Not every hen that goes broody succeeds in her task to raise a new family. We’ve had a few notable exceptions at our place.
There was the hen who sat on two eggs until they hatched, and then literally led them to the chicken yard and abandoned them. I didn’t even know that she was sitting–I didn’t even know which hen it was! I had to hustle and set up a heat lamp and a box for those two, and we raised them to adulthood.
Also there was Ginger (more about her later!), an orangey hen with psycho tendencies who sat on eggs until they hatched, and then savagely attacked the babies as they emerged from their eggs. I’ll write the entire story later, because it’s a good one and includes (as so many great stories do!) my son Andrew, a dangerous thunderstorm, and an emergency run to the store for an incubator. And my birthday, I think.
I’ve had several hens who have settled down on eggs for a week or two, have gotten bored, and then decided that they were done, and have given up on the whole project. Usually I haven’t found out about their abandonment until the eggs have chilled and the growing chicks inside have died.
I had a feeling that our Babes would be an excellent sitter, and she has been. Little Mack and I have carefully checked on her every day, providing her with fresh water, food, and treats from the garden. We just about can’t stand the waiting, though. We are not a patient people.
We’ve only had one upsetting event: one morning when Mack and I were out doing our chicken chores, he came running to me, panicked and yelling. “Mom! The door is open and there are big chickens–and Lucy!–in the nursery with poor Babes!”
I had been afraid that this might happen at some point in the process. The other chickens jump on the door that separates the main part of the coop with the nursery, and sometimes the door will jiggle open. Since Babes has food in the nursery, and the other chickens have to wait until morning for their breakfast, they crowded in and ate all her food. That wasn’t the worst part, though. When we rushed into the nursery to shoo the big chickens out, they all crowded into the corner, to get away from us, right smack onto of little Babes.
Including big ole’ Lucy.
We shooed the big hens out and I picked Lucy up and carried her out, and we hurried back in to check on our little Babes. This kind of a disturbance might just discourage another less dedicated little mama, and cause her to leave her nest for good. But Babes was unruffled. She calmly re-positioned herself on her eggs, and resumed her concentration. What dedication! She’s a Midwestern chicken, you know. If she could talk, I’m sure she would have said “These things happen.”
We’ve since made sure that that door cannot get opened by mistake. (Baling wire and lots of it, if you’re wondering how!)
So now we’ve just got two days to wait. If Babes has done her job correctly, the eggs should start hatching Saturday night or Sunday morning, and by Monday, Babes should have a new little family to care for!
- Ninety minutes in Brainard, Nebraska
- Ponca Family Camping