The Cottage Smallholder

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Welcome Agatha: The Chicken Lady sends an expert broody hen to replace recalcitrant Hope

Agatha our borrowed broody hen

Agatha our borrowed broody hen

I tried isolating Hope in the dark nesting box on her own – willing her to return to her broody state. But she put her tiny claw firmly down and demanded to be released. We left her overnight but the next morning Radio Hope was blasting across the garden with her own individual strain of “Release Me”. If he’d known, Engelbert Humperdinck would be proud of her.

So we were left with just two routes to follow. Borrow an incubator or a broody hen. The latter is the best option as the hen, nine times out of ten, will look after her brood. She’ll teach them how to eat and drink and protect them from predators until they are big enough to fend for themselves. She will also provide them with a wonderful warm spot to sleep and hide, in the downy feathers on her chest and under her wings.

The incubator route is fine but the newly hatched chicks need heat lamps and much more human attention. This is a much better opportunity for chick and human bonding but a good broody hen is the best option in my book.

So yesterday I dialled TCL’s number and asked if there was any possibility that she could spare a broody hen. Once the eggs go under the hen and warm up the incubation process takes about 21 days. However the mother hen needs to look after her flock and would need to stay for a lot longer than three weeks. So it’s a big favour to ask.
“No problem,” said TCL. After a murmured conversation she announced “We have two broodies at the moment – you can have Agatha.”

Of course there are hens that go broody and reject the hatchlings. This is rare but can happen with immature hens. When I drove up to collect Agatha tonight husband S was reassuring.
“Don’t worry, Agatha is a tried and tested broody. She raises a flock every year and looks after them well.”
He also told me that the journey to a new home might rattle Agatha.
“Put any old eggs under her tonight and in the morning, when she’s settled place the hatching eggs under her. You don’t want to lose those precious eggs if she’s unsettled tonight!”

This afternoon I prepared a temporary broody coop for Agatha until she can move into the pretty little hen house that we bought on eBay. I used our anti broody coop, with the wooden under frame removed. I covered the wire base with a thick layer of newspaper insulation topped with woodchips and sawdust. She also has her own mini water fountain and feeding station. Our broody coop is mouse and rat proof.

The broody coop fits neatly into the Ken Doherty Day Centre, so Agatha will not be exposed to chilling winds or rain.

Our flock were clustered around the broody coop when I carried Agatha into the run. I quickly found that they were more interested in the mini feeder than the new hen. Fortunately they couldn’t get to the 24-7 feeder through the wire cage and Agatha was able to snack without being pestered. She’s now going to be an International superstar after all.

I just popped down now to see how Agatha was settling in. She was standing up. The ‘any old eggs’ spread out around her. I found some large sheets of cardboard back in the cottage and wrapped them around the broody coop. Hopefully, with the darkness she’ll settle down into her broody state by the morning.


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  1. rachael

    Best of luck Fiona. I have a broody bantam on eggs at the minute and one with chicks she hatched on Monday. It’s fascinating and very exciting!

  2. Michelle/Mickle in NZ

    Fingers crossed for you – Agatha is beautiful chookie!

  3. Fiona I do hope you have discovered that Agatha has settled on the eggs overnight. I have been in your situation and it is so disappointing when it does not work out.

  4. So interesting!

    Please do keep us updated, I would love to hear how it goes!

    Good luck with Agatha!

  5. Looking forward to the next “Agatha” instalment! Hope she settles overnight.

  6. She’s a pretty hen. Hope it all works out

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