Bella and I are thinking about Mother’s Day.
“It’s the most important thing you will ever do in your life”, I whisper to her. She growls at me and then shrieks as I pull her off her nest. Bella, my Buff Orpington hen, is now two weeks broody, convinced that the golf balls she sits on are potential chicks. She sits and she waits and waits and waits. This is what mothers do. They hand their lives and their hearts over to their children and never look back.
I cannot tell if Bella will be a good mom. I drag her off the nest twice a day to make sure she gets a drink of water and something to eat and she protests loudly, which is a good sign. And she always returns to the nest, which is another good sign. I think she’s lost a bit of weight. She looks tired. Yeah, motherhood can do that.
I’ve had good luck twice before with broody hens. My first Buff Orpington, Hope, and then our little Belgian Mille Fleur d’Uccle, Pippa, each raised the day-old chicks we delivered to them in the middle of the night, convincing them that their “eggs” had hatched. Other breeds known to be avidly broody are Silkies, Cochins, Light Brahmas, Dark Cornish and Cuckoo Marans.
Commercial breeders have attempted to extinguish broodiness because it interferes with egg production. When a hen goes broody, she ceases to lay eggs. But Buff Orpingtons remain famously and stubbornly broody. Hope was a wonderful mom:
And tiny Pippa devotedly raised three standard-sized chicks, all of whom continued to try to nestle beneath her even after they were as big as her!
But you never know who will take to motherhood. I’ve read stories of hens changing their minds at the last minute and abandoning their chicks. Or worse. Some say the key is waiting until a hen has remained broody for three full weeks, as the gestation for hatching eggs is 21 days.
That will be next week. We’ll see what happens.
In the meantime, Happy Mother’s Day to all you mama hens out there!