So we have a bit of a chicken situation in the hen house.
When we got hens maybe you remember me mentioning that I was reading this fantastic book by Harvey Ussery. In the book I skimmed everything. Wanting to be totally, utterly, mildly informed on the livestock that was entering the premises. But my knowledge and memory has waned over the last year, in the day to day doings of feeding, gathering, cleaning, and giggling at these silly birds and their antics. Over the last few weeks though, something has changed and it's left me scratching my head.
It's when your hen is ready to sit. She wants to be a momma. She's ready to rock and roll. There's just one problem. We don't have a rooster. And as you know, it takes two to tango. Well I hope you know that. If you don't...go talk to your mother.
It all started with my wicked chicken Doris, spending an awful lot of time in one nesting box. I just kept collecting eggs, snatching them from her because, well, she let me. Then Doris gave up. Next in line was Gail. Then SHE started spending time in the nesting box. She stopped coming out for kitchen scraps. Then she started pecking at us when we reached in for eggs. When we would open the nesting box she was in this deep trance like state, kinda like when the hens are roosted for the night. Very zen...until you bothered her. Broody. Crud.
She's stopped laying, doesn't have eggs, and we just keep hoping she will break of it. Last night Jerrel suggested I get my Chicken Bible out and read up on what Harvey had to say. So I did and I learned a few things.
- Many chickens today don't go broody. The breading selection process doesn't see broody as a desirable trait. It's a job that can be done by an incubator and broody hens don't lay after a certain point so they aren't being productive in the industry's eye. So today, generally, hens just don't go broody, they have "forgotten" how.
Say what you want about factory farming and mass production but when a creature of Creation "forgets" to do something that is vital to the continuing of the species...that's sad. And a little scary.
- She will usually only go broody once a year.
- You know she's broody when she won't move from nest and when she is "unfriendly" when you try to take eggs. Bingo.
- You can break broodiness by moving her to a different area, away from her flock, without bedding.
We had been leaving her alone. We thought surely with the move she will break it herself. That kind of upheaval can't continue the cycle, right? But what did Gail do? She went right back into her nesting box. Dang.
Harvey's suggestion is going to happen now. So I'm off to make some kind of chicken pen with a dog carrier because it's what I got. Some kind of set up that when my husband comes home he will say, "What in the world..." Because obviously my girl Gail has a serious hankering to be a momma but I've got nothing for her, she's got nothing for her. But I appreciate her broodiness now. It's nice to know she's still got it.