We all get broody from time to time…it’s a natural part of being a woman. In the hen world, it seems that broodiness is just as prevalent.
I’ve had one particular hen, Helen, who has always seemed particularly susceptible to broodiness. She is a Black Australorp. ‘Broody’ means the hen wants to sit on the eggs and hatch them. It’s a normal, God-given instinct…otherwise, there would be no more hens reproduced. I’ve read that it’s actually hormonal. A broody hen sitting on a nest is ‘in the zone’! She spaces out, and her manner is subdued. A broody hen can be a little temperamental during this time. She will often screech at you when you come into the hen house. She doesn’t want to be touched! Otherwise…all she does…is SIT!
Often, Helen will remain broody, even when there are no eggs to sit on. Since I collect the eggs several times a day, there is no ‘clutch’-a collection of eggs- to sit on. To the Egg Farmer, ‘broodiness’ is not a desirable thing to happen. The hen stops laying eggs while she is broody. The hen can become malnourished and lose a lot of weight because she doesn’t eat regularly while she is broody. She can become infested with mites since she does not go out to dust. Her sole focus is to hatch those eggs at all costs and that is ALL she wants to do! Most Egg Farmers try to break the hen of her broodiness in various different ways, but it’s often futile. She will inevitably run back to the nest, just as the tide is drawn to the seashore.
Some of you might not know, so just to bring you up to snuff…a hen can lay eggs without a rooster. If you want fertilized eggs, you must have a rooster.
We don’t have roosters at this time. Helen had been broody for about a week already when we decided to order some fertilized eggs for her to sit on. We wanted to see if she could hatch them and raise them as a hen would do in the wild. Most Egg Farmers buy day old chicks to start their flock. If they decide to buy fertilized eggs, they incubate them artificially and then keep the chicks under a heat lamp, rather than do it the traditional way with a hen as the Mama doing her thang.
This is an experiment for us. I can see the ‘Chicken Police’ convulsing right now. Just to let you know, too, (in case there are any ‘Chicken Police’ reading right now who think it’s deplorable that I might leave it the Mother Hen to raise the chicks and be exposed to sickness, disease and predators)…I eat chicken. Yes, you heard that right. I have even had my hand deep in the bowels of a dead chicken and I pulled the innards out with my own bare hand. I hasten to add that it was one of the neighbors’ meat birds, and I didn’t do the killin’.
My current hens are my dear pets, and I can’t fathom eating them. In this future flock, some will be roosters, since we can’t control the sex of the egg. If there are too many roosters, we will have to kill them and eat them. I’m also not going to name this flock. I’ll try to distance myself from them. At the current rate things are proceeding, there is no telling how soon ‘life as we know it’ will end, and we’ll have to eat chicken to survive! Maybe chicken in the grocery store will become so expensive that we won’t be able to afford to buy it anymore! (…a loaf of bread for a days’ wage, and all that.)
I just needed to get all of that out in the open. Whew! I feel better now. We’ll see if I can actually follow through with the ‘killin’. It will actually be BUD who does the killin’, but it will be ME who does the allowin’ of the killin’.
The place I ordered the eggs from has a 95% hatch rate, meaning that it’s not a 100% sure thing that all of the eggs have been fertilized. We can only assume that the Rooster was ‘doin’ it’ with all of the hens at the time the egg was making it’s trek to the cloaca–the posterior orifice of the chicken.
It takes 21 days for the eggs to incubate and hatch. I read one article by a chicken owner that swore it was 20 days. Regardless, it’s ‘pert near time for the chicks to be hatching. My estimate is today or tomorrow if all has gone well.
Helen has been an excellent mother! She has been faithful to sit on those eggs! She has never had a clutch of them to sit on…most of the time she has had to sit on air because the evil egg collector stole them away just when she had finally found an egg to sit on!
Helen’s concentration is palpable.
I have been putting meal worms and scratch in front of her twice a day along with water twice a day. To the Chicken Police (because I know you are here, and I invited you buy tagging this post with the word ‘chicken’) –she would not touch the laying feed which I offered her. I’m making every effort to offer her as much nutrition as she will take.
About every two days, Helen jumps off the nest and flies out of the hen house cackling. The sight of it really paints a crystal-clear picture of what ‘flying the coop’ really means. All of the literature says that the mother hen instinctively knows how long she can leave the eggs she has been incubating without repercussion, and I can say it’s TRUE! She has never been gone more than about 30 minutes or so, and after she has stretched her legs, pecked at nibblets on the ground, and sometimes dusted in the dirt, she dutifully goes back to the nest, and back into ‘the zone’.
I’m hoping that I have some good news to report in the next few days!