Make no mistake, a broody hen is a force to be reckoned with. I have heard tales of chickens playing at being broody, spending a few days annoying the rest of the flock and then getting bored and losing interest in the whole thing. I have yet to see a pekin give up after such a half hearted effort. So far, Celia wins the most persistant broody award, having notched up nearly twelve weeks last autumn. I tried everything short of burning down the nest box to break her, but in the end the only thing which brought her out of her broody nuttiness was going in to a full moult. She was practically having daily baths and being force fed at one point. Still, she eventually came through it after several false starts and numerous trips to the slammer.
Now I am doing battle with Hilda. After spending the entire weekend in the broody cage, you'd think she'd be well and truly fed up by now. Indeed, when I went to look her over yesterday she had stopped the 'broody chunter' and was sat on the perch preening herself. Carefully, I placed the bottomless cage on the lawn and observed Hilda behaving in a normal, grass-scoffing-chicken way. So I took off the cage. She stopped mid-munch, eyeballed me, and then slowly sauntered towards the Palace. As she crossed the threshold, she looked back at me over her shoulder, broke in to a run and was back on the nest before I could open up the nest box.
I discovered her once again puffed up and growly in the fourth nest. With a sigh, I retrieved the hormonal harridan and plonked her back in to the garage. She is still there now, muttering darkly with malice glittering in her beady eyes. Hopefully tomorrow she will be more amenable to giving up on the broody madness.
Of course I feel guilty about trying to break Hilda. It seems quite cruel to be taking the hard line with her, while just a few feet away Vera is tending her own eggs. But I can't risk the great white pekin with serama eggs, and I'm not planning on hatching any pekins this year. So it's a necessary evil.
Now that I'm approaching the half way mark with the incubation, my mind is turning to hatch day. It was a truly marvellous experience watching the Peeps burst in to the world last July, and I'm trying not to get too anxious or excited about these eggs. Of course I'd love to get a decent hatch rate, but I know that I'll be lucky to get a 25% live hatch.
Expect a lot of chewed fingernails and angst in around ten days.