The love affair of Gerry and Lucy bloomed. The handsome couple seems inseparable. The pair enjoys a spacious coop and yard built for a dozen birds. The coop structure has been fortified and no animal attacks, not even invading ground squirrels, have threatened. Food and water are plentiful and not a day goes by that the birds are not treated to fresh bolts of succulent lettuce or scratch corn.
I’m sure Gerry and Lucy are very happy. But I am not. I expected the pitter-patter of tiny feet and the chirp-chirping of bitty beaks. Lucy is laying fertilized eggs. I can see the fertilized dot, the start of an embryo, when I crack an egg into the pan. The dot is smaller than an eraser head and a shade or two lighter than the yolk. Its existence has no effect on the flavor or quality of the egg. I know there are some folks that argue for the nutritional superiority of fertilized eggs, but I have my doubts. Really, it’s just the tiniest dot. How much nutrition could be packed in to an eraser head?
Chicken sex is happening. But Lucy is refusing to sit on her eggs. In barnyard terms, she is not a broody hen. Going broody is the term given when a laying hen decides to sit on her eggs to hatch them. The hen gathers a clutch of eggs (sometimes from other hens) and stops laying until her clutch hatches and her babies no longer need her. In production egg farms, and even hobby farms like mine, broody is not usually a favorable thing.
A broody hen will stay in a nest and often peck a hand reaching into gather an egg. The hen eats her fair share but fails to produce. Broodiness is an instinct that is often unwanted and hens with too much mothering instinct often find their way into the stewpot. And this is where the whole natural selection phenomenon just blows me away…
The mothering instinct that makes a hen go broody has been bred-out of common commercial varieties and many popular backyard varieties. Lucy is a black Australorp, a bird often selected by hobbyist for her gentle nature, excellent egg production, heartiness, and beauty. Basically, Lucy is a perfect layer and pet. Selective cultivation of her breed developed a reliable bird that is easy on the eyes, fills the fridge, and doesn’t peck fingers.
After extensive research, I’m faced with the reality that no matter how much sex Gerry throws down, Lucy is not going to settle in and hatch her eggs. I need a surrogate, a bird with her broodiness instinct still intact, maybe a breed not prized for egg production, or one that folks fancy because its super cute, or quirky, or rare. A bantam would be the obvious answer. Bantams are small and lay tiny eggs. "Henny," the little bantam lost to the raccoon attack was only a quarter the size of a standard chicken. But that leads me to another problem: I don’t want a little hen getting the crap knocked out of her by Lucy. This can happen when introducing a new hen to an already established pecking order. And I certainly don’t want big ole Gerry getting frisky and jumping all over a bitty gal either. That is just gross!
So I guess it’s time to write a personal ad on Craigslist and see if I can find the girl I’m looking for. She needs to be rather sedentary, happy just sitting around all day. She should do her best to respect her coop-mates. She must be a good mother. And obviously, she’s got to be up for a threesome. Tall order, don't you think?