I never intended to hatch my own chicks but chicken math has no regard for my plans. My hatching addiction started innocently enough with a request for a Brinsea incubator for my birthday a few years ago. After witnessing the miracle of my first chick hatching, I had The Fever, for which there is no cure. The idea that an egg can transform from potential breakfast food into fluffy cuteness in 21 days completely captivates me. The Fever has taken over my kitchen counter, garage and basement and demanded the construction of a second coop. If you build it, more will hatch.
The most dangerous thing you can give a hatch-a-holic (besides an incubator) is a rooster as he will ensure a steady supply of fertile, hatching eggs to fuel The Fever indefinitely. Max is my Black Copper Marans (BCM) fella and regretfully, he must be re-homed soon. Armed with the knowledge that Max is leaving and taking his genes with him, I have been hoarding the fertile, BCM and Ameraucana eggs for weeks.
My bators only accommodate seven eggs each and I have been filling them religiously every 21 days for a few months in anticipation of Max’s departure. I have more eggs than I can fit in my bators and, as luck would have it, I have four hens that are broody! (evil laugh) A broody hen is one who is inspired (by lighting conditions and hormones) to sit on eggs and hatch chicks.
Since broodies occupy all four of my nest boxes, the other hens are forced to lay eggs in the corner of the coop or double-up in a nesting box to lay eggs. If for some reason I was not going to allow my hens to hatch eggs (for instance, if I had no fertile eggs for them) then I would have to ‘break’ them of their maternal aspirations. The reasons to break up a broody hen and how to do so can be found here.
Broodies are fiercely protective of their eggs, growling at and pecking at any perceived threat. This makes egg-collecting a challenge. At the risk of invoking their motherly wrath, I check underneath them for eggs several times each day. During this morning’s rounds, I was pleasantly surprised to hear cheeping coming from the nest boxes. Rachel, who had been broody for fewer than ten days, was obviously as surprised as I was to learn the sounds were coming from underneath her.
The nest looks like a pillow fight broke out and the reason for that is broodies pluck feathers off themselves to allow the warmth of their skin to make direct contact with the eggs. I don’t mind being a hatch-a-holic and look forward to having The Fever indefinitely. It is a privilege to have a front-row seat to witness the miracle of life.
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