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.
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!
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.
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.
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!