Another Bird Gone Broody!

14 Jun

As you may recall, a few months ago our Chinese Silkie hen, Natasha Nogudnik, went broody. After many and varied attempts to snap her out of it, we gave up and gave her to Farmer Ron, who has a rooster. Last week one of our Polish hens, Carmen Miranda, started showing signs of broodiness…i.e. spending an inordinate amount of time in the nest box and squawking when we tried to remove her.

After two days of that we took her out, examined her and found she had pulled out a lot of feathers from her breast, a sure sign of a major hormonal shift. Alas, she had gone broody, too. Unwilling to part with another of our fancy fowl, we decided to find her some fertile eggs to hatch and raise.

Friday morning’s mission took us to all of the little farms we’ve ever seen in our neighborhood that post “Fresh Eggs for Sale” signs. We came up empty-handed, but we met a number of other “poultry fanciers”, including the Smiths, a retired couple that lives a few miles from us. Mr. Smith told us an enchanting story.

Last spring one of his neighbors was repairing a fence and inadvertently disturbed a wild turkey nest with 12 eggs. He called the Smiths and asked if perhaps their hens could hatch and raise the birds. “We said we’d give it a shot,” Mr. Smith agreed. “We put those eggs under two banty hens (mind you, bantams are mini-chickens) and they could barely cover them. But they all hatched on Mother’s Day.”

A wide range of egg sizes, from goose to quail. Click image to enlarge

On that morning, Mrs. Smith noted what was happening and set herself up with a chair in the hen yard. Mr. Smith brought out a patio table and served her Mother’s Day Brunch while they watched the hatchlings emerge.  He grinned as he described how, once the turkey chicks were able to walk around trailing their “mamas”, they were already as big as the banty hens. End of story…once the turkeys had fledged (feathered out)) they released them to a nearby hay field.

Unfortunately, the Smiths no longer keep roosters, so the only eggs they could sell us would be infertile. However, they gave us an idea! Our friend Rick was due to arrive at our house in the afternoon to exchange 4 goose eggs for a dozen hen’s eggs. We know he has a gander, so his eggs would be fertile and we could put them under Carmen. If a banty hen can hatch turkey eggs, Carmen could certainly hatch goose eggs. We chuckled as we envisioned our little Polish hen being trailed by goslings, but when we arrived we found a message from Rick saying he couldn’t make it over until next week.

Adoptive hen with newly-hatched goslings...who's confused?

Now what? As I sat at my computer, researching online sources of fertile eggs, I glanced at a notepad that our neighbor, Karlene, had given me. She has chickens! But does she have a rooster? A phone call, a 3-minute round trip, and I was home with a dozen fertile eggs that her hens have already been sitting on.

We opened the nest box, removed Carmen, placed the eggs in the nest and her on top of them. She setled in right away, and Eddie closed up the coop and run, making CoopaCabana an official “broody coop” until she hatches her chicks. They probably won’t look like her, but she will love them just the same and will be able to fulfill her maternal instinct.

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