Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The great egg experiment: Day 1

For the past few months we've been dealing with broody hens.  For those that don't know, a broody hen is a hen that for some reason (the daylight, the time of year, temperature, etc.) starts to believe she needs to hatch an egg into a chick so instead of laying an egg and then leaving the laying box, she'll lay and egg and try to sit on it until it hatches.  Once she does this she stops laying eggs all together.  If you take out the egg she laid, she'll just sit on another hens egg.  Eventually she may become so protective of the lying boxes that the other hens start laying somewhere else, like the coop yard or in the corner of the coop (like where we found 17 eggs one time!).  We knew very little about chickens before we got some last fall and I had never heard of a broody hen.  Turns out the breed of chicken we got tends to go broody.  Turns out there are breeds that rarely go broody.  So after fighting her to stop sitting on eggs for months now, pulling her out of the coop, dragging her out of the laying box, taking away all the eggs, putting her on her roost, we decided we had to do something different.  We were either going to cull her and buy new chicks or let her do her thing and see what happened.  Since our chickens are like pets we decided to let her do her thing.  So yesterday I picked up 8 eggs from a local farm, Wildwood Farm, that are hopefully fertilized and placed them under our broody hens.  We can't use our own eggs to hatch because we don't have a rooster so finding a place with eggs and a rooster was what we needed.  Four of the eggs are from Easter Eggers which lay green eggs:

And the other four are from Wheaton Ameraucana chickens which lay blue eggs:

Aren't they pretty?  You cannot imagine my excitement after seeing these - they are so beautiful.  I love supporting rare and heirloom breeds of farm animals and plants so to hopefully have such unique chicken eggs will be so special.  Wildwood Farm also has chocolate brown egg layers called Copper Marans but they tend to go broody so we didn't get any of those, but man are they gorgeous eggs.  See a picture of them on Wildwood Farms facebook page here.  What a neat place.  They have so many different kinds of chickens is was just educational and fascinating being there.

It was a relief to me, and to the broody hens, when I placed those eggs there.  The blue wyandotte that we have that is broody tucked the eggs closer to her body and under her wings before settling down comfortably in the nesting box.  It was like she said, thanks, this is what I've been trying to do for months!  Chickens are so instinctual and like my husband says, they aren't like cats and dogs - you can't really train them.  You can try and stop a chicken 100 times from broody but it's what she does and she won't stop until you let her.   So, I placed these eggs under our broody hens and if all goes well in almost exactly 21 days (July 4th) we will have baby chicks.  They have to sit on the eggs for 24 hours a day for 21 days in order for the right incubation temperatures to mature the egg into a chick. My first hope is that some of the eggs will actually hatch and are fertilized.  My second hope is that if they do hatch some of then are hens and not roosters.  This gives me hope.  We'll see - let the countdown begin!

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