Thursday, May 26, 2011
Gypsy's Hatch--Tale of a First Time Broody
Gypsy has been a dedicated broody. I've taken her off the nest daily as she just wasn't interested in meeting her own daily needs--a sure sign of a hard-core broody instinct. I'm sure she would have hit her own wall at some point and left the nest to take care of her business and fed and watered, but she never willingly hopped up and off the eggs when I was around, and I didn't want to just leave her nest area open to the world while I was gone for long periods, so I dutifully put her down on the ground every morning and late afternoon.
The three times I left her out (and her nest box accessible to her should she want to get back to setting before I returned) to run around a bit while I attended to other matters around the house or garden, I came back to find a cracked egg. I was down to 12 eggs by day 17/18 (remember, I set eggs over the course of two days), when the worst happened.
I let Gypsy out that the morning and then put her back in and locked her door, thinking she was safe in her 4 ft high circle of hardware cloth that bounded her nest area, along with her food and water and some bathroom space should she need it (a good idea for a broody's area--if she doesn't have enough space to go and she ever really has to, it can get on the eggs and create a huge smelly mess that has to be cleaned up, increasing your chance of bad eggs and of disturbing the broody away from her work).
But I left the lower front door to the coop open--the one that the other hens use to get in to lay eggs. They were still separated from Gypsy by the Wall of Broody hardware cloth, so I wasn't concerned about it. Mistake #1.
I went to bed heartsick, after putting Gypsy back on her eggs (and she immediately went back to brooding like nothing had happened). The next day I candled the eggs and to my surprise, 2 of the random 4 I picked out were definitely alive.
I expect several more chicks to hatch in the next two days. I hope the extended untended period hasn't created any weakness in the chicks....