Our first year with chickens, we opted to not have a rooster so the 5 roosters in our original batch of “pullet hens” that we bought from the local farm supply were packed away to the freezer for a future dining experience. We started with five each, Ameracuanas, Barred Rocks, and Silver Wyandottes. After culling the roosters, we had one Ameracuana, four Silver Wyandottes, and all the Barred Rocks. Our hens enjoyed a summer and fall, free ranging for bugs, garden tidbits and what ever else caught their fancy. They began laying eggs at about 18 weeks and all were laying by 20 weeks except the Ameracuana which started laying at 30 weeks old.
None of the hens showed any signs of broodiness, which was just fine. It gave us a chance to to grow and learn more about the chickens we took on. In the fall of the year, the farm supply again had baby chicks for sale. We added another dozen hens, half of them Buff Orpingtons as we understood they are more likely to go broody than our other breeds. Again, they were supposed to be pullets, and again, we got a number of roosters in the mix, including half of the Buff Orpingtons.
Then winter began to set in, and so did the predators. Opossums, Raccoons, and Foxes all took their toll on the flock over a couple months time. Some were attacked in the brooder box as we were moving the younger chicks in with the older hens. Some were nabbed while free ranging, and a few when a predator found a way into the hen house. We lost all but four hens by the time we got the predators under control. This spring we added 39 more chicks, 6 from the local farm supply and 33 mail order from Cackle Hatchery. Our order included a half dozen straight run Welsummers, of which half were roosters. Also we purchased six Buff Orpingtons. One was a fail to thrive that did not make it past the second day. We lost another to the predators, leaving us with four Buff Orpington hens.
Over the past few days, two of the Buff Orpingtons, and I’m not at all sure it is the same two, have tried out setting on the next for hours at a time. This was much like the hens behavior just before they started laying eggs for the first time where they would go sit in the nest box, move the next material around and generally try it on for size. August 29th, a day before this batch turned 27 weeks old, one of the Buff Orpingtons decided it was time to go broody. I noticed her on the nest later in the day than has been normal. While adding to the feeders and waters, I noticed she hunkered down a little, and certainly not looking like she might want to slip by me on the way out like they typically do. I did see about a half dozen eggs in that next earlier in the day before she set. As I collected the other eggs, I placed a blue egg and two dark brown eggs in her next. She attacked! So pretty well confirmed she was broody. After a couple moments, I saw that she took the additional eggs and tucked them in under her. Later in the evening, I added one more blue egg for her to care for, and yes, got pecked again, but she took it in as well. All through the night she sat on the nest and did not go on the roost.
We are hoping she stays on the nest for the duration and are looking forward to the possibility of new chicks in a few weeks.