Frodo was waiting a while for some eggs to sit on. Well, some real eggs. The trouble with using a broody hen to hatch eggs is that you just have to run with whatever eggs you can get your hands on when she does go broody. I bought 12 fertile Australorp eggs that were being posted to me. Of course, just after this, some eggs from a good source within decent driving distance became available. I was hoping Georgiana would go broody so I could get some of the second lot of eggs for her. After about four days of semi-broodiness she pulled herself right out of it. Georgiana! This is not what I’m used to. Meanwhile, Frodo was sitting fast in the top nestbox on three fake eggs. I got her out once a day for her eat-drink-poop-activity break. But she needed to move. She was hogging the top nestbox and it was no place to hatch babies.
I spent some time preparing the old coop, turning it into a Broody Coop. I needed to make a new ramp, so I made an entrance platform, then a ramp going up one side. I wanted the ramp to be wide for big hens and scampering chicks. I was doing everything in a rush with what I had on hand, so I didn’t measure everything out. The platform needed to go under the coop a little to be attached, which shortened it and the ramp couldn’t line up flush with the wall because the leg of the coop sticks out a bit. This means that there is a noticeable discrepancy with the widths of the platform and ramp. Also, I had to add a little railing to cover the gaping hole between ramp and coop. I can always make adjustments later on.
I also unscrewed the remaining nestbox framing so the floor of the coop is all open. The nestboxes weren’t really big enough for a large hen, let alone one with a lot of eggs to sit on, and I did not want to risk breakages on the wooden floor. I filled the coop with wood shavings and added a cardboard banana box full of wood shavings for a roomy nestbox. Food and drink stations were also added.
I was so excited for the eggs to arrive. But they were taking a while. Six mornings after the eggs had been sent, there was still no sign of them, which was weird and frustrating. Even if the eggs did arrive soon they might not be viable after that length of time, especially not knowing when they were actually laid. I enacted Plan B. The Little Fulla and I went for a drive and got six Australorp eggs from source #2. I let them rest for a few hours, then put them, along with eight of my own eggs from Lorelai and Sookie that I’d been saving, into the nice big nestbox in the newly re-purposed Broody Coop. Lorelai and Sookie are unrelated to my rooster, Mr Bingley. They are silver laced and gold laced Wyandottes and he is a probably 3/4 Australorp. So they will be pretty crossbred babies. If Mr Bingley is really a blue Australorp-type with just red leakage, the chicks ought to be either black or blue laced (blue with dark lacing), potentially with some red in their feathers. Anyway, that meant 14 eggs for Frodo.
Frodo was introduced to her new maternity suite and nest full of eggs. It was night time. I should have stuck with my gut and moved her when it was light enough to still see. She did not want to go into the carboard nestbox, she went back to old coop habits and opted for a spot against a wall. I just left her until the morning when I knew seeing the eggs would make a difference. She settled on the eggs at 7am, making soft noises to them, and that was that. I have food and water in the coop for her but she will not get up of her own accord. She will not poop in the coop. This means I still have to get her up every afternoon and show her the door. She will go off and have a proper break outside, inducing stares and strange noises from the other hens. Lorelai sometimes makes a weird screeching noise that sounds kind of like an eagle. That is funny.
Late on the following afternoon, the parcel of eggs turned up. I was glad that it had finally arrived, but upon opening it I was met with a sad scene. The eggs had not been packaged well and evidently had a rough trip. Four eggs were badly broken and another cracked, and many had egg contents all over them. They were also warm from sitting in the mailbox in the afternoon. This was extremely disappointing for me. I know there is always risk with having eggs posted, but when they’re packaged well there shouldn’t be many casualties. The seller was good to deal with though, and refunded me half the price of the eggs. There were five eggs that were intact and not tainted with egg contents, so I set them aside to rest for a few hours then added them to Frodo’s collection. She is now sitting on 19 eggs! That is a lot, but I’m definitely not expecting them all to hatch. I’d be happy if even one of the posted five hatched, but I’m not optimistic. Those five were put under Frodo 30 hours after the others. That’s not ideal, but I have had eggs under her 24 hours apart from each other before and it didn’t actually affect hatch order. I will candle all the eggs on Day 8 or 9 to see which ones are showing signs of life. That’s going to be a mission. If there are dud eggs I hope I can suss them out soon to get them out of the way.
Meanwhile, we had an episode of another kind of bird this week. I came into the Vege Garden area to discover that The Little Fulla had found a wild mother duck and a large amount of ducklings. The duck was stressed, trying to get through the chicken-wired fence, while the ducklings were getting stuck in the fence and running around on both my side and the neighbour’s side. The Little Fulla knows to be quiet and gentle around birds so he wasn’t doing anything wrong, the ducks had just gotten stressed being stuck.
I put the mother duck over the fence then proceeded to shovel little ducklings over after her. It was frantic! The mother duck took off, with four or five babies in tow, but there were more than ten altogether. Some squeezed back through the chicken wire into the Orchard and they were just running all over the place! I was surprised and disgusted that the mother ran off as fast as she could across the back paddock while most of her babies were left behind, peeping and getting stuck and lost. I got down to three. Two took off down the side of the fence somewhere and the last one was an absolute nutter. It ran all over the orchard then into the chickens’ Cedar Pen. I was scared they might hurt it so I raced around the other side to get it, but it had run back again. It kept me racing around for some time until I could finally grab it. Looking into the back paddock, the mother duck and other babies were nowhere to be seen or heard. Great. I took the duckling over the fence and across the paddock to where I had seen the mother duck heading, then released it. It ran off and stopped peeping so I guess it had some idea of what it was doing.
A little later, as I was about to prepare lunch, the neighbour from the side turned up with a little duckling wrapped in a towel. Her young cat had caught it and she thought it was mine. It wasn’t injured. This was one of the two that had disappeared down the side and went in the wrong direction. Although the ducklings were very cute I did not want to raise any, especially not one on it’s own. Ducks are extremely messy and I would not keep any with my chickens, let alone have needy ducks that think I’m their mum hanging around pooping on our property for the rest of their lives. Our place ain’t big enough for ducks! I set off to take this one into the same place in the paddock as before, while The Little Fulla waited on our side of the fence. And that was that. That night, as I was in the chicken pen, I heard a mother duck quacking loudly in the paddock, in the dark. Well, it’s no use trying to find your babies now, duck! You could have cared sooner! I don’t know what happened to all of them but I guess that’s life for wild ducks. At least The Fur Child didn’t turn up on the doorstep with any.