DON'T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS BEFORE THEY'RE HATCHED
Broody has been on the nest for twenty very warm days. She started incubating thirteen eggs on June 22, right before a blistering heat wave hit the Pacific Northwest. We’ve worked to keep the brooding coop shaded and cool, but it's still been very warm.
Broody didn’t seem to mind the high temperatures as much as we did. She stayed on the nest day and night, only coming out once or twice a day to eat, drink, preen, and do her business.
When she’s on the nest, she’s a silent sentinel, answering our greetings with a clucky whisper. I imagine her terse response: “Can’t visit now. Important business. Go away!” When she leaves the coop for sustenance and relief, she does so on the run. She’s full of loud squawky words that tumble out in a raucous run-on sentence. I imagine that too: “Just cannot sit there a minute longer and I really need a dust bath and where’s the water bucket and those good-for-nothing drakes better stay outta my way!”
After about thirty minutes, however, she recovers her maternal senses and absolutely nothing will keep her from returning to her clutch.
She started with thirteen eggs, but after only a few days, two were booted from the nest. Did she know that they weren’t viable? Some say that setting hens can tell. Perhaps eleven eggs is the right amount to optimally match her body size. These eleven have continued to appear viable, i.e., no foul smells or discoloration. Broody turns them regularly; she also spaces them out or draws them close together, whichever is needed to regulate their temperature.
Broody only showed signs of heat stress (panting) a few times. During the hottest hours, we spray the brooder as well as the bushes and ground around it to cool the air and increase the humidity a bit.
We’ll find out soon if Broody’s tenacity during these three sweltering weeks will pay off. In the meantime, we’ll continue to keep our mother hen and potential hatchlings cool.
We won’t be counting our chickens, however, until tomorrow.