This has been the summer of broody hens! First, two of my three Blue Laced Red Wyandottes decided to go broody on me (meaning stop the presses, no more eggs, we want to be mothers!). Back in May I tried to let one set on a brood, but someone (the hen?) started breaking and eating the eggs, so that experiment came to a quick halt. I "broke" both she and the other Wyandotte of the broody urge with two days of solitary confinement in a wire cage, as recommended by the chicken experts.
A few weeks later, though, Mama, the Easter Egger hen I bought last year who had just reared a nice brood of chicks, decided to jump on the bandwagon, and there's no stopping her. Two days in a wire cage and she immediately marched straight back to the nest upon release. Hmm.
So, against possibly my better judgement, I gave her eight eggs to set on. I know she's a successful mother, as I saw the proof last year. I also have grown a little weary of having to explain to new egg customers that a dozen eggs will include some HUGE eggs and some LITTLE eggs. If you average it all out you'd probably get a normal sized dozen, but looking at each egg, well, that dozen is very inconsistent.
So. She's currently, now, sitting on ten eggs. I aimed to give her medium-to-large sized eggs, no jumbos, but none of the dainty little pink ones, either. I did throw in one Easter Egger egg for good measure. I tried to candle about an hour ago in the dim barn (in 94 degree heat!), but my results were inconclusive. Today would be Day 7, with hatching occuring between 19 and 21 days incubation. I will go out later tonight when it's darker and try again. And being the good Mama (thus the name!) that she is, I'm quite sure she will again pitch a royal fit! That's ok...it's important that I remove any eggs that appear infertile, as once they begin to decay they run the risk of exploding, and that could ruin all the others.
My plans for any that hatch is not clear yet. Part of me would like to build a mini chicken tractor and try running the babes through the pasture, although I'm not sure how effective that would really be. Any males, if I can swing it by the time it's "time," could be butchered for eating. I think I'd eventually like to weed the pink egg layers out of my flock, as lovely as their eggs are, and replace them with layers of larger eggs. (I'm also down one hen; one of the other Easter Eggers became our big rooster's favorite and he accidentally dislocated her hip during a vigorous mating, so we had to put her down.) For now, I think I'll refrain from counting my chickens before they hatch!
UPDATE: As of the evening this post was written, Mama has a co-setter...one of those darn Blue Laced Red Wyandottes! I plan to move Mama and her nest of eggs to a secure outdoor pen near the house, and Missy Blue Laced Red will go back into solitary confinement for the weekend.
Mama, dust bathing with her peeps.