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The Little Red Hen Moves

Far be it from me to make the claim that Aunt Toby and the DH are experts at raising chickens or hatching chickens with a broody hen. Chickens, as I have noted before, are the ‘gateway drug’ of livestock raising: as long as you can keep them save, fed and watered, you are good to go. You don’t really need to be an expert first to raise them. In all the years we raised chickens in a henhouse, we only had one hen go broody, and she was part of a ‘matched pair’ of Old English that a co-worker of the DH’s gave to us. Most chickens have had broodiness selected out of them because a broody hen does not lay eggs, so unless you are in the hatching business (and no hatchery uses hens that I know of), they are an expense with no revenue. That particular broody hen hid her eggs – we had no idea what she was doing until she showed up with chicks in tow.

This time, it’s slightly different because this particular hen is totally different looking than the other birds and we have a tendency to look out for her because she’s a bantam and about 1/3 the size of the Light Brahmas that she is with. The DH put some of their fertilized eggs under her and she has been a very good mommy so far. To give her more privacy and to put the chicks closer to the ground when they hatch, we moved them into another room, with a heat lamp (that’s why the color in the photographs is so red – the lamp is infrared). Readers who are familiar with the set up we had to raise the Light Brahmas when they arrived last year will remember this plywood box with the holes in it – we are reusing this as a corral to help keep the hen and her chicks inside and help hold the heat in as well.

Now, I probably should have read up more on moving broody hens – it can throw them off completely, which it did to this particular LRH. Once we’d moved her, she seemed to have no interest at all in getting back on those eggs, which considering it’s February, we were pretty concerned about. So, the DH tried a trick with an old lined curtain we had up there. He got her back into the nesting box (which my son had made out of three old feeding pans we had) and tucked the curtain all around her to block off the light. The next morning when he went out to feed her and give her more water, she was all cuddled down on top of the eggs and had gotten into the whole rhythm of the thing again. She jumps out, does her business, takes a drink, eats a little and is right back on the eggs again. Another method that supposedly works is to move a broody hen only at night, which I think the DH reproduced with the curtain.

Whew.

H-Day (hatching day) is now estimated at mid-week or so, so we’ll have to keep an eye out. Stay tuned.

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