Monday, November 28, 2011

Snapshot Sunday: Chickies Have Two Mommies

These two hens went broody within about five days of one another. I gave each of them a private nest box filled with eggs in a large unused stall in the barn. I knew that I'd have to move the first clutch to hatch quickly, as the still-setting hen was likely to try to kill them when they started running around.

The morning after they hatched, Broody Prima was in the nest box with Broody Dos, setting on those eggs, while the chicks ran around the stall and popped under either hen indiscriminately.

Sigh. Buff Orpingtons. The golden retrievers of chickendom.

The two ladies raised their clutches communally; within a couple weeks, it wasn't even possible to tell the older chicks from the younger ones. They were very successful, bringing up 19 chicks together. They lost two to a barn rat that grabbed them at night, before the cats took care of him. The two Mommas were seldom more than ten feet apart. I never saw them quarrel.

They have, of course, both earned blue broody leg bands, which exempts them from the crock pot. I'm eager to see whether they sync up their broodiness next year.

Broodiness is a genetic trait, not a learned one, so I am saving eggs from each of them come spring.


  1. Yay! You're back. And I enjoyed the post too, so icing on the cake.

  2. That sounds adorable. What a modern-age family. Your chickens must be very open minded.

  3. Are the Orpingtons the only breed you have that goes broody? If not, is one breed more likely to go broody than the others?

    And welcome back (if one can welcome a person back to her own house, so to speak).

  4. Michelle, some of my mixed-breed hens have gone broody, but the Orps have ALL gone broody at one time or another. It is a breed characteristic. Catalogs and chicken breed books will mention whether hens of a given breed/strain tend to brood or not. A lot of people keep a few silkies because they are uber-broody, but I don't think they would do well under our brand of husbandry. Game hens (nothing to do with the little baby chickens they sell frozen at the supermarket) are another broody breed, but are much less easygoing than the Orps.

    Ironically, the most successful broody I've had was a mix of silver-laced Wyandotte and silver-spangled Hamburg -- two breeds that allegedly never go broody. And none of my Wyandotte hens ever have. But their little mutt offspring raised 13 chicks by herself off in the shrubberies somewhere.

  5. Nice, thanks. I've heard somewhat mixed reports on the Orps but wonder if source of chicks makes a difference. Had RIRs and Silkies in another life...RIRs never went broody, and I don't want to go the bantam route. Have been leaning toward Orpingtons (and probably a few others thrown in for comparison and genetic variety) and want the broody trait. So thanks again for sharing your experience.

  6. I had Runner ducks go broody and raise a batch, and they are said to never as well, lol.

    Didn't know that broodiness was genetic, never thought about it but assumed it was learned to an extent. But then, I've had incubated birds go broody, lol, so it makes sense. My best hens have been Cochins. I also didn't know buff orps were likely, to, lol, we'll see about the 4 young girls I have this summer. ;)

  7. I should clarify the point about broodiness being genetic.

    What that means here is that the tendency to set eggs AT ALL appears to be 100% genetically determined.

    However, setting, or brooding, if the predilection is present, can be triggered -- by the presence of lots of eggs (or golf balls) or by another hen going broody -- it's infectious, like flu or yawning.

    And success at brooding and raising chicks is partly learned. They get better at it as they gain experience -- they keep nests cleaner, pace themselves better, and get MUCH better at managing the chicks after hatching.

  8. One reason I keep a mix of broody and non-broody breeds is so that, when it starts in spring, ALL of my laying flock doesn't simultaneously lose their minds and stop laying. Two or three deranged momma hens at a time is plenty.


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