Not long after we lost our roosters to a coyote, several of our hens decided to go broody. A broody hen (what we called a “sitting hen” when I was young) is one who has decided to hatch some eggs. When a hen goes broody, she’ll stay sitting on her nest for the 21 days it takes to hatch the eggs, rarely leaving it for a drink of water or bite of food. The process of sitting is very hard on a hen. Of course in the absence of a rooster our hens were sitting on unfertilized eggs. Every night we’d remove the eggs out from under the hens and eventually all but one became discouraged and gave up sitting.
But one white hen was determined. Every night she’d puff up and peck at us as we took the eggs, and no matter how many times her nest was robbed, she’d move onto someone else’s eggs and continue to sit.
This went on for months. This hen was so hard-headed that I became afraid she’d starve or die of thirst rather than give up.
So I decided to try an experiment. I bought 12 three-day old chicks and put them under her. At first she didn’t know what to make of them (or they of her). But in a few minutes her motherly instincts kicked in, and she began pulling the chicks under her wings. They seemed happy for the motherly care.
So I took the hen out of her nest and placed her on the floor of the henhouse. Then I sat all the chicks near her (of course she was pecking at me the whole time). When I came back to check on them a little later, she was hunkered down with the chicks gathered beneath her–as you can see in the photo above.
Problem solved. Mama now has the babies she desperately wanted.