And by we, I mean the chickens… Why, what did you think I meant?
I hope I didn’t just give my husband a heart attack…
It’s been a very cold couple of days here in Northern BC. We’ve been having a winter storm with temps down to -38 and lots of snow and everyone on the farm has been hunkered down. The dogs rarely leave the comfort of the wood stove, and I bundle up in my Carhartt coveralls to head to the chicken coop. Yes, that’s right… I own Carhartt coveralls. Who would have thought!
Though the temperature has been depressing, you wouldn’t know it if you entered our coop. With the daylight increased, spring has sprung for the chickens.
I had two hens go broody this week. Basically, they are preparing to hatch some eggs. Both Josephine and Georgia were settled down in the nesting boxes at night and when I tried to move them they turned full dinosaur on me. You know, like the one dinosaur in Jurassic park that spit on that guy… like that.
They puffed up, shook their neck feathers and made some type of rattling noise at me. Strange little chooks. Once I picked up Josephine and saw she had “feathered her nest” by pulling out her chest feathers and decorating her nesting box, I knew I had a broody hen. Georgia quickly abandoned her nest after I offered up some treats twice in one day, so I was down to one. Sometimes they aren’t cut out to be mothers.
Well, back to Google I went because I didn’t know what I was dealing with. Do I break the broodiness? Do I let her hatch some eggs? It’s only February so is it too cold up here in the North? So many questions and so many answers.
I had been collecting eggs pretty religiously so I knew she was only sitting on a golf ball, but she was determined as ever to hatch it, so I felt it was a good time to do an experiment and see if we could hatch some eggs. Plus, I didn’t really have the equipment to break her broodiness, so I took the lazy way out. Why not let nature take it’s course?
It takes 21 days to hatch an egg, if everything goes just right. We have cold temps working against us, but I figured I could set up the nursery under the heating lamp to help things out. Google said it was easiest to move a broody hen in the evening so I prepared the nursery yesterday during the day to make sure it was ready. I piled up a bunch of new clean straw in between two feed bins under the lamp and to my surprise, Beatrix my rooster began to prepare the nest for me. It was the darndest thing… and ridiculously adorable. I’ve never seen anything like it. He got right in there and turned and groomed the straw, all the while making cooing and clucking noises. He was very proud of himself. Such a good Dad-to-be. Apparently this is a sign of a good rooster… I knew he had it in him.
After shooing out the crowd that had gathered to inspect the nursery, all I could do was wait until night fall.
Evening came and I snuck out with a basket full of eggs I had been saving. 9 in total – 4 orpington eggs and 5 olive egger eggs. I arranged them delicately in the nest and moved Josephine over to see them. I made sure to wear gloves because broody hens love to peck and bite! She hesitated a bit and had a slight panic over being outside of the nesting box, but then she began to eat a little and I figured I should leave her to it. She was either going to sit on them or not. I don’t know how long she was off the eggs, but when I returned a bit later, she was up again. I scooped her up and settled her on top of them and she settled right in. A good sign.
This morning I ran outside like a kid on Christmas and she was still on the nest!
Chickens stop laying eggs during their broodiness, so I am down a layer but hopefully it will be worth it. I can candle the eggs in about week to see if they are developing and get rid of any eggs that may not be good. Candling basically involves holding the egg up to a flashlight and seeing if an embryo is forming. Since Josephine is a first time mom, she could abandon the nest at any time or worse, kill the babies when the hatch so this is going to be an interesting adventure. But I’m all for learning something new!
Now all we have to do is wait…. No easy task for a over bearing chicken lady and an anxious first time father.
Wish us luck!