We have two very broody hens who sit on their eggs (and all the eggs) and don’t move. They want to be mamas so badly! I get it, Girls… but no. Not right now. Those eggs are not going to be babies; they’re going to be breakfast and keto cheese bread and cookies and bread and cake!
They don’t do the brooding all the time… I feel like they do it more now since Nolan the Rooster made his appearance a while back. The hens don’t have any physical contact with Nolan – there is a fence between the two runs, but I don’t know if their brooding instincts kick in more with the presence of a rooster (do chickens have pheromones?). Or maybe they have just reached the age where they instinctively sit on the eggs.
We still have to get the eggs though!
Carson will sometimes grab a rake or a broom and carefully push them out of the nesting box to grab the eggs. The brooders look angry and they peck when you get near them (which doesn’t really hurt, but it scares you anyway!), so a tool is helpful if you’re gonna reach into the coop.
I’m a little more sensitive (I’m a mama, after all!), and I have found that if I go to the coop a few different times in the day, I can usually catch them out of the nest getting a drink or stretching their legs. And sometimes offering treats entices them to take a short break. This week, that is not happening. I gave it three days and then I knew they needed to eat and drink, and I needed the eggs.
I grabbed the little hand broom (gentler than a rake!) and starting scooping, gently pushing, and moving her over. It’s tight quarters there in the nesting area so not much room to move (or get away when she’s pecking), and I was all bent over and trying to avoid being pecked by the other chickens. I was laughing at myself the whole time, and eventually – after probably 10 minutes – I collected 12 of the most loved eggs ever laid. The hens protected them for days at the expense of eating and drinking, and I worked a lot harder than I usually have to at gathering them!
Feeling so successful, and like a real farm girl, I took the egg bowl to a stump near the water spigot. Braden was throwing the ball for the dogs, and I figured he was keeping them too busy to care about the eggs. I had to take water to Nolan the Rooster, and headed just around the corner of the barn from where I left the eggs.
I heard one kid scream, and then the other.
My heart stopped…. I’d just read on a neighborhood website that there have been sightings of a cougar or bobcat in the area and, even though I know that the presence of the dogs SHOULD discourage most predators, it’s not always the case – recently, there was a fatal cougar attack of two bicyclists in the mountains not far from us, the cougar was super hungry and its behavior was vastly different from what we expect of cougars in the wild. So I’m not relying on normal behavior patterns of wild animals these days.
Plus… I’m a mama and those are my babies. I panicked and I dropped the water and ran back to the kids and dogs… and eggs.
Thankfully, everyone was okay. Turns out Cotter (our two-year-old golden lab) had jumped up on the stump and knocked the egg bowl over and broken almost all of them in the process, and stole one to eat. He was hurriedly scarfing down the egg in the grass.
You naughty naughty naughty dog.
The only saving grace in the situation was that I can still use the eggshells in the garden… oh, and I guess Cotter got a little extra protein for the day. I collected all of the eggs, rinsed off the stump as well as I could, and headed back to the house.
Some days on the farm are like that… three steps forward, two steps back… gotta keep taking the steps. Can’t cry for too long over broken eggs… even when they were hard-earned eggs. I’m sure there are a few more cliches I can throw in there, but I’ll stop.