Yes it's official. My silly hens think it's spring already. As predicted, Kitty did not go down without a fight. My extremely determined no.1 hen has another nest of 12 eggs due to hatch in another week or two. I will candle the eggs this weekend to check fertility and to see how far along they are. I discovered her popping out of the bushes below my garden acting extremely broody again so I had a little hunt around and sure enough. I had to laugh at her pluck. She really doesn't give up that easily so I decided to let her have her way. We did have a few weeks of unusually warm weather which seems to have fooled her into thinking she can pull it off. Last night it started raining and the temps dropped, so this morning I went and checked on our little trooper. Even though she was nestled under some bushes she did look rather damp and not in the least bit amused! I didn't want to move her in the rain so I secured a tarpaulin over her nesting spot and will go back tomorrow and move her into a dry warm spot in our garage.
As well as Kitty we also have Molly, one of our young layers who is currently trying her hand (or wing) at being a mum. After Shadow passed, I collected 8 eggs which were all from our Black sex-link hen, Tomato, who was the only laying hen by that point. I placed all 8 eggs under Molly who seemed very happy with her new additions.
All seemed to be going well until day 6 when I noticed Molly was spending an unusually long time off her nest. By dinner time I had given up all hope of her eggs hatching because she had left them for the entire day. I was advised to lock her in with her eggs so she couldn't abandon them as they may still hatch. So I have done this and she is now sitting tight back on her eggs and fingers crossed some of them hatch. Now that I have a total of 20 eggs set under my two broody hens I have a slightly higher chance of one of them being Shadows baby. But, what with it being winter and fertility not always being guarunteed. I will be happy just to see new balls of fluff hatching again. Mollys chicks are due to hatch around the 14th and Kittys... well that tricky hen could be due any day as far as I know but hopefully this weekend we will know for sure!
Wednesday was an unexpectedly sad day. It started off unusually warm and sunny for mid winter and I decided to plant some more garlic. I was half way through this tasks when I realised how eerily quiet it was. That's when I realised I hadn't seen Shadow my pet rooster all morning. He is usually the first one waiting at the door for me every morning ready to follow me faithfully about my chores. I went down to the coop and had a sinking feeling in my chest, as I got closer I peered inside and sure enough... our gentle giant was gone.
There was nothing to show how he had died so I can only assume it was his heart. At 10 months old, he still had a lot of filling out to do but he was by far the largest and most impressive of our chooks. And also my favourite. As a young chick, he was the nominated leader of his 11 siblings and when the mother hen left them at 3 weeks he immediately chose me as his new mum and it was very entertaining seeing him run eagerly across the lawn to follow me every where I went, wings flapping frantically in his effort to keep up. It was also his behaviour that made the rest of the chicks friendlier towards us as well because anything Shadow did, they followed suit. We were all very upset and saddened by his passing as he had such a gentle loving nature and was more of a peacekeeper than a fighter. He was also very talkative and chatty whenever he saw me so our flock have all become much quieter now. Twin, our black rooster has stepped up and take over his role without any problems, but Shadows passing has left a big gap to fill in the flock so now, after a bit of discussion with some fellow poultry owners I have decided to collect as many eggs as I can in the next week in the hopes that one of the broody hens will hatch them. Who knows? If they hatch there may be another Shadow in the making. Even though he is irreplaceable, hopefully having new baby chicks will bring a bit of life back to the flock.
Anyone who owns chickens will know how much character and personality they can have. I could personally sit and watch them for hours.And I could write a book on the antics they get up to. So I decided why not give them there very own blog page?
Now that we are past the shortest day of the year, the girls are slowly starting to show signs of getting back down to business. With 17 barnyard hens, 2 silkie hens and 6 Pekin pullets we won't be short of eggs this summer but getting to that stage can take some time, especially when one hen goes broody it can quickly become an epidemic.
Once our hens had safely finished moulting we slowly moved up from one egg a day to three. The drama was short lived though. One day Kitty, our Buff Sussex X, decided she would carry on tradition from last winter and go broody, right after the shortest day of the year. It's almost like the winter solstice triggers something inside her and she suddenly feels the urge to be a mummy. She raised 7 chicks last winter, only losing one.
I noticed her bizzare behaviour and instantly knew what she was up to. We had some cows in to graze our paddock for a few days and once the grass had been grazed down, Kitty's hiding spot was no longer a secret..
I had to laugh at how blantantly she was trying to pull it off. Settling herself quite nicely in the middle of the paddock. Unfortunately, It is still a bit soon for baby chicks here. We are yet to set up the houses for our broodies so I had to remove all 12 eggs and after checking them I was quite relieved to see they had only recently been laid. They passed the float test and everyone had eggs for dinner. I'm pretty sure it won't be long before she tries her luck again but hopefully this time we will be ready for chicks and then she can show off her mummy skills once again :-)