I went to do the final check on the poultry last night and at least four hens stuck their butts up in the air and screeched at me like the little feathered velociraptors they resemble. Yup – it’s broody season. I am sometimes asked what it means when a hen “goes broody” and I explain it as the avian version of pregnancy. Hormonal changes occur in birds that tell them it is time to “sit” on a clutch of eggs and hatch out youngsters to raise. And, once a hen is full-blown broody, it is next to impossible to dissuade her.
This being spring, broody birds are no surprise. From April to July last year I perpetually had broody birds – at one point a dozen or more were sitting on various nests throughout the coop at the same time! Several hens brooded multiple times. One particularly broody hen raised turkeys, ducklings and finally a few chicken chicks for me. She didn’t care what she raised – if it was a baby, she’d call it over, tuck it under her wing, and mother it.
Some of my friends dread having hens go broody because a broody hen doesn’t lay eggs, so production is compromised. As for me – I LOVE me a broody hen. Every year I raise enough chickens, turkeys and ducks to meet our egg and meat consumption needs, but raising them in a brooder is a lot of work. A hen will do it all for me – from keeping them warm and safe, to showing them how to find food and water. She’ll even teach them to forage well, while out free-ranging.
So my plan for this weekend is to collect specific eggs I want incubated, mark them, and tuck 2-3 under each of the newly broody hens. And, in three weeks or so, the new mothers will be introducing their chicks to life at the coop. It is spring on the farm and I couldn’t be happier about it.