...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


and a failed broody hen experiment

There's a lot going on here in the chicken department.

Commie and her chicklets are 8 weeks old now - hard to believe! 
They're all up on "the big girl" perch. 
 Their Aunties are still being bitchy about them being on the perch,
so there's a bit of a ruckus every night for about 5-10 minutes 
until everything gets sorted out.  
We can't bear to watch it.  
The whole pecking order business is just not nice.

If the chicks were kids at my school, 
we'd be filling out DACA forms for them.
(Dignity for All Chickens Act, of course).


Anyway, not long after Commie "had" her babies, Jerz started to get the mothering itch again. 
The crazy biological business took right over her, and rendered her temporarily insane.
It wasn't very temporary, actually.  She was nuts going on 2 months.   
Just sitting and sitting.
And puffing up her feathers and making warning sounds if you came too close.

Those of you who have been following my blog for awhile 
will probably remember her as the "other" mother to the ducks, 
the one who gave up shortly into the experiment.  

To her credit, she sat and sat and sat and she did hatch them.  
But once they were hatched she started getting weird.  
She acted motherly for a couple of days and then threw in the towel.

We thought *maybe* that was because she wasn't into the ducks.   


My big softie of a partner kept anthropomorphizing about Jerz being broody for so long.

"Aw, look how much she wants to be a mamma..."

 "She's just sitting and sitting on those unfertile eggs.."

"We gave Commie babies, it's not fair to not give them to Jerz, too..." 

"What if she broods so long she just up and dies from lack of sunlight and nutrition?"

I responded:

"But she wasn't really a very good mother to the ducks...  don't you remember...?" 
Ahem: one died and then she abandoned the other one and let Commie do the mothering..."

"But we've never had more than 7 hens, now we have 8 with the new chicks
and it's starting to get a little cramped in the coop... The pecking order will be more intense..."

"What if it doesn't work like it did with Commie?  
Do you really want to be hand raising chicks in the house for several weeks?"

"Let's not make life more complicated, or add more chores, please..."

Sigh again.

She wore down my resolve.

Last Monday morning I logged onto My Pet Chicken and bought us 4 more day-old baby chicks. 
Just 28 hours later, they were peeping at the post office and heading home in the car.


We had coordinated with someone we know who had broody hens to join in our experiment.
We would keep two and give them the others.

Well, I just need to tell the chicken-lovers out there that sometimes
a broody hen is just a crazy-a$$ broody hen and cannot be trusted.
Jerz did not adopt the babies.  Neither did the other person's broody hens. 
This time it was a complete flop all around.

We did everything exactly like we did with Commie.
We put the babies gently under her at night.  
The next morning they were still alive under her, 
but it was like she didn't even know they were there.  

Then she finally noticed them.
As soon as she saw the two little fluff-balls that the overnight mail stork had delivered, 
she freaked out. 
"Are you kidding me?  
I'm supposed to take care of those things?"
"Oh helllllllll no!  
I don't remember signing up for this...!"

She wasn't having it.  
At all.  
She walked away from them and flew up onto the perch, checking them out from afar.
You could almost hear her thinking out loud.
And all she was thinking was 

Thank goodness for the chicken camera,
because Boo noticed that the two little babies were peeping like crazy, 
shivering in the nest box all by themselves.

Out to the coop to rescue them, 
and pop them back into our emergency in-house brooder
(i.e. a plastic bin with a heat lamp)


And then Boo says,
"Well, maybe we should try it again..." 

Oh yeah, right.   
How dense are we?  
Just because Jerz is normally one of our sweetest hens,
she was in a state of hormonal madness.  
Live and learn.

After Jerz went back down to her broody nest box,
we stupidly tried one more time.

I took one of the little babies and put it near her, so she could see it this time, 
since not seeing them seemed to upset her earlier.
She puffed up like it was an intruder,
a threat to her now non-existent eggs 
(we removed them all from under her the night before).
She gave the baby one hard, fast peck and warned it to stay away from her.
Poor little girl.

The closest thing to a chicken mother she'll ever have 
and she was rejected not once, but twice,
and attacked!

Way to go.

Finally, after all of that trauma,
we realized that Jerz is totally unreliable.
Not to be trusted.
A loose cannon.

If she were a person, I'd have to call the mandated reporter hotline.

Oh, Jerz.
What in the world got into you?


So it turned out that the ultimate cure for breaking Jerz of her broodiness
was being confronted with the reality of an actual baby.
She didn't want any part of that responsibility.

Now she's back in the flock trying to be a normal chicken,
acting as if she never lost her ever-lovin' mind,
but she does have some natural consequences to pay for all of the broodiness.  
Along with her mind, she lost her spot in the pecking order 
and now she's down at the bottom.

Commie, the consummate mother hen, and queen of the flock,
is really dishing it out to her lately. 

Anyway, at the end of the day, we're filling in as the surrogate mothers to the new baby chicks.
The other folks participating in the experiment returned their two to us, so we've got all four.
That will bring our flock up to twelve when we ultimately integrate them.
That's one chicken experience (integrating birds) we haven't had yet,
 so I guess we'll have to figure that out.

A quick internet search leads to lots of different tricks and tips,
but overall people saying it can be pretty challenging.

We've got our work cut out for us, that's for sure.

We'll have to renovate our existing coop to make more roosting space.
And when these little chicks are big enough to be outside,
luckily we have a small second coop (it was going to be a retirement home for older hens)
we can fix that up and put the new babies in,
fencing them off separately so the big hens can't hurt them 
until they're truly big enough to hold their own.

While initially I was quite grumbly about this whole ordeal,
I think it will be for the best.  
The older layers are slowing down and some days we only get one egg.  
So these (7!) new girls we've added since May will keep us eating eggs for 
a good long while to come. 


Without further ado, here are the latest additions.

 Betty White, a white plymouth rock:

Goldie, a gold-laced wyandotte:

Emmaline, an Easter Egger:

and last but never least... little Ms. Wellie
short for the anti-depressant Wellbutrin (just kidding) -- she's a Welsummer!

Welcome, little peeps!
Sorry your adopted mother was a deadbeat!
Don't take it personally 
and know that we love you even if she didn't!

No comments:

Post a Comment