Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They’re Hatched!
We have three hens who want to be mommies. It started out slowly and now it is a full-fledged phenomenon. We had one hen, our Black Australorp, who started sitting on eggs about a month ago. We’d go in to collect eggs and she’d be sitting there in one of the nesting boxes daring us to try to take her eggs. If you get too close to a hen sitting on a nest of eggs, she makes a sound very similar to a rattle snake. That’s enough of a warning for me. The problem was that she couldn’t decide which eggs to sit on and which box to sit in. So, she was on a different pile of eggs every day for about a week.
We were dutifully collecting any eggs that we could. But we found that once a hen starts sitting on them, they start developing. You probably don’t want to think about this too hard. Trust me. It’s gross. I have a bunch of hard-boiled eggs in my refrigerator that nobody is eating. I asked my family what was going on. Steve said, “I’m afraid of them.” So, I opened them all up to make egg salad to protect my family from unwelcome surprises. We still prefer our eggs less than one day old. We have figured out where our chickens are now hiding their eggs and are collecting them promptly and refrigerating them to stop them from developing on our kitchen counter.
Our Black Australorp decided she’d rather be a chicken than a mommy and abandoned her eggs after about 5 days. But one of our Buff Orpingtons decided to sit on them instead. It took her about a week of moving around, playing musical nesting boxes, and collecting a bunch of eggs before she decided that she was, indeed, committed to sitting on a nest of eggs until they hatched. Evidently, broodiness is contagious, because our other Buff Orpington decided to join her. And, then the Black Australorp came back. This is the only time I feel like it may have been useful to name our chickens. It is much easier to refer to them by name than by breed. Josephine named our biggest Buff Orpington “Sassy” when she was a little chick. She is the dominant hen in our flock. And her sister is a close second. They are also both favored by the rooster, which means they have bare spots on their backs because the rooster jumps on top of them every day to show them how much he loves them. I asked Erika if there was anything I should do about their love bites and rough appearances and she firmly told me, “No. There is nothing to do. Do not buy them little sweaters or little leather saddles.” I laughed so hard at the idea of a chicken in a little leather saddle until Erika said, “I’m glad you think it’s funny. People really do that.” They are called chicken saddles, hen mating saddles, or hen aprons. I’m not sure where the ridiculous chicken line is. But Erika and I are firmly on the side where you don’t name your chickens and where you don’t put them in saddles or on leashes. Maybe we have too many chickens? Maybe if you only have four or six, they’re more like pets than livestock?
Justin bought me this sign for my chicken coop:
That was before I had three hens sitting on roughly 45!!! Eggs. Yep. Those ladies are sitting on about 15 eggs each. I’m feeling a little panicky about this. What the heck am I going to do with 60 chickens? Oh, don’t forget that somewhere around half of those will be roosters. Crap. All of a sudden, free ranging my chickens seems like a great idea. Is it a bad sign that I’m starting to count on predators to control my chicken population? I asked Erika what I’m supposed to do. She was maybe not the right person to ask. She suggested several different incubators I could buy if I wanted to improve my hatch rate. Uhhh… I definitely don’t want to improve my hatch rate. She gave me some good advice, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” She said that normally only about half of them would hatch and that they all wouldn’t make it to adulthood. She said, “Normally. However, in your case, you’re likely to have around a 90 to 100% success rate. Haha.” Haha? Not funny. What am I going to do with 60 chickens? “Start a chicken farm? Or a 4-H club?” Erika told me it is actually not hard to pawn off chicks. She said that you can just post them on Craig’s List or Facebook, and they’ll be gone within an hour. Watch for that post if you want some chicks!
It takes about 21 days for an egg to mature and the chicken to hatch. By my math, we should have chicks any day now. I’ll get you pix as soon as they start hatching!