So this week, my charming Buff Orpington hen, Harriet, decided to get a little melodramatic about being mother-less. She staged a strike, of sorts, and refused to budge off her nesting space (which, by the way, isn’t even IN a nesting box…she CONSISTANTLY lays her eggs underneath one of the boxes…she’s the only one that does that).
I can’t tell you why, but I had a feeling this was coming. I wasn’t surprised to see her glued to her private nesting space, unwilling to move. However, it did take me two days to catch on. The first day, I just thought she was a bit late in laying, as she was still out under the nesting box when I went to gather eggs.
But the next day I came out and she was still in the same spot. If I reached in to touch her, she’d puff up big and start making little noises–warning me to be careful. The noises sounded a lot like a dolphin (you know, like when they’re half way out of the water and ‘talking’ to their trainers…that kind of noise) to me. She did let me pet her (she’s my favorite and very tame), and feed her little grains of ‘chicken candy’ (cracked corn), but she wasn’t budging.
Harriet’s done gone broody! What now?
I knew I could help her over this ‘difficult time’ as her hormones rage telling her that its time to settle down and have a family…or…I could wait a couple of weeks and ‘plant’ some live babies under her to make her think she did it herself…or…I could give her some fertilized eggs and let nature run its course.
I knew what I wanted to do before I even made it to the house. I’d already been thinking about adding a few new chicks to the flock this spring as I’ve lost 2 hens in the last 6 months. Having a broody hen seemed like the perfect solution: New chickens without the hassle of introducing them to my flock!
So, I contacted an acquaintance who has some wonderful chickens (including a rooster), to see if she had any fertilized eggs I could have. She did!
Not only eggs, but, bless her heart, she also marked on each egg the breed of hen that laid them…I got some Araucanas and Rhode Island Reds and Black Australorps…and a couple others…but they all have the same daddy–a Buff Orpington rooster named Buffrin (that I fell in love with when I met last summer…and who ended up in a painting I did a few weeks later).
When I got home last night, I took the eggs out to the hen-house and did a swap with Harriet. I took her (blank) egg, and gave her 9 eggs of various shades and colors in return, hoping she’d take to having a larger family.
Today she’s content as can be. She’s re-arranged her claimed nesting space and got all her little chicks-in-waiting cuddled up under her. And so the wait begins. In about 20 days I’m hoping to find a batch of new peeping chicks. I can hardly wait!
I’ve got space in the hen-house for a few new girls. Also, I happen to live in a city that allows unlimited chickens, as long as you abide by their rules, so I have the ability to let Harriet have her way (I’m a push over anyway).
The only thing that concerns me is that we’re getting a cold snap here in the Pacific NW. As I’m typing this, I’m watching snow fall from the sky. It’s not the time I would have picked to bring new chicks into the world…but we’ll see how it goes.
Also, the lady who gave me the eggs said that her rooster was getting up there in age, so she wasn’t sure of his virility.
So, who knows? We’ll just have to take it one day at a time. And in the meantime, I’ve got myself one very content little Buff Orpington, patiently keeping her little clutch warm, and waiting to introduce them to the world.
I’ll keep you posted on the progress…
PS Here’s some more information on how to let your hen hatch some eggs of her own.