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!