Broodiness - that inborn urge to sit... and sit... and sit on a nest full of eggs has been bred out of most modern commercial laying hens. But our chickens are old-fashioned heritage breeds, so they still know how to be chickens. Our little black hen decided it was time to be a mother, so she began to sit...and sit...and sit on her nest - rightly earning our children's apt if unoriginal name for her "Broody".
At first we tried to dissuade Broody, plying her with scratch grain or putting her out in the choicest pasture spot. It's not that we didn't want her to hatch some little chicks - the problem was the protective yet docile Orpington rooster we've been wanting has not yet materialized, so we have no fertile eggs for her to hatch.
When we saw that Broody was serious, not leaving her nest for anything, we thought this might be a great way to get that Orpington rooster after all. And so we ordered some very special fertile eggs and slipped them under our little black hen. And she began to sit...and sit...and sit... and that little hen sat for 21 days straight until one morning I came out to see three of these:
But we still had a problem over in the nest - one little chick had pipped (broken through the shell) but was unable to hatch out by itself. This happens sometimes, and these chicks have another apt if unoriginal name - "help-outs". I have to say, helping a frail, wet little chick out of it's shell, holding its fragile life in your hand and helping it to be "born" is really an amazing experience.