The Chicken Time is Now: Delaying Their Election & Broody Roulette

Things have been humming along in the birdhive. Well, not in the political sphere, but in the breeding sphere.

When we last left off, Morpheus was pondering a big decision: remain campaigning for leadership while the frontrunning hens were off in the Corner Pen, or bow out to go full broody. You can probably guess what Morpheus chose. Broodiness. Unfortunately for her, that was not a good decision. I wanted eggs from her and the others for hatching purposes. So she wasn’t allowed to stay broody that time.

Morpheus made her choice. It was just the wrong one this time.

All was going well after that. Well, for me, because the hens were laying well and all broodiness disappeared for a while. But politically… my actions just kept delaying the chicken election. Frodo finished raising her chicks and left them to their own devices, so she started throwing her weight around again. Then sweet Ribby finished raising her lot of chicks and went off on her own, in a quiet way.

With Tiggywinkle and Jemima temporarily off to the side, along with flamboyant Jenny Cheeply, the power has gone to Trinity’s head and she thinks she’s the frontrunner now.

Trinity gets on her soapbox again. “All I can say right now is, follow the white rabbit.”

Winston Cheepers doesn’t seem to care as long as the ladies keep their bickering to an acceptable level. He does seem to be rather fond of the two young layers though: Jacinda and Jemima. Winston has been politely showing them where to lay their eggs and standing around making sure they feel safe. I don’t blame him, they are very pretty.

Oh look, Winston Cheepers is sticking close to Judith (left) and Jacinda (right) again.

And now we get to the hatching part. The incubator is currently totally full of eggs. From two different batches. It only holds 49 eggs, but this is the first time I’ve had every egg space filled.

Batch #1

The first batch consists of eggs fathered by both Todd and Winston Cheepers. After candling the eggs and removing the ones with early death and infertility, here’s what we have:

27 eggs

Todd

  • Jemima – 6 eggs
  • Tiggywinkle – 1 egg
  • Jenny Cheeply – 4 eggs

Winston Cheepers

  • Trinity – 8 eggs
  • Morpheus – 3 eggs
  • Helen Cluck – 5 eggs

I have been collecting more eggs for hatching since setting these in the incubator. It got to the point where I either had to start incubating some more or lose a whole bunch. Oh, I should also mention the part where I butchered Todd. It was getting rather noisy with the two roosters egging each other on and I wasn’t super-impressed with Todd’s looks either. I only used him to carry on the Andrew genetics on the rooster side because he was all I had left, in the rooster department. He didn’t have any major faults but compared to Winston Cheepers he wasn’t anything to get excited about. I suppose he wasn’t meant to last, with a name like Todd. So, I made a risky decision to butcher him before his eggs had hatched. If we had a bigger property I wouldn’t have to make such decisions, but I’m trying to be respectful and somewhat sensible.

The hens Todd was bred with, Tiggywinkle, Jemima and Jenny Cheeply, are still in the Corner Pen because I can continue to collect their eggs for hatching for a few weeks until Todd’s juices run out.

Batch #2

Back to the second lot of eggs. I decided to fill the rest of the incubator with more eggs before they became too old. This was also a risky move. I’m playing Broody Roulette. I had five days until lockdown of the first eggs. I needed a hen to go broody within five days. Helen Cluck had been acting a bit broody that day, sitting for rather a while in the nestbox, but she hasn’t been broody before so I didn’t know what she would do. My money was actually on Morpheus. Here’s what I did.

I counted 10 days backwards from Day 23, when all the first batch of eggs should have hatched. It helped that I set those eggs on 1st September. Any eggs collected from 13th September onwards, were ok to wait until Batch #3. Yes. I’m trying to hatch as many of Todd’s eggs as I can. Todd’s eggs were the most important since Winston Cheepers is still here, so I chose to put all of his good ones from the 10 days preceding 13th September in the incubator. That left me with seven spaces for Winston eggs. Since I was expecting Morpheus to go broody, I put five of hers in and then I chose to put two of Helen Cluck’s in, just in case she did go broody. Whoever went broody and was allowed to hatch chicks wasn’t going to be laying eggs for quite a while. I could hatch eggs from the others later.

