An unlikely mother


Kung Pao went broody in August — meaning she decided to stop laying eggs, and start hatching them instead. In chickens broodiness is a hormonal change, and some breeds are genetically predisposed to it while others (egg-factory hybrids like KP) virtually never go broody. Kung Pao is a hybrid known as a Black Star (or Black Sex-link, because males and females hatch out in different colors.) She’s probably a cross between a Barred Rock hen and a Rhode Island Red rooster, and she’s most definitely bred for egg production.

So we never expected KP to go broody. But exactly two months after a fox decimated most of her friends, she decided it was time to replenish the flock. She had all the classic symptoms — refusing to budge from the nest even at night, picking out all her chest feathers, and growling when I tried to move her. Just goes to show we can only control nature so much.


This is what a broody hen looks like: Refusing to budge from the nest, and in a zombie-like trance.

So I set up a little brooding room in the coop for KP, where the other hens wouldn’t disturb her. And then ordered some fertile eggs for her to sit on, since we no longer had a rooster around. The one hitch in the process came when she rejected all three of the expensive Black Copper Marans eggs I bought, presumably because she was alarmed by the color of their gorgeous chocolate-brown shells. I’d put all the eggs back under her, and those three would be pushed out of the nest within half an hour (what made this especially frustrating is that she happily sat on GOLF BALLS while waiting for her eggs to arrive.)

The eggs were damaged in shipping, and Kung Pao didn’t have a great hatch rate — ending up with only two boys for all her efforts. But she was an excellent mother, displaying all the right instincts but also a willingness to work alongside humans to raise her chicks. She never even tried to peck me when I reached underneath her to check the eggs (most people recommend wearing leather gloves when dealing with broody hens.)


Kung Pao and General Tso (just hatched)


Hatch day, 2012. The chick in the foreground is the Speckled Sussex, the one closest to its mother is the Easter Egger.

So from KP’s first hatch we ended up with two roosters: a Speckled Sussex, and an Easter Egger (the latter being a mutt chicken carrying the blue egg gene.) We kept the Speckled Sussex, who was more popular with our hens, and dubbed him General Tso. The Easter Egger, Mack, went to live with our friend Claudia. Both are very calm and friendly, especially compared to Colonel Sanders (rest his soul.)


KP and her Easter Egger chick, 5 weeks old.

Of course, things got a little twisted when the General came of age, and KP became his favorite hen. But at least they’re not genetically related, and I’m pretty sure it’s consensual.

As for General Tso, he does a good job of watching out for the hens and will be allowed to live with us — as long as he doesn’t take a page from the Colonel Sanders playbook. But if I have to start watching my back around him, it’s stockpot time.




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  1. Pingback: Hatching something new | The Homegrown Gourmet

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