The Prodigal Chicken

I don’t count the chickens every day, but occasionally when I feed them I do a quick head count. Even on my worst days, I feel fairly confident that I can count to 10. Since when I moved the hens to the coop I started with 4 Barred Rocks and 5 Buff Orpingtons it was pretty easy to keep up with all of them, even if I can’t identify individual birds. I think periodically about banding them so I can tell them apart, but it really hasn’t been that important to me.

Several weeks ago, before the turkeys took their trip to Scio, I counted heads and came up one Buff short. There were no signs of any sort of attack, no holes in the fence, no sign of her loose anywhere. I figured that a large bird of prey must have got her. We have eagles and Great Horned Owls in the area, so I thought that one of them must have taken her. Not happy about it, but there were no more disappearances so I moved on.

I have one Buff that has decided for the last few weeks to go broody. Two major problems with that: (1) I don’t have a rooster, so it’s a waste of her time, and (2) even if I did have a rooster, this is the wrong time of year to raise chicks. At least twice a day I go out to the hen-house, pull her off the nest and toss her into the hen yard and collect the eggs that she is setting on.

Last week I went out to feed and did a head count. Four Barred Rocks and 4 Buffs. Yay I think, I’ve finally gotten thru to the broody hen. I go around to the hen-house door to collect eggs and find my broody hen still setting on a nest. Doubting my mental acuity, I toss her out, then go back around and do another count, and come up with 5 Buffs. My missing hen is back! Never saw any sign of her loose in the yard, but I’m not going to look the gift chicken in the mouth.

The next day I go out to feed. Three Buffs in the hen yard, and my broody hen in the house. I’m back to four. What the heck?! I head into the pole barn (which the hen yard backs up to) to look for a tool. Under the work bench I’m looking at I find a nest with 15 warm eggs in it, and I notice that the dirt under the back wall of the barn is low enough at one point that a determined hen (which apparently I have!) could squeeze through. The eggs make a quick trip to the compost heap, and a long board makes a quick trip to the hen yard to block off access under the barn wall.

One problem/mystery solved. Now if I could just cure my broody hen!

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2 Responses to “The Prodigal Chicken”

  1. Leigh Says:

    Great post. I’ve heard one cure for a broody hen is a dunk in cold water. Seems their metabolism is revved when they’re broody, so lowering their body temp “cures” them. The alternative is to mail order chicks and stick them under her one night. That worked for me, though you’re right about the time of year.

    • majorasue Says:

      I’ve tried that, but she is a persistant cuss. Hopefully she will be this willing next year if I get a roo!

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