Elrond the rooster is sulking. Why? Because his favourite hen won’t come out of the coop. Frodo is broody, and for once I’m not annoyed, I’m excited! For Frodo is sitting on eight hopefully fertile eggs. They are all hers. Sam is still moulting, so not laying, and Legolas hasn’t begun laying yet. This means Elrond is not getting any snuggles and he has been protesting, to no avail. Sam and Legolas are not interested and he cannot coax Frodo out of her nesting box. I wonder if she’s pecked him yet.

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It’s ok, Elrond, you can get yoghurt-faced. Eat your sorrows away!

 

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The coop, complete with a broody Frodo in the nesting box closest to the door.

I was collecting Frodo’s eggs to keep them safe and at a good temperature. She laid for 16 days, which is one of the longest stretches of laying she’s had, and I was starting to think she wouldn’t go broody. We aren’t far off the end of Autumn now, although it has been a very mild and dry Autumn, more like a mild Summer. I don’t think we’ve even had a frost yet. It is supposed to be a mild winter so that is good news for impending babies. I was wondering whether Frodo would start moulting. Then all of a sudden, things went a bit quiet out there. Sam and Legolas were in the orchard with Elrond and Frodo was nowhere to be seen. Her buddies usually stick with her when she’s laying so I guessed she might be broody, and there she was in the nesting box, broody face on. I left her for a day to be sure, then put the eggs under her, with the help of The Husband. She was very pecky, and I got one peck on the finger!

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Frodo gets her broody face on.

I had been throwing away the older eggs (after 10 days), since their chances of success would have been slim and they were inedible under the withholding period from the Coxiprol treatment, and, not knowing whether they were fertilised or not and not having a broody hen at the time, that was just what I thought to do. Before I threw the last egg away it suddenly occurred to me to crack it and check the yolk to see if it was fertilised. Why I hadn’t thought of this before I don’t know. I had to re-Google ‘fertilised egg yolk’ to check what I was looking for. An unfertilised egg has a blastodisc: a small white spot on the yolk. A fertilised egg has a blastoderm: a bigger white circle with a bullseye appearance. And what did we have here? A fertilised egg! Yuss! Elrond and Frodo have been getting snuggly then. Frodo has ended up with eight eggs to sit on, which is a nice number I think; room for some expected failures of one kind or another but not too many eggs for her, and my, first time hatching.

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A fertilised Frodo-Elrond egg! The bullseye-like blastoderm is on the left.

After a day of being broody there were no big, smelly broody poops in the run, so I assumed Frodo was not getting off the nest to eat and drink, as I had suspected other times when she was broody. This means I have to get her up once a day so she will have some food and water, stretch her legs and do some giant poop. Frodo isn’t happy about this but she needs to look after herself too. The challenge is getting her to do all of this before she crawls back into the nest. She is a determined broody. But I think we already knew that! Once I’ve gotten her out of the coop the spectacle begins. I have to close the door or she’ll pop right back in and I close the gate of the run so she won’t do her spaz run off into the orchard. She protests loudly, “Book book book BOOKARK! Book book BOOKARK!” Her loud noises draw Elrond, who makes growly noises, and Sam and Frodo, who all gather at the gate to see what’s going on. Eventually Frodo will shake her feathers, scratch the ground, eat and drink a little, and do a giant poop, after which I will re-open the coop and she will promptly go back in and resume sitting on her precious eggs.

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The face of a motherly hen.

The next thing I have to do is decide very soon whether or not to move Frodo. I have been pondering the to move or not to move scenarios.

