And as my book says,
"far too many beginners try to leave the broody hen in the regular egg nest ..."Oh well, next time. I can already see the wisdom in moving the broody hen.
I'm still learning about broody hens, but as I understand it now, hens go into a phase where their mothering instincts are dominant. They start saving up their eggs (and eggs of any other hens for that matter) until they get enough eggs that they can easily sit on them and cover them completely with their feathers to keep them warm. The number of eggs will vary depending on how big the eggs are and how big the hen is. The development of the egg is put on pause until the hen decides she's got the right number and starts the incubation process by sitting on them full time. The eggs can keep safely for up to two weeks as she gathers up her clutch. Then she stops laying further eggs.
The tricky part is making sure she is able to sit on the eggs and keep them warm for the full 21 days. That's why it is helpful to isolate them. The first hen to go broody collected up about a dozen eggs. It's difficult to know exactly how many are under her from day to day. The other laying hens sneak in to her spot and lay fresh eggs which get added to her pile (another reason to isolate her). This hen hasn't been very consistent and I'm afraid none of her eggs are going to hatch. If the eggs get cold at any point in the incubation period they stop growing and die.
I noticed the second hen sooner and I was able to move her to one of the nesting boxes where she is faithfully sitting on two eggs. I am a little more hopeful that her eggs have been kept warm.
They will both leave the eggs for brief periods of time during the day to go outside to eat and poop. This is the unknown time factor. At the moment here in East Texas it's over 90 degrees most days, so the eggs could probably survive awhile without the hen. The hens get distracted, though, while they're out and sometimes go back inside and sit in the wrong place or find another hen sitting on her eggs.
One of the more interesting things is that the hens go into a trance like state, some refer to as a Zen-like intensity. If she feels threatened or gets disturbed she makes a distinctive cry and raises her feathers.
|I started out putting water and feed by the first broody hen. She didn't want it.|
|Then I decided to put chicken wire around her to keep the other hens away from her spot.|
|I put the second broody hen in a nesting box.|
|She started out with two eggs under her.|
|I put some chicken wire around her as well. She pushes it over when she wants to get out.|