The chooks have all been very nervous since losing Rufous, but yesterday I think they finally started to settle down. I hope Stevie grows up quickly, because they really feel lost without a mature rooster in the group.
I thought the eggs had been abandoned, but no... we may have chicks after all!
From my reading, it is possible to collect the eggs, store them somewhere cool, and then when you have enough, pop them all under a broody hen, and as soon as they warm up, gestation starts. It then takes about 18 days until hatching.
Well, Rosie stopped sitting on the nest, but Ruby took over! She is missing Rufous the most, having been his second-in-command. She can't fill that function with Stevie (having bossed him around for so long that she finds it hard to take him seriously as leader!) His second-in-command is turning out to be the youngest hen, HennyPenny - so called because she always looked scared, like the sky was falling! The youngest rooster has been named Chicken Little for the same reason. However, HennyPenny has suddenly become brave and bossy now that Stevie is in charge (at least, a little bit more than before). This left Ruby without a job... I guess she saw the eggs sitting there and decided to take over the role of hatching Rufous' last babies ;)
Rosie wasn't too sure about this!!!
Once she realised Ruby was sitting on her eggs, she decided she wanted to sit on them again. Ruby wasn't budging, so Rosie tried to sit ON Ruby!
Eventually, Rosie managed to burrow her way underneath Ruby and take her place.
Rosie just doesn't seem to have Ruby's stubborness though. They both leave the nest to feed, and some nights neither of them have sat on it, and when I check in the morning the eggs feel quite cold, so I don't think they have actually started 'incubating' them yet. (We are having a really cold autumn so far.) After today, neither of them should be fertile any more from their matings with Rufous, so I might give them a few more days to make sure, and then start collecting any new eggs that are laid - there are eight in the nest now...
Today it is POURING with rain. I went out to check on them and found Ruby sitting happily on the nest, and Rosie on the perch supervising (this photo was taken the other day, before Rosie tried climbing in on top of Ruby, but it is exactly their position today.) Ruby is sitting on the eggs, and Rosie is supervising!
It is not the kind of day when either of them would be likely to want to leave a nice warm nest, so I am going to guess that today is the start of incubating, and keep track, just so I have a rough idea of when chickens might be due to hatch.
As for what happened to Rufous, Yeti checked him over and reported that he was strong and showed no signs of illness. His opinion, based on his years in the commercial chicken industry, is that Rufous had a heart attack while engaged in a strenuous activity (apparently that's quite common with roosters). This means his heart probably burst while making new chickens ;P no wonder the hens are upset! He ended up being quietly cremated, as Yeti was burning off a pile of fallen trees and had a nice hot fire going. I'm still going to buy him a rosebush though!