Holy cow, y’all- it’s all broody hens all the time here.
Last summer, we started adding some Buff Orpington genes into our Farmlet Mutt flock. They’re BIG birds, sweet, good layers- all characteristics we wanted. But of course, they’re good brooders as well. While this has been bred out of most modern hybrid chicken breeds, a broody hen wants to settle into a quiet, dark place with a nest full of eggs for 21 days, until they hatch as nature intends.
Over the last 3 years, we’ve been taking our fertile eggs and incubating them, allowing us to select a time (and a place) that’s convenient for the Farmlet women, rather than for the chicken in question. But with Buffy’s offspring making up the bulk of our current flock of hens, EVERYONE wants to sit a nest of eggs right now.
This would be fine, except we really only have one good space to finish the process, the large brooder on the floor of the coop. Maximum occupancy: one single hen and her offspring. Or in the neighborhood of 15 incubator chicks. If there’s THREE hens all dead set on raising their own, the nest boxes are full of giant foofy pissed off hens, all trying to keep the eggs for themselves, thank you very much. Not good for egg production- as they totally stop laying during this process. And they’re super mean to other hens that just want to get in there and get their work done.
Of the three current broodies, our girl Taura started first, so she’s the winner winner – she’s been sitting for 18 days or so, and we’ll be seeing chicks before you know it. The other two, though, are going to have to get a new hobby.
Now, going broody is a hormonal process, but it’s triggered by the longer days and hotter weather, and can be disrupted, at least theoretically. One school of thought says to basically confuse the chicken- take her off her nice warm dark nest, take the eggs away, carry her around for a while, give her a snack. This hopefully gets her interested in other things, and she gives up sitting. Taking them out of the nest at twilight and putting them back on the roost with the other chickens is also helpful.
We’ve been trying all the things, so there’s been a lot of chicken-walking. Imagine two grown women cuddling annoyed hens, chatting them up, showing them the fascinating scenery in different parts of the yard. It worked for Spotty, who’s hanging out with her flock mates again, giving the adolescent roosters what for- but poor Owlet is just dead set on staying in that nest, even with no eggs.
So, she’s in Chicken Jail. Poor baby- locked up in the dog crate for a day in the shade, with food and water all for her, but all she wants to do is get let out, so she can run back to her nest full of (imaginary) eggs. She’s been perching on top of the water jar in her crate, hissing at us as we go in and out of the house. Tomorrow, she’ll get to go hang out with the flock again, all her dreams of offspring thwarted.
It’s really hard, when your biological clock is ticking.
Until next time (where there will be baby chickens),