"In all labor there is profit.", the saying goes. I learned a big one this spring. Last year I used the empty rabbit cages to put hens in when they became broody. Cardboard in the bottom and pine shavings and the hens were thrilled, happily remaining on her eggs until all eggs that were going to hatch, did. It worked great!
But then entered difficulties that accompany a daughter who has been diagnosed with cancer. Things at home did not get done and that included thinning the rabbit population. Hence, the great set up last year with using the rabbit cages was not available. No big deal right? I can just put the first two setters together in the small chicken coop. It is cozy, warm, and plenty of room for two to choose a nesting site. The food and water was nearby and I would be dealing with only one set up and not two in separate rabbit cages. The first few days worked great. Then the bossy hen on the left stole all the eggs from the hen on the right leaving her screaming at the top of her lungs in indignation. Not knowing which eggs were which, I had to leave them with bossy pants and turn the to be first time mama outside. The question then became whether the brown hen would sit on the eggs long enough to hatch them all since they were different ages.
Then a black hen decided to lay and with the Tulsa trip looming, I put her inside as well and crossed my fingers. While gone, our daughter complained that some of the eggs had begun to smell. I told her to hang in there, I'd be back shortly. Shortly turned in to six days and the whole time I was praying that the brown hen would not interrupt the black hen. I came home to a stinking coop and planned on doing something the next day when the brown hen hatched two chicks and was running all around in a tizzy worrying over them. She had forgotten the eggs she was suppose to be setting on. They were now cold and dead. Maybe it was my mood after a long week at Tulsa but I snatched up her chicks and shooed her out into the yard. The chicks I put under a heat lamp. I was in no mood to baby her when she had only 2.
The 2 chicks would not be alone for long since Australorps were due into the feed store any day. My Australorps did not come but ducks did. Now we had 2 ducks and 2 chicks, with Australorps joining them the next week and a couple days later four ducks. That was when I discovered two chicks running around with the black hen. She had abandoned her other eggs too. This set up definitely does not work. We now have quite the batch of mismatch ages of ducks and chicks. Its okay, they get along fine and a big lesson was learned - use the rabbit cages for broody hens. That is where the profit comes in - maybe not financially but I now know what does not work for us.