About an hour before she’s due to lay an egg, a hen will be overcome by hormonal instincts to “nest” and head for a safe spot in preparation for the egg laying. She lays the egg, the hormones subside, and she waddles back outside to scratch and peck and preen. Some hens, however, don’t feel that hormonal instinct pass, usually when the days get longer in spring and summertime — and they’ll stay on the nest for longer — up to three weeks at a time. This is “brooding.” And it’s happening to Goldie.
Here’s a rundown of today’s events:
- 8:00 a.m. — still in the nesting box. Mabel and Marguerite outside in the run chowing down on brown rice and greens.
- 11:30 a.m. — still in the nesting box. Open up the coop door to check on her, receive an evil glare, a few clucks, and a display of puffed-up feathers. I leave.
- 1:00 p.m. — still in the nesting box. I peek inside again, ignore the display of bravado, and, at the risk of sounding like my father, ask her if she’s going to spend all day inside when it’s a beautiful day outside. She blinks and clucks and looks back underneath her at the three eggs she’s “caring for.” I leave her alone.
Of course, the rest of the afternoon, that silly thing called “work” kept me busy, so I didn’t check on her until after work.
- 5:00 p.m. — still in the nesting box. Reach underneath her (avoiding the peck I’m sure is supposed to come, based on website forums about brooding), no peck, gently remove her egg, along with Mabel’s and Marguerite’s deposits from earlier today. Put the eggs in the house, come back out, and pick her up–fluffiness and all–and deposit her outside. Put food next to her. She fluffs up, shakes out the feathers, eats a bit, drinks a bit. I return to the house patting myself on the back at my own sheer brilliance at curing her broodiness.
After a sweat-fest session of tennis, I return home and deposit my groceries in the house. Head out to check the chickens. Where is Goldie? Guess.
- 8:45 p.m. — still in the nesting box. Sigh. Wish her goodnight and lock ’em up for the night.
So I’m back inside hauling out the books to scour the pages for “broodiness.” In the meantime, I’ll keep collecting her eggs and placing her outside the nest. (IF she continues to lay eggs.) I’ll hope she eats and drinks, and if not, some of the books say she may “cull herself.” As a devoted chicken mom, one doesn’t like to hear that. But many of the experts say this cycle simply works itself out. We’ll hope that’s the case. I’ll keep moving her out of the box in the meantime and collecting her eggs and hoping for the best. Stay tuned for updates.