Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Broody Update and the Complex Social Order of Chickens

Ok! Time for an update. We currently have 9 eggs under Peabody, the black hen. It went like this:
After the first night, I checked on her and found only 11 eggs. Hmm, that's strange. I thought maybe one was buried under the sawdust, but couldn't find any trace of it.
A couple of days later, there were 11 eggs under Peabody, but one of them was laid by Eggwina. So another egg is missing! This time I found the remains of a yolk in the sawdust and the shell in the run below. Uh oh. I quickly cleaned it all up. Now I am a bit worried.
On Saturday, I checked again, and this time I found an egg with a cracked shell. I pulled it out so that it would not break further and tempt the chickens to eat it or contaminate the other eggs. I cracked it open outside to see if it was fertilized and it was. There was a tiny embryo inside, but it looks like it had already died and the yolk was broken. :( Made me pretty sad.
So, we are left with 9 eggs. I haven't candled any of them yet, so I don't know how many of those are fertile and growing. But I did observe something interesting today. I placed some treats in the run below the coop to convince both the chickens to go down and help themselves (so I could sneakily check on the nest of eggs). Eggwina paced around in the coop, making as if to jump down, then changing her mind and backing away from the door. She has been staying up in the coop with Peabody, not wanting to be on her own. Well, Peabody had enough of this waffling about and hopped down to feast on some oatmeal. While Peabody was down in the run, I noticed Eggwina looking as if she was going to try eating the eggs. I shooed her off of them and she hopped down into the run, only to be promptly chased back up into the coop by Peabody. It looks as if Peabody has inherited the alpha role since the former alpha died in the summer (heart attack from a falcon). Peabody used to be the bottom of the pecking order and bullied by the other two, but now she is in charge! Well, I stayed by the eggs until Peabody hopped back on them and nestled them under her feathers, pecking at Eggwina when she got too close. Judging from this encounter, I suspect that Eggwina is the egg breaking culprit. The problem is that I can't really separate them. Eggwina would lose it if she was alone. So, I think I am going to keep the water and food close to Peabody in the coop, so that she doesn't have to leave her eggs alone with Eggwina. Hopefully that will keep them safe. And I think when it comes time for hatching day, I might just kick Eggwina out into the one section of the run that closes off with a door. Hopefully then it will be drier and warmer in there.

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