This summer, one of our hens started going "broody". She sat dutifully on her and her sister's eggs, waiting for them to hatch. She would sit there all day, every day on the nest, never wavering. She only came off for a short while to eat, and then back to the nest she went. Each day, I would reach under her warm belly and extract the eggs. Sometimes she would give me a gentle peck, her way of asking me not to take them. There was nothing I could do, the eggs, of course, were never going to hatch. We have no rooster to fertilize them. It was very sad. We hoped she would just come out of this on her own, getting back to her usual days of scratching in the grass and taking dust baths like her sisters. No such luck. We felt worse and worse as she pulled out all of her belly feathers preparing to warm her little chicks that were never to be. She got very skinny from not eating enough, I could feel her breast bones when I would gather the eggs. She sat in that sweltering chicken house all day every day this whole long HOT summer. It made me want to cry. I knew exactly how she felt.
I too, spent a very long time waiting for a baby that was never to come. Like her, I prepared, I sat, I hoped, I waited. Those were the darkest days of my life.
Something had to be done. Given the chance, I knew this chicken would make a wonderful mother. After about 3 months watching her with a heavy heart, I "hatched" a plan. I decided we needed a "rent a cock". I would find a rooster to borrow for a week or so. He could fertilize our chicken's eggs, and then this poor girl could finally be a mom. It seemed like the perfect plan.
I talked to a friend and he said he would be happy to loan us a rooster. When it came down to it though, the logistics of transporting a mean old rooster started to seem a little daunting. One day I was explaining my plan to Corey's aunt Edna, a woman I would consider an authority on chickens. She told me she had a better plan, she would just give me some eggs from her own flock (which contained roosters). We could swap the fertilized eggs out for our girl's eggs. This seemed like the perfect plan! Our little chicken could be an adoptive mother, just like me!
The night we got home with the eggs, Corey built the little brooder her very own little cage with a special nest box with a removable lid. This way, the other chickens would not bother her. We put the eggs inside the box on a fresh bed of straw, and just as we thought, she knew exactly what to do. She sat, and sat, and sat and sat, for 21 days. There was much talk between Corey and I of what might happen. Was there any chance they weren't fertilized? Was she turning them properly? Was this going to be all for nothing?
Then today, Corey gave me a call at my parents house where I was visiting. He said he went outside and there she was, digging in the dirt with 5 fluffy little chicks in tow! He told me she was being a very good mother, just as we'd hoped. Lily and I rushed home and what a sight it was to see the 6 of them. Everywhere she would peck, the 5 little chicks would peck. She showed them how to drink and what to eat. If you got too close, she would give you a loud warning "cluck" to stand back! I shed a few happy tears for the new little flock.
There was one more surprise in store for us. In the afternoon Corey opened the lid to inspect the eggs that had not hatched. One was moving! See for yourself what happened next.
We have kept this whole operation on the down low because we were not sure of what would happen and didn't want to get everyone's hopes up for nothing. Of course, since it is such a happy ending, I am happy to let the world know :)