Several weeks ago, I noticed her on the same nest for three or four days in a row and thought that perhaps she was "broody" and was going to sit her eggs. Because of the prevalence of incubator hatched chickens nowdays, most hens have lost the inclination to sit eggs. I talked a little about that in THIS blog. It took me a few days to decide that maybe her intentions were pure, but until then, each day when she left the nest to eat the grain I throw every morning - talk about mayham!
Each morning about 30 chickens greet me at the porch steps and walk with me - in front of me - under my feet - to the gate, where another 30 or so join in the procession to the feed barn. They all crowd around me, quite frightening really, like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, while I scoop a can of oats to throw, just to get them away from me. Then hastily I scoop feed for the two horses and another can of oats (I find it takes them longer to eat scattered oats than layer pellets, which I throw for them later, after the horses are fed. I have to act fast because when the oats are finished a good many run to try to steal the horses feed. Obnoxious!
I digress. For days I took the eggs out of Chickie Mama's nest while she ate, until I saw that she had the intention of patiently sitting her eggs for 21 days until they hatched. So I let her be. Because chicken nests are community nests, I assumed that other hens had been laying there, and, that there were probably quite a few eggs under her. I was sadly disappointed when she got up the next day and there were only three eggs in her nest. I added 7 more. And there she sat.
I really didn't pay much attention to her - she just kinda did her thing and I did mine until one day I saw THIS...
and became concerned that she had deserted her nest. I also noticed the large number of eggs gathering in the nest behind her. Broody hens become quite territorial and a bit aggressive when sitting eggs, so I had neglected to gather the ones in the back that I could not easily reach.
And then later I saw THIS...
So here I was, afraid that not only had Chickie Mama ruined the chance of these eggs hatching, but that now she was going to waste another nest full of eggs. She obviously hadn't honed her "setting" skills.
And then I saw THIS...
Ah, back on her rightful nest and "hunkerin' down". I was relieved. It shouldn't be long until her eggs begin to hatch. Wait. WHAT'S THIS??...
NOW it all makes sense. There are TWO chickens: Chickie Mama and Auntie.
One morning, not long after, while Chickie Mama was out feeding, I spotted a yellow peep in the nest. Now, typically, a hen will sit eggs in a hidden location and then appear with her hatched brood of chicks. Chickie Mama, on the other hand, had chosen the center of commotion to sit eggs, and throughout the 21 days, when she left the nest for short periods of time, other hens had come and laid their eggs in her nest. I believe this is what fouled her incubation rate. Within two days, two more chicks hatched, and yesterday, Chickie Mama left the nest with her three babies and began showing them the ways of the world.
Auntie has decided that she would rather be outside helping than sitting so she is the self appointed guardian of the flock.
The two hens will scratch the dirt almost continuously and cluck to their chicks to show them how to hunt for bugs and grain.
They will return periodically to their nests with the babies to rest.
Except... Who the Heck is THIS??