Day 29 of 365
Every summer, at least a third of our flock goes broody. I’ve mentioned that we have to “break” most of them, as we can only let a couple raise babies. This week has been a really tough week in the broody hen department.
Some of our broody hens, even though they are normally not ones to fly, were able to fly out of broody-hen jail thanks to some strong will and determination. And since Ruby and her babies were running around the main area outside our home (separate from the chicken area), this was a problem. You definitely do not want a grumpy broody hen running up on Ruby and her babies. Ruby is fierce, but she is tiny.
And broody hens love to fight. We have had more arguments in the flock in the last week than in the whole last year put together—times 10. My goodness, I am worn from breaking up chicken fights. Normally, our flock is so peaceful.
After the issue with the fly-overs, I had what I thought was a great plan to keep Ruby and her babies away from the broody hens. During the day, I move Ruby and her babies to the area we call broody-hen jail, and I just let the broody hens run around the area around our house and the garage. This plan has worked fairly well—except for the first day.
I could see that Jane was trying so, so hard to get into the coop for much of the day. I kept trying to distract her with treats, but she was in the worst shape. She was with three other broody hens and would alternate between threatening and fighting with the others and trying desperately to get into the coop.
On the evening of the first day of this plan, when I was closing up the coop, my heart broke when I saw there was blood droplets all around the door and steps of the coop. At first, I panicked but then realized what must have happened. I went to check on poor Jane’s head, and sure enough, she had injured her little comb quite a bit.
I picked up that grumpy hen and just snuggled her. As I did, my hand was touching her belly, and it triggered her purring. Their instincts are fascinating. “Poor Jane,” I said to her. “I am so sorry you don’t get to be a mama, but you fight too much.” Of course, she just purred, and my heart broke for her again.
I am happy to report that, yesterday, after five days of banishment from the nest, that determined girl finally let go of being broody. Tonight, when I was fetching garden goodies for dinner, she was able to join the rest of the hens and eat some spinach and lettuce like everyone else. Her comb is injured but will heal, and, if I can, I’m going to try to let her have a clutch of eggs all by herself next year. Maybe, if she just raises a brood alone, she will do okay and not fight with people.
In the meantime, I started this process with four broody hens, plus Kate and Ruby, who are either on eggs or with babies. While I was working on that batch, two more hens went broody.
Oh, the chaos!
I think, as of last night, I might be down to just three broody hens. For real, just as I was feeling grateful for a little success, another hen went broody!!!! I went to the nest to see who it was, and it was Pumpkin, who also cannot be allowed to raise babies again because she had a very hard time mentally the last time she raised babies. She ended up disappearing for some weeks and coming home in the middle of the night with a scream. That’s another story.
For now, I’ll keep working on these broody hens, dealing with the chaos that broody hens bring, and feeling said that, yesterday, though we have 28 hens, we got 9 eggs–right before Solstice too when the days are so long that eggs should be a plenty. Sigh.