Day 13 of 365
Right now, we have five broody hens, including Ruby. That’s too many broody hens. Moreover, I’ve found over the years that broodiness seems to be contagious. If you don’t do something about broody hens, it seems to catch on in the flock. Last year, at one time, I think we had eight broody hens. Nothing we tried really worked, and I didn’t have the heart do to the hard stuff like putting a broody hen in a crate alone with open air on the bottom. Still, the ice packs didn’t seem to work unless I could put them out three or four times a day. I would always get busy and let the ice packs get warm.
Finally, Ron figured out a plan. He built a fenced area under some trees we call Broody Hen Jail where they can have each other, some good space, food, and water, and we go ahead and let them be broody if they want at night. I am sure this makes “breaking” the broody hen take a little longer, but it works! Most of the time, the broody hens let it go within two to three days.
But I have to decide within the next few days who goes to Broody Hen Jail and who gets to be a mama. Ruby was first, so she gets to be a mama, of course. Right now, Kate, Penelope, Jane, and Marshmallow are all broody. Let me just say right away, Marshmallow is not going to get to be a mama. Marshmallow is the sweetest little hen most of the time, but when she’s broody, she’s a nightmare! Two years ago, I let her hatch babies. She attacked me the whole time. She started attacking other mama hens who just happened to come within ten feet of her children. She attacked me when I fed everyone. She attacked me when I changed the water. She attacked me for cleaning out her crate. I had to start wearing oven mitts all the time.
The other day, I was trying to figure out if it was, indeed, Marshmallow who was broody in the nest box (it can be hard to tell in the dark box, and she looks a lot like four other hens). When I reached in to take the eggs, the hen didn’t just peck me. She grabbed skin and then twisted. It hurt so much. This is Marshmallow’s signature move. So, yeah, Marshmallow is going to Broody Hen Jail.
Jane is a big, beautiful hen and raised babies last year. She was a little bossy with the food with Juliet, who was also raising babies. So she was not super cooperative. So I feel it’s really down to Kate or Penelope. I wish we could let both of them be mamas. They are both very interesting hens to me, both very smart and curious. I think Penelope is even more curious, but they are both fantastic hens whom I would love to get to know better. And that’s the coolest thing about letting a broody hen raise baby chicks.
We move the crew into the garage and keep the baby chicks away from the main flock until they are bigger, usually about five weeks or so. So during that five weeks or so, the mamas and the babies run around with us. I get to watch them closely, tuck them in at night, watch the mamas tuck in their babies. It’s a little bit of magnificence. I’m glad to be chronicling the experience with this blog this year.
I get to hear babies sing to their mamas. I get to hear mamas purr to their babies. I get to see how the hens raise their babies and what they focus on. I love to watch them teach. It’s one of the greatest joys and learning experiences of my life. I’m getting excited thinking about it coming again soon, and I’m excited to get to share it with those following this adventure. I think you will enjoy it.
I hoped writing this would help me choose between Kate and Penelope. Kate went broody right after Ruby, so maybe Kate should be the one. I have a feeling she will be a really sweet mama. I’m going to check her out tomorrow, and if she feels strong enough to do it, I think Kate will get the eggs. I wrote about Kate before. You can read about how she was the most adorable baby chick in the history of ever in this older post.
And just a quick Ruby update. She’s doing very well but not taking breaks now. I may have to pull her off tomorrow. I did take her some scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast, and she tore into that dish just like the tiny dinosaur she is. It was fantastic to see her eat so well.