Advantages and disadvantages of Frodo staying in the coop:

  • She is happy and settled in a familiar place.
  • The others still have some contact with her so the flock isn’t entirely ‘broken-up’.
  • None of the hens are laying now so they aren’t bothering each other with the nesting boxes.
  • My chickens are pretty docile so I don’t think there would be a problem with having the chicks raised in there.
  • The chicks would build disease resistance from the beginning by being in a free-range environment with the others.
  • I have to get Frodo out of the coop to eat and drink every day.
  • The nesting box is right by the door, and since the coop is a bit of a way off the ground, the chicks could fall out. But I could probably jig up something to rectify this.
  • The whole flock would have to go on chick starter crumbs instead of layer pellets. Mind you, none of them are laying and probably won’t lay until Spring.
  • There is a possibility one or more of the other chickens might turn hostile against the chicks, but there’s no way of knowing.

Advantages and disadvantages of Frodo being moved to the big cage as a maternity ward:

  • It would be quiet and she would be undisturbed.
  • I could keep a closer eye on her and the chicks with the cage situated under the carport.
  • Food and water containers would be closer to her, maybe encouraging her to get up more.
  • I could feed her and the chicks chick starter crumbs without having to change the others’ food.
  • The chicks would be raised, at least initially, in a protected environment.
  • Moving Frodo would be stressful and it could break her broodiness or cause her to reject eggs.
  • I would have two lots of food and water to keep on top of.
  • I would have two ‘coops’ to clean and replenish with wood shavings.
  • The other chickens, especially Sam, and Elrond, would miss Frodo.
  • The chicks would have less disease resistance not being in a free-range environment.

Ok, so this exercise was supposed to help me decide what to do, but I still don’t know! There’s probably stuff I haven’t written down too. Does anyone have thoughts? If we do move Frodo and her eggs it will be this Saturday night, day 8, and we will attempt to candle the eggs as we move them to see which ones are viable. There is also a middle ground option: leaving Frodo in the coop until all the eggs have hatched, then moving them to the maternity ward. But would that be worth it? I don’t know! Argh, I probably shouldn’t be thinking about this late at night. I need some outside perspective, chicken-lovers!

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10 thoughts on “In Which Frodo Begins a Motherly Adventure

  1. Lots of pros and cons….I’d probably let nature run its course doing what you’re doing with the frequent cleans and using medicated chick crumble when the chicks arrive. These things are never straight forward! Oh and double check any gaps in your coop. I couldn’t believe the tiny places our chicks could squeeze into and out of.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts Amy. I’m still thinking…! I will definitely have a look at what I can put around the door for chick safety. I have to make sure that big Sam and Elrond can still fit through the door hehe.
      -Twiglet

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  2. When my Abigail went broody and we finally let her have eggs, I kept her in the coop with the others. Mine is a bigger flock than yours and our Rhode Island Reds can be somewhat cranky. But Abby is our main hen and they respect her,also, she only had one chick so it was easy for her to keep him safe. She put most helicopter moms to shame! Abby let everyone know what was acceptible behavior toward her baby and in a couple of weeks, he was eating out of the breakfast dish beside them and no one attacked him at all.
    In fact, I’m pretty sure Dots (our rooster, and Pip’s father) is still afraid Abby will peck him to death if he hurts her baby. He always stops short when he chases after Pip (for trying to mate with a hen, now that he’s a young adult). I can see him thinking… “Abby will kill me!”

    Right now (if you’ve read my recent posts), I have another broody hen sitting on 4 eggs. I’m keeping her in the coop with the rest of the flock.

    For all the benefits you listed, keeping them in the coop is a good idea. The others will meet and get to know the babies right from the start. The babies will grow up knowing their ‘place’ in the flock right from the start.

    I wouldn’t worry about them fall out of the nest or coop. Frodo will take care of them. I had a huge cardboard box on the floor of my coop for Abby and Pip, but after a while, she moved them both out of it and into the nesting boxes on the 2nd row. He did fine there.

    I think if you search my blog, back during the November/December posts, you can see the box and how it was set up. I had one side as a huge nest and the other had a small water dish and food dish. I fed Abby chick feed because I read somewhere that the extra protein in it would help her gain back what she lost being broody. It also helped because Pip could venture out to eat and not be attacked (while he was still small, and the ‘aunties’ hadn’t gotten used to him yet). When she moved them to the nests, I took the box away.

