Last week Iris, one of my hens, decided she wanted to be a mother and went broody. Which means she quit laying eggs and wouldn’t leave her nest box, as if she were incubating a clutch of fertile eggs. Which, because I don’t have a rooster, is impossible. Unless, she was knocked up by a guinea, in which case she would have had the world’s ugliest babies. If you don’t believe me, check it.
Of course this would happen the week I am out of the country on vacation…
My house sitter did a good job of lifting Iris out of her nest and trying to change her mind about making freak show babies. But when I returned Iris was still set in her ways, and on her nest. Stronger interventions were needed.
Apparently broody hens experience elevated body temperature, and cooling them off can sometimes snap them out of their maternal inclinations. Some people advocate dunking the hens in cold water, but it being winter and all I feared that my hen would catch a cold. But Sunday evening, when we got a nice little snowstorm that quickly obliterated my recent memories of lying in an oceanside hammock in my bikini drinking pina coladas, I brought Iris outside to chill out.
When I set her down in the snow, Iris acted as though I’d dropped her on the moon. It took her a long time to take a few steps, and when she did they were in my direction. A first for this chicken that I’ve chased in circles around my garage with a Wal-mart fish net trying to get her into the coop at night. I feared her feet would freeze, so I set her up on one of my row cover hoops and walked away.
But it was snowing pretty hard, and I didn’t have the heart to leave Iris out in the cold for much more than ten minutes. So I returned her to her flock and waited.
The next day Iris was still in her nest box, as cozy as if her Arctic adventure had been but a thumbnail-sized brain’s dream. Time for Plan B.
Iris has been spending the daylight hours in the setup above, a wire animal crate suspended over a garden bed. Might as well harvest that manure, right? And she’s inside the garden which protects her from marauding animals. At night I put her back in the coop after I’ve removed the nest box, which I reinstall during the days for Lilac to use to lay her egg.
Iris seems to be okay, and I hope these little day trips from the cozy coop will help snap her brain back to her purpose in life, which is providing eggs for my dog’s breakfast. Heck, she got to enjoy a beautiful 70-degree day outside in the sun, which is more than I can say for myself. I ask, who has a better quality of life, broodiness and all?