Broody Hens

Hens bred for commercial egg production care little for the eggs that they lay. About once a day they feel this need to settle into the nest. Within a few minutes, the hen lays her egg, clucks proudly and then quickly forgets about the event and goes outside to find something interesting to peck at. This is a good thing if you care about getting eggs from your hens. Most of our hens are very good layers.

But there’s always the exception. A hen that stops laying and sits on a clutch of eggs day in and day out is called “broody.” Some breeds, like Silkies, are known for being broody and good mothers (if only I was considered a good mom when I get broody!) Tweedledum, our Silkie, went broody this spring. She sat on the other hens’ eggs that in total weighed as much as her. Of course, without a rooster, the eggs were infertile. That didn’t seem to bother Tweedledum at all. After three weeks of staying indoors all day (except for the daily dust bath – never to be missed) she left the nesting box and no longer has any interest in the eggs.

Now Snowball is broody. The books give all sort of tips for how to get a hen to stop sitting and start laying. But since Snowball rarely lays an egg anyway, it doesn’t bother me that she’s unproductive. I am sympathetic to farmers who have to make a living. Snowball would have no place on a real farm. But she’ll always have a place here.

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