This, is Creepy Bird.
Creepy Bird is broody. Broodiness is a hen’s desire to hatch eggs. You can tell when a hen is broody because she won’t leave the nest. Normally, if you reach under a laying hen, she’ll run off in a hysterical cluck. Broody hens will peck at your hand, puff out their feathers and growl. If you manage to get her off the nest and throw her out, she’ll remain puffed and low to the ground. Some breeds are more likely to brood than other breeds. Unless you are breeding and trying to hatch, broody hens are pretty much useless. They don’t lay while brooding, so you’re egg production drops.
I tried everything I could think of to break her of her broodyness: promptly removing eggs, throwing her off the nest, removing the nest, locking her out of the pen away from the nest. After a week, I felt bad for her and gave up. I decided if she was determined to sit there, she may as well sit on something.
A message out to my urban farming network hooked me up with 10 fertile eggs.
Surprisingly, eggs don’t have to be rushed while still warm from being laid to get under a hen (or an incubator, if you are hatching the modern way). Saving up eggs is part of the natural incubator process, and they go dormant to give a hen time to accumulate a full setting before she starts to brood. Eggs can be stored for up to 6 days without noticing a significant decrease in hatching success.
Its best to separate the broody hen from the other layers. Its possible that the other chickens will squeeze in with her and lay their egg, getting mixed in with the clutch. Another hen could also take over the nesting box while the broody is getting food, and then stressing the broody when she returns. I set up our “chicken quarantine unit”, which is a large metal dog crate thats great when introducing new pullets, in the corner of the hen house with a nesting box, food and water. At first I put the eggs in an empty nest and moved the hen to the box, but she was not having that. She promptly left the full nest in a fit and returned to the empty box she’s been sitting in.
So I stuck the eggs under her, and then moved the box with her and the eggs into the separate pen. She ruffled down on top of the eggs and used her wings to tuck them under her. It takes 21 days for eggs to hatch, and its possible that she’ll give up half way through, but I’m hoping we’ll have some babies. October 13th is marked on the calendar as our due date!
And why the name Creepy Bird? She’s got orange eyes, which Matt thought were creepy. This is what happens when you let men name things……