Wednesday, 15 August 2007

The Broody Bunch

Things are a little unsettled in the chicken house of late. Lavender has decided to go broody and sit on anything even slightly egg shaped. The thing is, she will set Betty off down the same path if she's not careful as Cochin's are very prone to the broody bit!

Constance is a little confused as she always lays her eggs next to the others that are already there, except that Lavender is all spread out over them and Constance can't see where she's meant to lay. Not the most intelligent of Chickens, in fact she comes across as a little nervous librarian spinster, but she's a great little layer and very much loved.

I gave the hutch and pen a good clean out at the weekend with Mum's help. The green monstrosity over the roof are two waterproof picnic table covers. The roof started leaking a couple of months ago and they seem to work a treat. I had to de-louse the chickens and as they are so big and heavy now it's almost impossible trying to do it single handily. Basil is the size of a medium turkey and trying to hold him upside down by the legs with one hand whilst he's flapping about is no easy task. The powder needs to be sprinkled and worked into the areas under the wings and all around their bottoms as they are nice warm snugly places where lice love to breed. Mum and I will certainly be louse free now as I think we got more on us than the chickens!

I was hoping that the big disruption and clean-out of the pen would kick the broodiness out of Lavender, it seemed to for a bit but as soon as someone else had snuck in to lay she was straight on the egg like a rat up a drainpipe! How do you stop a chicken from being broody? Any advice is welcome!!!

I made the mistake a few months ago of letting both Lavender and Betty continue with their broodiness and sit on an egg each. I really didn't think it would come to anything and we were 2 layers down every day as a result. To my amazement I heard chirruping one afternoon and sure enough one of the eggs had hatched and this beautiful little chick stood there and chirped it's little socks off. He was totally black and the egg next to it just had a beak poking out, it really was very funny.

I called my chicken man in Windsor and relayed the happy news and he advised me on how best to go about the rearing of the little darlings. Now as two hens were broody my main concern was rivalry over the chicks. If both chicks were heading for the warmth of one mother then the other hen may get jealous and actually peck the chicks to death. I found this news quite harrowing but kept a watchful eye anyhow.

The following morning I went to check on them and the other egg had hatched too. This little chap had a black back and a yellow tummy he was absolutely gorgeous and looked like a little penguin. When I got home from work that afternoon it was the saddest of sights. The little black chick had either stumbled out of the hutch or been tossed out and was laying on the mud to the side of the hutch and crawling with lice. He was still alive but only just. I rushed him inside and warmed him up in a bowl of warm water keeping his head above all the time. I then rubbed him dry and dusted him down with louse powder. He started to come back really strongly and had a good tweet for his mummy. I put him in the drying room as I had no special lamp (I really should have prepared myself better for chicks) and checked on him intermittently. He seemed fine and so to bed. I woke at about 4:40 am and went and checked on him. He was freezing cold and really struggling. I tried everything as I had done before to try and warm him up but he just went down hill and slipped away in my hands. I felt so bad, just a horrible start to the day. After several cups of tea and boxes of tissues later I went to let the girls in the hutch out only to find the other chick freezing cold, dead and tossed aside in the hutch with neither hen near him.

Nature can be so cruel. I learned a very big lesson from that whole ordeal. if your thinking of having chicks, be prepared for them, at the very least invest in a proper heat lamp and if you let the hen's sit on the eggs (they do make the best incubators) the chicks need to be removed as soon as they hatch. It's not worth leaving it to chance. It will distress the hens a little but they will get over it. The simplest thing is to collect the eggs every day and not to let the hens go broody! I think I shall have to have a word with lavender!

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