Sunday, May 13, 2012

Brooding...and I Don't Mean Young Vampires!

At the beginning of May, I posted a picture on our Facebook page of some of the hens laying their eggs in the goats hay bin.  Now, one of the Ameraucana hens won't leave the hay bin!  The first few days I gently snuck underneath her and collected the eggs, as I do with all The Hens.  By day three, she resisted a little more strongly, giving me the hardest peck I've received from a hen and making a rather angry squawk!  She continued to almost growl at me as I stood beside her, so I backed away.  Yo ho!  Is one of our hens getting that 'mothering' feeling?

Hens lay eggs, it's what they do.  No rooster required, no special feed, it's just what they do - you can't stop them and why would you?  If no rooster is around, the eggs would never produce chicks.  If a rooster is present, and the hen is allowed to sit on the eggs for three weeks, a chick will develop if that egg has been fertilized.  With two roosters and forty seven hens, it's very possible some of our hens are not getting any, ummm, male attention; roosters seem to like a harem of about ten or twelve females.  When a hen wants to sit on the eggs and have babies, it's called 'going broody'.  It's quite an investment of her time: a mother hen will keep those eggs warm almost twenty four hours a day, only leaving for a short period each day to eat, drink and 'freshen up' a bit.

In our five years or so of having chickens, we've never had a hen go broody.  Our reading tells us that the instinct has almost been bred out of many varieties; the Leghorns and Isa Browns we've had the longest have never shown any inclination to have babies.  Our potential Mama is an Ameraucana, we have no idea if she's been mated, or if the Daddy would be Rocky the Barred Rock or Buddy the Ameraucana.  We've also noticed that the hen as adopted other eggs laid in the hay bin, a mix of Black Sex Link and Isa Brown eggs.  She's currently sitting on eight eggs.  She's showing classic signs of going broody: the protective instinct and unusual warning calls, her body is low and flat covering all the eggs, she's there almost all the time, she has a far-away, glazed look in her eyes.

All we can do is wait three weeks and see what happens.  It would be wonderful if we could be self-sufficient in chicks, so to speak.  We have already ordered twenty new chicks, for delivery at the end of May, so we may have quite the flock of babies here!  I'm already worrying about whether they'll fall out of the hay bin and hurt themselves!  As the old saying goes:  Time will Tell!  I'll keep you posted, check our Facebook page for weekly updates!


  1. I had no idea that brooding was actually bred out of the chickens. Although it makes sense it also seems really sad too that a trait so necessary for the survival of chickens as a whole is being removed from them.

  2. I'm pretty sure that because the chicks are like cute cotton balls they can fall surprisingly far and just kind of bounce and be just fine :)