Sunday, February 15, 2015

Waiting Egg-spectantly: Giving a Broody Eggs to Hatch

Cotton, dedicated mama-to-be. (That's Thelma squeezed in next to her.)
Our little hen Cotton has been broody for months. She wants so badly to raise some babies that she spends all her time earnestly (and fruitlessly) setting on unfertilized eggs.

Cotton is the hen who came to us as a chick and insisted on being raised by Oreo, the other Bantam hen. I don't think she's produced an egg in long time. Every time she gets broody I take her off the nest and take her eggs, and she comes back to her empty nest and looks forlorn. It makes me feel bad for her.

Nothing seems to break her of her mama-urges. So I asked my sister-in-law, who has a nice country flock, for some fertilized eggs. Her rooster is none other than Cluck Norris, the rooster that started life at our house as a pullet named Cadbury. Until we heard him crow and sent him off to live in the country where he could crow and crow and tend his own little harem.

So we took five eggs, marked them so we could tell them apart from the eggs our hens produced, and slipped them under Cotton on February 1. If we were serious about raising chicks, we'd have candled them to see if they were fertile, but instead, we took a sort of "if it happens, it happens" approach. I'm doubtful, but it feels good to leave Cotton some eggs to tend.

Cotton is a devoted broody, and she is almost always there on the nest. She'll take a break each day for water and food, but hurries right back. So when I saw her wandering around in the chicken yard one fine 60-degree day last week, I expected she wouldn't be out there long. A little while later, I looked out and she was still out there.

I thought maybe she'd forgotten about being broody. Sort of felt disappointed in her. I thought, "Well, we tried." But I figured it was a good time to go out and at least gather the new, fresh eggs without having to reach beneath her for a change.

I opened the nesting box door from behind, and laughed. Facing me were two fluffy chicken behinds. Cotton was, quite logically, taking a break from her hatching duties while two other hens were laying eggs and at the same time keeping the potential hatchers warm.

Hazel and Thelma  (seen from behind) share egg-sitting duties. 
Time and again, my chickens remind me that they know what they are doing. Why I think I'd make a better chicken than my own chickens I don't know. We've got T-minus five days to hatch, if they are viable eggs. In spite of my doubts, I'm determined to let nature have the upper hand here.

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