Broody-broody-chick-chick

Spring and warmer weather also bring a heat wave.

The kind of heat that makes the kittens and puppies and piglets and … insert here any other babies.

But chickens mate every day, 365 days a year! If there’s a rooster in the flock, he will become the male slut of the flock. There’s a reason why they say “if you want a rooster, you better have at least 10-15 ladies for him“, else he will sex the hell out of the 5-6 you have and feathers will fly off their backs, literally! A rooster could be the biggest horn dog you will ever meet!

A rooster would nonchalantly walk around, looking after the girls and sound the alarm if he senses any danger, forage a little, then BAM! instant porn star! I was taking a picture of Maya sleeping so peacefully as the chickens went on about their own business and caught our young juvie rooster in action!

FB_IMG_1457054334469Fun fact:  a chicken does not need a rooster to lay eggs. Depending on the breed, chickens will lay between 260-320 eggs per year. Chickens are born with a set amount of eggs that they will be laying during their entire egg-life (roughly 1000 eggs). It takes about 29-36 hours for an egg to be fully ready for laying. A chicken will slow down its laying production around 3 years old and live up to 7-8 years. A pullet will start laying around 6-8-10 months, depending on the breed. Chickens found in egg factories (Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns) start laying around 16 weeks.

Roosters are a necessary evil for a few reasons: they are great to ‘wake up’ everyone in the morning and they use the same ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ sound at bedtime to alert the ladies it is time to come back closer to the coop (if more than one rooster lives on the same farm, they will try to top each others’ sonnets all day long! -eye roll- they are full of charm); they spend most of their time guarding over the girls and watch for potential threats. They have different sounds for different threats: if a hawk is circling around, the rooster will call out a ccccrrrrr sound and all chickens run for cover (or just lay low to the ground) – it’s quite fascinating to watch! A good rooster also calls his ladies over when he finds a treat. If I bring out a couple of slices of bread to throw bread crumbs around, he eats selectively and waits until his ladies eat first. As he notices that the treats are almost gone, he starts eating too – I try to hand feed him at the end, just to make sure he does get some treats and the ladies don’t steal it from him. A good rooster also puts himself between danger and his ladies, and if needed, fights the danger off (roosters grow spurs for this reason – they throw their legs at the threat and the spurs slice right through!). I see this when the dogs run through the yard and the rooster does not move from their path but alerts the girls to run – he eventually moves as the dogs tend to travel at high speeds. The rooster is scared of the dogs, of course, but makes his presence noticed and I really think he knows the dogs protect everyone from the outside predators.

Warmer weather makes a laying hen go broody. A broody is a hen that wishes to incubate eggs and care for baby chicks. A broody hen will sit in a nest day and night until eggs start hatching. An empty nest does not deter the chicken from sitting and waiting for weeks to pass (I have witnessed a stubborn broody steal eggs from an adjacent nest – she would tuck the egg under her beak and carefully walk with it to her nest). A broody hen starts plucking its breast feathers so that the skin touches the eggs and the warmth is transmitted efficiently to the eggs. Her body slows down, she stops producing eggs,and she leaves the nest sparingly only to eat, drink water, and relieve herself. Her body temperature drops as well and maintains at a constant 99.5-101°F (optimum for incubation) from her regular 105-107°F. She talks with a distinctive voice which alerts the other chickens that she is broody (or chicks are around). Broodiness is also very contagious! The rooster will try to mount her, but she wants nothing to do with him around this time of the year. kind of like PMS

Our hobby farm goes through this ritual too and I am happy to announce we have a broody 🙂 The chicken is of Barred Rock breed and although they are classified to be bullies with other chickens, they are exceptional mothers. They protect their chickens with their own lives (we lost one like her to coyotes, but the babies were all safe calling for their momma) and they fight other chickens and the dogs if they get close to the chicks. Other breeds do this too, but Barred Rocks really stand out from the crowd. Our house is for sale and I know I will probably have to re-home the chicks later, but I could not resist and I put 7 eggs under her to make her happy. and me!

Fun fact: a rooster needs to be around for eggs to be fertile and good for hatching baby chicks.DayOneEgg

We use a flashlight to check which eggs are good to be hatched. In a dark place (or late at night with the lights off), a flashlight is shined through the egg and if a little circle, the size of a dime, is found at the bum of the egg (the round side), then the egg is fertile. When eggs are cracked and a white, perfect little bullseye is found, it means the egg is ahem! was fertile. Eggs from the store are 99.9% not fertile.

I’ll wait over here for you if you want to quickly check a few of your eggs 🙂 … Ready? 

A chicken biologically knows to turn the eggs a few times a day so that the yolk does not stick to the sides of the egg and the embryo keeps developing. She also knows that the pointy side needs to be facing down (pay close attention to the position of the eggs in the nest under her), so that the dime-shaped circle (an air bubble) keeps at the top and helps the baby chick take its first breath. Don’t ask how does a chicken know all this… she just does lol
Mother Nature wins! 

Fun fact: A chicken may go broody every year, but not necessarily. It takes 21 days for the eggs to hatch and a broody will care for her chicks until they are about 5 weeks old (some breeds care for them as long as 7 weeks).

A hen may become broody again after she finished with one set of chicks (a really determined one!). The chickens found at the egg factories have had the broodiness bred out of them and they can not go broody (exceptions to the rule apply as Mother Nature is great that way, but after 2 years of raising both sets of chickens, the “factory kind” never sat on eggs although I have heard a few of them talking broody).

The video below shows the broody talk I mentioned – I took the video when the broody was out for a few minutes on Day 10 to eat and drink some water. She was out for maybe a little over 5 minutes. You can fast forward through it, she’s not very entertaining lol wait ’till she has chicks with her!!!

 

On another note, Bobby’s back! and he brought a friend…maybe Mrs Bobby (as Linda at Tales from the Cabbage Patch suggested). They were spotted on Sunday in another tree, closer to the back gates. The dogs kept close and everyone was safe!

raccons

 

phew… so kids, what did you learn today in biology class? 😀

To be continued…

8 Thoughts on “Broody-broody-chick-chick

  1. Pingback: Hatch Day and Losses - Caledon Acres

  2. Pingback: Broody-broody-chick-chick II - Caledon Acres

  3. A very interesting post. After I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I decided my husband was a good rooster. It talked about how without a rooster the hens just slept anywhere and it totally reminded me of how I act when Mr. Halfa1000 is out of town. I just sleep where I drop 🙂

    • hahhahhaha I actually did not know that lol now I added the book to the amazon cart 🙂 when Mitchell is out during the night, I sleep in the middle of the bed or HIS side, just to show him I CAN lol

  4. What a great post! I knew a couple of things, like the torch thing (i.e. flashlight) and that roosters always try to out-crow each other, but the fact that a rooster is a horny as a dandy gentleman and a bit of a hero to his ladies is very cool. Very enjoyable and informative post Laura! A couple of my neighbours have chickens but no roosters but if they ever get one I’ll be able to sound like I know what I’m talking about 🙂

    • You’re very welcome 🙂 and thank you for your comment! Roosters can also be total a-holes too, but one farmer said to me once “keep the best, eat the rest” 😀

  5. This was so interesting! You should be teaching Chicken Care 101, 201,301…! I used to live next to a chicken farm when I was a kid but they were all in a barn. Not in coops but still in a barn. I enjoyed the info about the pointy end of the egg and the air bubble end. Thanks.

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