Nature is weird and wonderful, and to my city-boy eyes nothing is quite as weird/wonderful as a broody hen.
Two years ago, I took advantage of two broody hens and stuck a bunch of eggs under each of them, and we got about 10 new chicks that year.
Last year, I tried the same with one hen, but she turned out to be stark raving mad. From my limited observation, broodiness has an at least tangential relationship to full-on insanity. The hen kept pecking her eggs, for reasons still unclear to me, and at the same time insisted on staying on the nest, which in short order became a sticky rotting mess. Only one baby chick survived, and that one was blind in one eye. I think because of that messy nest situation.
This subject of this year’s experiment seems tidy and calm, though frighteningly and obsessively focused, as are all broody hens. She seems capable of starving herself in her dedication to her compulsion. I have to remind myself to yank her off the nest once a day.
I hope in three weeks time we get a bunch of baby chicks out of her.
Now, really I am no expert on broody hens, having only had a few years to observe what is an ever rarer phenomenon in nature, as it has been deemed wise to breed broodiness out of nearly every variety of chicken you’ll see, because a broody hen is not a laying hen. That strikes me as a little shortsighted, and it also strikes Harvey Ussery the same way. Mr. Ussery, a contrary farmer in the best sense of the term, , has written an interesting article on the benefits of using, not fighting, broodiness.