It’s a really good thing that chickens can’t count. I rely on that fact all the time!
A few weeks ago, I got a batch of Icelandic chicken eggs from David Grote. I had sent him some of mine last year, and we are doing the best we can to spread these genes around, you know? So we plopped them into our little Brinsea incubator, because it was still really cold here and I hadn’t seen signs of anyone of my hens going broody at all. We were still finding frozen eggs every morning, and I sure didn’t want to risk these eggs.
So we started hearing peeps on Friday. Yay! I’m always worried about eggs that go through the mail. Sometimes the hatch rate is horrible. So I started thinking about how I could convince one of my hens to go broody. I really really really like it when they raise the babes and I just get to be Grandma.
So on Saturday, I cleaned out all of the bushel baskets that we use for nesting boxes in their coop and put in lots of fresh hay. In one corner, I piled lots of extra hay in that basket and made a deep hollow nest and I piled up lots of eggs into a pretty pretty clutch.
I was sort of shocked when it worked! I’d kept checking, and about mid-day I noticed that one of the hens was making that funny noise that broody hens make when someone is trying to take their spot away. It’s almost a low growl.
So Saturday night, 11 chicks had hatched, and I waited until it was dark and put them under the broody mama. She had the fastest brood ever! She was so cute. Even though she was sleeping, as soon as she heard the babies cheeping she started making soothing mommy noises. (I forget where I read that broody hens can’t count the days they’ve been brooding eggs — as long as they’ve gone into that broody trance, this trick will usually work.)
I’ve kept them in the bushel basket all day and stuck a few more that have hatched underneath her over the course of the day. (Four more — good thing she couldn’t count how many I put out originally!) Tomorrow, we’ll unscrew the basket from the wall and lower them to the ground and she can start to show them around.
Man I love it when a plan works!