped them under her skirts. At first she was hissing and fluffing up at me, but once she saw I was giving her eggs she started happily clucking and rolling them into position under her! I don't know if she was letting the other hens bully her or what, but a couple days later she had moved to another box and let her eggs cool off. Unfortunately it won't work if she only sits on the eggs for a day then switches to another box, once she starts sitting the eggs she can't let them cool off for more than about a half hour when she gets off to take a break once a day. So I put her in this small coop. The nestbox is the dog crate, and the caged area has bedding and food and water. She is currently setting on golf balls in the crate, and if she continues to sit on them for another day I'll remove the golf balls and replace them with some eggs. Chickens can't tell golf balls from eggs. Close enough for them!

I took the eggs she had sat on for a couple days and cracked one open. You could see there was a little bit of development starting, just the ring on the yolk where you can tell the yolk is fertile had expanded a bit, but otherwise it just looked like a normal egg.

I am saving up the eggs I collect from the other hens by setting them in a carton on the shelf there in the shed next to the coop. Once I have six or eight I'll slip them under Little Red in her new private nest box and see how she does sitting on them.

Big Bird thinks I am interfering with his hens too much! Back off! And get away from my coop!

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