Broody or not Broody . . . that is the question.

Several days after my last post it looked as though one of our young Delaware hens was going broody.  She would sit in the same nesting box all day often joined by one of her flock-mates.  I’ve read that it’s not uncommon for others in the flock to help fill the nest for a broody hen.Two in a nest

We had planned on increasing our flock with Rhode Island Reds (RIR) and were referred to someone that agreed to collect a dozen eggs from his show quality blood line.  The next step was to move the little brooder set up into the big coop.  Rod had expanded on last year’s broody box by adding a hardware cloth base, ramp, and wheels so it could be used as a small tractor. This worked great for portability, but it would not fit through the coop door so off came the wheels and it slid right in.Broody coop 3Broody coop 2

We soon had a hen in the brooder on a nice clutch of eggs.  She was tucking eggs, fussing with the bedding, and making little broody noises.  We couldn’t believe how well this was going, but come evening everyone was happily roosting including our “broody” little hen!  Since she’s one of the young hens, we figured we’d take her off the roost close her into the brooder where it’s quiet and cozy then check on her before we turning in to see if she settled into brooding.  The problem was . . . the hens all look alike!Blue Butt 3

The next day, after making sure it wouldn’t harm her, we placed two drops of blue food coloring on our broody’s back feathers.  This should help if we need to pluck her off the roost.  Later that day while I was working in the solarium my potentially broody “blue butt” went strolling by. Blue Butt 1  I decided it was a good time to see how many eggs she was sitting on.  Imagine my dismay when there on the nest was another hen tucking eggs, fussing with bedding, and making little broody noises (sigh. . .)

We did have a back up plan for hatching our fertilized RIR eggs.  A nearby friend with and incubator agreed to hatch them.  We sent along a dozen eggs from the collected clutch, hoping our Delaware rooster did his job.  It takes about 21 days for an egg to hatch, Kristi candled the eggs at day 10 and at least four of the RIR were progressing, but the Delaware eggs were clear (not fertile).  ChesterChester is not quite a year old, so he will keep trying 😉

Since we need to increase egg production to meet customer needs, and will be brooding at least four RIR chicks we’ve decided to order a dozen Black Australorp pullet chicks.  We pick them up on May 5th which is the same day the RIR’s should be hatching.  I can hardly wait!!

 

Raising spring chicks.

Our neighbor is increasing their laying flock this year.  I’m so excited for them!!  Their original flock of six are no longer producing as many eggs, which happens as chickens age.  This will be their first time brooding chicks.  We have some experience, although limited, and have offered to help out how ever we can.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Two years ago we decided to raise our own meat chickens after learning it took about eight weeks for a Cornish Rock Cross to reach a decent butcher weight.  We ordered 50 chicks that April and set up a place in the garage to brood them.  Rod made a nifty two foot high ring which we covered with sheets to keep heat in and drafts out.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne little guy appears to be a stickler for the correct temperature.

By the third week they began to develop their wing and tail feathers . . . OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby the forth week they were ready to get out into the fresh air, and we were glad to have the dust and smell out of the garage!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After a good deal of research Rod built our first chicken tractor.  This is the term used for a portable pen/coop.   The first week we got by with moving it every couple of days.  By the second week we moved it daily and even twice a day the last couple of weeks.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They created a good deal of fertilizer which is why we grazed this first batch up near our house.  The lawn was in dire need of good organic nutrients – WOW did it grow and green up after that!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brooding chicks is a fair bit of work, which is why we were excited last Mother’s Day when one of our Delaware’s decided not get off the nest.  Rod built her a nice quiet broody box, we the set a dozen fertilized eggs under her and about 21 days later the hatching began. Mom & chicks #2  This was great no heat lamps or special pen needed. The hen keeps the chicks warm . . .
and teaches them to forage.  She is such a good Mama!!babies in the yard
I just love my chickens –