Backyard Farm Stories
This spring I suddenly realized that I had all the ingredients to grow chicks of my own:
I had hens.
I had a rooster.
Topsy & Me
Evidence of sexual misconduct
As the idea grew and flowered in my mind, my excitement and anticipation grew with it. And not just bargain-basement excitement. No. This was like the night before Christmas or those long ago, far away special, rare Sunday mornings waiting for my dad to finish his breakfast so we could go up into the mountains to the stable where Topsy and Silver lived. For two dollars they’d be our horses for a whole hour and we’d ride through the forests and open meadows together. Just the two of us.
That kind of excitement.
Just imagine! Randy Rooster would become father to the next generation. A broody hen would lovingly tend the eggs while the rest of the flock roamed their range in peaceful contentment. And when the time came, adorable baby chicks would emerge from beneath momma-broody’s sheltering feathers. She’d protect and care for them and teach them how to be chickens and where to find the best bugs. I would not intrude or interfere as the miracle of new life unfolded before me. I’d simply observe and record it all with my camera.
It would be an extraordinary, life-affirming experience. Right here in my own backyard.
None of that happened.
First off, no one wanted to be a mother. Last year three of my hens went ‘broody’ but this year? Not a one. Not in April. Not all through May.
The second problem was Randy Rooster’s horrid behavior. Seriously, the poor hens should have him arrested for sexual assault. He just grabs the nearest hen by the neck and has his way with her. Maybe this is how they do it down on the farm, but for a city gal like me it takes a bit of getting used to…
At any rate, he was so rough with the girls that by May they were getting sores and losing feathers on their backs so I made an executive decision and turned him into a bachelor. I gave him a lovely bachelor pad with plenty of room to roam but sadly he spends most of his time walking the fence line pining for his girls. As for the hens, they sometimes visit through the fence but mostly just seem glad to have him gone. Or maybe I'm just projecting…
So now I had no broody and no sperm donor. Things weren’t looking good. But maybe I just needed a little patience and some inspiration.
And, low and behold, I stumbled upon a solution to the Dilemma-that-is-Randy in the person of a wonderful Pennsylvania farmer who designs ‘hen saddles’ to protect hens from amorous roosters. (Who knew???)
So I ordered up new wardrobes for my girls and a week later they were decked out in style and reunited with Randy. Now I just needed a broody and we’d be good to go.
Well, none of the hens developed maternal yearnings and I began to despair. I was running out of time. April is the best month to have chicks and here it was going on June. I also began to worry that the saddles might be interfering with the hens’ grooming and dirt bathing so I took them off and sent Randy back to isolation.
After one last week of waiting and hoping for the elusive ‘broody,’ I finally gave up on Nature and opted for high tech: I went to a farm supply store and bought an incubator. I paid extra for the ‘deluxe’ model with egg turner, air circulator and temperature and humidity sensors because I have no idea how to be a proper chick-mom and need all the help I can get.
I put the saddles back on the hens, Randy did what he does, I collected the eggs and they are in the incubator sitting on a table next to my computer.
It may not be the extraordinary, life-affirming experience I envisioned but hopefully there will still be baby chicks in the end.
Oh, and two days after the eggs went into the incubator, Blanche (one of the Golden Girls) went broody.