Saturday, June 06, 2015

I just baptized a hen

But let me start at the beginning.  

My mom always kept chickens during the first twelve years of my growing-up, so I soaked up a lot of knowledge about poultry without even trying.  I played with the hens, sometimes taking a cardboard box and cutting "bars" in it to make a cage.  I usually had one or two chickens that were tamer than the rest as a result of my handling them from the time they were one day old.  

Sometimes a hen "goes broody", which means she quits laying eggs and sits on the nest on eggs the other hens are laying, hoping to hatch out some babies.  If you follow this blog, you know that I currently have a hen outside that I allowed to hatch out some babies.  Once a year is all the baby-chick-hatching I want.  I get tired of trying to keep the pesky varmints from eating them, not to mention it's something extra to chore after.  

During this past week, I had yet another hen go broody.  I only have four hens right now, and one of those is out of circulation because she is raising her babies.  I don't need another slacker in the flock.  I got tired of being growled at and pecked every time I reached under the newly broody hen and decided to "break her up" like my mom used to do:  I put her under an upside-down tote (Mother used a wash tub), weighted it down so it didn't get tipped over, and left her.  When my mom used this method, it only took two or three days in isolation and darkness for a hen to repent and re-join the laying population.

However, this morning I tipped up the tote and she growled at me as only a settin' hen growls.  I totally removed the tote and she promptly flew up to the nest and settled down on it, feathers all puffed out, as though she were setting on eggs (there weren't any eggs there).  She was still wanting to hatch some babies!  I don't recall my mom's method of breaking up a settin' hen ever failing, so I took to the Internet to see if I could find out what I had done wrong.  I found my answer in THIS ARTICLE

When you cover the hen up, she shouldn't have any bedding beneath her.  That feels like a nest, and she just goes ahead setting; the chicken-house floor is covered in wood chips.  Well, I hate to put the old gal in isolation for another three days, with no food and water.  The poor idiotic thing might starve to death!  But as I read the article, I came across this:  
Sometimes by taking her off the nest and dunking her lower half (underside) into a bucket of cool water until her feathers are wet can put her off. This could be a distraction for her as her instinct is now to dry herself off and preen her feathers by which time she may head straight back to the nest, or may have forgotten about the nest.

Hey, it couldn't hurt to try!  I got a bucket of cold water and headed to the hen house.  I don't do things halfway, so I not only dipped her underside into the water... I dipped her clear up to her neck, and then tossed her in with the others.  

She was still making settin-hen clucks, but instead of going to the nest, she went to the feeder and started devouring chicken feed.  I came to the house and told Cliff what I had done, then went to check on her again.  By this time she was on the edge of a nest, cackling her head off, but NOT sitting on the nest.  I decided maybe she needed another baptizing, just to convince her.  So once again I dunked her and returned here to write this blog entry.

She was sitting on the nest.  Obviously the double-baptizing didn't take. 

So, per the instructions in the article, she is now in a cage in a shed with NO soft bedding beneath her.  She's bedraggled from her religious experience, but she'll survive.  Let's hope she isn't too traumatized by all of this.



Sounds like she's got a mind of her own. The stubborn can not be broken. Good luck.

Calfkeeper said...

So funny. I hope she's cured of brooding now. But maybe she'll want another "ducking" in cold water as the weather warms up.

Paula said...

Too funny, now what if she gets attached to these cool baths?

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

This mad me think of the old saying, you can't food mother nature. Poor hen.

Barbara In Caneyhead said...

Well, we've not really encountered this, as we have about twenty hens and so there are always some in the laying mood in season. Interesting. Would be interested if you do find a "cure".
Life & Faith in Caneyhead

Sister--Three said...

Donna, I so appreciate your chicken savvy. I don't have Patsy to call and ask my questions.

I will ask my question in the upcoming days and maybe you can answer it on a blog