Getting our chickens to hatch their eggs properly can be pretty frustrating. If they go off into the woods or an out building to sit, all is fine. Eventually the hen will come back, with a bunch of chicks trailing her. But when they sit in the henhouse, confusion reigns. After leaving for a drink of water, the sitting hen will often get on the wrong nest when she returns. Hens will lay fresh eggs in the clutch that is being incubated. Eggs get broken. It is rare that more than one or two of the eggs in a henhouse clutch actually hatches.
When Jude was here she told us that her grandmother in Saudi Arabia used to tie the hen in the nesting box, making it impossible for her to leave. She would give her feed and water, and keep her tied there until the eggs hatched.
This idea intrigued me. I wasn’t interested in tying up our hens, but I wondered how we might keep them where they were supposed to be.
Jude and I came up with the idea of using a box. We put the sitting hen and her eggs in the box and shut the lid. Sitting hens like to be isolated and during their 21 day sitting they rarely leave the nest. So while a chicken would normally protest against being shut up in a box, a broody hen prefers it. Every morning I open the box for a while to let her go eat, drink and do her business. Then, when she gets back in the box, I fasten the lid. No more hens squabbling over the nest and messing up the hatch. And she likes the privacy.
I’m excited to see how the hatch goes. If it is successful, I’ll get more of these boxes and this is how we’ll do it in the future.