Broody HenAnimals October 12th, 2016
What we initially thought was a casualty to whatever lurks in the forest turned out to be a broody hen. Our buff orpington, who goes by the name of Not Blanch, was missing during our routine head count at bedtime.
She was no where to be found in the dark and we went to bed a bit worried but hopeful she’d reappear in the morning. No such luck. Not the next morning either. She waited until we were convinced we’d not see her again to return, as if nothing had happened. With a big sigh of relief, we welcomed her back and counted ourselves lucky that she found her way home. The next time we checked on her she was gone again. It was then that we knew we had a broody hen on our hands. This revelation brought on a bunch of worries; we are expecting chicks for the first time!
A broody hen is one who, because of a combination of hormones and instincts, wants her eggs to hatch. She’ll sit on her clutch of eggs all day, only breaking for a short while to get food and water and expel her big, stinky broody poop.
Do we let her sit or not? We’ve been talking lately about our need for more chickens. I didn’t expect that to happen until spring but I know better than to think things will unfold on my schedule. She’s under a year old and the first to go broody. I do know that buff orpingtons are known for being great mothers.
It’s fall! Aren’t chicks supposed to hatch in the spring? It’s getting chilly at night, with temperatures dropping into the high 30s from time to time. Days are cooling off as well. I worry about a bunch of little fragile chicks surviving the cold. Let me add that we are not prepared or equipped to raise chicks indoors. We opted to purchase pullets in order to bypass that stage and now find ourselves unprepared and desperately hoping that Not Blanch can rear her offspring without our help.
Not Blanch removed herself from the general population to claim a spot for her nest. She hopped the fence and settled in next to the garage, behind some odds and ends. It took us a full week from the day she went missing to locate her. She’d disappear quickly every day or second day, before we had a chance to follow her. Finally, one afternoon husband was at the right place at the right time and parked himself in the brush and waited. Low and behold, she was sitting on her nest right under our noses.
I’m glad she chose a spot close to the house, but she’s only mildly sheltered from the elements and predators. This is concerning both now as she sits and especially when the little chicks hatch. I’m battling daily with the decision to try to move her and her nest to a safer location or let her be.
How many eggs is she sitting on? This one was a shocker. We expected maybe 4 or 5. A few days after we located her nest, she happened to be off her nest taking her break at the same time that I had a minute to investigate.
I counted 17! Now things got serious. There are potentially a lot of little chicken lives at stake.
This is very much a learning experience for us as this is our first broody hen, first attempt at hatching eggs, and first fall hatch. I’d love to be able to sit back and let her do her thing, but I doubt it will be so easy.