The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

I never, ever thought that I could get angry with a chicken

Wyandotte hen named Hope

Wyandotte hen named Hope

But I did. I was so angry with Hope that I wanted to rip her apart with my bare hands.

Hope has been toying with being broody all summer. She’ll sit for a day or two and then decide she doesn’t want to sit on eggs any more. If a hen stops being broody there are various tricks that you can do – such as putting her in a dark box for a day or so. If you’re going to try this don’t forget to give her food and water.

Hope would have nothing to do with a dark box. She screamed and screamed until I felt sorry for the rest of the flock and our neighbours. When I opened the box she flew out and marched round the pen, still shrieking away. She “went broody” vaguely twice. Irritating but forgivable.

About two weeks ago she went broody again. She seemed serious this time. In fact she sat for 10 days, pecking me hard when I topped up her food and individual water fountain. She refused point blank to leave the nest.

Each day I pulled on my thick leather gardening gauntlets and whipped her off the nest so that she could relieve herself and stretch her legs. She stomped about the hen run clearly screaming at me in chickenese. She really was rather frightening. She nipped back to her nest quickly and hurl a few stringent clucks of abuse as I walked back to the cottage.

Then on the tenth day I booted her off the nest and she didn’t go back. In fact she took a dust bath, lay in the sun for a while and eventually went up to roost. I opened the chicken house door and she glared at me with gimlet eyes.

Her nest of eggs was quite cold by then. I couldn’t stop thinking about the partly formed chicks in the eggs – four lives just snuffed out by a wilful hen. I was furious with her and I’m embarrassed to admit that I picked up the perch that she was roosting on and shook it hard.

Needless to say she held on tight. Although she seemed a bit surprised.

I felt like a cross between King Kong and a medieval knight – lance in hand.

Then I realised that my behaviour was absolutely ridiculous. I gently replaced the perch with Hope still attached and walked away. Later when I’d calmed down I collected the eggs from her nest and threw them away. Chickens are not thinking creatures – they are not the brightest sparks in the fire. Like so many warm blooded creatures they act on instinct.

I reckon that you might be wondering what has happened to Hope since then? Hope has remained taciturn but I still love her and I think that after this incident I care for her even more. She is also such a pretty hen and she lays the sweetest eggs that I’ve ever tasted.

 


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23 Comments

  1. What a pity. Although she’d probably have been no better as a mother.

    We’re rather overrun with chicks here, though we don’t yet know how many are cocks or hens.

    • I think ‘Z’may be right about Hope not being a good mother. I have noticed that with my flock of hens. I have one hen in particular (Cleopatra) who will walk off her clutch of eggs & the only lot she ever hatched she abandoned after a couple of days….very luckily they were adopted by another broody who already had hatched some of her chicks; she bought up 19 little chicks perfectly. I now never let Cleopatra stay broody but she is a great layer of tasty eggs.

  2. thinking of the days

    Naughty Hope! When I kept chickens, we had one who drove me nuts…the most wilful chicken ever.We called her Leg It…..because she kept escaping and legging it down to the churchyard.

    Ah, a holy hen I thought…then I found out she kept getting into the Old Rectory and was systematially destroying a rather lovely flower border!

  3. Freerangegirl

    What a frustrating hen!!! We had a rhodie who refused to sit on her own eggs and the answer was to let our buff orpingtons adopt them – they’d sit on golf balls if you let them! She is a pretty one though, I bet her chicks would be lovely!

  4. Mark and Gaz

    Naughty Hope, but it has given you one of the best blog titles I have read in ages!!

  5. Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    Honestly, I’d probably be as upset as you were at Hope! Those poor little chicks :( Is Hope a young bird without any nest-sitting experience?

  6. Diligent Gardener

    I can understand why you are cross with Hope, such a shame things didnt work out :(

  7. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    It’s hard not to get mad at chickens for just being chickens. For going broody when you don’t want them to, for not staying broody when you do want them to, for eating the landscaping down to nubs, for breaching the garden fence and taking one peck out of each tomato.

    Sorry about your eggs. I second the suggestion to give all eggs to Buff Orpingtons. They’d sit for 9 months and hatch a human, if they could.

  8. Jennifer Higgins

    Little madam! but a very entertaining and honest post.I don’t keep chickens myself, my friend does.Some of hers lay like mad (ex batts)some others she keeps like being ornamental or broody as a career,(Bantams).
    Bet Hope’s eggs are lovely.

  9. Bad that hope “those littel chicks”
    But all seems well now great blog.

  10. Ian Fisermanis

    Broody hens!!!! I have agreed to ‘sit’ a broody hen for a friend as she has no cockerel and I do. The hen is So broody she refuses to leave the nest box and as soon as i force her out she tries to get back to it. She isnt actually laying and when the rooster makes a move for her she runs a mile!! So, what do I do? Any suggestions… Im happy for her to sit on her eggs but she needs to get fertile and to actually lay some first! Help!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Ian

      A broody hen does not lay eggs. So if your friend wants chicks she won’t have much luck. You can stop the hen from being broody using this method, it works very well – http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/how-to-stop-broody-hen-25/. Then cross you fingers that she gets covered by your cockerel, lays some fertilised eggs before going broody again.

      Or put some fertilised eggs under the broody hen from your flock. You can also buy fertilised eggs on ebay.

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