The coop drama was in a heightened state at the beginning of the broody hen journey. As we came out of Winter, entering Spring, the quality of the natural sunlight changed. Even if the temperatures were chilly, the light was in Spring mode. The chicks all felt it and went berserk. They ran around more, ate more, and mostly talked more. Especially around egg laying.
Andy moved the coop, and expanded the run, which included a month of free rein in our rather large garden. The new chick run includes a nice wild rose bush, with terrific shade protection from the weather and predators. Their dining room was also expanded and they had easier access to it from their ramp. Andy turned the way the coop faced, so the people door faced north, but the chick door faced west. He put a roof over their ramp and door. Previously, they didn't have any cover over their door, so when they got up in the morning, Rooster Archie would dominate the ramp and block them from going out until the skies were clear of any danger. With a protective roof over the door and dining room, Archie let them all spill out of the coop soon as we opened the door.
This move and all of the positive changes we made for them, along with Spring completing their 1st year of life, enabled someone to go on the broody hen journey.
We have two Buff Orpington chicks. They are a mixed egg laying and meat hen. Amber always had thick legs, compared to Goldie, who is more slender. When everyone settled into the new coop situation, Amber immediately got very plump and stouter than she already was. Her crest changed color from a nice pale to medium pink to very dark pink. The biggest change, was her words! She never lost her baby chick peep as she grew bigger. All of the other chicks voices got deeper, but Amber's stayed a chick peep, until this Spring. She would come up to me and kind of scream. Then she would scream and raise her hackles. Since she was always a gentle hen, I didn't worry about her hurting me like I do with Archie. Then one day I noticed she didn't want to leave the nest box. I thought she might be sick. What did I know?
You will notice in the photo below, Amber's crest is very pale pink and she's all puffed up. As the broody hen journey progressed, she's stayed puffed up, sitting on those eggs for 15 days. She maintained this kind of stiff flex, as she covered the eggs with her body.
Then it occurred to Andy that she was beginning her broody hen journey. Lucky for us, she choose her safe place to be in the coop, right in the most popular nest box. She hadn't missed a beat of coop drama. She probably caused a little more of it.
When we decided to let her try to hatch some eggs, I selected 2. One of hers and one of Turquoise's. Turquoise is an Easter Egger Ameraucana mixed breed and she lays pink eggs. Then the next day, I selected 4 more, totaling 6. I took one of Goldie's, another of Turquoise's, and 2 of the Wyandottes; Ruby and Emerald.
Since the coop drama included everyone screaming at Amber to get out of the way, when she didn't, they laid their eggs on top of her and next to her. I marked the 6 I selected so we could take the rest every day. Otherwise she would horde them. One day I found 11 eggs under her. She can't possibly incubate more eggs properly. And since we don't know what to expect, we don't want our first broody hen journey to get out of control with too many chicks.
As the coop drama got a little more dramatic, Andy thought another nest box would alleviate the tension of all the chicks wanting to all pile up into one nest box. My cousin, who has 3 chickens, filled me on a little trick to help guide the hens to a new place to lay. I took an egg out of our stash and planted it in the new nest box. Many of the hens laid there for a time, if I left an egg in there. Goldie and Turquoise still like to lay with Amber, which is nice. They help preen her and keep her butt clean. As the broody hen journey continued, Amber also sat on their eggs, so I had to carefully move her to take out the extras.
I still needed to leave a lure egg in the new box. If I took them all out, they go back to piling in on top of Amber.
On day 15, I noticed something yellow on Ambers crop. It looked like egg yoke. I carefully picked her up and one of the eggs was cracked. After I moved her to the other side of the nest box and moved the remaining 5 eggs, I added more straw and helped her get all settled in a clean nest. Then I inspected the broken egg before I cleaned it up and added more sand.
I clean the coop daily with Waterless Hand Soap. I spray it on my damp sponge outside and then just wipe down the roosts, around all the windows, in all of the corners, and on the nest box boards
Upon inspection, this egg hardly developed past the first few days. One day early on her momma hen journey, when cleaning Ambers nest, I carefully picked her up to move her over. She had an egg clutched in her foot and it dropped only about 1/2 inch, but I bet that was enough to disconnect it from the shell and it stopped developing into a chick. I sort of expected something like that to happen.
After the broken egg, we decided to move Amber and her remaining 5 eggs, into a private protected nest box in the vestibule that covers the back door to our house. Since the door is used as our main entrance, we could keep tabs on her, and also be company. The cats were good company also.
On day 20, we took Amber, in her private nest box, out of the vestibule, carefully lifted her off of the eggs, and buried them in straw. Since this was her last day before the 1st hatch, we wanted her to stretch a bit. We gave her a nice dust bath and some wild clover to eat. She had a blast.
Then on day 21, her 1st chick hatched. It was Turquoise's egg. I asked her if she would stand up for a minute and let the new chick come out and she did.
Time is flying by, even though it's a lot of work to bring Amber and the chicks to their playpen every day, and then bring them back to their nighttime safe spot in our back vestibule.
Amber brought them over to the coop for a brief introduction to the flock. It's really fun to watch her and Archie do their intro dances. The chicks are much faster, bigger and aware than the rest of the flock was at this age. Chick moms are much better than us. She talked to them all day, took them on hikes, fed them bits of new foods, and showed them how to dust bathe. The flock we raised didn't dust bathe until they were 12 weeks old! What a difference.
In the photos above, the chicks are 4 weeks old. The black-ish chick with gold wings, is Jade. The gold chick in the left photo in the center, is Citrina. Below are some updated photos of full grown chicks, who have successfully merged with the flock.
Just like the older chickens, around the 5th month, the girls started talking about laying eggs. By the 6th month they started laying beautiful eggs. The first few weeks of eggs were smaller, even from the really big chickens my babies grew into.
After a few weeks, both baby girls became almost daily layers, which is different from the older chickens. The coop drama continued, with nest box fights, pecking order, and molting season coming to a close. The lead chicken, Sapphire, and Amber, Last Spring's broody hen, being the last to lose their feathers and grow the new ones in.
Click here to read more about drama in the chicken coop.
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I definitely thought the baby chicks could easily be ferrel and we would have a hard time. We decided to make sure these babies know us. We watched them hatch, pet them and picked them up.
Right around 4 weeks, both Mamma Amber and Auntie Goldie would ditch the babies and take off together! Free range was finished. We have owls, hawks, ravens, wild dogs, foxes, weasels, and who knows what else living here. Plus they like to go up to the road and eat in the hedgerow. We couldn't just let them run around anymore. We then set up an adjoining coop in this little shed we have and smaller run, so they could visit by the fence.
After 2-3 weeks, we moved the little girls, including Amber and Goldie in with the big girls. Now Archie lives in the little run, alone. He will live next door until the mount is finished. He still watches out for them and talks with them all day.
Sept 8 and 9 the babies turned 12 weeks old. They are finally mixing well and turning back into 1 flock. The babies and Amber were sleeping, all piled on top of each other, in 1 upper nest box in the coop. Goldie immediately fit right back in with the flock and was sleeping on the roosts with everyone else.
In the evening on week 13, I picked Amber up, in the coop and placed her on the roost with the big girls next to the auntie hen and the wall. The next day Amber took her 1st bath with the big girls since she became broody. Also, every day Andy makes sure to feed the babies out of his hand and I still pet them and pick them up. It was definitely a lot of work to make sure we knew them, but worth it.
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