If you’ve ever heard the expression “broody” you might picture someone worrisome or troubled. It can even mean contemplative or moody. At least that’s what I thought it meant until we got backyard chickens.
A broody hen will undergo a hormonal change. Her internal temperature rises and she has the compulsion to sit on eggs. She stops laying and sits in the nesting box on whoever’s eggs happen to be there. If disturbed, she will utter a noise like no other, a cross between a long squawk and a mountain lion’s soft growl.
The broody hen is only comfortable when she’s sitting on eggs. The cure we’ve learned of is efficient. I don’t know if the hot weather this week brought on the condition in Tater Tot (Benjamin named her). She may just be inclined to this. It’s the second time she’s gone broody and another Plymouth Partridge Rock like her also succumbed several months ago.
Monday morning it was obvious Tot was broody. She had spent the night in the nesting box and ruffled her neck feathers when we peeked in at her. It was time for treatment.
I love my rubber boots. I can stomp around in anything and keep my feet clean. The hens nearly always hurry over whenever I come outside to see if I have something for them. They have remarkable faith in me.
Nathaniel took these pictures for me. This is me fetching the hose.
And filling the 5 gallon bucket.
I’m getting Tater Tot out of the nesting box here. The other girls are hanging out. Most of them are very friendly. You might notice the nesting boxes are from Costco and once contained frozen chicken parts. Most of the time the boxes have napkins covering the openings to give the girls a little privacy.
Usually Tater Tot is a little shy, but she was so fixed on staying in the nest that she let me get her out. Once we are holding a hen they stay pretty docile.
This is how you lower the internal temperature of a hen. Here she is about to be dunked into a bucket of water. Lincoln Rooster watches, bemused.She will stay in the water for five minutes.
She was mostly calm. When I took her out you can see I have her wings and feet restrained.
And into the wire cage. Into the cooler.
The cage goes up on buckets.
And I give her some water.
And here she is in the cage in the shade. Even in the heat of the day, air will pass around and under her keeping her considerably cooler than in the nesting box.
She was snatched out of her comfort zone and plunged into a shocking cold, where without good restraint, she could have quickly drowned. Then she was set up in a less comfortable place for all her friends to gawk at while her instinctive desire was only to go back to her warm, dark and safe place and sit on what she wanted to take ownership of that actually was the property of her keeper.
I think that my blog uses analogy quite often and it would be too easy now to point out what can happen in people’s lives sometimes. I certainly tend to get very comfortable in possessions (I love those boots. Some possessions or undeserved blessings are gifts from God and I sit on them like they're mine to keep and no-one else's. But I don’t know how much further the similarity goes with God removing us from our comfort zones and curing us of being broody.
I don’t know, but I think that if we become possessive and unproductive we might not be automatically rescued from it. We don’t have bird brains. We have free will. If our chicken sits on unfertilized eggs or a golf ball put into the nesting box to clue her in that little round things are okay to go there, she is eventually in for disappointment. If I become fixated on what I think are my remarkable accomplishments and want to sit on them in comfort, I will eventually be sitting on something worthless.
Eggs. Talents. Blessings and the broody urge to sit on them. With chickens, it’s nature’s way. With us, it’s human nature and we need to recognize it in ourselves or in each other. However the treatment comes about it may not be comfortable. It took Tater Tot two and a half days to cool off and be back to normal. But I think she feels much better now. The uncomfortable treatment seems to have been worth it for her. Does anyone not think it’s worth it for us?