Last night, I snuck out to the coop well after dark to candle Olive’s egg. She laid this egg last Saturday morning at about ten in the morning and has been sitting on it ever since. However, because she has been getting up frequently and is only thirty weeks old, I was unsure how successful her attempt at brooding would be.
Well, it appears that her little lone egg is developing perfectly. The shape clearly resembles the “clam shape” I observed in my incubated eggs this spring, and all of those exhibiting this shape did eventually hatch. (The dark spots are just bumps or thicker deposits of calcium which are blocking more light.) I also saw some movement which was exciting. I wish she was sitting on more than one egg so that her efforts will not go unrewarded if something goes wrong, but if this egg does not survive to hatch, I will probably find a chick or two for her to raise if she is still brooding.
According to Window to an Egg by Geraldine Lux Flannagan (more about this book later), this six-day old chick has a little tail, wings, toes and newly developed eyes along with ears, nostrils, mouth, and brain. The pictures below show the approximate development of Olive’s little egg. Just two weeks until we find out whether this little guy (what are the odds it won’t be a rooster?) will hatch.
In the meantime, I need to decide how I will handle the situation. Chicks are often pecked by other members of the flock, occasionally fatally. My feeder, waterer, and stairs out into the run are not accessible to a chick. Many, perhaps most, would separate the broody momma and her chick until the little guy grows up, providing waterers and feeders to both momma and chick, making sure that she can’t eat the chick starter. Indeed, they would have separated her as soon as she began to brood to make sure that other hens didn’t disturb her egg or add late eggs to the clutch. With my hens’ laying habits, that has been no problem. Yet, with this method, there are sometimes difficulties reintegrating the hen back into the flock.
Other fanciers just let the mother hen do as she likes and trust that she will have the instincts to protect her young. They make sure that chick starter is available and water is accessible and leave it at that. Still others section off part of the existing coop to contain momma and chick where they are still able to interact with the flock but are protected. I see benefits and risks with each method and haven’t yet decided what to do.
In the meantime, Olive’s the cutest darn thing I have seen in a while. I hope her chick continues to develop.