After only a month of laying eggs, Tweedle Dum got the worst case of Baby Fever ever recorded!
It started with her taking her sweet time in the nesting box. She would loll around while laying her daily egg, spending an hour or two hiding away. Then her nesting box stints moved into the four-hour range. Soon, she seemed to be in a panic whenever she came outside, racing around to find food, have a dust bath, do a quick preen before heading back to the nesting box. Finally, she sat. And nothing we did could get her up.
A Broody Hen is what they call it and it caused a complete change in her. She went to being the most vocal and happiest of our hens to being a growly grouch. She stopped enjoying a scritch under her chin and began pecking your hand if you came close. She would sit all day long and only get up once a day to briefly poop, eat and drink before getting back on the nest.
From what we read, our hens are a bit too young to hatch chicks. Supposedly, young hens (under a year old) lose interest in sitting after a week, so we continued collecting her eggs each day. But after we saw her determination, we thought “Why not? Why not let her try??” From then on, we let her sit undisturbed on three eggs. We simply chose that day’s eggs laid by three different hens, so they were not necessarily her eggs. We marked the shells with happy faces so we could keep track of them.
But, we started noticing a problem. When she would get up for her daily chores, she had a 50/50 chance of hopping back into the wrong nest box. Some mornings, we would come in the coop to find that she had switched boxes in the night and now her week-old clutch would be stone cold.
At this point, she had been broody for about three weeks. She was barely eating and drinking, but she still had another 21 days of sitting to do if she was going to hatch some babies. So we reorganized our garden shed to accommodate her, with a temporary fence around it and a dark, private nest box with access to her own food and water. One night, we moved her out into the garden shed with three newly-laid eggs.
And there she sat. It was amazing to see that she would only get off her eggs once every five days! She barely ate that whole time. There was one evening where she flew out of the enclosure and didn’t show any intention of going back, but we were quick to place a hot water bottle and blanket on the nest. That night, we carried her from the regular coop back to the nest. Another day, she seemed confused by her surroundings and began flying all around the garden shed, but we managed that catastrophe as well.
Then, exactly 21 days after moving to the garden shed, two of the three eggs hatched! Tweedle Dum has beaten the odds, shown steadfast determination and brought some new life into our flock. It is amazing to see her teach the new ones where to find food. The best part is when they peek out at us through her wing feathers!
With Chantecler Roo as the father and Welsummer Peeps and Chip as the mothers, it is a bit of surprise to see that both chicks are white, black and grey. It seems that the milkman may have fathered these two! We named them both after our favourite egg dishes.