Saturday, June 30, 2012

Brooding Sure is Hard to Do

Day 4 of brooding. Our fluffy mama is doing a great job. If not also a weird job.
Erickson spends most of her day sitting on her clutch, of course. She has been fairly smart this time around. When we let the chickens out to forage and give them treats, she takes a break from her eggs, gets something to drink, scratches around, stretches and grooms a bit before heading back in to the coop to take up her post as incubator. She makes some crazy clucking sounds the entire time she's off the eggs as if to call to them so they know she's right outside and not to worry. That or she's warning any lunatics who might try to steal her eggs that she'll peck their eyes out if they even think about touching them.
Now, she's still a chicken. And chickens' brains are only so big. Erickson has proven to be a good brooder and a good mama, so I won't judge her too much, but yesterday we had an incident. Another chicken laid an egg in one of the empty nest boxes next to Erickson's clutch while Erickson was out and about on her daily incubator break. When she went back into the coop she decided to sit on the lonely unfertilized egg rather than on the dozen eggs she has been sitting on for the past three days. I never said chickens were the smartest animals on the planet. She must have taken one look at that single egg and thought, "What do you think I am? A sucker? Why spend my time warming, turning, and rotating all those eggs when I could take care of this one little egg?" My husband checked on her and seeing that she had not made the best choice, at least in hatching terms, he stole the one egg from under her fluff-butt. She hopped up and ended up settling herself back on the correct nest. Maybe I should take back my judgment of stupidity and say that maybe chickens are geniuses. Erickson's no sucker.
Hers can't be the most glorious job in the flock. I'd much rather be Pouncey, who since Erickson's departure from normal flock activities, has taken up the post of frantically pacing back and forth in front of the door to the run whenever she sees human activity. See, it's been ridiculously hot the last two days and I feel bad that Erickson's stuck in that coop keeping a dozen eggs warm. It's like she's sitting next to a space heater and it's 105 degrees outside. Literally. This has to be the worst week for a chicken to be broody. If it we're me, I'd do my egg hatching in the early spring when it isn't so hot. But I guess you can't time these things out like that. She seems to like June-July for hatching chicks. If they hatch right on time, my husband and I might get chicks as our 8th wedding anniversary present. That wouldn't be too shabby. But, how can I top that next year? Maybe a goat or pig will be in order. Hmm...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Eggs are in the Coop. I Repeat. The Eggs are in the Coop!

They arrived today! Erickson's dozen Marans eggs are here and under her fluffy butt. She's in crazy broody chicken heaven. It's amazing what a dozen eggs can do to a girl. She's been nurturing one (unfertilized) egg that we've been changing out every day for the past four days or so; not wanting a stinky rotten egg sitting around, we'd switch the egg every day with one of the freshly laid eggs from one of our other girls. She seemed fine with the one egg, but if a girl's going to sit in a nest box for three weeks, she ought to make it count.

Now, she has so many eggs she hardly knows what to do! I went out to check on her about twenty minutes ago and she has this crazed serial killer look to her. It's like she was daring me to mess with her eggs so she had a reason to tear out my eyes. Seriously. I wouldn't mess with her right now if I were you.

The countdown is on. Day 1 and counting! I'll keep you updated on this set of chicks just like I did last Spring. Every chicken is so different, I'm sure these little guys will surprise me. Let me start thinking of awesome chicken names now… Lola…Grover…Captain America…

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's a Waiting Game

It's June and we're three days into summer. It's ridiculously hot outside. Twice this week it hit ninety degrees. Today it's supposed to be around eighty-six degrees, but according to the weatherman it feels like ninety-one. Super awesome, huh? The chickens are weathering the heat with their usual indifference. They're keeping a low profile, lying in their giant dirt holes and trying to keep cool with dust baths. All except one that is. One fat Mama is currently trying for a second round at motherhood.
All Spring we waited patiently. Okay. We waited impatiently for one of our girls to go broody. Early in the season we had one girl taking her time to lay eggs and got our hopes up that she was getting ready to go broody. I got my hopes up enough that I picked out what type of fertile eggs I wanted to get and did a price comparison online. But, since I did all that research, she went right back to normal after a day or two and didn't think twice about setting on anything. I'm pretty sure I've said it before, but that's how chickens roll.

