Well, the story of Olive’s egg does not have a happy ending. I expected to either have a fuzzy little chick running around or an egg which simply never hatched. What I did not expect was for the chick to hatch, around noon last Sunday, only to be pushed away and ignored by Olive. By the time we checked in, around one o’clock, the poor thing was half frozen. My husband gathered him up in his warm hands and brought him down to the house. I fired up the Genesis 1588, which was up to 99.5 degrees in only about ten minutes, and we laid him in the warmth on a little fuzzy washcloth, but it was too late. I think he may already have been dead by that point. In case you are curious, he was feathered just like a Speckled Sussex chick, so Lazzie was the father. Full of regret, we buried the little guy under one of the apple trees in the yard. Sigh – such is the cycle of life.
We have been very lucky. Up until this point, we have not lost one chick (which hatched) or chicken to genetic problems, malformations, illness, or predators. Out of eighteen chicks which hatched here and two birds brought in from outside, this has been our only loss. We have perhaps been graced by beginner’s luck. That said, I think we are both wary of Olive’s mothering skills at this point, but it is possible that Olive saw some defect which we did not perceive.
Without a chick to tend, Olive is still broody, even today, a full week after her unfortunate hatch. We have been taking her off of her nest tens of times each day, and she will even range with the others for an hour or so before the inevitable “What am I doing?!? I have to sit on my (nonexistant) egg!!!” moment, after which she runs back to the coop to settle into her empty nest box. Every night, she is still in the nest box and not on the roost. I don’t see a good case for putting more eggs under her, so for now we are stuck with doing what we wanted to avoid in the beginning – breaking a broody. But, with her eating, drinking, and ranging, the situation is not so dire and we will continue to use the gentlest methods possible.
Despite the sad end, I have learned a lot from this brief experience with my little broody, and as a result, I will be much more well-prepared should I be faced with more broodies this spring. In the meantime, we have our first winter ahead of us still.