I’m going to blame Buffy or Big Girl (we call her both names), for our chicken flock expanding more quickly than we had planned. Apparently, the spring weather had tricked her into thinking she was a broody hen. The fact that there was no rooster in our flock, and our eggs would not be able to hatch, does not matter to a chicken. Big Girl thought she wanted to be a mama.
We noticed she was hanging out in the nesting boxes and not laying eggs. I was actually a bit excited to have our first broody hen about a year after we got our first chickens. And it was a good excuse I thought to hatch more chicks! So maybe all the blame can’t be placed on the broody chicken…Anyway, this time I decided to try to find local eggs for her to hatch. I didn’t want to spend alot and shipped eggs don’t hatch as well.
Luckily, I had been in contact previously with a lady nearby who also had cream legbars. I saw on a local Facebook farmer’s page that she had hatching eggs. However, her cream legbars weren’t laying alot, so I made arrangements to get a dozen eggs from her, half of which would be Cream Legbar eggs. But the other half would be Swedish Flower Hen eggs, a breed I didn’t have, but kinda appealing to us.
When I picked up the eggs, the lady included an extra half dozen eggs, with the dozen I purchased which was nice of her. I gave a dozen of eggs to Big Girl who I had separated from the others and placed in a dog crate. Admittedly, it was not the best senario to give her privacy from the other chickens. The others could gather around her crate and be distracting.
The extra half dozen eggs went into my incubator. I did not stress nearly as much about running the incubator this time. We candled our eggs from the incubator and had to toss two of them. We also candled some eggs from under the broody hen. Big Girl appeared to be doing a good job. Her eggs appeared to be developing too.
But one morning about a week and four days into the process, I noticed Big Girl wasn’t on her nest. It wasn’t a big deal since broody hens do have to get off the eggs some to eat and poop. I saw it as a chance to peek at her eggs, so I ran outside to check on them. A not-so-good scene met my eyes. Big Girl had pooped a nasty diarrhea-like mess on her eggs. It was also on her. I went back inside and got my husband. He informed me she had been off the nest when he had gotten home from work a while before.
The two of us took a bowl of warm water and attempted to clean the eggs. It was impossible to get the stain off them. And it was possible that bacteria could now cause the eggs to stop developing. The eggs were also cold from the broody hen being off them. My husband did not want to give the eggs back to the chicken, so we took them inside and put them into the incubator. Then we cleaned up Big Girl and put her out to free range with the other hens.
She still acted somewhat broody, fluffed up and making broody hen sounds. Actually it was kinda like she had invisible chicks with her. But she went around the yard eating, and followed after the other chickens. She didn’t try to sit more. That night she went to the coop with the others to roost. In a day or two she no longer acted broody. She had done well until this point, so maybe she just had an accident on her nest. If that hadn’t happened maybe she would’ve continued to sit. Or maybe if we had given the eggs back after cleaning them maybe she would have continued.
Regardless, it was a broody hen failure, which does happen. But at least we had a backup option. We had to toss a couple more eggs when candling showed they weren’t viable, but most of the eggs continued to develop despite what had happened. And this time we had some babies hatch a day early! In fact, we ended up with a total of 14 chicks! The last egg I was going to get rid of since it had been a while since all the others had hatched, and it had no pip or cracks. But when I took it out of the incubator it made peeping sounds in my hand! I put it back and the little goober hatched considerably later than the rest, but appeared healthy.
Two Swedish Flower Chicks on the Left and Cream Legbar Pullet on the Right
In fact, none of the chicks appeared to have issues. It was a much better hatch than when Our Cream Legbar Chicks Hatched! Of course we had used shipped eggs that time, so I would like to think that is what made the difference. This time we also had six cream legbars hatch, two males and four females. And we had eight Swedish Flower chicks. However, those are not auto-sexing like the legbar.
After a week in our bathroom, they got booted to the shed. For some reason, we have lost two chicks since then. One appeared to have trouble breathing and passed away. Another had some type of weepy eyes, and we decided to cull it. I used bleach to clean their plastic box after noticing the second chick, and we haven’t had anymore issues since then. I don’t know what caused their issues. Hopefully those left remain healthy. I tend to imagine worst case senarios, such as that I brought diseased-eggs home for this hatch and all my new babies would have to be culled. But they appear ok so far.
Now we need to get the new chicken coop completed for all these babies! My original coop is totally full. I have a mini-coop we picked up off a Facebook yardsale page that is also full. My prior Legbar hatch is in that….plus some more Cream Legbars and Speckled Sussex chicks I bought at our local poultry swap this spring. And of course, the plastic tote is going to get out-grown by the 12 new babies! We now have 37 chickens and 4 guineas! Famous chicken math!
Young Cream Legbar and Speckled Sussex
The new coop is underway, but it takes time and money. We have been discussing raising and breeding chickens as a side business for me/us. Whether this actually happens, and works out for us, remains yet to be seen. And I guess I can’t really blame the broody hen after all. 🙂