Erickson, our Brahma, is trying her hardest to hatch our girls' eggs right now. It makes me a little sad. I tilt my head to one side and make the "bless her heart" face when I go out there and see her sitting on those three unfertilized eggs. Once I walk away though, I forget about the hopelessness of her current situation and think about the exciting possibility of more baby chicks! They're ordered and getting ready to be shipped. I'm ready and raring to go. This time around, I'll be able to wait with excited anticipation instead of furiously scouring the internet for all the hatching-by-broody-hen information I can find. Trust me. There isn't much out there, but that's because you don't need to do anything more than have the hen sit on the eggs. That's it. Last year I was constantly checking on her and worrying and reading about hatching and what I needed to know about chicks when I should have been sitting back with my legs kicked up waiting to hear the little peeps of baby chicks.

I do find it funny that Erickson is the only hen who wants to hatch eggs. I'm not complaining. I love my fresh eggs and if we had a 50% or 75% broody hen rate, I would be tough out of luck on delicious scrambled eggs and quiche. Having three hens be perfect production girls is great. They lay eggs all the time, eat layer feed and treats, hunt for bugs and take dust baths. They are not interested in hanging around in the coop on a bunch of eggs they have to turn continuously for three weeks. It does sound pretty sucky doesn't it? If my butt was as fluffy and fat as Erickson's, maybe I wouldn't mind sitting in there either.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Someone Tell the Chickens It's Spring

If you have chickens, you know what spring brings: prolific egg laying. A happy hen is a laying hen and spring time makes happy girls. With warmer temperatures, sunnier days, and enough inch worms for a football field of hens, our four girls are happy as clams and laying eggs like crazy.

Just as spring began, all four girls would lay an egg every day. Rarely we got only two eggs, some times three, but for the most part we were in full scale production mode. We'd get a dozen eggs in three days time. That's a big difference from the customary one to two eggs a day we'd get through winter.  Who wouldn't be happy with endless beautiful days? Our grass started to grow uncontrollably and apparently there were bugs everywhere because when we let the girls out to forage they became scratching fools - more so than usual. That's one of the things I love about having chickens. Eat the heck out of those bugs, girls. They were hugs fans of the inch worms that took over our yard for about a month, but were never fans of the fuzzy caterpillars. I wouldn't want to eat something covered with fuzz either, so I don't blame them. All the sun and bugs began the most delicious egg season of the year.

Now that spring is fading into summer, the eggs have chilled out a little. We average three every day. With the decline of the inch worm came the decline of four eggs every day. I'm happy with a three-egg day though. We still have a stock pile in the fridge. Those eggs make us pretty popular with our friends and coworkers. They're golden yellow and delicious. Those spring eggs are the best of the season. There's something extra rich, golden and delicious about them. It's the inch worms.

Along with more eggs, we've been having a lot more noise coming from the coop this time around. They are the loudest they've ever been. We can hear them squawking in the house. With our windows and doors closed. At first I thought it was Bossy, our Barred Rock. She's always quite loud after she's laid an egg and she seems to love it best when she can trumpet to the world at 8 am that she's just made something. It can be pretty embarrassing. Lots of times I've found myself standing in the doorway to the backyard listening to her go on for three minutes at the top of her lungs while I think, This is why you need to have chickens in the country and not the middle of the city. We've been lucky though. We have great neighbors who don't mind the occasional BA KOCK! at the break of dawn.

Even though we've been fully launched into summer days of ninety degrees, I'm still waiting for the other thing that spring is supposed to bring: a broody hen. I want to try our hands at hatching some more cuties. But alas. Chickens do what they want.