    I did keep it, though, so that if another broody happened, I could reuse it.

    I will note, I did not put Abby in the box until after Pip hatched. She remained in the nest she chose until the egg hatched.

    I’m not given Claire (my RiR broody) more than 4 eggs because we bought 18 chicks back in March. only 6 of those were roos, so I don’t need a LOT of new babies. (I know, famous last words.)

    Good luck! I really enjoyed watching Abby raise Pip. I’m sure Frodo and her babies will give you the same enjoyment.

    And maybe Elrond can have some pears, too? He’s going to have a LONG wait for his girl to come back to him.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts Deb! One of the reasons I’m inclining towards leaving Frodo and her babies in the coop is from reading your adventures with Abby and Pip. I do realise our situations are different, but there’s something about letting a hen raise babies in a more natural way that really appeals to me.

      The other thing I have to take into account that I didn’t really mention above is the recent bout of coccidiosis, which can be present in the environment for a while. Being in a separate cage seems better, as it would keep the chicks safe from it while they’re young, but it would actually increase their chances of getting slammed by it once they were introduced to the run environment later on. On the other hand, being in the coop and run from the start they would slowly get exposed to the cocci as they got out and about more, giving them a chance to build resistance, but there’s the risk that one or two could get too big a dose of it at once and not be strong enough to fight it. I will be getting them medicated chick starter crumbs for treating coccidiosis and it is important to me for the long-term future of my flock to raise strong chickens with good disease resistance, but if I do keep them in the coop/run I have to accept that there might be losses. Which there might anyway… So much to think about! I guess I could always have them in the coop to start with and see how they go. I’ll have another look at your box set-up. In any case, I will clean and disinfect the big cage beforehand in case I need it.
      -Twiglet

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      1. I had forgotten about the rampant illness in your little flock. 😦

        You have a few weeks to try and get a better control of it, at least. And you’re right that the chicks could get totally blind-sided by it when you integrate. I think I’d take my chances in the coop and try to do whatever could be done to reduce the risk of infection in the weeks while Frodo is sitting broody.

        Good luck, no matter what you decide!!

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        1. Yeah, it’s a bit scary thinking about it, but the other chickens seem fine now and none of them got lethargic. I was just worried about how Sam might handle it in her weakened moulting state but she is a trooper! I have read that coccidiosis can stay in the environment for quite a while, but if the chickens have built resistance to that particular strain/species, it’s totally fine. The trick is getting them to build resistance by exposure to it without getting over-exposed. I have been cleaning the coop up regularly, but I can’t clean up all the poop in the run and orchard, so that would be their source of exposure. I have got Baycox on hand now, which is a faster and more effective treatment, so I think as long as I keep a careful watch on the babies it will be ok. We do want to set up a new second pen to give the orchard one a break but that is going to require time and fencing!
          -Twiglet

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          1. I was going to ask if you have room to move them to a new spot. Perhaps a mobile coop, like a chicken tractor, would be ideal for a flock your size? I’ve ready that they can feed on the same spot for 5-7 days before you need to move the tractor to fresher grass. Something like that would allow you to clean out the other coop, disinfect it really good and let it be dormant for a while.

            I don’t know how feasible that would be with a broody girl in the mix, though.

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          2. Yeah, we have thought about a chicken tractor type set-up. It’s a bit tricky now that Frodo’s already broody though. I just about psyched myself out of believing she’d go broody this time as she always does the opposite of what I think or expect! I have done another full clean and disinfect of the coop since the coccidiosis scare. I was going to do another one too because I’m paranoid but Frodo went broody the day before. 😛
            I am going to work on a plan to set up a new pen coming from their run to the side of the carport, around where we set up the very temporary pen for Elrond when he arrived. Argh, more fencing jobs.
            -Twiglet

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