One of my most pleasureable "chores" every day is heading out to the chicken coop to see what gifts The Girls have given us each day. Sometimes, if the weather is nice, I even take a book and a beverage and just sit and watch them. They hear me coming and get all excited, because I am The Bearer of Food & Treats.
I have six chickens of four different breeds. Each breed lays a different color and size egg. The dark browns are from the Cuckoo Marans (Ginkball and Tweetie Pie), the little white ones are from Queenie, the Silver Kraienkoppe, the slightly larger and slightly tanner ones are from Lacey, our Silver Laced Wyandotte. I have two chickens that were sold to me as Ameraucanas which are supposed to lay blue eggs, but one, Mrs. Flores, lays pinkish tan ones so I think she is what is called an Easter Egger, and Bossy lays the pretty blue ones.
For those of you who are wondering about Big Bird, our Polish rooster.... he is no longer with us. Every horrible thing you've ever heard about roosters is true. It was a fun culinary experiment to find an archaic recipe for Coq au Vin, meant for the tough, testosterone filled muscles of a rooster, but I did and he was pretty tasty, what there was of him. Mostly leg and thigh, not much breast meet on him like one is used to from store-bought chickens.
These two are Lacey and Queenie - both definitely "rule the roost" and boss the other chickens around (and torture them a bit) quite a bit. Neither likes being held and both are very hard to catch.
And here is where all the Chicken Drama starts. Two of my hens have decided to go broody on me. Broody is where they decide that it's time to incubate their eggs. Left to their own devices, a chicken will lay one egg every day or so. If these eggs are fertile (if a rooster has been shacking up with the hen; hens will lay eggs whether or not there is a rooster around), they won't actually start to turn into chickens until the hen decides it's TIME. Once the hen has a good amount of eggs (like a dozen or so), then she decides it's TIME, and she begins to incubate them. She will sit on them all day, every day, and her warmth is the signal to the zygote (or whatever it is) to begin cell division and become a baby chick. That is how a hen can lay an egg every day, yet they will all hatch at the same time.
So. Enough with the biology lesson. I have two broody hens. A broody hen doesn't lay. She just sits around all day in the laying box with a warm bottom like Ginkball is doing in this picture.
Mrs. Flores actually "went broody" first. I think she is way down in the "pecking order" because the other chickens got mad at her for taking up realestate in the laying box and have pecked her pretty bad. She's a mess - missing feathers on her neck and back. She's the one on the left in the picture below. They seem to be leaving Tweetie Pie alone, and now since Tweetie Pie is broody, she won't let Mrs. Flores into the henhouse and now Mrs. Flores is running around all nervous and skittery because she wants to sit in a laying box and nobody will let her.
I have tried to let them work it out, but egg production is low and so my neighbors haven't been able to buy much from me lately.
There are many remedies for broodieness to be found on the Interwebz, so I am now trying one that makes the most sense - I've put Mrs. Flores into a wire bottom cage that is raised up so there is plenty of air flow underneath. Apparently this keeps her from getting her bottom nice and warm and up to incubating temperature and she will soon not have the need to sit in a laying box incubating eggs that aren't there, and hopefully begin laying them again. Or so the theory goes. If it doesn't work, I am supposed to try things like dunking her in cool water or putting ice cubes on her bottom. The phrase "madder than a wet hen" comes to mind and I hope I don't have to resort to that.