*asterisks are for educational value
The day before yesterday, i noticed that one of my pullets wasn't getting off the nest. At first, i thought she might be ill - you know, egg bound or something. But then i started to figure it out. She's broody*!
(*when a chicken is broody, it means that she has decided to hatch some chicks. she's in the reproductive way.) Having never observed or supervised a broody hen, i did some hurried research on the internet. I was told that the main way to tell if she's really broody - as in actually likely to stay on the nest until those eggs hatch and then raise her chicks - is to see if she stays in the nest box overnight. So, we determined that if she stayed overnight and seemed to be really in it for the long haul, we would give her Monday's eggs to hatch.
In the mean time, we let her "set" these eggs. They're porcelain. I know....cruel.
I learned a lot in my research, so i'm passing it on to you as best i can. *If a chicken were on her own out in "nature," she would lay a "clutch" of eggs, and then when she thought she had enough, she would stop laying eggs and start sitting on them. Since we TAKE the chickens' eggs every day, and since we can't predict (or at least i don't think we can) when a chicken is going to go broody - so as to leave her eggs in her nest - we have to provide her with eggs to hatch when we realize she's broody (that is, if we want her to hatch real chicks). BUT it's important to mark the eggs so that you can keep track and make sure that she only has the originals. The other chickens have no respect for her "condition," and they will go right into that nest with her and lay more eggs around her, which she will instinctively gather into her clutch. This makes things complicated, and it could cause some of the eggs she's supposed to be incubating to die because there wasn't enough room to keep everyone warm. Therefore, we take the unmarked eggs away each day - and also because we want to EAT them.
So, yesterday, we (as in me and myself) collected 14 eggs. Then i used a pencil to draw big stripes all the way around each egg, so they would be easy to identify.
Aren't eggs pretty?
Then, after i was satisfied that the girls were done laying, i went out to the coop and kicked out everyone except my broody mama, and shut the door. We're still working on a name for her, but for now, we can call her "Hattie." By this time, Hattie had been on the nest for more than 24 hours with very little food and no water - and no.....relieving herself. So, as per the advice i was given, i forced her to get off the nest and eat and drink and (hopefully) poop. Pooping is gross, but it's important - for everyone.
As i come to this part of the story, i must digress. One thing i have learned since i have started raising chickens is this. Knowledge is power, and you should collect as much as you can so that you can be educated and knowledgeable and successful. But when it comes down to it, it's you and your chicken, and you and your chicken might not exactly be the "textbook situation." So you have to go with your gut...a lot.
After Hattie ate a little and drank a little (and sadly didn't poop at all), she started looking at me like this.
Do you know that look? I do. That's the look that is eye-balling your shoulder - or possibly the top of your head - for a place to perch. And then, true to her look, Hattie flew up and sat on my shoulder. And stayed there. I don't have pictures of that because it's very difficult to take a picture of the hen on your own shoulder, so you'll have to take my word for it. It's also pretty difficult to properly take hold of the hen on your shoulder - so i was trying to entice her to go back to her nest. I did this by showing her one of the porcelain eggs. Would you like to know what she did with it? She tried to gather it under herself - while on my shoulder! Apparently, she thought my shoulder would be a nice place to nest. But as much fun as that sounds like it would be, i don't think it would work out.
So finally, i kind of dumped her on the ledge in front of the nest boxes.
Here's where the story takes another turn away from the "text book." The experts told me that if i tried to put her on a different nest than the one she settled in, that she would abandon the eggs and go back to her original nest. Well, Hattie hasn't read the text book, apparently. She went to a different nest and settled right in. This makes me think that i might be able to move her wherever i want - but we'll see.
Once she got in there and settled down, i gave her one of the porcelain eggs, which she promptly gathered under herself. I was reasonably convinced that she was really broody, so i started "feeding" her real eggs.
Once she stopped gathering them underneath her, and then i remembered the porcelain egg. So i reached under her and found it and pulled it out. Then she started gathering eggs in again. And then stopped again. So i thought, "maybe she's all out of space." So i reached under her (she's very docile with me) and felt around. Nope, there's room. I actually rearranged them a little bit for her and helped her fit them all.
And then she did this cute little rock-around thing as she was getting adjusted. And now she has them all safely covered and warm. All fourteen eggs.
On March 23, the excitement should begin around 4 pm. Stay tuned!