March 24, 2014
Each week during the month of March, we have had a nice warm up for about three days and then ice or snow for a day or two and then another warm up, and so on and so forth. The nice days are nice 🙂 but the days of wintry weather are frustrating for this gardener who wants to get to planting!
Wednesday evening (two days until ‘chick watch’), my daughter went to check on the broody hen (we’ve been checking on her about 3x/day, whenever we go check for eggs). She noticed bloody, marked eggshell in front of the nesting box.She went out into the run & witnessed all of the chickens fighting over a baby chick (eating it)! Ugh! My poor girl always gets to see the carnage first. Thankfully, it does not seem to bother her. I, on the other hand, did not sleep that night because I kept picturing it in my sleep.
So, we were down to six possible chicks. As it got closer and closer to the time for the chicks to hatch, it seemed as though the other hens were pushing the mama hen out of her nesting box more and more. After the chick-eating incident, we checked on the broody hen every two hours and most of those times, we had to move a hen out of her box, move the broody hen back in, and pick up an egg or two that had been kicked out in the process.
That is what we assume happened to the chick…the egg got kicked out of the nesting box. When eggs are outside of the nesting box, this is when the chickens are more likely to eat them.
We woke up Saturday morning, excited to see what the day revealed. We checked on the mama hen after breakfast…no activity. We checked on her around 10am & one chick had poked its beak through the egg!
We didn’t want the other chickens to pester the hatching chicks and half of them were in the tunnel, so we kicked the rest out of the coop and into the tunnel for the day. However, around lunch time, they were freaking out so badly and just about hurting themselves, trying to get into the coop so we let them in.
They immediately bunked up 2 to a nesting box, kicked the mama hen out of hers and kicked out some of the fertilized eggs! We moved the eggs into a dog crate in the coop but the mama hen would not go sit on them there. We moved her to a less protected but suitable (to her) place and decided to wait out the other laying hens.
Later that afternoon, all but a couple of the chickens were in the run, taking dust baths so we kicked the rest of the hens out of the coop, to give the mama hen some privacy. By 3pm, we had our first hatched chick! 🙂
By the end of day one, we had two hatched chicks (one yellow, one white), a couple of eggs with holes in them, and a couple of whole eggs. Nothing happened day two so we assumed the other chicks died or were duds. It is also possible the eggs with holes in them were created, not by chicks, but by other hens pecking at the chicks. I do not have the stomach to do so but my husband may open the eggs to see if there were some partially developed chicks in there — just for a science lesson for the kids.
So, would you call two chicks out of 10 fertilized eggs a success or failure? If we had 6 chicks, I was not going to order any more this year, since I’m having a ‘chick’ of my own in a few months. However, with only two chicks, that is not enough to keep up egg production throughout the winter (I don’t think)…maybe we’ll get another broody hen? If not, maybe we’ll order some chicks early this summer. Any suggestions?
Introducing Mama Hen and Baby Chicks
We’re still ‘harvesting’ about 15 eggs/day. I think and certainly hope that the latest cold spell, starting tonight, will be our last and I can start planting in earnest so I can add greens and more to my harvest tally.
I am getting nervous about the lack of activity in the greenhouses but as always, I’ll just have to wait and see what happens when we start getting steady warm weather around here. I would like to spread more manure on the potato patch and cover more grass with newspaper and mulch but 3rd trimester is kind of kicking my butt — my energy level has been really low lately — so we’ll see how much gardening actually gets done in the months to come…
Are you harvesting? Share what’s going on in your garden at Daphne’s Dandelions this week!