Spring is getting closer by the day, and that means babies of all kinds will not be far behind. Kim is quite keen to start raising chicks this year, which means collecting fertile eggs and incubating them. More on her incubator plans in a future post. But unless we're looking for some interesting cross-breeds, this means the Australorps and the Orpingtons need to be segregated for about a month before fertile egg collecting begins.
To that end, Kim has turned over two linked enclosures to the Australorps. But because they won't have free access to the coop during the day, she had to build a new set of boxes just for Gertie and Alice.
She started with the extra set of boxes we pulled from the coop when we got it ready last summer, replaced the panel at the front with a taller one to keep the wood shavings from spilling out, and added a rail for roosting and a metal roof with a generous overhang all around to keep off the rain. We raised it to a good height on cement blocks and then turned it over to the hens.
Kim wasn't sure how they would take to their new box, so she planted a fake egg in one of the boxes to give them the right idea. [The egg came with the antique egg scale I got her for Christmas, shown here with a real egg.]
We sadly underestimated Gertie and Alice's competence in all things egg-related: not only did they each lay a beautiful egg the very first day, they kicked the impostor out onto the ground. How did they know? Can you tell the difference?
Okay, so maybe it wasn't that difficult to tell. But still, we were impressed. And so were Pee Wee and the Orpingtons, who kept tabs on all the goings on from the other side of the fence.
All three Australorps are making good use of the boxes in other ways, too. On Saturday it rained all day, a soaking, persistent rain that made everyone miserable. The Orpingtons could let themselves into the coop to stay dry, but not Hector and the Hens. We needn't have worried: they snuggled under the overhang and stayed comfortably dry. One hen even bunked down underneath the whole structure, in between the two stacks of cement blocks.
What smart chickies.