Smallholder's Diary: May 19, 2009

JUST over three weeks ago, two of our new young hens went broody. This basically meant they stopped laying their own eggs and started sitting on the nest box, only coming off to feed and drink for a short period before returning. Even though they didn t

JUST over three weeks ago, two of our new young hens went broody. This basically meant they stopped laying their own eggs and started sitting on the nest box, only coming off to feed and drink for a short period before returning. Even though they didn't have any eggs to sit on, they became very protective and refused to move from the nest box.

Now as we do not own a cockerel, we decided to purchase some fertile eggs from a local auction. We choose a dozen eggs from a breed called Light Sussex which are both good egg layers and also good for raising to eat. We decided to isolate them from the rest of the hens by placing them in a spare coop with an attached run within the existing run. We placed six eggs under each broody hen, first waiting for each one to vacate the nest before doing so, as I said, they are very protective and peck at anything that threatens them. However, once achieved the hens were happy to sit on the eggs.

We knew that if the eggs were fertile they would take approximately three weeks to hatch. However, during this period we noticed that one of the eggs had broke which initially concerned us as we thought that due to their inexperience they may go on to break further eggs. This however proved ill-founded as regular checks revealed there were no further breakages.

Now, as the three-week deadline approached, we found ourselves checking the eggs two or three times a day. It wasn't until the afternoon of the 20th day that we were delighted and relieved to see that one of the eggs had started to hatch. The following morning we were full of anticipation when we checked the two hens and were not disappointed. We were now able to count at least three chicks, and by the end of this same day, the 21st day, there were at least six chicks.


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When the two hens finally came off their respective nests we were able to establish that we had eight chicks, there were two unhatched eggs remaining in the nest which accounted for 11 eggs in total including the earlier broken egg. It's still a mystery as to what happened to the 12th egg.

Like proud mums, the two hens bring their chicks out every morning making a great fuss over them, and more importantly ensuring they know where the water and feed is and showing them what they need to do.

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The chicks are now a week old and are starting to explore the run and pecking at everything to see if it's edible, however, they are never far from mum and scurry to her underside when called.

This has caused a great deal of interest amongst the other hens, however, for the time being, the chicks will remain in their own run until they are bigger and can fend for themselves.

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