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We have three broody hens now. Little Dove was the first one to go broody. One day she was missing and I searched all over for her, afraid that a predator had gotten her. I finally found her in our old hay room that now serves as a storage room. I went back later and discovered a nest full of banty eggs. We made her a better nest using a barrel filled with hay and placed all her eggs in it. The next day she went back to lay her eighth egg and she stayed on the eggs. None of her eggs were fertile since we don’t have a rooster, so I got some fertile eggs from a neighbor. She is very shy around us so we were worried how we were going to replace her eggs with the fertile eggs. Bill reached out and touched her and she shot out of there like a canon. He then replaced her eggs with the fertile ones. She returned a short while later and went back to setting. She’s gotten more used to us since she’s been broody and seems to know we’re trying to help her. We put her food and water near the barrel and close it up every night with cinder blocks, a board and a refrigerator rack to keep predators out.

Little Dove takes good care of herself. She gets off her nest herself to eat and drink. Our other broody, Brownie, has to be taken off her eggs every day to eat and drink and exercise or she’ll starve herself. Since Little Dove’s hatch date is getting close, I’ve been spraying her eggs with water so the chicks won’t stick to the membrane when they hatch. I didn’t have time to spray her eggs before I went to the grocery store today so Bill did. When he lifted her off her nest she protested more than she ever had. He soon discovered the reason. In the nest was her newly hatched chick and another egg is pipping. Little Dove is finally a mother!

Bill had to kill our rooster yesterday. He’s never had any problems with him, but Brownie and I did. Our rooster was a beautiful Buff Orpington and he didn’t like Brownie. She’s our favorite hen. She’s the only Speckled Sussex we have left now. Our other hens are New Hampshires and one is a Buff. Brownie was born with one crooked toe on each foot but she manages to walk and roost just fine. I read that a too cool incubation temperature can cause this deformity. She’s more of a loner than the other hens. I was hoping that Brownie might go broody and raise up a brood of chicks to hang out with, but she hasn’t so far.

Last fall, Rosy our dog and I were returning from a walk and walked past the rooster with his hens. We were all on a narrow road that leads back to our house and the hens were scratching around there. He must have felt threatened and thought I was going to hurt his hens . He came at me suddenly. I had to pick up a big stick to fend him off. My husband takes care of the chickens, so since he wasn’t used to me I didn’t blame the rooster too much for being protective.

The poor chickens have spent much of the winter confined to their small yard because we’ve had so much snow. Since it’s melted, they’ve enjoyed running free and finding bugs to eat and have been rewarding us with lots of eggs. I went up to the hen house the week before last to take some straw to the nest boxes and our rooster came running after me. I hit him enough to break two sticks on him but he still kept coming at me. I got a bigger one that wouldn’t break but he had given up the chase. I made a point of feeding him with Bill there the next day trying to make friends. I later went out to weed the strawberries but I took the broom along just in case. While I was weeding, he was scratching around with his hens seemingly minding his own business, then he’d come at me, flying like roosters do when they want to fight. I would stand my ground and hit him with the broom to fend him off, but he was determined and kept coming back for another attack, After several more times, I gave up and went inside fuming. I didn’t want to hit him hard enough to “teach him a lesson” and make him afraid of me. I read some good advice on the Homesteading forum. If you have a mean rooster, send him to freezer camp.

Last week he jumped on Brownie for no reason and left her head bald and bloody. Then after she had healed a bit and scabbed over he’d peck her head again . She was afraid to go in the hen house one night because he was on the other side of the door ready to attack her. Yesterday morning he went after her again and left her head a bloody mess. That was the last straw. He was in the Crock Pot that night.

So I’m starting another science project to incubate some eggs. I found out that the hens will still lay fertilized eggs for a week to ten days after being with a rooster. I made a homemade incubator from a Styrofoam cooler that came with Omaha Steaks we’d gotten as a gift. My incubator doesn’t have a fan or anything fancy and it loses a lot of heat whenever I open it up. I cut a window in the top and put a piece of glass in it so I can see the thermometer inside. I used a drop cord for the light, hanging it from the top and put in a 15 wt bulb. I placed a tomato sauce can inside the cooler to surround the light. I punched holes in the sides and top of the cooler for ventilation. There are two pyrex custard dishes with water inside to provide moisture. I’ve never done this before, but we did have broody hens at my parents farm. They made it look so easy. I hope that some will hatch. I’ve been testing it, poking bigger holes in it trying to get the temperature regulated. Tonight it’s staying close to 100 degrees, which is within the range I’m aiming for. If the temperature stays pretty constant tonight and tomorrow, I might put in some eggs tomorrow.
Brownie is now our happiest hen. Her wounds are healing. She’s been singing a lot today. Maybe we can raise up a nice rooster just for her.

August 2017
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