Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Goes Broody

Stubborn Broody Hen
There is an odd phrase among people who have chickens called “to go broody.” A hen goes broody when she decides it is time to incubate eggs to hatch. Such a hen is useful when someone wants to raise chickens and doesn’t have an incubator, but she's not useful when the eggs aren't even fertilized. I have a Dominicker who prefers to sit alone all day in a nesting box. Whenever I see her on the nest, I take the box out and dump her on the ground. It is bad for her health to sit on a wooden egg everyday because she isn’t eating or drinking and she does not lay eggs during the time she is broody. Tomorrow I will try a new method by placing her in a cage alone for a while to see if I can break her from her bad habit.

According to Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens:

Hens, like people, don’t always react as you expect them to, and a persistent broody may continue no matter what you do. If you are as determined that a hen not brood as she is to brood, your only remaining option is to cull her. In an extreme case, a stubborn hen that insists on brooding, even with no eggs to hatch, may eventually starve to death and thus cull herself.

I have been reading “The Hive and the Honeybee” by Lorenzo Langstroth, who invented the hive that most beekeepers use to this day. Even though Langstroth wrote the book in the mid-1800s, much of what he wrote about bees is still relevant. Here is an excerpt about queen bee egg laying behavior vs. hens:

It is highly interesting to see in what way the supernumerary eggs of the queen are disposed of. When the number of workers is too small to take charge of all her eggs, or when there is a deficiency of bee bread to nourish the young, or when, for any reason, she judges it not best to deposit them in cells, she stands upon a comb, and simply extrudes them from her oviduct, and the workers devour them as fast as they are laid! This I have repeatedly witnessed in my observing hives, and admired the sagacity of the queen in economizing her necessary work after this fashion, instead of laboriously depositing the eggs in cells where they are not wanted. What a difference between her wise management and the stupidity of a hen obstinately persisting to set upon addled eggs, or pieces of chalk, and often upon nothing at all.

The workers eat up also all the eggs which are dropped, or deposited out of place by the queen; in this way, nothing goes to waste, and even a tiny egg is turned to some account. Was there ever a better comment upon the maxim? “Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves.”  

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