Clucks and Ducks

Feeling Broody

Saturday was a beautiful day, so I thought I’d spend some extra time outside. The yard looks like a chicken’s idea of paradise, with weeds popping up all over. Because our chickens live in an enclosure and are not free range, I decided to gather some of their favorites.

dandelions

Dandelion greens and flower heads are quickly gobbled up, so I carefully pulled some and tossed them in my bucket. Most people detest dandelions growing in their lawns, but I’m always careful to leave the root. This allows them to continue to grow and spread.

Next up was clover. It grows in abundance in certain parts of the yard, and I was able to add quite a bit to my growing collection of weeds. I looked for plantains, but it must be too early for those. The few I did find were too small to harvest.

The last thing I gathered was the favorite—chickweed. Sometimes I think there is more chickweed in the yard than grass. It grows thick and lush, spreading out like a blanket. It also replenishes itself quickly, so there’s no need to be careful. I yanked up giant handfuls and threw them in my bucket.

When I was finished, I had two large buckets full of weeds for the hens and ducks. I thought they’d be happy to see me!

weedbucket

I went into the backyard to turn on the water hose and was immediately spotted by the ducks, rousing them from their mid-morning nap. (They prefer to prowl at night and sleep during the day.) The trio of ducks immediately sounded the alarm, running back and forth in the enclosure, quacking like the henhouse was on fire. By the time I made it to their door, I was greeted by an entire brood.

waitingfowl

I dumped the pine shavings the chickens like to fill their pans with, exchanging it for feed. Then, I spread out the contents of one of the weed buckets for them to pick over. This is usually a good distraction for when I’m cleaning and refilling water receptacles. The hose prevents the door from closing all the way. The ducks and Ed, a Black Minorca hen, will often use this opportunity to try to gain their freedom. Of course, three steps out the door, they start freaking out when they can’t figure out how to get back in with their friends.

As I’m filling up the rubber pans the ducks use to wash, I always count the flock and give everyone a quick lookover. Sami’s no-name twin was clucking at my feet and making a nuisance of herself. Dottie was pecking at the other hens, chasing them away from the feed container she had chosen as her own. Our single, lonely Rhode Island Red was hanging out in the corner by herself. An Easter Egger was running in and out of the henhouse, as if to alert me of some shenanigans inside.

I counted the flock a second time. One hen missing.

I finished with the water containers, dumped the other basket of weeds, then grabbed my egg bucket and headed to the henhouse door with a scowl on my face.

Entering the henhouse, I saw a Brown Leghorn hen in a nest box behind the door. She had her head down, ignoring my intrusion as she sat on her clutch of eggs. There were eggs in the nest box beside her and some on the floor, a common occurrence when a hen proclaims ownership of the favorite box. There were also eggs in the far corner, so I decided to grab those first.

eggs

I put the eggs in my bucket, then turned, unsure of how to deal with the situation. By this point, the hen was watching me closely.

Sometimes my presence alone is enough to disrupt a broody hen. When I open the door to the henhouse, they’ll jump up and run out into the enclosure with the others, clucking and shrieking their displeasure. This hen was not so easily deterred.

I stepped to the side of the nest and stretched, allowing my boot to gently tap the side of her box.

“Come on. You have to get up. Come on little hen.”

The hen continued to stare, puffing her feathers up just a bit, readying for a fight. I’m not a fan of dealing with hens with evil in their eyes, so I usually just leave them for my dad to handle. We don’t own a rooster, so no matter how long a hen wants to sit on the eggs, nothing is going to happen. The situation just annoys me, though. I hate leaving eggs behind!

I decided to try just one more tiny tap. I stepped a little closer, stuck my foot out…and that was my mistake.

Seemingly before I could even blink, a pile of feathers was flying toward me. I saw a sharp beak and beady eyes. I turned away as quickly as possible. The hand still clutching the egg bucket flew out to the side, in the direction of the maniac bird. Thankfully, it was enough to divert her.

I’m not advocating almost hitting a hen in the head with a metal bucket, but I’m also not a fan of a hen coming at me with murder on her mind.

The agitated hen ran around in circles in the henhouse, clucking and squawking her annoyance. Ed poked her head inside the chicken door, no doubt looking for some juicy gossip to carry back into the yard. The angry hen then ran outside, still causing a ruckus.

I gathered the remaining eggs, turned off the water hose, and headed back inside. The hen was still shouting when I reached the back porch. I stopped and thought about all the extra time and care I’d taken to pick those weeds, hoping to be greeted by happy ducks and hens. Instead, I was attacked and nearly maimed.

I guess it’s true that no good deed goes unpunished. Broody Hen – 1. Andrea – 0.

I think this maniac hen has earned a name. What would you call this evil chicken?

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