Haiku: Watching And Waiting

Our laying flock must see us as egg thieves: each day – multiple times a day if it’s especially cold out – we collect their freshly-laid eggs. If a hen is sitting, we reach under her fluffy feathers and feel around for eggs – a treasure hunt, of sorts. Most of the girls in nest boxes enter a trance-like state, which I like to call “the zone”, and they don’t even seem to realize that an egg thief is there to take their eggs – they don’t move, protest, or do anything but remain blissfully docile. Most.

But within most flocks, there seems to be a hen (or two) who is fiercely protective of the eggs under her – and viper-quick. Stick your hand under one of these girls and you’ll regret it: you may pull back a hand sporting bloody peck marks. These ladies are serious about keeping sneaky hands – or anything else – from getting to what’s under them. I respect that, but the eggs must still be gathered (unless we want to let them hatch chicks).

So how do we deal with these pugnacious ladies? Wearing protective clothing, like gloves, doesn’t work because I need to be able to feel the eggs and gently remove them. Trying to do it quickly and hoping that the resulting damage to hands is minimal (or non-existent) is one way, but it comes with the risk of fumbling an egg in the haste to get them out as fast as humanly possible.

With especially protective hens, it’s sometimes necessary to open the lid of the nest box and lift the hen out, placing her nearby on the coop floor. She’s often displeased by this process, protesting or even (still) trying to take a whack at a hand. Once the eggs are out and the nest box closed back up, the hen usually jumps right back in and resumes where she left off. Slightly cross, but no harm done.

Fierce hens, I salute you: you would make very protective mothers, keeping predators and other birds away from your eggs and chicks, ensuring that they remain safe and sound. This is definitely a positive attribute for broodies. If at all possible, I’ll avoid collecting eggs while you’re in the box and try to return at a later time…but if that’s not possible, I’ll try to bear in mind that your anger isn’t directed at me, personally, and that your eggs are precious to you. They’re precious to me, too. Thank you for providing us with your lovely eggs (for eating and hatching) and stay feisty!

2 thoughts on “Haiku: Watching And Waiting

  1. I salute the fierce mammas too. These ducks are going to be great mammas. I cannot get near the nest! I have been making them a special feed mix for broody mammas which is a mix of layer pellets, dry mealworm, a tiny bit of koi food and mixed, cracked seed. They seem to be loving it and I am happy knowing they are getting mega protein, vitamins and minerals. I have been offering them crushed shell mixed with a bit of diatomaceous earth too and see they are making use of it.

    I have found a lady locally who offers incubation services which has greatly reduced my panic about the other eggs. She says she has experience with hatching duck eggs, but none the less I will give her your direction for the eggs and trust her more experienced hands to get the fluffballs out safely. More importantly I trust her to know if there is a hatching issue and how to help. I feel too scared of stuffing it up and causing the unnecessary death of a gosling.

    Is there anything special I should do to keep them safe and viable for the hour’s drive to her farm?

    I see both Rainbow and Twilight are actually taking turns on a combined nest of eggs. Tag teaming this egg hatching thing. I think I must have genius ducks 🙄🤔😂.

    We have two little boys coming for a weekend visit today (while their parents take a well-earned break at a romantic spot in the rain forest), and I am rubbing voltaren into my arthritic shoulders in preparation for the loving onslaught. 😂 I need more than my regular meds for picking up those little tykes nowadays. Fox, who was a small baby and toddler, has sprouted lately and caught up to his peers, while Bear is going to be tall like Ken. At 16mths he is already wearing clothing for 3-4year olds because he is almost as tall as Fox, who is 5 yo! Thankfully we have great weather predicted even though it has been raining all morning so hopefully they can tire themselves out without too much granny-wrestling being required.

    I was walking at the rain this morning, collecting our eggs and was thinking of you having to collect eggs regularly now to prevent them from freezing and yowee! I am glad we do not get that cold here! 🥶 I only collect once a day, and running to the coop several times in freezing weather does not sound like fun.

    Speaking of cold, the chicks are now 5 weeks old and were outside all day yesterday in temps varying from 10-15 degrees C without showing any no signs of being cold or in discomfort. They did not huddle or complain. They spread out, rolled in the dirt, kept scratching, eating and flapping around. In fact they were clearly displeased when they had to go back in their warm cage inside. I can see a few bits of fluff still sticking out in places but overall they have a nice thick covering of adult feathers now. That to me is a great sign that they will be more than ready to go into their coop from next week. Yay! No more stinky chickens in my dining room 😛. Honestly I am cleaning their cage out 3x a day now. They are eating, pooping machines.

    We have decided to return one compost heap to the temporary coop area, as we will be turning it into a dedicated “coloured egg” coop for the EE and future chickens like them for ethical eggs. It seems they sell for $16 a dozen (regular eggs are $4/dozen) which sounds like a pretty good side gig to me for extra eggs Ken’s family and we cannot eat. Have you ever heard of water glassing eggs? That is a great way to preserve extra eggs if you want to try it? Anyway I saw how the other chickens enjoy inspecting and turning over our compost now that they have access to it, and remembered my mother, who is a true “chicken whisperer”, always had her compost bins where the hens could access them, and the fly larvae they attract. I was wary because I know the compost also attracts rodents, but I am sure the muscovies would love that.

    Well, I am off to baby-tornado proof my house now. First time babysitting both Fox and Bear for so long and we hope it goes smoothly and we all have fun.

    May you still be in a pumpkin and spice induced food coma, with gratitude and joy in your heart.

    Stay safe!

    > >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Muscovies really are *amazing* broodies! 😊 It’s great that you found a local resource for incubating eggs – she’ll familiar with your area’s humidity and other specific incubation factors, too. While I definitely have a method I like for incubating Muscovy eggs, she may have success doing something different. 🙂

      While transporting the eggs to her farm, I’d try to keep them as still as possible and try to minimize shaking/jarring as much as you can. Also, keep the temperature as consistent as you can (and a bit on the cooler, rather than warmer, side would be best) so the eggs don’t undergo dramatic temperature changes. Will be hoping you have a good hatch with the incubated eggs, too. 🤞

      It’s been below freezing here at night, so collecting eggs frequently helps prevent a frozen egg discovery. Going out to check for eggs means I can check on how everyone’s doing, too, so it works out.

      Always a reason to celebrate when juveniles can go outside! 🥳 I hope your temps stay warm enough that they can transition soon…because they *are* messy to brood indoors.

      I’ve actually saved info on water glassing eggs to try someday! With a surplus of eggs in spring/summer, tapering off in fall, and drying up in winter, it would be nice to have effective ways to preserve some of those extra eggs.

      The Muscovies will love searching for edibles in and around the compost pile – a vole or a mouse will be an appreciated snack!

      LOL! We just eat a normal meal here – even during holidays – because we don’t like feeling overstuffed or bogged down from eating rich food we wouldn’t typically eat. In fact, we had pastured chicken (ours) ramen made with homemade bone broth for dinner. 🍜

      Wishing you reasons for gratitude and much joy throughout the year, too!

      Like

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