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Patience gives up

Patience, back in the chicken lot after three months on the nest

One often reads that the broodiness has been bred out of modern chickens. Not completely. Patience, one of my Barred Rock hens, sat on the nest (on infertile, roosterless eggs) for three months. She finally ventured out yesterday.

While she was brooding, nothing but brute force could get her off the nest. For many days during the summer, Ken or I (usually Ken) would push her outside and close the chickenhouse doors. How she hated that. After Ken went back to school, I just didn’t have the heart (or the patience) to push her off the nest every day. Plus I didn’t want to have to close the doors to the chickenhouse, preventing the other hens from going in and out as they please.

Patience had hoarded seven eggs. I took them away and threw them in the compost. It’s not clear to me which hens laid the eggs Patience was sitting on. At least one of them, because of its color, clearly came from Ruth, the Golden Comet hen. While she was sitting, it was clear that Patience rarely laid an egg. She was out of production.

None of my other hens has been broody, so I don’t know how common this behavior will be. Come spring, I plan to get a couple of new chicks and give them to Patience. Maybe that will make her happy. And it will bring my chicken population back to five. The hens are about 18 months old. I lost one hen in the early summer of 2009. A predator (probably a raccoon) killed her from outside the chicken house by reaching through the wire and grabbing her by the neck. I lost a second hen this summer to a heat stroke. That was on the fourth day that the temperature went above 100 degrees.

Chicken breeds vary in how cold hardy they are. But it’s clear to me that my chickens thrive better in cold weather than in hot weather. The Barred Rocks laid more eggs last winter than they did this summer. However, Ruth, the Golden Comet, is a champion layer. She has laid a nice big egg almost every day, year round.

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