Here is a picture of a White Cochin, like our hen named “white pants.” She has “gone broody.” Technically that means hormonal changes that are driving her to sit on eggs. If all goes well she will hatch them in 21 days. A good explanation of broodiness can be found here: http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/BRKBroody.html
We started with 2 broody hens, each taking up residence in 2 different horse troughs located in the barn. We use these troughs, left by the previous owner, to brood chicks and also as nest sites for the hens. One broody Araucana hen sat for days, but kept pushing eggs out of her nest. She did this for several days and then stopped altogether. We removed the eggs and threw them out.
White Pants, however, seems to be doing a pretty good job. She has been sitting resolutely for almost a week. She has 8 eggs and we marked them all with the date. I don’t know if she will prevail, but we are pulling for her. When I checked her yesterday afternoon, one of the Araucana hens (very likely the one who had failed at her own nest) was pushed up against White Pants and trying to quietly co-opt her nest. I removed her twice and she just went right back. As of this morning, White Pants is all alone in the trough and has moved her nest to the other end of it. Obviously, she is not happy with this would-be mama.
It has surprised me the extent to which White Pants has her self all puffed up. She looks nearly twice the size. She is doing all she can to cover those eggs. Commercial chicken breeders have spent generations trying to breed these natural chicken instincts out of chickens. Broody hens stop laying eggs and affect the bottom line. Here we welcome our hens attempts at natural motherhood. The whole reason we added roosters this year was because of one of our hens attempts at motherhood last year. We told Trouble that if she could just hang on a boyfriend was on the way. I blogged about Trouble last year here: http://cuddleuplillian.blogspot.com/2008/12/chicken-named-trouble.html
So we wait with our fingers crossed. If the other hens pick on her we will find a way to isolate her. If she actually hatches some we will do whatever she and they need to stay warm and safe. She gets up each evening for food, water, and going to the bathroom. Just like a good broody hen should. I’m pulling for her. Any mom, especially one like me who had a long road to motherhood, would.