Monday, April 1, 2013

Of Broody Hens and Pink Mold

Last week we were worried Desi was sick or injured. She wouldn't leave the coop and insisted on sitting in the nesting box all day. Alex and I both had work all day, so we didn't really confirm that anything was really wrong until the following morning, when we found Desi guarding FOUR eggs under her chest. Oh no, a broody hen!

We put ice cubes under her and stole all the eggs. She looked miserable, but didn't budge. Then we isolated her in the run. She flapped around, and tried her best to get back into the coop or rejoin her fellow chickens. I felt like the meanest chicken owner in the world. But 10 hours later, when I tested to see if she was cured, she pried the door to the coop open with her beak (!!!) and went right back to sitting in the nesting box in less than 2 minutes. The poor girl had to sleep outside for 2 nights to cure her motherly inclination. Thankfully it was warm. Yesterday we let her go to bed with the rest of the chickens and, finally, she didn't try to hatch any eggs. Phew!

Broody hens are tricky because they are so single minded. She didn't eat or drink anything unless she was isolated and didn't have anything else to do. If she had access to the nesting box, she'd just have sat there until she died of dehydration, since those eggs will never hatch. Broody hens can also be mean to other chickens, and keep them from getting to the nesting box. Farm wisdom says to cool down their bodies (hence the ice cubes) and isolate them until they forget about egg hatching. The poor girl spent all afternoon out in the rain yesterday since she had to be separated in the pen, and the pen has no roof. She looked like a drowned cat.

We're also struggling with seed starting this spring. The potting mix I bought from Home Depot is the worst. It's like oil -- it doesn't so much mix with water as resist it. So the self watering container isn't doing a lot. The seedlings we started in a different mix have sprouted, but now there is the weird pink mold stuff on the outside of the containers. I need to try to transplant them into larger containers, but I worry that the root system isn't established enough to take that kind of trauma. Le sigh. Worst case scenario is we focus on the direct seed plants the most and buy seedlings for tomatos, peppers, and chard. Worse things have happened.

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