Chickens are so comical. I love to sit, relax and watch them any chance I get. To me it is so calming to watch them peck and scratch the ground and wander around doing chicken things. Recently there was no-one in the chicken yard. Just Henry the part Bantam rooster, (check out his comb, I have never seen one quite like it.) Anyway back to the chicken yard. So where were all of my hens? My hens are part Bantam, and my experience with Bantams hens is they become broody early in the spring. So I went into the chicken coop and there was all 5 hens layered in two nesting boxes. Hmmm, I lifted each of them up and took them out of the box. Just as I suspected, not one egg. I had gathered them all the night before.
From what I understand, when a hen becomes broody they have a change in their hormones. This causes them to stop laying eggs. Usually they have gathered a clutch (around a dozen eggs) and then sit and wait for them to hatch. But I guess since I had gathered all of the eggs none of my silly chickens were aware the nesting box was empty. They just all wanted to sit on a nest and hatch out baby chicks. So for around 6 weeks every night I would take all 5 hens out of the nesting boxes and encourage them to go out to the chicken yard. After about six weeks, 3 of the chickens decided this was not a very fun thing to do and abandoned the idea of raising fuzzy little offspring.
This left Buffy and Edna. They were still so determined. Well, I started to take them out of the nesting box both morning and night. They still would not give in to the idea of taking a year off from raising baby chicks. Finally the other chickens started to lay eggs. Now this was a great thing, I was back in the egg business. The only problem was I went out-of-town and my husband decided they could sit on the eggs and didn’t gather them. When I got home I thought this is fine, they can sit on the eggs and they will be happy. This was a great idea until the other hens laid all of their eggs in the box with Buffy and Edna. Now I didn’t know which eggs were new or old because I hadn’t taken the time to mark them.
Now what do I do?
My daughter in law was coming from Boise, so I ask her to pick me up 8 baby chicks. I really wanted babies that were newly hatched babies, but the only ones she could get were a week old. Well, I thought, if all else fails I can put them in the brooder. So Susie, my daughter, Mary and the grandkids went and picked me out 8 cute little fuzzy baby chicks. I was pretty excited when they brought them to me. We waited until it was dark, when the hens were sleeping. Susie and I went out to the coop and carefully put the chicks underneath the determined hens. The babies quickly snuggled up underneath the hens. All was well.
The next morning I went out to check on the chicks and give them some food and water. I found two very content mother hens snuggled over the chicks. They were not really impressed with me and made low growly sounds and puffed up their feathers. They eagerly pecked at me as I put food and water into the nesting box for the babies.
I wanted to make sure the moms were well bonded with the chicks before I took them out of the boxes. Later that afternoon I went out to the coop to check on them. Everyone was pretty content with the new arrangements. I lifted the hens and their babies out of the boxes and put them onto the coop floor. Everyone seemed pretty happy. And I retrieved over a dozen eggs from underneath the hens the they were collecting.
The next day the hens and the chicks moved outside into a different chicken run. Now the other chickens can have the coop back with the nesting boxes. Problem solved…… at least this year.
This years hens are Buffy’s last years babies. This is a story all in its own. It is coming soon to http://brendaskidsbooks.com. Be sure and watch for the release of “Buffy’s Wish” coming in July. Feel free to check out the other farm books while you are there.