Vanilla has so completely regressed into chick behaviour that it is proving very difficult to break. Today I have tried a change of tactic. I decided that it would be better to shut Flame out of the chicken shed to try to break her of being broody. I am leaving vanilla in the shed but getting her out at regular intervals to eat, drink and exercise.
This is less stressful for Vanilla because yesterday she spent all her time pacing the patio and trying to get in to the shed. This way she just calmly settles down in the corner of the shed.
Shutting both Flame and Vanilla out of the shed doesn’t work as they spend their entire time with Vanilla sitting underneath Flame. Yesterday afternoon I cleaned out the chicken shed and the three nest boxes. I emptied them and hoovered every surface and then refilled them with fresh pine shavings and swept the patio area and cleaned the food and water dishes.
This took more than an hour and as the girls don’t like to get near the hoover it kept them away from the patio area but Flame and Vanilla spent the entire time with Vanilla sitting underneath Flame either in the run or on one of the wooden blocks.
This morning I got them both out for a break and blocked the chicken shed to stop them going straight back in. Once they had had some food and water Flame sat just outside the pop hole. Vanilla immediately started her chick behaviour. She will jump up and peck at the back of Flame’s neck for attention. She will climb all over Flame and sit on top of her. Flame is remarkably tolerant. Eventually Vanilla will force herself beneath Flame.
I am amazed how tolerant Flame is with Vanilla. Richard, the farmer, keeps these bantam game birds as broodies for his bantam gold and silver wyndottes. He comes from a farming family background and breeds the traditional way of putting eggs under the broodies to let them hatch and rear the chicks whereas my serama breeder puts the eggs in an incubator and rears the chicks with heat pads.
Richard says that these game girls make excellent broodies and really good mothers. I must have struck lucky with Toffee and Emerald because they never went broody while we had them. Flame is just proving to be everything Richard said that his broody girls are.
Quite why Vanilla has taken on the role of chick is a mystery. Vanilla was much later starting to lay than the other girls. Smoke and Marmite started laying in December and all the other girls (not counting Sienna) started laying in January. Vanilla started laying in March and laid twenty four eggs in six weeks before going broody. It was shortly after that that Flame went broody and started sitting with her. Then a few days later I realised that Flame was sitting on Vanilla, or as I now realise, Vanilla was sitting underneath Flame.
I think it may be a long process to break this behaviour. At first it seemed interesting and even quite cute but now it’s become irritating. It’s more difficult to cope with than just having broodies. I wonder how long it will be before Vanilla grows up again and starts egg laying again.
I guess only time will tell.