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Well, let’s not brood about it

This past weekend, it became obvious to us that we had one resident of the chicken community out in the barn who was, as that song from Sesame Street goes, ‘not like the others.’

Our little red hen, the Bantam we got as a gift, was starting to molt (that is, lose her feathers) and was hunkered down in one of the nesting boxes and was positively nasty. Wouldn’t leave; wouldn’t allow anyone to put their hand underneath her and frankly had taken on this sort of ‘loose baggy’ sort of appearance.

She’s gone broody.

Now if we were in the commercial egg production business, this would be a royal pain and we would be going through all sorts of gyrations to get her to cut it out, snap out of it and go back to laying eggs and being a productive hen. But on the other side of it, we’re NOT in the commercial egg business here at Chez Siberia and we’ve just gone through a PITN situation with trying to order Delaware chicks. Delawares are what American housewives put on the Sunday platter in the 40s and 50s, before the invention of the dino-chicken, Cornish Crosses (if you buy commercial chickens in the store, those big breasted halves and quarters are Cornish Crosses – we raised them a couple of times years ago. Never again). Now, we had a great experience growing out the Light Brahmas. They certainly are not as fast in terms of growth as a Cornish Cross, but you can raise them on pasture; they are not delicate and do not require careful watching in hot weather (Cornish Crosses tend to just lay there and die, frankly) and grow out to a terrific size and taste fantastic. But before we settled on light Brahmas forever, we decided we’d try Delawares this year as a comparison.

Us and everyone else. We thought we were getting the order in super-early. No luck – the hatchery was all booked until much later in the spring. Which is ok but now we will be getting a whole lot of chicks at one time instead of two, timed deliveries. This will take more work and watching.

Which brings me back to our friend, the LRH (aka, the Little Red Hen), who is very calmly sitting on eggs right now (the DH put a small clutch of what we think are fertile eggs under her earlier this week and she has accepted them, which is interesting since they are probably 2-3 times as big as hers but she is molting so she is not laying at all now). She jumps down to eat, drink and do her business a couple of times a day. We will move her and the eggs to a nest in the room next door, so that we can put a heat lamp out there, and bedding on the floor and have her closer to the floor (the nesting boxes are up on the wall – if she hatched chicks in there now, they’d fall out and get injured for sure). So, save the weekend of February 20th on your Save the Date calendar and we’ll see what happens. If she’s successful and turns out to be a good mom (and Bantams are supposed to be some of the best), perhaps once we get the Delawares going, we can get her to hatch some Delawares for us.

I’m sure there are those who are saying, “Well, why don’t you just get an incubator and hatch them yourself?” Good question. We’ve had only one other experience with a broody hen and she did a good job hatching. We have had experience raising lambs by hand, artificially and the babies had all sorts of issues – sometimes it is just better to have a mom to do it, to teach them how to scratch, to get them to run around and so on. We’ll see how she does. Being broody does not necessarily turn into being a good mommy. But we figured ‘what the heck’.

For more information on broody hens and breeding your own, see Broody Hens

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