I haven't posted much about the girls lately because their life has been trucking on nicely with no hiccups. I enjoy normalcy when it comes to my chickens. I don't want to deal with any drama. I want them to be happy and healthy and provide me with eggs. The end.
But something has been different about Clementine lately. I don't think it would be noticeable to anyone else, but I can tell she's been a bit "off." Her cluck has changed a bit and she's not pushing Maggie and Sookie out of the way when I bring them treats. In fact, she's been hanging back and avoiding most of the treats I leave in the run.
I've also noticed that she's spending an inordinate amount of time in the nest box lately. We have two nest boxes, but apparently one isn't up to snuff because all three of the girls prefer the nest box on the right and won't even acknowledge the identical (evil) nest box on the left. I'll admit that when I first got chickens I was surprised to learn that hens usually share a nest box with other hens and that there is usually one or two coveted nest boxes in each coop.
Then yesterday I noticed that she was in the nest box in the morning. Then she was still in it in the afternoon. Then there she was at bedtime. That is not a good sign. She's always the first one up on the roost half-asleep and cooing when I lock them in their coop at night. I went out there this morning and there she is in the nest again and she's fluffy as all get out - almost twice her normal size when I got close. Like a marshmallow in the microwave, she expanded within seconds and even let out a low hissy-growl.
Then it hit me. Oh snap. She's gone broody.
You chicken people probably recognized this instantly. You non-chicken people probably don't know what broody means. When a chicken goes broody it means that she received notice from the mother ship that right now is the time to hatch some eggs. So she'll sit on the nest and she'll barely come off for food or water until whatever she's sitting on hatches. After 21 or so days, she'll have chicks and leave the nest to eat and drink and all is good in her world. This is fine if you've got fertile eggs in the nest.
But we are sans rooster and she's sitting on a Titleist and two infertile eggs. Sorry sista - but no matter how long you cook those, nothing is going to happen. And it's 90+ degrees here and if she keeps sitting there without eating and without drinking, she'll get weak and then she's vulnerable to a list of possible chicken diseases. Not good.
So I went to my #1 chicken source - the Backyard Chicken forum - and started reading up on how to "break a broody," meaning, how to get my chicken off that nest so she stops being broody and starts being chickeny again. The most common advice is to make a Broody Buster Box and shove the broody girl inside for a few days until she forgets about her golf ball and life returns to normal.
The idea is that you put the broody hen in a wire cage where air can get to her undercarriage and she doesn't feel the instinct to sit on a nest - she has access to food and water, but nothing else. It sounds mean, but the alternative is her getting weak and dehydrated and possibly dying on the nest. So I called Farmer B and started yammering on about how we have a chicken emergency and need a Brooder Buster Box NOW so he told me he'd ask around at work for a cage we can borrow for about 4 days.
So here we are hoping we can come up with a cage so that we can break this broody before I have to learn how to hook up an IV drip to a chicken. And I'm sure Sookie and Maggie would like me to get cracking on this box because they were standing there with their legs crossed looking anxious since their fat sister won't let them get in the coveted nest box so they can lay their daily eggs. They seriously look ready to bust.
I felt bad for them so pried Clementine off the nest, which was about as easy as ripping apart industrial-strength velcro while wearing mittens, and tossed her in the run for some fresh air. Saffie came up to the fence to inspect this bizarre creature and Clementine went all Tom Turkey on her, which was a behavior I've never seen in her before.
I yelled at Maggie and Sookie to go for the nest but they were too busy eyeballing their strange fluffy broody sister. As soon as Maggie snapped out of it and turned toward the coop, Clementine shot like a rocket back inside and I think we all know where she is right now.
If you're wondering how often a hen goes broody, there isn't a straight answer. It varies dramatically from hen to hen. Some will go broody every few weeks. Others a few times in their life and some think motherhood is for the birds (not chickens) and never go broody. If I manage to break Clementine it'll be interesting to see if she goes broody again or if this was a one-time deal.