We’ve started a new experiment over in yonder chicken coop. We’ve adopted some fertile eggs and are trying to hatch them. It’s a chick-speriment!
A couple of weeks ago, one of our hens started to go broody. In chicken speak, this means that she doesn’t leave the nest all day, and has a steadfast resolve to do nothing but sit on her (and everyone else’s) eggs in an effort to incubate them and hatch her chicks. Unfortunately for her, this will not happen, as we do not have the required rooster. I tried to explain the birds and the bees of chicken reproduction to her, but she persists in sitting on every egg in the nest and refuses to leave her post, even to eat.
I watched a documentary recently called The Natural History of the Chicken (which you really need to watch) and one of the stories on the DVD was told by a man whose own hen desperately wanted to hatch chicks and who risked her life to save the chicks she eventually did have. It was a heartbreaking story and my poor broody hen makes my heart break in the same way. Each night I have to lift her off the warm eggs so I can collect them and she purrs and coos so sadly, it just kills me.
We talked about our options. We could leave her alone, assuming she will eventually shake off this phase. We could send her to a friend’s farm to live with a rooster or borrow a friend’s rooster for a bit so she could lay some fertilized eggs of her own, but chances are that the rooster would establish his dominance with our hen by beating her up a bit first, which doesn’t seem like a nice thing to do. Our last thought was to take some eggs from our friends chickens and give them to her to sit on. Our friends have a flock of Rhode Island Reds and a gorgeous rooster, which means that they have fertilized eggs, but none of their hens are interested in sitting on them. This seemed like the perfect answer. We would adopt some eggs for her.
Sunday morning we drove out to pick up our eggs, or “potential chicks” as I was referring to them, and placed them under the wanna-be mama hen that afternoon. We marked each egg with a black “X” so we’d know which was which, and we slid them into the nest. She settled in on them and was happy as could be. Now, if all goes well, in about three weeks, we might just see some fluffy, little chicks running about. Keep your fingers crossed that our little chick-speriment is successful!