MAN, this girl has it bad.
Abby has returned to the daily rhythm of the flock, and, even if she squawks and struts on occasion and cries in front of her blocked-off nest before mounting the roosts at night, she is eating and going about a chicken’s bidness.
Her comb, if it’s not a wish-fulfillment hallucination, is slightly pinker today, and she had a Timbit-sized crop when she went to bed last night. (For those in the US, that’s a doughnut hole. Yes, that IS how one spells “doughnut”. On accounta it’s made of dough. Sorry. Ex-pat Canadian rant over. Happy Canada Day!!!!)
In short, I’m not worried about Abby. She’s hanging with her girls, she’s dust bathing, she even raced toward me this morning at my cry of “looklooklooklooklook“, which is Heedley’s Hens for “Mommy’s got treats for y’all ‘n you better git yer fluffy butt over here afore Trixie bogarts ’em”.
I am, however, worried about Buffy.
I can keep her from the eggs she was incubating. I can keep her from the nest she was in. I can force her to sleep in the coop at night. I can even keep her from nesting by keeping her in a crate outside and temporarily lower her body temperature by dunking her in cold water.
But I can’t force her to eat.
The girl is entranced. There’s just no other word for it. She is in a daze. After I dunk her, sure, she stays outside and doesn’t attempt to enter the barn. She preens and curses. She looks as though she’s behaving normally. But then. she just…stands there. She’ll spend hours in the old garden, ostensibly taking a dust bath, but she doesn’t move. And she doesn’t eat.
At roost time last night, I felt her chest and found her crop to be completely empty. Flat. At bedtime, a chicken’s crop should be full to bursting. Pip’s and Tallulah’s are regularly the size of tennis balls.
I have to believe her time in the crate is helping. She’s standing, for one, and in the shade on cool grass with breezes blowing, all of which keeps her cooler than if she were nesting somewhere indoors. Her naked belly is still very warm to the touch, and she’s been dunked six times now. She may not be brooding, but her body is still broody.
I have had some success in tempting her to eat if the following requirements are met: 1) it has to be super tasty, and 2) it needs to be surprising.
If the second condition is not met, she will appear not to even see it after a while. There’s no point, I’ve learned, in putting a large pile of corn and sunflower seeds out for her (calories are the main concern at this point); after a certain point, she doesn’t even seem to know it’s there. The presence of the treat has to shock her out of her trance.
I prepared two scrambled eggs with some uncooked large flake oatmeal for her this morning. She was surprised enough to eat ravenously for about twenty seconds, enough to eat about half the egg; then she went back into her trance. That was a very good result.
The other hens got the rest, and they were pissed that Buffy had first go at their favourite treat. They were all assembled outside the crate, screaming “what the hell??!!“, trying to get their heads between the bars.
I’ll keep trying every few hours. And, if I keep giving the rest of the girls treats around the crate, it may help Buffy feel more a member of the flock.
I’m all ears, chickeneers, if anyone has suggestions on how to break Buffy’s body of broodiness. I think the efficacy of the dunking is nearing its end, and the effects seem to be temporary for her, anyway. What next: keep her in an air conditioned room?
How can I get her body temperature to break?