In addition to Olive, our new 10 week old Great Dane puppy, we have a few more new additions at Patchwork Farm.
Buttercup, one of our farmyard chickens, is a broody little Momma. She loves babies and loves being a Mommy, so she has this habit of hiding her eggs from us. Instead of laying in the same area as the other chickens she finds hidden corners to build a nest, and lays a clutch of eggs, with the intention of hatching them.
So what do I mean by “broody?”
A broody hen of any breed can be used to hatch eggs and raise chicks from other hens of any breeds.
- A broody will sit on any eggs, whether or not they are fertile and regardless of who laid them. To gather a suitable clutch of eggs, she will not only lay her own eggs but may roll other hens’ eggs into her nest.
- While a hen is brooding, you can remove daily any extra eggs she gathers into her clutch. Drawing pencil “equator” lines around the eggs you want her to brood will help with identification.
- A setting hen will usually leave the nest at least once a day to eat, drink, and defecate. The eggs are not in danger of cooling off too much during a normal foray into the coop or run.
- Typically, chicken eggs hatch about 21 days from the beginning of incubation or nesting by a broody hen. A few days early or late is not unusual, and some breeds lean toward earlier or later hatches.
- If a broody hen has pushed an egg out of the nest, she probably knows something is not right with that egg or embryo.
For those that are unfamiliar with the workings of chicken laying…I know I was before we got chickens 7 years ago…here is the scoop:
A young, healthy chicken lays an average of an egg per day. Which means you could in theory get a dozen eggs per day if you have 12 chickens. That is not always the case. Other factors like amount of daylight, weather, age of the chicken, and nutrition come into play but it is a good average.
A grown chicken lays an egg per day whether you own a rooster (a male chicken) or not.
The ladies will lay regardless of whether the egg has been fertilized by a male or not. If you do have a rooster there is no obvious differences in a fertilized egg verses an unfertilized egg when they are collected daily and put in the fridge. There is no difference in the look, texture, or taste and it matters not whether your omelet contains a fertilized egg or an unfertilized one.
Here are some other fun egg facts:
Double eggs or “egg in an egg” are created when an egg with a shell is encased by the next egg in the oviduct and a shell is produced over the outer egg as well.
- Double yolkers may have a normal amount of egg white with two or more yolks. The egg may be unusually large.
Contrary to what some believe the yolk is not an undeveloped baby chick. It is actually the nutrients that the chick would feed on as it developed in the shell, if the egg was fertilized.
The egg yolk or egg white may have red or brown specks in it. These “blood spots” and “meat spots” are harmless bits of tissue and are allowed in commercial Grade B eggs. If they look unappealing, the spots can be removed with a spoon or knife before cooking.
The shell color is a breed characteristic. Most chicken breeds lay light-to-medium brown eggs. A few breeds lay white, dark brown, green, blue, or cream colored eggs.
And no, brown eggs are not healthier than white eggs.
If you aren’t sure how old an egg is, you can submerge it in water. The freshest eggs will remain at the bottom of the container, while old eggs will float. Floaters should either be discarded or opened far from your nose
It is the addition of heat through incubation or a sitting hen that causes the embryo to begin developing into a baby chick if it is a fertilized egg. This incubation period takes a little over 3 weeks.
Often with free range chicken (like ours) a hen will “disappear” for a period of time and then return with a parade of baby chicks following her, as was the case with Buttercup.
We have had chickens for years but this is the first time we have had a broody hen. We typically add chicks to the farm through mail order. They are overnighted through the postal service and we get a phone call from the postman to come pick up our noisy chicks when our chirping box arrives.
Having a hen sit and hatch new additions has been a fun change for us. It is neat to watch Momma take on the role of teacher and protector of the chicks as opposed to the artificial environment of raising the chicks in the basement under a heat lamp.
Buttercup is a good little Momma, herding her chicks around the farmyard with Gus, our Guinea fowl, who has taken on the role of protector and adoptive dad to the nine babies. It is so funny to see!
It is moments like this that make me feel so blessed to raise my own “chicks” on a farm where they can experience the most thrilling of nature’s wonders.