Tuesday, February 28, 2012


This is kind of a silly post, I admit it. But it's relevant to me right now.

One of my hens, Cluck Norris, has gone broody. When a hen goes broody, she stops laying eggs, and she sits and sits and sits trying to hatch eggs. She's grumpy, has only one thing on her mind, and does not want to leave the nest for any reason.

Cluck is a beautiful bird. She has black feathers with a green sheen in the right light. She's an Australorp by breed, and a reliable layer (when she's not broody).

One day last week, she collected all five eggs laid that day from five hens, and she collected the five golf balls we use as "sucker eggs" to show the hens where to lay, and she plopped herself down on all of them and went broody. She put together a full clutch of 10 "eggs" - only one of them was hers - and decided it was time to become a mother.

But we don't have a rooster. She can sit on those eggs (and golf balls) all she wants and none of them will never hatch.

So I took the eggs and removed the golf balls from the nesting boxes, but she's still broody. She just sits there, all day, in an empty nest box. If another hen lays an egg in another box, she'll go and sit on that egg. When I approach her to remove her from the nest, her feathers hackle out. All she wants to do right now is just sit. She prefers to sit on eggs, but if there are no eggs there, she'll just pretend that there are, and still sit.

This morning I picked her up to move her off of the nest, and I noticed that she has plucked all of the feathers from between her legs, and so her soft chicken skin can be directly next to the eggs, and she can keep the eggs, and baby chicks, warm. I do not delude myself in thinking that she's aware, at all, of this process. It's all in a very basic part of her very basic brain. But feeling her soft, warm chicken skin, and seeing the few feathers still there, I thought of the pain I've endured to carry and birth a baby, only to have no baby to raise. And of the mothering hormones and instincts that snap in to place whether the baby lives or not.

In my 10 minutes of facetime with my partner today, where it was nearly 9 pm in Italy and not even noon here, I told him about Cluck's chicken skin, and that it makes me sad. He told me that she's just a stupid chicken and I should stop anthropomorphizing her.

My hackles went up.  

Cluck's feathers hackling up. 

Ready to keep baby chicks warm. I did bring her in the house to take the photo. She plucked herself so clean for the task. It reminded me of a bikini wax. 

One of today's eggs. I love the color. 


  1. Even the chicken understands, we are Mothers. Empty without our babies but Mothers none the less. I feel sorry for her. It is just instinct but I understand. Little lost Momma waiting for her baby to hatch.

  2. This post made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Poor Cluck Norris (who has the most awesome chicken name ever), she just wants her egg to hatch so she can have a chick of her very own. I'd pull out my feathers, too, if I thought it would make any difference.

    I'm with you and Cluck in your brooding broodiness, Suzanne, and sending much love. xoxo

  3. Well it's never something I thought I 'd say - but I can totally relate to your chicken... All I want to do is sit here and gestate... not move, not do anything, in the hopes that it'll get me a baby.

    I'm afraid I don't know the ins and outs of chicken breeding, but is there an easy way you could let her have a few chicks? I don't know, borrow a rooster or something? I'm just a bit of a sucker for her motherly instinct.

  4. Poor Cluck Norris. Would she take to a store bought chick?

  5. Thank you all for your comments. I wanted to give an update on Cluck's broodiness.

    I actually thought of going and picking up some chicks for Cluck - separate her from the rest of the flock, and allow her to mother her own little flock. But, I decided against it for a couple of reasons, mostly logistic. But I also thought that if I got her some chicks, and then if something happened, like she rejected the chicks, or worse, killed them or ate them, per normal chicken behavior, I don't think I could handle the consequences. Cluck was hatched from an incubator. I don't know if the mothering instincts are intact.

    So my strategy was to just let her be. I stopped taking her off of the nest, trying to discourage the behavior. I'd collect the eggs, pat her and speak nicely to her, and then just let her sit. She finally shifted - I don't know if it was after the three week time period it would have taken her to hatch the eggs, or maybe a bit longer. But she finally stopped sitting, joined the flock scratching and pecking, and started laying again. I was relieved to see her come back into her nature.