Sunday, December 4, 2011
To Brood or Not to Brood....That is the Question.
CLUCK, CLUCK, CLUCK.....
So sorry not to get in the two posts a week. Life has been a little crazy and unpredictable here on the Shawhan farm. On the bright side, the cluckies produced a record of 16 eggs earlier in the week. So perhaps those motivational posters and the Chick-fil-A talk worked!
We began our chicken adventure with 20 chicks last March. We were SUPPOSED to have all hens (thanks Master Feed Mill!) but got two roosters. Then some A-Hole ran over a hen on the road, so we now have 19 chickens, 17 only being able to lay. I figured 2 hens not laying wasn't bad at all, but obviously we have 16 laying, so maybe I'll give the one who isn't more time before I write her off completely.
Ever since the chickens arrived my father-in-law, better known as Old Fart, would consistently mention "the sitter". What would I do if I got an old sitter. Old Fart is convinced that hens that just sit in the nest box 24/7 don't lay any eggs. Unless we strap a camera to her butt, there isn't much way knowing. So my reply is just let her sit. I'm feeding two useless roosters, so what is the difference? Of course, my luck, not long after the girls starting producing I got a hen who just sat. Still I didn't know if she was producing or not. I did notice that she was missing feathers on her breast bone but after some reading I found out that some hens will pluck out their own feathers and contribute them to the comfortableness of the nest. After several weeks the hen quit sitting. For awhile my "sitter" problems were over until Stay Puft entered the picture.
Stay Puft, who is in the picture above, got her name since she is white and would get really mad when you picked her up to steal the eggs. She would puff out her feathers and peck at the box around you, to the point where I made my gallant husband pick her up while I stole the bounty all warm and safe from under her. She reminded me of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I was going to put her in the spot light and do a profile on her, but low and behold, she quit sitting too. Now I can't tell her apart from the other Light Brahmas we have. So I did some light research, which I'll share now. All the magazines and books don't call a sitting hen "a sitter." They are "broody", which I think is fitting since they act like brooding teen-agers when you go and mess with them.
Broody is phase hens can go through from time to time. Basically it's their motherly instinct to sit on eggs to get babies. It can last several days to several weeks. The poor hen doesn't realize it only takes 21 days for her to hatch out a brood of chicks. Brooding can be harmful to a hen if she neglects her own needs such as not getting up to eat, drink or poo (Opps!). She can also develop parasite infections. Not only can it be bad for her, but it also disrupt and upset the other hens. BELIEVE me, you know when a girl is waiting in line down in the coop to squirt out her egg! You can hear the ruckus a mile away! (And these city peeps think they will maintain neighborhood quietness without roosters! PUH!) Anyhoo, brooding can be contagious, so if you don't want that to happen you can remove the hen to another area for a time and/or keep removing the eggs. Also, science has interfered once again, and some breeds have had the broodiness bred out of them. Of course you may want a broody hen if your goal is to hatch out your own home-grown chicks. There is more useful information at www.animalloversweb.com.
So far, I'm good right now and not dealing with broody hens. But I'm sure in time there will be more. Just chickens being chickens I guess!
...cluck... cluck... cluck... cluck.....
"The Broody Hen." AnimalLoversWeb.com 2007. 12 Dec. 2011. http://www.animalloversweb.com/article_chicken_broody.html