I am telling this story in hindsight because while this was going on and I had taken some photos the situation with Salmon happened and that took precedence.
The after effect of this story is still happening now though so I have decided to tell it now.
First Smoke went broody. Then Sugar went broody. Then Flame went broody. Flame has always preferred to lay her eggs in a nest box with another girl for company and she had been laying her eggs in the nest box with broody Sugar.
Broody Smoke would be in one nest box and broody Sugar and Flame would be together in the nest box next door. Having three broody girls at once was a bit of a pain and egg laying had dropped right off.
I decided to close the nest boxes and try to break them out of it. Smoke soon gave up. When I checked in on the girls I would find Sugar under Flame’s wing.
Sometimes Sugar would be pushing herself right underneath Flame and sometimes Flame would have her wing right over Sugar’s body. Flame would call Sugar to any titbits. Flame was mothering Sugar and Sugar had regressed back to being a chick.
Sounds familiar? I have been here before. This is exactly what happened with Flame and Vanilla in the past. It seems to be instigated by Flame. Flame wants so much to be a mum that it seems that when she is broody and finds herself next to a sitting little girl she mothers that little girl.
I can only think that this sparks a hormonal response in the little girl and she happily plays the role of a chick. I knew from past experience that I needed to break this as soon as possible or it could go on for a very long time.
I decided to put Flame in the dog crate, on the bench, in the garden shed like I had done before. I put in a dish of mash as it makes less mess and a dish of water and left the shed door open with a screen in front of it. At night I would close and lock the shed door.
I knew from past experience this wouldn’t take long and in fact it only took two days and two nights. I put Flame back in the run for a break and some exercise three times a day while I closed the nest box Sugar was in so that they couldn’t see each other.
Flame would either be eating the mash or just sitting while in the dog crate. If she wasn’t in there she would be just sitting in a nest box so it wasn’t a hardship for her. When I put her back in the run she would scratch and dust bath. Once finished she would go and sit on top of a closed nest box and that would be my signal to put her back in the crate again.
After two days Flame didn’t go and sit on the nest box after her dust bath. I tried shutting Sugar out of the nest box and waited to see what would happen. Flame took no notice of Sugar so after only two days of separation I had broken Flame out of this.
I tried keeping the nest boxes closed as I wanted to try to break Sugar out of this and as we were only getting one egg per day I would open a nest box when I could see that a girl wanted to lay.
The next and very odd thing that happened was that once Flame stopped mothering Sugar I think that Sugar transferred to me being mum. Every time I would walk through the gate Sugar would fly on to my back or sometimes my head.
No matter how many times I lifted Sugar back down she would instantly fly on to me again. I tried bending down and trying to tip her on to the nest box but she would just counter balance on me. If Sugar was on my head I could easily reach up and lift her down but when in the middle of my back she was difficult to reach.
I would slide my fingers under Sugar’s feet and lift her down that way. I tried taking a few photos but just aimed blindly and hoped for the best.
This has now been going on for two weeks and Sugar shows no sign of coming out of this yet. If I close the nest boxes she flies on to me all the time. I have got used to doing my chicken chores with Sugar on my back. If I open the nest boxes she goes straight in and sits.
My husband says Sugar is a crazy chicken which probably fits in with me being a crazy chicken woman. He did suggest I should perhaps try to block her but I haven’t the heart to. I have never come across this behaviour before.
This isn’t doing any harm apart from being slightly inconvenient at times so I will just wait to see if she eventually comes out of this.
In other news Smoke laid her first egg today after two weeks. Smoke was only one week broody and then another weeks break. It has been ten days since Flame last laid so I expect she will resume laying again soon. Ebony is back to laying every other day.
Salmon is now completely back to normal. I haven’t helped her today at all as I have seen her at the water and at the dishes of mash as well as having some spinach. We will just have to wait and see what happens when she is ready to lay again.
And that is all the latest news from our crazy chicken run.