Even with chickens, you can’t have it both ways!

Jun 15, 2011 | 1 comment

Out for a Stroll

     I watched and waited all spring for at least one of our hens to go broody.  I thought for sure that with seven lively egg-laying girls in the coop, at least one or two would get in a family mood and want to hatch a clutch of eggs.  Last year by this time we had two darling little chicks, but this year, at least so far, there doesn’t seem to be any nesting instinct, so to speak.
     So, I did a little research and found, much to my amazement, that not all hens go broody in the modern scheme of things.  It seems that many breeds of chickens these days have had the broody instinct bred right out of them.
     “Going broody” is what hens do when they want to sit on a nest full of eggs and hatch a family.  During that time period and until the hatchlings are able to be on their own, Mama Hen doesn’t lay.  Farmers in the egg biz don’t like those work slow-downs, so for the last 150 years or so they’ve been developing chicken breeds that just keep on laying.  If you want more of them, you have to get an incubator and do the work yourself.
     Wouldn’t you know, those are the very breeds we have!  So all this time that we’ve been crowing over our girls and their egg production – five, six, sometimes even seven eggs a day! – the chances of them going broody have been slim to none.
     On the other hand, I did learn which breeds are most likely to take a notion to set awhile on their eggs – or on someone else’s.  (It doesn’t seem to matter to hens.)  The best brooders are the older, heirloom breeds.  Old English Games, for instance, are reputed to be accomplished, attentive, and fiercely protective mothers. Kraienkoppes, Malays, Shamos, Asils, Madagascar Games, Silkies, and some strains of Dorking were also mentioned.  Whew!  I wonder if we can get any of those at the Planter Box…
     So now I guess we have to actually learn to identify a few breeds and shop accordingly.  Thus far the only breeds I can actually name with certainty are Araucanas and Rhode Island Reds.  And, just our luck, they prefer laying to setting.  Well, it’s always something with chickens…

1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Just another way that we have attempted to manipulate nature. Would an organic farm be a good source of information or a broody chicken? Maybe if you get a mama in there the rest will think it’s a good idea??


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