We know the chickens are organised. They’re always up to something. When we got back from holiday, all seemed well. Nobody died. Nobody looked sick or injured. Nobody had started a new life in the neighbour’s paddock. Frodo was full broody, but we knew that was coming. You know what happened while we were away? Egg eating. Apparently at least one of the youngies must have seen Lorelai egg-eating before the end, or even others when they were younger, and, well, here we are AGAIN.
With no camera in the new coop yet, I have been investigating the matter as best I can. Suspects are being questioned. Arrests have been made. Lane, one of the Wyandotte crosses, has walked the green mile. Juliette has been investigated and let go on good egg-laying behaviour. Betty was in for questioning but was refusing to cooperate, until she laid her first egg and didn’t eat it. Paris has been brought in and has unashamedly revealed her proclivities. She zeroed in on a fake egg placed in her cage, rolling it around and pecking it with great force, then scratching aside the wood shavings until the hard wooden floor was revealed to see if she could smash the egg on it. Most hens are much more secretive and elusive than that. Paris is as subtle as a bull in a china shop. I can almost hear her yelling, “I’ll eat what I like! You can’t stop me!”
The young girls are still starting to lay, and I’m sure at least one of them has been laying on the floor of the coop, evidenced by scraped out hollows in the corner near the pop hole. That is a situation ripe for an egg-eating scandal, as others would fairly easily be able to see a chicken eating an egg near the door and I do not know how many of them have joined in, even the ones that are leaving their own eggs in the nestboxes alone.
I came to the decision that it was highly likely that they would all have to go. All of them, except for Frodo. As far as I’m concerned, Frodo is the only chicken that has immunity from culling for the rest of her life (bar sickness or injury) because she is so useful and hardy, surviving everything and hatching and raising so many babies so well.
Frodo is currently sitting on 11 eggs. Today is Day 11. The only eggs I was getting at the time were from Josephine and Juliette, the two young, but slightly older Christmas hens. They are blue Australorps, so, with black Mr Darcy, the chick colour outcome ought to be 50% blue and 50% black. I would have liked to have gotten some eggs from Frodo and Mr Darcy, as I’ve decided that I really need some Frodo babies since she’s so good. And Mr Darcy was a good rooster.
Did I say ‘was’? Yes, because, while I was mulling over egg-eating matters, Mr Darcy pulled up with a limp in one leg. Thinking it was just an injury, he went into Chicken Hospital. It soon became clear that he probably had Mareks, as the paralysis quickly moved to both legs, despite administering vitamins. I could hardly believe it. He was 28 weeks old. Mareks usually occurs between the age of 10-25 weeks, but it occasionally occurs in older chickens. My poor, beautiful boy was not getting any better so I had to make the call. I may have had to get rid of him in the near future anyway due to the egg-eating debacle, but I was not ready to say goodbye yet. He was such a good boy. He was very sweet and easy to handle. I could catch him fairly easily and he was very nice and respectful to his ladies. He was even better than Mr Bingley, and he was a respectable, purebred specimen. I was attached. I was sad. I reminded myself that I wasn’t impressed with his time management strategy, which involved crowing around 5:30am or sometimes earlier in the morning. But he was still so sweet, and I wanted to get more babies out of him! I’m just in one of those tough chicken patches again. Thank goodness for Frodo.
So, there is a lot riding on the eggs that Frodo is sitting on. There’s a chance that Mr Darcy’s immune weakness could be passed on to his offspring, but hopefully not all of them. The egg incubating had already begun when Mr Darcy’s paralysis showed up. I will need to get some new stock or eggs in the near future, but we’re just working with what we’ve got at the moment. I set up the small coop for Frodo to nest in, and when I put her at the door, facing the nest of eggs that was to be hers, she looked so stoked and knew it was business time. We will candle the eggs soon. Frodo and chicks will be staying separated from the other chickens, if they’re still around.
In other chicken news, I have been busy fencing. After the coop painting was finished, not much was done on the Demo Project while we were busy with other things. The sudden egg-eating scandal and need for Frodo to hatch eggs meant fencing off pens was a high priority. I used the existing posts from the old brown fence to save on resources and work. I had plenty of chicken wire from the old fence and used bits of timber we had for the posts. Some of the gates are flexible wire netting gates and the two wooden ones were made from sections of the long pallet panels that are still lurking around.
Now we have entered The Pen Phase. I have realised the importance of not keeping all the chickens together all the time, or not putting all my eggs in one basket, so to speak. I shall conquer this egg-eating. I shall! We have gone from one large pen to four pens. The two main pens are back without too much change: the Cedar Pen and the Orchard Pen. Then we have The Corner, in which stands the small coop, currently housing broody Frodo and her eggs, and the Feijoa Pen, a small pen that could be useful for all sorts of things: chicks, cockerels, newbie hens, separating roosters, separating egg-eating suspects… I just need a small kind of chicken house to put in there.
Next up in the chicken area is putting netting along the bottom of the coop perimeter so chicks can’t go under there and get stuck, moving more dirt out of the Cedar Pen, demolishing the last section of old brown fence and replacing it with wire netting and building retaining walls across the section in the photo below and at the bottom of the old brown fence. The timber at the bottom of the fence to be demoed is very rotten like some of the other stuff was, and a retaining wall is necessary because of the huge cedar tree on the raised level.
And one last thing before I go. If you have a hen go broody when you’re away, DO NOT forget to tell your animal minders to get her off the nest and collect any eggs under her, so that they don’t get a disturbing surprise when they crack some eggs. Oops! Sorry Little Sister-in-law and Little Brother-in-law!