|Waiting for a broody hen
Every Silkie of ours takes their turn being broody. It seems that once one is done, another is found sitting upon barren pine shavings in the nesting boxes. This week, Fifi and Dolly have snapped out of their broodiness and Feathers and Autumn have snapped in. For the first time, I think that the bigger girls are more curious about being broody.
Tilly, Oyster Cracker and Sunshine, all standard breeds, have never been broody. They are older now and I know they have been curious to know what these little fluffy Silkies are doing staying in the favorite nesting box. I can hear them thinking. Why do they stay in the nesting boxes and never come out? Are they happy when they have to re-establish their place in the pecking order after being broody so long? Why do they pull out their chest feathers like that, is this something that I should be doing? Don’t they like treats anymore? Are you going to be in there all day? Can I lay my egg in the box you are occupying? The Silkies guard these boxes as if their life depends on it. Their heads wear their broody battle wounds. Their once perfectly tufted feathered heads are matted and missing feathers as they sit stubbornly in the boxes. The problem is, every flock of hens seem to favor one nesting box.
We have three nesting boxes. Yet, most eggs are laid in the far left box. Sometimes, I find the standard breeds trying to squeeze into the boxes with the broody Silkies. They wriggle, squawk and cause quite a commotion; just imagine me trying to squeeze back into that size 2 prom dress from high school. Eventually, the Silkies are pecked on the head or back and sternly told to leave the box as the bigger girls get to work laying a perfect warm egg.
As one of the larger girls sits and lays her egg, there are the Silkies circling and jockeying for position in front of the nesting box, waiting for the egg to arrive. Sometimes the larger girls are quick. Other times, they rest after they lay their egg. It makes me smile when I check under the broody girls later in the day and find an assortment of various sized chicken eggs. Oyster Cracker lays the hugest eggs. Those are the best to discover and easiest. I always know when a Silkie has one of Oyster Cracker’s eggs underneath her breast. She appears elevated up a few inches, perched upon an egg that is almost a quarter the size of their body.
As the broodiness fades, missing feathers return along with the weight that was lost during their dedication to being broody. It is cyclical. It is predicable for some. Some hens have a strong desire to mother, while others get down to business, lay their eggs and get on with life. For some the grass is greener outside of the coop where new adventures await, while for the broodies, there may be no fresh grass in the nesting boxes, but it is most definitely a place for eggs.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest