Broody Brats

Ah the joys of chickens.  Everyone thinks they are these precious, sweet, little fluffy pets that present you with breakfast every morning.  WRONG-O!  Well, sometimes, anyway.  I love my hens, they give hours of entertainment as well as breakfast and eventually, dinner.  However, there is a ton of work involved with them.

We do not have a rooster and I personally, for reasons of space and cost, do not raise chicks.  We start with pullets.  At least for now.  This summer we had one lady who seemed to be stuck in longing to being a mommy hen.  She is an Orphington, her normal name is Skip, but for about 2 and half months it was Crabby Patty.  And crabby is an understatement.20180620_181808_optimized1940890653.jpg

In all my years of owning chickens, I have never, ever had a hen stay broody for as long as she did this summer without chicks to care for.  She even got to the place where she refused to leave “HER” nest and would push eggs from the other nests for her to sit on them.  Then she decided she would bully the younger hens so they wouldn’t even come IN the coop, she parked her fluffy butt at the entrance of the coop and would not move.  If you took her off the nest, she would turn right around and plop her butt back in the nest.  If you moved her to gather eggs, she would bite you, if a hen came in the coop she would squawk and and attack her.  One morning after her coming at me while I was gathering the eggs, I told my husband it was time for the hatchet.  Egg production was down and I was beginning to have to play hide-and-seek for some of the eggs in the barn off the side of the run.

Bless my husband’s heart, he told me to give him a try at ‘breaking broody’.  I told him, fine, and so he proceeded after his usual deep research.

He used a large kennel cage and placed it in the barn off the run.  He placed it on two railings so it was off the ground a wee bit and made sure it had stationary pans for water and food.  The barn is well lit but nicely shaded and out of the elements and the other hens walk freely around it.  He gently placed Crabby in the cage.  We are pretty sure she cussed at him in chicken squawks as he latched the door.  The other hens seemed curious as they walked around her.  After a while he took her out, and dang gone it, she bee lined it strait for her nest.  If another hen was in her spot, she would push them out.

This went on for several days, my husband’s patience is great, so great I call him the Chicken Whisperer.  Eventually, one day, we noticed, after being let out of detention, Crabby went and sat on the perch with another hen.  Before dusk she walked in and got in HER nest, but she didn’t go strait in.

The next day, she played in the yard with the other hens but still made sure she had HER nest by dusk.  This went on for about a week.  Now Crabby Patty is back to being Happy Fluffy-butt Skip.  Happily playing in the yard and no longer combative with the other ladies, although we have one hen who is still cautious of her.

I had to fess up and say I was wrong for wanting to put Skip on the dinner block and that my husband was Right.  Yes, there, in black and white, he was right and in doing so our egg production is back up, the hens are back to using their nesting boxes and everyone is being civil again.

I have been told this breed is more prone to be broody longer and their desire to be a mommy is great.  So keep that in mind when getting layer hens if you don’t want to hatch and/or raise chicks.

 

Until Next Time,

Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice

 

Think Twice Before Getting Chickens

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Hey Hey and Penny

Yes, you read that title correctly.  I have had chickens in many places for many years and when my husband and I moved back to ‘the country’ I knew I had to have ‘my girls’ again.  For me it comes natural to have hens on my property, but not and I repeat, NOT, as pets.  They have a purpose.  They lay eggs for breakfast, when they stop laying, they are dinner.  Even the ones with names.

I have found to many people this is disturbing.  All I can say is this.  Chickens are livestock, period.  Yes, they have personalities and yes we even named some of our ‘favorites’.  BUT, they are still livestock, they provide us with food.  There will be a day when my favorite, Hey-Hey, the white hen picutred (yes we named her after the rooster from Moana), will no longer provide us with fresh eggs for breakfast and she will find herself on the chopping block.   This is my first point of think twice before having chickens.

Another other points is cost.  They are not cheap.  You must provide good shelter, ‘litter’ for the floor of their roost which does need taken care of, food, lots of food.  This includes good quality egg layer pellets/crumbles, scratch (seeds and stuff for them to scratch for), oyster shell for strong eggs and treats.  If you free-range some of this eases a bit in the spring, summer and fall, but then you also have to take into account, predators.  You will eventually loose a chicken or more to predators.   I spoil my girls on their food, for two reasons:  Health of the chickens and good eating (eggs and chicken).

Another think to consider is chores.  Chickens are an everyday chore, there  are no vacations and no excuses.  We are blessed with a wonderful neighbor who is our “chicken sitter” when we go out of town, but for the most part you are looking at care multiple times a day.  Food, water must not run out.  The coop and run MUST be kept clean to avoid pests, smell and disease.  The water must remain clean for the same reason and in the winter to prevent freezing.  Chickens are the ADHD animal of the livestock world and will need things to keep them preoccupied.  I throw in scratch seed and straw to keep them entertained or bundles of fresh greens (NOT SPINACH) to entertain them.  Sometimes they get spoiled with a fresh surprise of live crickets from the pet store.  If they are not entertained, they will go to picking on each other, never pretty to find one of your girls ‘hen-pecked’ to death, literally.   There is smell involved in chickens, if you have a backyard coop, keep that in mind, the poop has to go somewhere.  Chicken manure should always be composted before adding to gardens (great fertilizer), but still the poop, and there is lots of poop, must go somewhere and be cleaned often.

Chickens love to explore, again, they are the ADHD animal of the homestead.  They don’t understand boundaries or telling them ‘NO’.  Fence where they can be and make it tall, yes chickens can fly if their wings are not trimmed.  They will also eat, or attempt to eat, anything and everything.  If you don’t want your tulips eaten, fence them off or keep the girls in a large pen.

You do not need a rooster to have eggs.  You only need a rooster if you want babies.  Personally, we don’t have a rooster because we do not want to be woken up before sunrise every day and we also don’t want that one change of opening a fertilized egg.  I’ve done that before, it’s not pretty.

I love having our hens.  They are entertaining and it is wonderful to have the abundance of eggs.  We have 13 hens are we average 10 – 13 eggs a day.  Our friends like them too.  Just think twice before starting your flock, you are devoting your life to a way of life, not a cute feathery novelty and they deserve your attention and care.

Until next time,

Mrs. Kay L. Rice