Saturday, March 28, 2015

Trying a broody

Fluffy, the silkie, went broody again.  This will make the third time she's been broody since October.  My curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to find out if she would hatch eggs.  I've never done this before, here's what I've done so far:

  1. Make sure she was really broody.  I've read that the hen should sleep on the nesting box for three nights in a row to prove she is broody.  Some other signs are sitting in the egg box and making a ticking noise when she's let out in the yard, then running back to her nest.  She also might pull the feathers off her chest.
  2. Prepare her space.  There is a lot of debate about whether you should move a broody.  I don't have room in my coop and she was keeping other hens out of the nesting box.  I got a 3 ft x 2 ft dog crate for her to be in and put it in the shed.  I cut a hole in a small sized moving box from Lowes and filled it with pine shavings.  The small sized box seems to be just right for a bantam broody.  I cut a little hole in the box to fit the nipple from her horizontal waterer, so she could get water. I also put some of her fermented feed in the lid from a nutella jar and sprinkle scratch on top.
  3. Move the broody.  After it was dark, I lifted her out of the nesting box and put her in the box I had prepared.  Then I put the box in the kennel in the shed.  I also put 2 wooden eggs in the box for her to sit on.  I figured the sooner I moved her the better.  That way, if she broke, she wouldn't have been sitting on real eggs.
  4. Find hatching eggs.  This was way harder than I had thought.  I wanted to time her hatch date to coincide with the days that my local farm store gets chicks, so I could see if she'd adopt a chick.  This meant I had a few days to find eggs.  But people don't return calls very quickly.  My first and second sources of eggs ended up not working out, but I found someone who was advertising on KSL classifieds near me that had some.  I only need four eggs, so I was able to get some that day.
  5. Give her the hatching eggs.  I let the eggs I got sit large side up in an egg carton overnight. I debated whether to wash them or not (some were kind of dirty), but decided not too since the bottom of a chicken isn't that clean either.  Since my kids wanted to help, I let each of them set an egg next to Fluffy (one at a time).  I'd close the door to the shed and when I opened it again, the egg would be gone, tucked safely underneath.
  6. Throw the broody off the nest once a day.  Fluffy is one of those chickens who will not get off the nest on her own.  Once I realized this, I put water and food in the nest with her.  Once a day, I take her off the nest and let her run around outside.  Before I pick her up, I carefully spread her wings a little.  She likes to keep eggs under there.  Then I pull her out of the box and set her down outside and give her a little nudge to get her to stand up.  She runs around for about 20 minutes, poops, then goes back to her eggs.  The first few days, she went back to the nesting box where the eggs had been, but now she goes back to her new nest.
  7. Wait.  This is the part I'm currently on.  I plan to candle the eggs at 8 days and maybe 14 ( to check for bad eggs).  The eggs should hatch sometime between 20-23 days.

Putting down a chicken

Holly, the hen, had been fading all winter.  Her comb turned pale.  I tried worming her.  I checked her for parasites.  I had a fecal float test done.  Nothing.

I began to suspect she had internal problems.  She was our little chick that wouldn't grow and, at 9 months old, had never laid.  Eventually she couldn't stand up.  It was time to put her out of her misery.

The method I eventually chose was to use a killing cone and a sharp knife.  A killing cone is a metal cone that restrains a chicken so that it can be killed.  Since it was Sunday and I didn't want to go to the store, I made a cone out of a cardboard box.  (One time use only).  I clamped a piece of 2x4 to a ladder to suspend the killing cone from.  I put a large garbage can with a trash bag in it under the killing cone.  I put her in.  I think she expired right then.  To make sure she was dead, I cut her veins like you would for a meat chicken.  I used a kitchen knife, but I learned it wasn't really sharp enough.  Next time I'll use a filleting knife or a box cutter.  Then I disposed of her body appropriately.

It was stressful, but I was glad she was out of her misery.

Thoughts on breeds - the current flock

I realized that I've had my chickens for almost a year now.  I thought I'd share what I thought about the breeds I have chosen.

Gold Sex-link - Amazing hen.  We've gotten a medium / large brown egg from her every day (except 2) since she started to lay.  She is friendly and even tempered.

Barred Rock - Curious and bossy.  She's larger than the others.  She lays a large / extra large light tan egg.  She layed through the winter just fine.  She lays about 4 times a week.

Silkie - She lays really well for about a month, then goes broody.  She even layed in the winter.  Oddly enough, she's top hen.  She's gone broody 3 times since October.  It takes about 5 days to break her.  I just gave up on her and got her some eggs to hatch.  If she'll hatch eggs and adopt chicks, then she'll be earning her keep.

Bantam Cochin - She didn't lay the entire winter.  She's started laying again.  She went broody once, but was easy to break. She'll also sit on my lap.

I had one chicken die, she just sort of faded over the winter.  She never laid, so I think there was something wrong internally.  She was sold to us as a sex link, but I think she was actually a wellsummer.

So, do I like my hens?  Yes.  I'm happy with all of them.

As I gradually replace hens in my flock, I'd get another gold sexlink.  I wouldn't get the barred rock or the bantams again.  The barred rock is big.  The cochin bantam doesn't lay very consistently, but her eggs are adorable.  I like her, but can't decide if I'd ever get another one.  The not laying all winter put her on my naughty list.  For the silkie, the jury is still out.  She lays, but her broodiness is a little annoying.

I might be getting an easter egger to replace the chicken who died.  We'll see how that goes.