We have some interesting fertility results in our current incubation, but before I tell you about those, I want to update you on Banana, our Buff Orpington that decided to go broody last Thursday.
Because our coops are not a good set-up for a brooding hen (the nest boxes are not on floor level, nor are the coops on ground level, making it impossible for the chicks to get around when they are little) we have always planned to build “broody coops” once we had some broody hens. We want to build one broody coop that is attached to the lower coop, and one attached to the upper coop. The broody coops would be built specifically for brooding, with a floor-level nest box and outdoor access on ground level. The outdoor pens that each broody coop would have would share wire with our other pens, and be able to be opened up into the other pens as well. This way, the broody hen can brood without being pestered by other birds, would have free access to her own food and water so that she can eat and drink to her heart’s content for the few minutes she is off the nest each day, she can keep her chicks to herself at first, as they all get to know the other birds through the wire, and then when she is ready we can open the access between the pens and she can introduce them to the flock while still having her own little coop for the family to go to at night. We came to this plan after reading about other people who do the same, or similar things with their chickens successfully.
So when it seemed like Banana was going to really stick it out, Husband got to work building a broody coop that would attach to the upper coop pen, where Banana currently lived. It turned out very nice! He even put a heat lamp in it (100 watt since it is so enclosed) since she is brooding in the winter. One side wall is wire, open to the barn area, so we can keep an eye on things and so that there is enough air circulation.
We knew she had some eggs under her, but we didn’t know how many. And there are only 3 hens in her pen we don’t “want” to breed, so we decided to let her keep whatever she had under her. We also collected some eggs from the lower coop, which are the birds we were purposefully breeding for our incubation (good timing). I collected 5 eggs from them.
Once the coop was ready, I set up the 5 eggs I had collected in the nest, Husband gently took Banana off her nest and I grabbed the eggs she had been sitting on (there were 5 of those too) and added them to the nest (for a total of 10 eggs). We then put her in the coop, with her pen access door open so she could go see her “friends” through the wire. She immediately went outside and began pacing the wire trying to get to the other chickens. Oh, no! Maybe she wasn’t broody enough or something. But then, after a few minutes of pacing, Husband chased her back into her coop and closed the door so she had to stay inside. She then went to eating and drinking…like crazy. She hadn’t seen her off the nest for 3 days, though we assumed she was coming off for short spurts to eat, and to allow the other girls to lay in that nest (there were eggs from 3 different hens in the 5 that she had). So I sat quietly and watched, and waited. Fifteen minutes later she was still eating and drinking. It was cold out, so I gave up my watch and decided to go inside and come out in a half-hour.
Half-hour later, there she was, happily snuggled on the eggs in the nest. She has been there ever since! Yay!!! We are SO excited to have our first hen ever to set eggs. Which is exactly what we are aiming for long-term – hens setting the eggs for us instead of an incubator. And it is perfect timing, because with the incubation going if anything goes wrong with Banana we will hopefully be able to save the eggs, or chicks, by putting them in with the ones we are raising inside.
Now, on to the incubation fertility results…
I was a bit off in my numbers that I spoke of in the last Sunday Homestead Update when I said how many eggs the breeding hens had layed. So here are the exact stats of what is in the incubator:
From the breeding pen where the male is our young rooster Boaz, there are 8 eggs from Matilda, 7 eggs from Bindi, 6 eggs from the Barred Rock hen, 9 eggs from Daisy, and 7 eggs from Goldie (these were all collected over 10 days, in winter, so we are very happy with how many they each layed).
Then, to fill out the space in the incubator, from the upper pen where the male is our alpha rooster, Pepper, I added in 5 eggs from Sophie, 1 egg from Rachel, 2 eggs from Dixie, and 2 eggs that I don’t know who layed them.
For a total of 47 eggs. 10 from Pepper and his hens, and 37 from Boaz and the chosen breeding hens for this round.
Pepper (as seen in photos a couple of weeks ago) has half his comb black from frostbite, so we were expecting very low fertility from him. We were shocked to find he had 100% fertility. All 10 of his eggs are fertile!
Boaz also surprised us, but in a different way. Boaz had 100% fertility with 3 of the 5 hens (Matilda, Bindi, and Daisy). But none of Goldie’s eggs were fertile, and only 1 of the Barred Rock hen’s eggs was fertile.
We have seen quite a bit of fighting between Boaz and those two girls in the weeks since we put them together. We are thinking that those girls might not be willing to give up their dominance yet, since he is a young rooster and was second rooster right before they moved to the breeding pen, and so they wont let him breed them. That is our theory as to how this happened. Goldie was bred to pepper last summer and she had fertile eggs. The Barred Rock hen has never been used for breeding before.
We are very excited about his 100% fertility with the hens that he chose (or that allowed him) to breed. And equally excited with Pepper’s 100% fertility despite his frostbite.
We candled the eggs under Banana as well. Again, it was 100% fertility except for the eggs from Goldie and Barred Rock hen.
So we now have 35 fertile eggs in the bator, and we have 8 fertile eggs under a hen.
Fun adventures to keep us busy during the long winter!