The only disappointment is Tiggywinkle, who decided that laying wasn’t a priority right now. There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with her. I wonder if she’s packing a sad at being sidelined from the campaign. She’s usually better at laying than Jemima and is the mum of some of my best chickens. Trinity, her daughter, has just had an unbroken run of 42 eggs in a row, which is the longest unbroken run I have on record, just pipping Annie, Andrew’s mum, at 41. I wonder if that’s what Trinity means by “follow the white rabbit”? Todd is Annie’s great grandson. I didn’t put Trinity with Todd because they are/were both long in the tail. I gave him hens to improve on his body type. Who were laying well…

This is Batch #2 at present:

Todd

  • Jemima – 7 eggs
  • Tiggywinkle – 2 eggs
  • Jenny Cheeply – 6 eggs

Winston Cheepers

  • Morpheus – 5 eggs
  • Helen Cluck – 2 eggs

The next day, Helen Cluck went broody hard. She sat in the nestbox all day and pecked at me fiercely when I checked under her. Yay Helen Cluck! I have no idea what she’ll be like as a broody, but I’m taking it! I know she’ll be protective of the eggs in any case.

Helen Cluck. She’s very big – how many eggs can I fit under her?

As soon as Helen Cluck committed to broodiness, Morpheus became increasingly spiky and screechy. I do like it when Morpehus is broody, because she’s hilariously, dramatically dragon-like. She has not disappointed me with her timing. Now I have two broodies, which is even better, because I can keep the two rooster egg strains separate. I can’t say it isn’t doing my head in trying to figure out all these egg movements though.

Here’s my plan.

Tomorrow night, lockdown begins for the Batch #1 eggs. They will be taken off the egg-turner, candled and put on the flat tray and the humidity will be increased.

Batch #2 will be separated into two – Todd’s 14 eggs will go to Helen Cluck, who is now sitting in the big cage, and Winston’s 7 eggs will go to Morpheus, who will remain in Featherburn Lodge for now. They have to sit on them for at least three days until hatching is over.

When the Batch#1 chicks have all hatched, I will clean the incubator and start Batch #3 in there. Depending how much space is left in there, I may take Morpheus’ eggs off her and put them back into the incubator until their lockdown so they aren’t in danger in the coop. I could give her some of Winston’s less urgent Batch #3 eggs.

As for Helen Cluck, I could either leave her on her Batch #2 eggs to hatch herself, or stealthily switch them out for the little Batch #1 chicks at night, and put the eggs back in the incubator, until lockdown, when I would have to have another broody plan to separate them from the Batch #3 eggs, like give all the Batch #2 eggs back to Morpheus to hatch. All the Batch #2 eggs can be candled after the Batch #1 eggs hatch anyway as they will be past Day 8. Then I will know how many and who’s I have to fit somewhere or other.

That’s not confusing at all, right? Who needs puzzles when you can do egg-hatching puzzles? There are so many possibilities of how to shift all the eggs and/or chicks around. I would actually be quite pleased if Frodo went broody again soon, as she could be given chicks to raise without having to go through sitting on eggs. Then again, Jenny Cheeply was screeching at screechy Morpheus through the fence yesterday, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she goes broody too. Like her sister, Helen Cluck, she hasn’t been a mum before. But she has been keenly broody a few times.

I should really get that chicken tractor built…

I’ll be checking the fertility of Todd’s hens every now and then to see how long their fertility will last. I’ll hatch as many of them as I can since he’s gone. I haven’t hatched so many chicks at once before but I’m making a serious bid to get the best chickens, on a small scale. Hatch hard, cull hard. Or sell. In the past I have been reliant on what a broody hen can hatch, at her chosen time of broodiness, or I have only had a few good hens to hatch from and one rooster or I’ve been sick or just not able to do a big concentrated breeding effort. Hatching a lot of chicks from each hen is the only way I will get the really best ones to keep. I can also get a better idea of if or how that little red feather genetic issue might play out in the affected lines. At the very least, I’m learning a lot and I’m improving the egg-laying abilities of my chickens.

The current youngsters are growing fast. When Todd’s hens are all showing infertile eggs, they will be put back in with the main flock and most of the little cockerels will be put into the Corner Pen, ie, the fattening pen. It looks like there might be two boys out of the three Trinity or Morpheus chicks so they can stay with the rest of the flock. There is one Frodo girl. The rest of these youngsters are out of Jenny Cheeply, who was laying the best at the time. She potentially carries red feather genetics from Frodo. That is why I will not keep any of her sons. With her boys out of the way I will be better able to assess the qualities of the young pullets. The girls I don’t want to keep will be sold to non-purebred-breeding homes starting in a few weeks.

Yup. The chicken time is now.

The current young ‘uns are busy little foragers.
Winston Cheepers with some of his baby cheepers.


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