Several weeks ago, I told you all about Claire and Eugenie, a mother-daughter duo who had decided to go broody and hatch eggs at the same time and how, after hatching, they endeavored to co-parent their four chicks. It was awkward at first, but as the weeks have progressed, we (the humans and the other chickens) have gotten used to the little collective of Six. Little Dude even nicknamed them Baby Land.
The chicks of Baby Land are five weeks old this week. They’ve had lots of teaching, lots of supervision, lots of protection.
Over the last couple of days, however, o e of their Mommas has started making the transition from Momma to Hen.
Eugenie, the daughter of the mother-daughter duo, has decided that three weeks of broody and five weeks of mothering is enough, and that, since her own mother is still willing to watch all four of the children, she can go back to doing Hen Things.
I first noticed her dirt bathing away from her chicks the other day. And other last couple days, she has not been hanging out with the collective in the pasture. Not did she sleep with them on the roosts last night.
She laid an egg this morning, too.
Claire is still going strong, though, for now, and will probably stick with the Littles for another week, at least.
She did, however, give me a very harried look last night, when instead of splitting the chicks with her daughter, she had four confused little ones trying to tuck up underneath her wings. I think she wound up sitting on one of them!
Time is running short for these Littles, though. Pretty soon, they will be all on their own.
I’ve talked a lot about mother hens here on this blog. Go figure, huh? We seem to always have baby chicks being hatched. This spring/summer especially has been a boom of broody hens. More than I’ve even mentioned, to be honest.
Pavelle, Rapunzel, Ashley, Tweety, Claire, Ashley (again), Eugenie, and Pavelle again. Ashley got put in Broody Jail twice after her escapades in raising babies last year. Poor Claire spent 6 weeks being broody because her first set of eggs didn’t hatch (some died, some were duds).
It’s Claire, along with her daughter from last year’s hatch, Eugenie, who are the subject of today’s post.
You see, when Claire lost the first set of eggs, I decided to give her new, because Claire is a proven good mother and I felt sorry for her losing her babies she worked so hard for. Eugenie had started to go broody the day or two before and I was deciding what to do with her when I gave Claire her new eggs.
For whatever reason, I gave both of them four eggs each, for a total of eight chicks if they all hatched.
Last Wednesday night, the first chick began break out of his shell under Claire. He was STILL breaking out of it Thursday morning when I returned to the coop to find Eugenie had two fluffy little chicks under her, and Claire had one more pipping.
By Friday morning, we had a total of four chicks, one dead EE (still in eggs) and two duds. ( and one which had been broken by Pavelle the week prior, because she decided she needed to go broody again,too, and needed to use Claire’s nest to do it.)
So… four babies, two mother hens.
I tried to put them in separate areas of the coop, but as has been the theme this year, the mommas’ both rejected my cat carriers in favor of the floor under the nesting boxes – – AND they decided to co-raise their four chicks together.
The first couple of days were rough all the way around. Both hens were in extreme broody momma mode and in addition to chasing other chickens away from their wee little ones, Claire would lunge at Eugenie and chase her off, too. Undaunted, Eugenie would com back, but had too much respect for her mother to chase back.
The other hens started laying eggs outside because it was too much drama to try and lay in the coop.
But as the weekend and the early part of this week progressed, mothers and babies fell into a rhythm that worked of all of them.
I’ve been amazed, watching them navigate a very confusing social situation. Once the initial ‘turf wars’ were over and Claire accepted that Eugenie wasn’t going to give up her rights to her babies, they ironed out a system of rearing. Co-parenting at it’s finest.
It began in the coop, with one mother sitting on some of the chicks while the other taught one or two to scratch and dig. Then they would swap.
They babies usually sleep under Claire at night, while Eugenie sleeps in the nest above them.
Claire took the first brave chick outdoors at three days old, while Eugenie mothered the other three in the coop.
When all four babies were in the coop playing and eating, Claire would teach while Eugenie stood guard against threats (or perceived threats) from other hens.
After a few days, Claire got all four of them outside. Eugenie followed and they took turns showing the babies how to dig in the dirt to find yummies.
When they go outside, one mother (usually Claire) leads them down the ramp and the other (usually Eugenie) follows behind the stragglers, ensuring that no baby is left behind.
The little yellow/cinnamon colored one likes to sit on both her/his mothers’ backs, which I read somewhere is a sign of love and affection. Of belonging to that hen. I guess that means the babies really do belong to both of them, no matter who they hatched under.
I’m not sure if I will ever let two hens hatch out at the same exact time again, but I have no regrets about letting Claire and her daughter raise these ones together. It’s working for them, strange as it may seem to us.
This will probably be my last Broody Watch post for Claire. The 4th egg does not appear to be hatching, despite her insistence that she remain sitting on it. I’m giving it until tonight, but then, if it hasn’t hatched, I’ll be removing it from her nest.
The three chicks she already has are quite active and will soon be ready to explore the world around them. She can’t help them do that if she’s sitting on a dud egg.
Momma and babies enjoyed a breakfast of scrambled eggs and chick starter this morning. All three of the babies came out from under Claire to try some of the yummiest. Scrambled egg is my traditional post-hatching meal for the chicks&mama.
Traditional as in “that’s what I did with Abby, so Claire gets to do it, too.” Why mess with what works?
I don’t know if it’s evident from the video, but yesterday when I came down to find two of Claire’s chicks running around the laying boxes next to their nest, I decided to take a risk and move Claire, babies, and 4th egg into their newly fashioned maternity suite.
I added food and water, which Claire barely looked at as she settled in on top of the egg and tucked her babies under her for good measure. She’s still there this morning, so I’m going to take that as a success. 🙂
Oh, yeah… and the babies have been tentatively named.
As they were born during my Dad’s birthday week (tomorrow is his birthday), I decided preemptively to name the chicks in honor of him. The first born, the little red-head, is Dani (or if she is a he, Danny), the second born, smaller and light tow-headed yellow/white, is Eugenie (Eugene) and the third, a slightly bigger, more yellow chick, is Stevie.
Editing to Add: I just went down to the coop to see how things were faring and found that Claire had abandoned the other egg. She moved her three chicks to the nest on the right side of the ‘maternity suite’ and left her egg there. It was cold, so I removed it. As expected, it was nothing but a mass of 21-day yolk. Yuck! Tossed it in the trash. Claire, Dani, Eugenie, and Stevie are a whole family now.
On a totally non-related blog issue, I’m realizing that I need a category/tag for the ‘born on the farm’ babies like Pip and these three. Am considering calling them a “Windstone Comet Cross” because that’s our farm name, their papa is a Golden Comet and they’re a cross between him and something else. This is obviously NOT an official name, and they’re really just barnyard mutts, but their my barnyard mutts.
Or, I could call the tag “barnyard mix” too.
Thoughts? Reader preference? Do the tags even matter?
Well, as of this morning, there are three babies hiding under Claire’s considerable red fluff.
The last couple of days, Claire has been a real sweetheart compared to how she normally is. A part of the ‘broody trance’ stage, she let me pet her, feed her by hand, and lift her up to look at the eggs/babies. Now that more of them have hatched, the broody trance is giving way to ‘Mama Mode’ and Claire’s true personality is asserting itself.
That is to say, I got bit 5 times trying to get these pictures and video.
There is one last egg, the paler one I mentioned was cracked already. It’ still cracked, but the crack is bigger.
Claire shows no signed of giving up on it yet, and keeps tucking it underneath her like she’s expecting something.
As tomorrow is Day 21 for that egg and one of the other (already hatched) chicks, I’ll wait and see what she does next. They have that saying about it – Mama Knows – so if Claire is still waiting for a chick, maybe I should, too?
Then again, it’ been cracked since Monday and no signs of anything coming out, movement, or cheeping.
But I’ll let Claire make that call. If she abandons the egg in favor of caring for the Wee Ones, I’ll know.
Went into the coop for lock up and and found that my flock had grown by two.
The little red-head on the right is the chick I posted the video of in update 3.5. He/she is dry and fluffy.
The blondie on the left is still partially damp.
Of the three eggs still under Claire, the light colored one has a crack in it. It had that crack a day ago, though, so I don’t think it’s hatching. The brown one on the very left has a pip. The brown one in the middle wasn’t there earlier, and is NOT one of Claire’s eggs. So I removed it.
But yay!!! Two babies!!!! And maybe another by tomorrow!
Welcome to Claire’s 3rd and final week of being broody. Over the weekend, we entered the ‘lockdown’ phase, as it’s called when you’re incubating eggs to hatch. This is the last three days (or starting on day 18) of the hatching process when the chicks need to maintain a certain temp and humidity in order to hatch.
On an incubator, there are dials and gauges to tell that.
How a hen knows, I can’t tell you but Claire didn’t leave the nest at all yesterday and spent most of it in a glassy-eyed fog.
The Broody Trance, finally.
I fed her eggs yesterday at dinner time and likely will today, as well.
She’s not as thin as Abby was but I’ll still give her some.
Tomorrow is the first potential hatch day.
In prep for Claire and her babies to join the flock, I did a Thing.
Those who remember back to November when Pip was hatched, I put Abby and baby Pip in huge box, shoved under the laying beds. One half of the box was nest and the other was for food and water.
It worked for them but the box was in the way and after they stopped using it, Abby would sit in the middle of the coop with Pip and just expected everyone to stay out of their way.
This would be why 1- Pip thinks the coop is His Domain and 2- all the older hens still find Pip vaguely annoying.
Well, I realized today that in roughly 48-hours I will have the same situation, on with 1-4 chicks, instead of one. AND on top of that, in a handful of weeks, I will integrating the Littles into the big flock.
Does anyone else see a recipe for potential disaster?
So I did A Thing.
I cleaned out (a little) the underneath area, where the chickens don’t really go and haven’t used since the were babies, stapled chicken wire in two sides with an opening in the middle, and creating a … maternity ward? Nursery?
If Claire accepts it, this unused space can be a place for a her baby nest, offer shelter and a safe place for her wee Littles to play … and it won’t take up any room in the coop that the older hens actually care about.
Setting it up now means the older chickens have a couple of days to get used to it being there.
After two days of trying, I finally got the video I took of Claire’s latest outing from the nest onto Youtube.
I can’t help but compare Claire’s broodiness to Abby’s, as before this, Abby was my only point of reference.
When Abby was broody, she was very ‘zoned’ or in what I call her ‘broody trance.’ She rarely got up on her own, and I had to carry her out at least once each morning and each afternoon, so she could take care of the personal matters of eating and pooping. She wouldn’t even notice when I did it, but sit there in one spot for several minutes, softly buck-buck-bucking to herself. When she finally snapped out of it, she’d run for the food, the water and back to her nest as quickly as she could. Only once or twice did she do more than that. Dirt bathing once on a sunny day. Abby loves her dirt baths! But no, the drive to hatch her babies (baby, in the end it was just Pip) was so strong, it eclipsed everything else. She lost a LOT of weight, especially towards the end. She still hasn’t gained it all back, really. Which isn’t a bad thing. It just means she is isn’t overweight in any way.
Claire is not so entranced yet, even into her second week of broody. She still screams when people (or, other chickens) come into the coop to lay eggs. When she leaves the nest, I am treated to spectacles like the video below. She runs around, bucking loudly (not soft at ALL!) to announce to the world that she is there and they’d all better get out of her way. At the morning treat dish (it’s not really treats. I give them 2 scoops of feed + a 3/4 scoop of scratch to start their morning and everything else is what they can forage, and there’s 12 of them, so no one gets a lot)…. as I was saying, at the morning treat dish, she guards it closely, putting her foot in the feed if someone crowds too close. She yells. She puffs up, flares her tail feathers and spreads her wings wide to make herself look huge and scary.
The morning I took this video – Wednesday, I think – Dots happened to be in the run when she came out. He hasn’t seen her in a while, as he’s been preoccupied with grandstanding so the Littles roosters know he’s the Boss. That takes up most of his time now. So he hasn’t seen her. Well, he tried to woo her… and… scream… yell… puffed up feathers… Claire does NOT want a man right now. Sorry, Double Dots.
She’s got one week left of sitting on the nest before the eggs hatch. If they hatch. I am still hands-off. No candling, and the only handling I do is to remove the extra eggs from her nest. These are eggs she either steals from nearby nests or ones hens lay while Claire is outside.
“Lockdown” begins on Saturday. That is ‘Day 18’ for the earliest two of the four eggs. Wednesday the 11th being the day she committed to sitting for real. When this happens, I intend to feed her scrambled eggs once a day, so she can stay on the nest as much as possible over those last three days.
I did that with Abby, too, but she really, really needed it. She was so out of it the whole way through her broody that by the time her final three days happened, I was beginning to worry. (Did I mention she lost waaaay too much weight?)
I’m not seeing where Claire is losing tons of weight, but, as I observed before, she isn’t as entranced as poor Abby was. But I’m still preparing to make her scrambled eggs for the weekend.
Well, today is our first post in the Broody Watch.
I was in the coop for morning chores when Claire decided to get up and do her business. Or rather, she jumped off the nest and shot out of the coop in a blur of reddish feathers, so fast I barely recognized it for what it was before she was gone.
Once outside, she took a huge and rather stinky broody poop (explained best in this informative post by the Chicken Chick), and then began circling the run and food dish, lunging at anyone who came near her.
While Claire focused on getting food and some sunlight, I snuck into the coop (to finish chores, really) and got a good look at her eggs.
They look okay and were plenty warm. A broody hen can be off the nest for 20-or-so minutes at a time to take care of personal needs.
My Abby girl got into such funks last year (a ‘broody trance’) that I took to picking her up off the nest to get her to eat and drink, at least once a day. Claire does not, thankfully, have that problem. Yet.
As Claire was taking her time, I took the opportunity to mark the eggs, just in case someone decided that looked like a good spot to lay her egg (as Amy tried to do this morning). That way, I wouldn’t take a partially incubated egg and put it in the carton to sell (or eat!).
Claire finally returned to the coop, although, she seemed, for a while, confused whether she wanted in the nest, or water.