It seems so strange. It caught us completely by surprise. She lived all her life as a beautiful female. In fact, she was a very girly girl, always preening to look her best. She was productive and very confident in her position. She took great pride in a job well done. She would always sing out when she was particularly proud of an accomplishment so others could share in her joy. She once shared space with seven other females, but now is living with only one other. As far as we knew, she led a very happy life. A gentle soul, easy to get along with, always welcoming to visitors, she always had a cheery word for everyone.
Saturday morning, the sun was just coming up; the bedroom window was open to let in a fresh July morning breeze. I lay in between the cool sheets reveling in the fact that I could sleep in for a little while. I was mentally going over my list of chores and charting the course for the day.
Er er er er errrrr!!! The morning call of a rooster. Right outside the bedroom window. Our chicken coop sits in the side yard right below our bedroom. But, we don’t have a rooster. Er er er er errrr. There it goes again. We’re down to 2 hens. We started with eight five years ago, but old age and unknown illnesses over the years have taken their toll on our little flock.
Our two remaining girls, Ella and Marilyn are now over 5 years old, but they are still faithfully laying eggs. Granted, they have slowed down a bit in their old age, but we are still getting 4-5 eggs every week, which is enough for the two of us, as we only eat a full breakfast on the weekends. To compound the confusion, Marilyn, who I suspect to be the rooster impersonator, has gone broody.
For those of you who think that eggs come from the super market, here is a brief primer on how chickens lay eggs:
Number 1- chickens will lay eggs even without a rooster present. Of course, there will be no baby chicks without a rooster to fertilize the eggs.
Number 2- When a hen has the instinct to sit on (incubate) the eggs, she is said to be broody. They lay up to 10 eggs, one a day, and then stop laying and start sitting on the nest. This behavior is not desirable in modern production hens, so in most breeds, the maternal instinct has been bred out of them. If the eggs have been fertilized, they will hatch in about 21 days. If not, you’ve just got a cranky hen that is not laying any eggs.
Marilyn is a Buff Orpington hen, a breed prized for not being particularly broody. She has never in 5 years felt maternal, but last month she went broody and sat on the nest for a couple of weeks. She would growl at us if we disturbed her, but we would pick her up and toss her out anyway. Within 5 minutes, she was back up in the roost and sitting on her nest. Eventually she came out and behaved perfectly normally; for about a week. Now she’s back at it again. And crowing like a rooster to boot. She’s one sexually confused chicken.
In a weak moment, I thought that Marilyn and Ella might need some company, some fresh new friends to liven up the routine. So I ordered 4 one-day old chicks. They are going to be delivered next week. I’ll need to bring out the old brooding box and get it set up so we’ll be ready for their arrival. But it will be 3-4 months before I can introduce the newcomers to the coop. Chickens need to establish a “pecking order” (pecking….get it?) and can be brutal to new arrivals. So we need to wait until the new chicks are large enough to take care of themselves. Should be interesting.