Mother Hen

a-3-mother-henjpgOne of my Buff Cornish hens has been broody for about 3 weeks. I have tried to break her broody cycle by evicting her from the nestbox, removing all the nesting materials, and removing eggs from underneath her daily. She has thwarted all my efforts and has continued to sit, sometimes only on a golf ball, neither eating or drinking. Hens have been bred selectively to eliminate the broody trait, as it is uneconomical to have a hen that stops laying for many weeks, but Cornish are an old dual-purpose breed from England and many retain the broody trait.

One of my colleagues had a batch of day old chicks that were delivered on Friday morning when only one of her incubated eggs hatched successfully. She had too many chicks, so I decided to take one home and see if Hope would accept it. I checked my resource books carefully to see how best to do this, and then ignored all the advice and popped the little chick under her on Friday afternoon. I checked Friday night when I closed the coop. No little cheeping sounds and no sign of the chick. I assumed she had pecked it or smothered it. Saturday morning, still no sign of a chick. After two hours of wrestling with a beast of an overseeder machine, and on the verge of tears of frustration, I decided to make another quick check of the nest box.


Out from under Hope appeared the little downy chick, hopping out of the nestbox to get some food and water. Hope clucked and fussed and then shepherded the chick back under her wings. I was thrilled! No more brooding chicks indoors! I have myself a supreme mother hen. Yesterday, Mother’s Day, Hope was foraging for insects to feed her chick and hissing and growling (really!) at any other hen that dared to come close to the little one. Not only is she a steadfast broody, she is also a fearsome mother.


Her name comes from one of my Dad’s many sayings, ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast’ (Alexander Pope), usually uttered when I persisted in a task that had failed many times.