The Wordy Wednesday word of the day is broody. What is broody? Well, it does rhyme with the word ‘moody’ and, hopefully, we all know what being moody is, so it kind of involves the same type of behavior. Except it is a description of behavior when a chicken, turkey, goose, duck or some kind of bird has laid enough eggs to sit on, who then wait for days on end for those eggs to hatch. Chicken eggs may incubate under the hen for about 21 days from beginning to hatch, about 28 days for certain breeds of waterfowl – some may be a couple of days more or less, turkeys are generally 28 days and wild birds can be anywhere from 10 days to a month depending on the breed.

Around here when the turkey hens start their broody journey they will all lay their eggs in a common nest which is situated in a dog kennel (aka cage). I don’t think there is any set number that they strive for… they just seem to decide that, yes, there is enough eggs to sit on to hatch. We had 2 that went broody but at different times so it really wasn’t any big deal. No sharing of the nest. And not all turkey hens will go broody. Purry never went broody. She was good with the egg laying part but raising up the offspring was for some other turkey hen to do. She was in charge of being the fashion police and would let you know that your footwear clashed with your apparel.

A broody turkey hen is like having a hissing snake in cage. If you value your fingers, keep them to yourself which can make it challenging when you want to clean their cage. They don’t usually poop in their cage when brooding but sometimes accidents happen or eggs break. They will puff up their feathers making themselves look bigger, hiss and snap to bite you. Broodies are not being mean, just protective of their eggs… even if it a clutch of chicken eggs that they are sitting on.

This will be interesting for Mama Turkey if those eggs hatch. Reminds me of when great grandma had a bantam hen that hatch some ducklings. Mrs. Bantam took her little brood of ducklings down by the creek to ‘scratch and peck” around for tasty bits until her little darling ducklings went for a swim. Then it was crazy chicken time as she became frantic that the ducklings went into the water, on purpose, and were quite delighted in their circumstances. She screeched and squawked, running up and down the creek bank trying her get her babies to come back to shore. So I’m not sure if Mama Turkey knows what kind of offspring she is going to have or if she is showing up the chickens that she is a way better broody than they are. This is her second time going broody – she is the mama to the three turkey teenagers.

Mama Turkey with her poults earlier this year

Cous-Cous the goose is much like the turkeys, except this year she decided that the dog house was much nicer digs that her cage. But she is not allowed to brood – no gander, no fertile eggs. If she lays eggs throughout this ordeal, we take her eggs from her, in plain view, and boot her out of the doghouse. The poor dogs, in no way, shape or form will go near that goose during this time even though they enjoy it when the goose lays eggs in their house. Snacks! But they will sit, pitifully looking at their former sleeping quarters as the goose takes squatters’ rights. Not that it is open to both sides of the doghouse but the dogs are sure the goose will get to them one way or another. She hisses and bites (yes, she has tiny little raspy teeth that will remove skin… your hand will look like you got a nice case of road rash). She gets booted out several times during the day and eventually the game gets old and she gets bored with the whole thing.

Mama Rock with her Chick-Chick

The chickens have their own quirkiness and are rather dramatic about being broody. The ol’ girls will loudly cluck or screech, puff up their feathers, act grouchy and moody, may chase other chickens and they always seem to take up residence in THE nesting box that is THE most absolute, favorite nesting box in the entire coop. Is it just to annoy the other chickens?? Or maybe it gives certain broodies an excuse to be a grouch to the other chickens without too much retaliation. They, too, bite at you.

But as is the case when any of these hens go broody in a nesting box, they have to be moved into a little cage so that we can close them up at night, keep other birds from picking on them if the broody happens to be low on the pecking order and to keep other hens from laying extra eggs in the nest that will be behind the original batch of eggs in hatching. It also allows the newly hatched offspring a chance to move about and not be smothered or stepped on in cramped quarters.

Mama Turkey will be moved but we’ll wait until morning when she will hop off her nest, does her broody poop, speed dirt bathes, and grabs a bite of food and drink before she runs back onto her nest. She is easier to handle this type of move whereas the chickens generally have to be moved at night and put under cover in their cage. This group seems to be a little flighty. Some breeds are more broody than others. But you sure can’t beat silkie hens – they would attempt to hatch rocks or ‘magic silkie eggs’ (aka colored plastic Easter eggs) if you let them.

Well, hope you enjoyed the broodies.

Until next time…

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