This is Violet* and she's been acting broody for about a week now. She seemed to hem and haw about it at first, which is normal. She developed a 'tude and the characteristic "poofing" that only a broody hen (or a tom turkey) will do. A hen won't get serious about incubating eggs until she's laid a clutch worth her effort. Unfortunately with layers you take the broody's eggs each day when you gather eggs, so they don't get a chance to accumulate. Then when it comes time to start incubating the hen's left with an empty nest. It's easy to find some fertile eggs for her in a pinch though. Around here, there's plenty of chicken owners who are more than willing to share their eggs with my broodies.
I kept removing Violet from the nest box today to see just how serious she was about this whole motherhood thing. Each time I removed her she was back on the nest within a reasonable amount of time. I lifted her up gently and checked her belly--no feathers to speak of, which is normal for a broody hen. She's been plucking them to line her nest which explains why I've been cleaning black Australorp feathers out of this nest box for a long time now.
This batch of 8 eggs came from an Asian lady who lives by my mother-in-law. Jim just happened to be at his mom's when I called him and asked him to stop by and ask for some fertile eggs for Violet to set. He asked his mom for something to put them in since he's not in the habit of keeping egg cartons in his truck. She gave him this basket and put a scrap piece of towel in it to cushion the eggs on the ride home. Jim said he enjoyed talking to the chicken owners and when he told them the eggs were for a broody they refused to accept any money for them, a phenomenon known to bird growers everywhere! They also selected a variety of breeds for Violet: Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Silkie, Australorp and another that Jim couldn't remember, possibly New Hampshire Red or Welsummer. When he told me he was bringing me two Silkie eggs (I'm holding one of the little buggers in the photo) I groaned, "What am I gonna do with a pom pom chicken?" I'm not a big fan of the frou-frou breeds. Just give me a sound, reliable egg layer with a nice disposition and I'll be satisfied. When Derek heard about the Silkie eggs he immediately got excited and asked if we could keep them. I said, "Let's just see what Violet can do first." Of course you know if she hatches those darn Silkie eggs (which she will just cuz I don't want 'em) I'm doomed to keep them! *Groan!*
In case you aren't familiar with what a Silkie chicken is, you can see some photos here. They are particularly popular as pets because of their sweet nature and they are considered a delicacy in the Asian culture. They have black skin, are small and are not very good layers. But they are excellent broody hens. Just what I need. *Groan!*
Violet's hatch date is June 15 so keep your fingers crossed for her. She's my smallest Australorp but fortunately most of the eggs she's setting are on the small side and she's covering them well. Those Silkie eggs remind me of the pullet eggs my girls first laid. If you're wondering about the red X's on the ends of the eggs they will prevent any confusion at egg-gathering time. Everyone knows that eggs that are marked are fertile and are to be left under the hen.
*Violet was nicknamed "Violent" when she was a teenager because of her annoying habit of pecking me as hard as she could on my legs. Fortunately, she outgrew it. She has beautiful beetle-green sheen to her feathers in the sun and the largest dark eyes of the Australorps. A real looker!