One of the reasons we chose to raise Speckled Sussex chickens here on the homestead is because they still have the instinct to “go broody”. Broody means that the chicken will sit on a clutch of eggs and raise the chicks. Of course this means that the chicken stops laying eggs!
Broodiness has been bred out of most of the modern breeds . Commercial egg producers don’t want a chicken to go broody because that means the hen won’t be laying eggs to sell. For example, a breed of chicken that most people are familiar with — the Rhode Island Red — is a great layer but almost never goes broody.
Some folks buy fertilized eggs and use an electric incubator to hatch them. A few people use a mother hen to incubate eggs. Because we live off the grid we don’t have access to the amount of electricity necessary to use the electric incubator method.
We want more ducks. We really REALLY enjoy eating the duck eggs. They’re larger than chicken eggs and have a richer flavor. Also, in our opinion, the ducks are easier to handle than chickens. We have Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners ducks and a Khaki Campbell drake. Both of these breeds are known as great layers. Our Khaki Campbell duck, Princess, consistently laid an egg every day last winter something that we didn’t get from the chickens. Only one big problem…. Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners seldom go broody.
So what does this have to do with a broody chicken? Well… a broody chicken will incubate just about any egg you place under them.
We’ve been hoping that one of the chickens would go broody. In fact we’ve been trying to coax them into it by replacing their freshly laid eggs with a golf ball so they would think, “Hey! Maybe I should sit on these nice round eggs!” After about a week and one of them finally did!
We realized that we hadn’t seen Little Number Five (the name came from the movie Broken Trail) all morning. When Bob went to check on her there she was sitting on that clutch of golf balls. Success! Broody Chicken!
Now for the master plan — replace the golf balls with fertile duck eggs! The tricky part was to get her moved to a location that would separate her from the other chicken without breaking her instinct to brood.
We gave Number 5 most of the day to settle into setting on her clutch of fake eggs. Then, after it got dark we moved her and substituted seven duck eggs for the golf balls.
Another tricky part of this situation is that chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch while duck eggs take 28 days to hatch and sometimes between 21 and 28 days the chicken’s instinct says, “These dern eggs ain’ta gonna hatch,” and stops sitting on them. If this is successful, we’ll have a chicken who will be the mother of baby ducklings. The due date is June 27th. Mark your calendars!
After discussing it a while, we decided to move the chicken to Blaze’s dog house and let her use it to incubate. Don’t worry… we have a good secure door we put on it at night to keep her safe. Don’t feel bad about Blaze because she doesn’t use the house at all… she’s a tipi dog!
As you can see, Number 5 has a good supply of feed and water but so far she’s taking her duck egg incubation responsibilities very seriously so we haven’t seen much of her lately.
Broody chicken house and pen
Speckled Sussex Hen
She’s certainly acting broody… as hubby says, “She’s in a FOWL mood!”
Read Full Post »