Tag Archives: Broody Hen

Back to Brooding

I’ve been on a long hiatus from hatching (and blogging, sorry about that). The move from the old flood-damaged farm quite literally put a damper on things, and it’s been a long process of getting back to where we were. But this summer the chickens have a proper coop AND a fence to keep them out of the veggie and flower gardens, which are finally planted. There’s still a lot of work to do here, but so much potential. I’m excited to share the process here on the blog, and finally start getting back to the recipe and chicken posts too!welsummerXfaverolles_just_hatched

And I can’t think of a better way to revitalize the old blog than the way we started. A couple weeks ago, our sweet little hen Rotisserie, one from the August 2013 hatch, forced the issue by going broody. She settled on a nest full of eggs and refused to budge, even at night. So we moved her into an old doghouse overnight, to keep the other hens away from her nest (and also make sure she was really on board). She stuck with her nest of unfertilized eggs and golf balls, signaling that we were either in for chicks or weeks of trying to convince her otherwise.

broody_hen_rotisserie

My sister and I decided to go the easiest (and cutest) route, by picking up some fertile eggs for Rotisserie to sit on. The eggs came from my friend’s flock, including a few hens that were fathered by Rotisserie’s late brother Pecker — so she’s even got a chance to keep the family lineage going. Only problem is, the eggs wouldn’t all fit under her. I put the rest in the incubator, so we can all have some fun watching them hatch. Chicks are due around Sunday, June 14th (though they’re sometimes a bit early!) and the live stream will start once the eggs start pipping. Check back soon, and follow me on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates and behind-the-scenes photos.

Apple Cider Pressing

My good friends (and former neighbors) have an old cider press and a big apple orchard, and during the fall they often invite friends who also have a lot of apples over when they’ve got the press out. A few weekends ago, my sister and I grabbed a couple of boxes of apples from the big old tree in the front yard and headed over for the afternoon.

apples in bushel baskets

Tradition at the farm is to mix all the different types of apples (and crabapples too!) so you get a little of the flavor from each. Our two boxes of bug-bitten apples paled in comparison to the 10 or so bushels of huge, unblemished apples that greeted us when we arrived, but I like to think that our tart little Macintosh-type apples added a special flavor to the mix.

We worked outside on picnic tables, first mixing and washing the apples. Then they were cut into big chunks, cutting out any blemishes but leaving the cores. I got to be the “mix master,” plucking apples from each basket and throwing them into the washtubs, then carrying big bowls of clean apples over to the cutting table. I happily volunteered for some apple washing, having already processed way too many apples from our trees (but we’ll leave that for another post).

washing apples before cider pressing

When we cut enough apples to fill the press, the real fun started. One person turned the wheel on the grinder as another threw apples into its maw. The smashed apples dropped into a cloth bag inside the press, and when it was full we turned the big screw on the press until it could turn no more, as the rich brown cider poured out into a pitcher at its base.

grinding apples in cider press

grinding apples in a cider press

apple cider pouring from cider press

When all the apples were finally pressed into cider, we delivered the scraps to some very excited cows.

cows enjoying leftover apple mash

And then we reminisced about the last time I was here for a cider pressing, and one of the cows (impatiently waiting for apples by the gate) bumped the electrical pole and sent a shower of sparks raining down from the power lines above. In a split second I was all the way across the yard, still clutching my butcher knife. “Oh good,” my neighbor laughed, still calmly seated at the picnic table. “You’ll be able to call 911 if we need it.”

This time, the cows left the power lines alone and we had an uneventful cider pressing (unless you count waving off a few dozen hungry hornets, and the bite I received from a large wolf spider that was lurking in one of the bushel baskets). Afterward, we spent some time hanging out at the farm and visiting all the animals.

mother hen and chicks

The highlight of my day was seeing one of the hens I hatched for my friends back in February, who is now raising chicks of her own. This hen is the granddaughter of Kung Pao and General Tso, and she’s an excellent mother.

She led her five chicks all around the barnyard while we were there, pointing out good things to eat and giving a reproachful side-eye to the “feral” barn cat (actually friendlier than most house cats). The cat kept her distance, casually licking a paw whenever the hen looked at her. Clearly, she’s already learned a lesson or two from Mother Hen about messing with the chicks.

mother cat vs mother hen

not-so-feral barn cat

The not-so-feral barn cat, affectionately known as Mama Kitty

We headed home that afternoon with three big jugs of cider (more than our fair share, to be sure). Apple cider still contains all the sediment that’s normally filtered out of apple juice, so it’s dark and rich and cloudy. I’ve been drinking it cold, hot, and sometimes spiked with a bit of rum — just the thing for a crisp fall night.

An unlikely mother

KP

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.

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