Country Living Series

Friday, August 3, 2012

It never rains but it pours

Looks like we're due for yet more baby chicks. It never rains but it pours.

Last night -- the second night the baby chicks slept in the coop -- I took a head count of the adult chickens before buttoning them up for the night. One was missing.

This isn't unusual. Sometimes a hen will decide, for whatever wacky reasoning runs through her tiny pea-brain, that she wants to spend the night outside. This is usually a death warrant, since coyotes will happily snack on a stray bird.

So I armed myself with a flashlight and peeked into the last spot I saw this particular hen: Matilda's stall.


Sure enough there she was... setting on a huge batch of eggs. There were so many eggs that they spilled out from under her.


Setting hens have a certain ruffled-up posture that is very distinctive. Why, after several years, would this hen choose this particular day to go broody? Could it be the proximity of the chicks which inspired her? I'm gonna say yes.

Whatever the reasoning, it's a welcome development although it means we'll be drowning in chicks within a few weeks. Not only do we have the fourteen babies that hatched a couple weeks ago, but we have another 36 eggs in the incubator, due to hatch on August 9. I sure hope our neighbors want a lot of chicks.



[Oh by the way, sad update on that little chick who struggled so hard to hatch. He was blind. This often happens to late chicks. He couldn't find the food and water and was clearly suffering, so Don put him out of his misery.]

Anyway, this broody hen (whose name is Smoky, by the way) was setting on a dazzling 23 eggs, clearly way too many for her to handle.

So I lifted her off the nest and removed six eggs.


The hen took this opportunity to go get something to eat. Setting hens usually leave the nest two or three times a day to eat and drink.


When I check on her an hour later, she was back on her nest... but eggs were still spilling out from under her.


So I removed eight more, to her great indignation. This leaves her with a clutch of nine eggs, a nice manageable size.


We'll see what happens in three weeks!

10 comments:

  1. Awwww, good girl Smoky!

    I think broody hens are just adorable. :) I love the way they puff up and screech when anything/anyone comes close. When they're broody it's my chance to love on them (whether they like it or not) because they won't leave the nest, and they're so fluffy. :) I like to bring them special treats so they don't have to get up.

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  2. Patrice,
    In another post you mentioned keeping the chickens safe from snakes...do you happen to have rattlesnakes there? We don't have chickens yet, but we're planning on them next spring. However, we just found a rattlesnake in the yard last week, and we've found several gopher and racer snakes. I've never had to deal with this 'challenge,' so I'm hoping you have some advice.
    Love all the pics you've shared from the Portland trip and the chicks :)
    Lisa

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    1. I think technically we're in the range of rattlesnakes, but in the nine years we've lived here we've never seen one. We do have black snakes, gopher, rubber boas, etc. but they've never caused problems with our chickens. Filling the cracks in the chicken coop is more of a precaution than a defense.

      - Patrice

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  3. Lord that is a lot of eggs. Do you think they are all hers? Maybe she had been saving them up for one huge brood.

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    1. Oh no, this was a "communal" nest, so who knows how many other hens contributed? Chickens aren't necessarily picky about whose eggs they set.

      - Patrice

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  4. That's really cool to be able to have a sustainable resource like 'chikin'. Last year, our city allowed us peasants to begin keeping chickens with in the city limits. We were set to give it a go ourselves until we read in the paper how it's not as easy as it looks, though not for the reasons you may think. Many folks had reported losing dozens of birds to foxes, or worse - bears. To keep the hens safe, people practically had to build a Fort Knox of a hen house: concrete pads, 4x4 posts and thick plywood siding, then sourround it all with 8 ft high fencing and electric fence and/or barbed wire. Not to mention that it attracts bears where bears were less likely to be until they got scent of free fowl. That and the fact that my neighbors on either side both have little grass gremlins running around - well, we had to rethink this endeavor. Bruins and babies just don't mix.

    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

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    1. Steve Davis, I live in Palmer, AK, in the Knik River area, and I took issue with the article about the family that was raising chickens for bear food in the Anchorage area. First, keep in mind, the couple did not know what they were doing. You could see this clearly from the photos and what was written in the article. They live on the edge of town in a highly forested area where, of course, there are bears. They made NO attempt to clear the area of trees and brush where they were keeping chickens. Their chicken coop and yard were right in the TREES!

      We live in a rural area with mountains all around and a BIG bear population as well as foxes and lynxes, etc., and yet people DO keep chickens and raise other farm animals out here. The difference is that people MUST clear areas around their animal pens and homes so as not to encourage the bears and other wildlife to approach easily and by stealth.

      Unfortunately for the people in Anchorage who know what they are doing with their chickens, the family in the ADN article obviously did not know what they were doing and they caused LOTS of problems for their neighbors who had a right to be upset. One idiot can spoil it for everybody else, and this appears to be what is happening in Anchorage.

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  5. When it rains it pours is right! But, how wonderful for you. At least you could sell a few if you decide not to keep them all

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  6. Just found your blog and I love it! I only have four hens (we can only have six) but they are a fantastic addition to my suburban homestead. I love your broody hen! Too bad you're so far from California because I'd take a couple off your hands.

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    1. Welcome, Stacy! I grew up in Napa, not far from you.

      - Patrice

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