A couple of weeks ago, Penny began acting strangely. I noticed her chasing the other chickens away from the entrance to their coop, while fluffing up her feathers in a threatening display. Then she took up residence in one of the egg boxes and made weird noises when I approached. I evicted her, but she'd keep going back. Penny was broody! I figured I'd toss her out of the nesting box a few times and she'd forget about it, but Penny was determined.
Madeleine and I discussed the broody chicken problem and started joking that we might as well let her sit on her eggs, but the problem with letting her do that is that if no chicks hatch, she'd just keep at it. Without any resident roosters, we were unlikely to have any hatching.
Not to be deterred by a simple lack of roosters, last Sunday (a week ago) Madeleine and I went begging at some neighbours where we had heard roosters crowing. They have a small flock of hens and two roosters and they kindly offered us 9 potentially fertilized eggs for Penny to sit on. We quickly prepared the chicken tractor for Penny's personal use so that she doesn't have to deal with nosy or jealous hens. Kind of like a home for unwed mothers. We told the others she'd gone to stay with an aunt in Toronto for a few weeks.
Once a day, or so, Penny descends to ground level to eat, drink and poo. I took advantage of her absence to check in on the eggs. The observant among you will notice that there are seven eggs, but we started with nine. One egg had a hole pecked in it within hours of being placed under Penny. The other completely disappeared - shell and all, by the next day. Penny had a guilty yolk stain on her face so we can only assume that she ate it. Bad bird.
When Penny comes down to do her business, she becomes the centre of attention. The others are very curious about what she's doing in there.
Penny spends a lot of her short break all fluffed up and warning off the others. Not that chickens normally display a lot of intelligence, but Penny seems to be operating on pure instinct these days. I hope her instinct will carry her through the next two weeks and beyond to caring for the chicks. That may be thinking too far ahead, given her record of egg destruction so far, but she appears to have settled in and no eggs have disappeared for several days.
June 3 is hatch day. I'll post an update - hopefully including pictures of cute little chicks.