08 May 2012

Broody Hen Saga - Part Two

The first week the hens sat on the eggs, every day more hens would get in the box.  Even the other hens would lay their eggs in there, which means I had no idea how many eggs were in there.  They kicked out two of the original eight eggs, but after three or four days of not retrieving eggs, that meant there could be as many as a dozen more in there.  (That sounds a little high - I'm writing this more than a week later - I think my calculations were lower before.)  So, I decided they needed their own home, sake for the baby chicks, and safe from the other chickens who wanted in the same box.  I have a covered area by the house that is sort of a garden shed - I keep gardening stuff in there and its junky appearance is hidden from the neighbors.  It was in desperate need of reorganization, but it was also a good, safe, dry place to house the chicken nursery/maternity ward.

Since this is fairly temporary, I did the best I could to make this area safe for the mothers and their chicks, but also easy to dismantle when the time came.  I bought starter feed and a feeder - I already had a waterer from when we had the younger chickens.  I got the food and water ready and waited until it was good and dark.  Somewhere between nine and ten on a Sunday night, we moved the hens to their new home.  Robin thought they might be freaked out, but I felt confident that it would be easy.  I think there were five (maybe four) in the nesting box when we moved them.  I threw a towel over the box to keep them calm and I picked it up and walked to over to their new home and put them down.  It was that easy - they didn't fuss or anything.

I kept a watchful eye on them during their first week in their new home.  I didn't know if they would like there.  I didn't know what the other chickens would do.  One of the first days while I was at work, one of them flew out...then another.  They started stuffing themselves in a nesting box back in the hen house.  I started second-guessing myself - whether I should have moved them, etc, but I had good reasons:  I didn't feel like there was enough room in the hen house.  They need special food, and the other chickens would eat it too.  If they wanted to leave the house, it was about three feet down to the ground.  I thought this was best, but I was a little concerned.  One by one they left their new area until there was only one left.  The last thing I wanted was to come home and find that all of them had abandoned the nest.  I took the initiative and grabbed one of the hens and put her in the new area, and she stayed there.  It's been relatively worry-free ever since.

We're approaching Day 21 this weekend - Mother's Day should be when they start hatching.  I know that's when the original six should hatch, but I don't know how many more there are after that.  We'll have to wait and see.

No comments: