21 November 2011

Changes in the chicken coop

There are a few changes going on in our chicken coop. We’re preparing a nursery. As I wrote on Friday, Nicky kindly sent us six fertile eggs – a mix of buff Orpingtons and barred Plymouth Rocks. The eggs came by mail, carefully wrapped in tissues, sitting in an egg carton to keep them stable and packed into the middle of a medium sized box full of shredded paper. The packing was perfect and should really have kept the eggs safe but who know what happens in the postal system. Hopefully they'll all hatch.

For any readers living in the Glen Innes, Inverell or Armidale area, Nicky has large buff Orpingtons, large light barred Plymouth Rocks and large silver laced Wyandottes. You can contact her here.

Nicky advised us to sit the eggs in a safe place to settle for a while and to place them under the broody just on night fall. So after a settling down period, we were going to set them under Lucy, our experienced mother hen.

Lucy had other plans.

About three weeks ago Lucy built a nest in the front garden for herself and eight of her own eggs. She sat, appropriately enough, in the dwarf Madonna lilies, well hidden from view but when we looked well enough, we could see her long black tail poking out.

When it was getting dark and all the chooks had already put themselves to bed, Hanno lifted Lucy off her own nest and brought her back to the coop to a newly prepared nest holding the six fertile eggs. We thought we were giving Lucy a treasured gift but she made some yodelling noises and started grooming herself. We left her to settle in, an hour later Hanno went back to check on her and she was asleep on the roost with the other girls. Grrrrr.

Hanno transferred all the eggs over to Mary, Lucy's daughter, who has been steadfastly sitting on her own imaginary eggs, on and off, for the past two years. Mary deserves these chicks. 

(left) Lulubelle, our barred Plymouth Rock girl, with Mary in the adjoining suite.

Hanno is making a wire wall that will keep Mary and eggs/chicks away from the other girls but they’ll all be able to see each other. He’s made up a box nest for her so she can sit on the eggs away from the other chooks and when the eggs hatch, there is a little chook run right next door where they can all stay safe and together away from the older chooks and predators.

This is the second time we’ve put fertile eggs under a broody hen. The first time, a couple of years ago, the mother hen, a big Rhode Island Red girl, squashed the Wyandotte chicks after they hatched. I had thought that Lucy, being an experienced mother would hatch and raise the chicks. Obviously Lucy's broodiness was at an end and it was not to be. Hanno said her eggs were black when he disposed of them.

Hanno made a cute little ladder for mother and chicks to use.

So now we count the days until 8 December when the chicks should hatch. Just 21 days seems like such a short time for life to form and being viable, but that's all it takes. I'm really looking forward to having chicks here. If it all goes to plan, they'll start laying in early May. We can't keep roosters here, we have tried, but given them all away. I'd love for our hens to lay fertile eggs but that will never happen without a rooster. This is the next best thing and it feels right to me. I guess when it comes down to it, it doesn't really matter how you get good free range eggs on your plate - you might have a local supplier, a neighbour you barter with or you have your own chicks.

Having those chicks grow up here and wander around our backyard all their lives makes me happy just thinking about it. We'll have an unspoken agreement with them that we provide a safe environment, shelter and food and they provide eggs, manure and their fine insect eating skills.  They'll help us provide a balance - putting into the soil instead of just taking.  It's a fine arrangement, I'm sure you'll agree.



  1. Good luck with your eggs! Buff Orps and all the various Rocks are among my favorite laying hens...with Jersey Giants rounding out the roster.
    Hanno's coop-designing skills are impressive!

  2. That was wonderful to read, felt like I was experiencing it right along with you. Can't wait to see how it all goes.

  3. Little chicks are such fun! We hatched ours from a homemade incubator. Only problem was dealing with the roosters - we can't keep roosters where we are and doing the deed required nerves of steel. The days go so slow when you're waiting for chicks to hatch!

  4. How exciting! And what a lovely set-up Hanno built for them. We have a rooster and an occasionally broody rhode island red, so with any luck, we may also have chicks running around next spring. Our orpingtons are excellent layers and are very friendly too, so I'm sure you will enjoy yours when they arrive :). Looking forward to the coming updates and photos!

  5. Hanno has certainly been busy! What an adventure...hope it all goes to plan now for you. be lovely to see them wandering their little enclosure and hopefully you don't get too many roosters!
    I am enjoying letting our chooks out each afternnoon while playing outside with the girls...they reallly do each have their own personality don't they...funny little creatures!
    Jode x

  6. What a fantastic setup! That will keep them safe. I must show hubby this post because I'm feeling clucky myself for some little chicks.

  7. It sure us a fine arrangement...they couldn't be happier, I'm sure. How exciting it will be to finally have them hatch. I bet it will be a long 3 weeks...lol

  8. What a nifty set up Hanno has prepared, Rhonda! This must be very exciting, I do hope it all goes smoothly. Looking forward to updates as they come. :)

  9. Oh my goodness, what fun! Should I start knitting chicken bootees? :)

  10. We are going to restart our brood in January and are thinking of getting a rooster. Why were you unable to keep one? I love the idea of having fertile eggs of our own.....

  11. I had a couple of ISA browns go broody, only to find that they are actually Rhode Island Reds. I bought fertile eggs and placed under and last Thursday 4 little chickens hatched being raised by both hens. So adorable watching the mother hens look after the 4 chickens...

    I hope your fertile eggs hatch :)

    Kristy - http://athomewithkristy.blogspot.com/

    I'm a little behind with my blog at the moment :)

  12. Jo, they're against council regulations here, we are semi-rural. We have kept them though, until the neighbours complained. :- (

  13. Hanno is a great handyman to make those chicken coops complete with ladders and runs.

  14. We went through a very similar thing with a very similar looking hen.Our hen has just raised 6 chicks and before you know it she's back to laying and sitting AGAIN. We just swap her eggs for larger eggs from our bigger hens.

  15. That's a very neat set-up! We put four fertile eggs under our broody hen and had two of the eggs actually hatch about a month ago. Unfortunately, we are still chicken novices because we didn't think to separate the mama hen and the chicks from the others. We ended up moving the chicks inside to a safe spot in our storage room until they are big enough to go out with the others.

    We live within city limits in the Southern United States. We got some new chicks last spring and ended up with four roosters out of eight birds! I was able to give away all but one. I'm surprised my neighbors haven't complained, but we haven't heard from the city yet! If you asked me, dogs make more noise than chickens!


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