We thought we were doing amazingly well with eggs this summer – with both Marmalade, our big ginger Orpington hen, and Missie our light Sussex hen, working hard to lay us eggs every day, but it seems that the production line has ground suddenly to a halt. Marmalade has turned broody. Being an Orpington, this is an occupational hazard. Big, cuddly, loveable mammas of hens, Orpingtons are prone to go broody at the drop of a hat. They crave nothing better than being mum to a few ginger chicks and, when they do turn broody, spend about six weeks hogging the nesting box and doing everything it takes to hatch the imaginary egg, including pulling out their own chest feathers so that they can get their skin closer to the egg.
It does cause a few problems for Missie, though. Missie is still laying at the moment – she hasn’t turned broody yet – as she did last time Marmalade did in about March, which was a pain – and is busy, as Doug calls it, ‘crossing the picket line’ to continue her hard work in the office. However, it’s a bit tricky laying your egg when every day you’re confronted by a large feathery ginger mass in the nesting box, determined to stay put. Marmalade will not be moved, after all. Sometimes Missie ends up precariously sharing the box with her, other times she gives up and lays her egg on the bars. Occasionally she’s got stuck in the hen house altogether as Marmalade’s broody mass (she even makes these broody noises, which are a bit like ‘bub bub bub’) blocks out the doorway and the way back into the run (as well as the sun).
As far as we can tell from our experience of keeping chickens for about six years now, there’s not much you can do to stem the flow of broodiness once it sets in. We keep kicking Marmalade out of the nesting box, once Missie has laid her egg of the day, and shutting it so that she has to run about in the run and ‘have a life’, as I tell her most days. But generally we’ve found that we just have to wait for the craving for motherhood to run its course. In the meantime, egg production has halved.
It’s a shame not to be able to give into Marmalade’s dream of motherhood as she would make an amazing mum, I’m sure. It would be lovely to see her taking care of a few chicks and on occasion, we have oohed and ahhed about what it might be like. But it’s just not worth the angst at the minute of keeping the hypothetical chicks safe from the attentions of the local fox/Dougal my cat, not to mention the fun when we find out that half of them are cockerels…and working out what to do with them. Then, suddenly having a few chicks isn’t half as nice as it might be.
Let’s just hope Missie doesn’t succomb and we don’t have to start buying eggs again! If anybody’s got any great cures for broodiness then do let me know. I’d love to hear them!
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