I’m a nervous chicken mama. The temp has been dropping steadily for days. Our efforts to protect the flock has been a learning experience, especially since one of our hens has decided that this would be a great time to sit on a nest. Chardonnay is broody, and extremely dedicated to her potential chicks. December 14th will mark 21 days on the nest…and maybe our first hatching!
This is our first experience with a broody hen, and I know this is the worst time of year for her to be wanting to hatch these eggs, but….we’ll provide whatever support these little chick-a-dees may need for warmth, etc., and hope that Chardonnay will take over some of that responsibility. She has been off the nest a couple of times wherein I think she has gotten confused which box she had been laying on. The eggs had cooled off some, but did not get “cold.” Well maybe a couple of them did. Each time I put her back on the correct nest, she has cuddled down and brought any eggs outside of her body into and under herself. At last count, she had 14 eggs!!! I don’t know if she is bringing more eggs into her nest, or if others are laying theirs where she is lying. This is a true learning experience, and if we come out with one or two chicks, I will be ecstatic!!
This all started two weeks ago today. Six of the 7 hens laid eggs in the same nesting box…Chardonnay decided to sit, and there she stayed. The 7th hen laid her egg in a different box, so since it was still warm, I put that one under her….one egg for each hen giving us a better chance of a pure Buff Orpington chick. Our boxes are a bit small for a broody hen, so Tony took out part of the lower wall under the nesting boxes (they are about 4 ft. off the ground) and made a nest/brooder area that expands into the “people” area. I lost some of my storage space, but Chardonnay is more comfortable, and the chicks won’t fall off the landing area in front of the nesting boxes.
I was afraid that moving Chardonnay and her eggs would result in her abandoning her nest, but she is so devoted, she just wiggled herself back into place, pulled two eggs under her that were sitting out, and snuggled in. She has been much more comfortable since the move, and is growling a lot less when I come near. I bring her treats, and little bowls of cracked corn and chicken feed at night…I thinks this is helping. Due to the cold, I haven’t candled any of the eggs to see what we’ve actually got going under there. I’m sure we won’t have 14 eggs hatch. It’s going to be fun to see what we actually get…I’m hoping for at least one Claudio (our Buff girl) look alike!
Ideally, the hope is that the brooders can stay with the flock (in their own area within the chicken house) with mama leading the way, keeping them warm. Logic would say that their integration will be more natural this way, but there are dangers of attack by other flock members that we have to be really thinking about. Our logic doesn’t always coincide with God’s design in nature, so we’ll try our best to nurture through the cold of winter whatever may hatch. I just hope they’ve stayed warm enough through this bitter cold. Either way, I won’t let Chardonnay sit for much longer than a few days past the 21st day. She needs to nourish herself and get back to chicken business beyond nesting.
A question for my knowledgeable poultry friends out there….Will eggs that have been sat upon for many day still hatch if Mama Hen gets confused and sits on eggs laid that morning while her nest grows cold? Chardonnay did that today. In very chilly weather, the eggs were cold to the touch when I found them without her. She readily snuggled back down with them when I put her back on the nest, but my fear is that damage has been done.