April 21, 2013 by suchandsuchfarm
Friday night I rushed home from work to see what Ms. Broody Pants was up to. One of our buff orpingtons had been sitting on her eggs for 20 days so I was almost sure that when I got home I would see some chicks. But alas, no chicks. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be, maybe the chill last week was too much for her. But Saturday morning I went out to the coop to check on the chickens and looked in her nesting box. A tiny yellow chick with a black spot on its forehead was peeking out from underneath Ms. Broody Pants. She did it!! She hatched a chick! HORRRRRAAAAY!!!! I ran to the house to grab my camera and by the time I got back out there were three tiny faces peeking out from underneath her wings. Three beautiful chicks! I’m such a proud grand-chicken-momma.
Now let’s talk a little bit about broodiness. “Hey Such and Such Farm, what the hell is broodiness?” Well, I’m glad you asked that, reader person… or city folk. Broodiness is the natural instinct to sit on a group of eggs (called a clutch), hatch them and raise chicks. Once a hen has decided that she wants to hatch a clutch, she’ll sit on those eggs for 21 days, only getting up every once in a while to eat, drink and take a dump (broody hens make some really stanky dookie). She will hatch anything while she’s broody. She could sit on any hen’s eggs, turkey eggs, duck eggs, you name it. She just wants to be a momma. After she hatches the chicks, she’ll raise them, keep them warm, teach them to eat and drink, etc. And that’s what broodiness is.
“But Such and Such Farm, why do chickens need to GO broody? Don’t all living things have the natural drive to reproduce?” Well, reader person… or city folk, you’re a sharp one, aren’t ya? Broodiness has been selectively bred out of many domestic breeds of chickens and ALL commercial breeds of chickens. You see, when a hen is broody, she is sitting on eggs and not laying them. As you can guess, the last thing a commercial egg house or a farmer who needs to feed his family wants is for a chicken to stop laying eggs. So for hundreds of years people have “broken” the broodiness out of hens by physically removing her eggs or taking her off the clutch. Over time, these hens actually lost the desire to sit on eggs. They lost the desire to reproduce, which is crazy because even single cell organisms and bugs have the desire to reproduce and survive, it’s the two main drives of any living organism.
At any rate, here at Such and Such Farm, we support single chicken mothers. If a hen wants to go broody and we have an open brooder box, we let her have a go at it. Our goal is to raise chickens that can be part of a self sustaining flock; good egg layers, good foragers, good mommas, and good table birds.
This is our first experience with a broody hen, let alone a broody hen hatching her own chicks. (Actually, I lied. We had another buff orpington go broody this winter but it got too cold for her and she abandoned her eggs). It was a very nerve wracking experience but at least next time we’ll be more prepared. The only problem is that our broody hen chose to brood in a nesting box that is outside and 4 feet off the ground with curious hens all around. A dangerous place to raise delicate little chicks. The plan is to move her and the chicks into a safer brooder box that’s attached to the chicken coop. But that will have to wait until Sunday. And that will be done while wearing welding gloves because Ms. Broody Pants is one mean… well, you know.
I’m really excited to see what these chicks will end up looking like… we have an easter egger rooster and a wyandotte rooster over buff orpington, easter egger, rhode island red and light sussex hens. Three cute little barnyard mix chicks, way to go Ms. Broody Pants! Someone pass me a cigar!
SUNDAY UPDATE: I went out to check on Ms. Broody Pants to see how her first night with the chicks went. Well, the chicks were extra active in the nesting box. So active, in fact that one little chick stepped out of the nesting box, slipped through a crack and fell like a fluffy ping pong ball to the ground. I panicked and so did Ms. Broody Pants! I swooped in to pick up the chick but Ms. Broody Pants didn’t like that very much. She started making a scene, screaming at me to put down her baby and leave her alone! I carefully put the chick in the brooder that I had so nicely prepared for them and Ms. Broody Pants flew up into the brooder to be with her baby. I peeked inside the nesting box and there were four more chicks in the nesting box! She had five chicks!!! Five!!! FIVE OF THEM!
I took the chicks from the nesting box and placed all of them in the brooder with her and close the doors to give them some privacy. I was trying to help but Ms. Broody Pants did not see it that way. After they were all safely inside the brooder together, she started teaching them to eat and drink. But now they’re all settled in for the night, nestled underneath her. She’s a great momma, I couldn’t be more proud of her!