A BROODY HEN, IDRIS ELBA AND THE WORLD’S OLDEST MAGIC CHICKEN.

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That chicken with the come hither eyes is Cheez Whiz. She looks at chicken scratch the way I look at Idris Elba.   She’s the last of my original flock.  She started out as an ugly thing. A runt really.  In fact, I didn’t really like her because she didn’t seem to have any personality.  And then this happened, a fairy tale ending where I learned everyone has something special about them, even the most boring of people.  Or something like that.

Cheez Whiz turned 5 this year which means she’s old.  Definitely too old to have her eye on Idris Elba.  Chickens have a very definite life span of anywhere between a peep and 16 years old.  Which is why you rarely see a chicken driving a car.

Matilda was the oldest living chicken recorded (as recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records) and she lived to the age of 16, but she was a working chicken who performed in a magic show until retiring at the age of 15 and a half.  So her death was kind of pre-determined when she quit her job since studies have shown that most chickens die soon after retirement.

Anyhow, Cheez Whiz has already outlived her siblings so she could go any day now or she could pull a Matilda on me. I just don’t know.

If she does die, that would leave me with just two chickens.

 

mabel

 

I got Mabel my Blue Copper Marans in October 2014 as a pullet which means she’s still young and should have several years ahead of her.  Ditto for Josephine.

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And I got Josephine in June of 2014 as a 2 day old chick.  Josephine doesn’t like me very much.  Neither does Mabel.

 

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She may be old but Cheez Whiz still lays an egg every day when she’s laying which is incredible for a 5 year old chicken.  The older a chicken gets the fewer eggs they normally lay. Which leads me to believe  she is a robot chicken which makes her even more special.

 

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I’m really good at math so I figured out that if Cheez Whiz dies, I’ll only have 2 chickens left.  And if one of those chickens die I’ll only  have one.  And then that chicken will die of loneliness.

And then I won’t have any chickens.  But I’ll still be really good at math.

 

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So with a flock of only 3 chickens, one of them teetering just this side of Wheel of Fortune, it’s time to start thinking about getting another chicken or two.

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By the way, if you’re thinking of getting chickens, expect to see them in this position. Always. It’s the bug hunting position.

 

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They look, they scratch with their feet, they take a few steps back.  Like a dance.  That one might do at an open bar wedding with a painfully bad D.J.

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You’re humming it now aren’t you?  The chicken dance? At the very least you’re wiggling.

 

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So I’ve started to look into getting one or two more chickens. And in fact, I have a lead on a couple that I’m hoping to pick up in the next month or so.

You remember Dr. Camilleri who helped with Cuddles?  He put me in touch with a woman who breeds and shows Ameraucanas and Marans. She thinks she has one Ameraucana pullet (a chicken that’s just started laying or is about to lay) and … SOME HATCHING EGGS.

 

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And I just happen to have a hen that’s been dying to hatch some eggs.  Josephine, my Black Copper Marans is always, always broody.  Meaning, all she wants to do is sit on eggs and hatch them.  Some chickens are more likely to be broody than others.

Josephine is so hell bent on being a mother to anyone’s eggs I wouldn’t be surprised if she ran away to join the show Sister Wives.

 

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So the next time Josephine goes broody I’m going to go and get some hatching eggs for her to sit on and hopefully she’ll finally get to be a mother and I’ll finally get another chicken or two.

 

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I just realized you might not  know what hatching eggs are.  Hatching eggs are regular chicken eggs that have been fertilized.  In other words, there’s a fox in the henhouse.  And by fox, I mean a foxy rooster getting some action.

Because I don’t have a rooster none of my chickens eggs are fertilized.  So I need to buy them from someone who does have a rooster in with their hens.

Eggs that are fertilized stay viable and ready to be hatched for at least a week, sometimes more after you gather them.  You just have to candle them to make sure they’re fertilized and set them aside until you have enough for hatching.  They don’t kick into action until they’re in the right temperature and humidity conditions, either by being set in an incubator or under a broody chicken.  That means they can just sit on the counter for many days until you’re ready to start hatching them.

So I am officially on broody watch.  And if you have any interest in seeing a hen hatch and raise a fistful of fluffy chicks, then so are you.

I’ll be posting updates on Josephine’s broody or not broodiness on Instagram daily so follow along to find out when she’s broody.  The minute she is, I’ll be heading out for about an hour’s drive to pick up her eggs and the egg hatching extravaganza will begin.

And yes.  I’m already thinking of naming one of them Matilda.

 

 

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56 Comments

  1. Hi. There is no such thing as an ugly chicken. When I was an young teenager we lived in the country. I didn’t have friend’s to be with so I played with my hens. This was in the late 1940s. One little chick hatched out late and the mother hen wouldn’t accept her in with the other chicks. Mother got a box with straw and I raised her in the kitchen. I named her Baby. She was a little light brown her. I had a pet gray hen, Grayie. At night when Daddy would sit in the yard I would get a baby chicken to hold. They would sleep in my hand. You need to hold your baby chicks. They will love you and come up to you, sit on the ground and wait for you to pick them up.

    • Karen says:

      That’s mostly true Patricia, I know. But some breeds and some chickens are just less prone to human interaction unless they happen to have imprinted on you. I handle alllll my chicks a LOT. But the Marans just aren’t cuddly. It isn’t in their nature. ~ karen!

  2. Nancy W says:

    It sounds like you have hatched a good plan 🙂

  3. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Sister Wives…lol…Great idea..hatching your own…Cheez Whiz looks pretty healthy to me…maybe she will be a 16 year chick…

  4. Elise says:

    Karen, your sense of humor and wit never cease to amaze me. I can’t wait to follow along with the surrogate chicken extravaganza!

  5. Jonica says:

    I love this, the hens and the photos are great! Thank you so much! I am forwarding this to a friend with children. Great story! Jonica

  6. Cynthia Jones says:

    No, I wasn’t humming.

    I was too busy scouring the hay in your hen yard for signs of poop. Then I realised you probably spent two hours styling your hay. Nobody’s chook yard looks so poop-free. There is always blobs of wet-looking multi-coloured poop clinging to the hay in various locations in chook yards. Note I say “chook” yards as my mother in law likes to bark the word “chook” whenever anyone dares to say chicken. Then she grumbles for all to hear, words like ‘bloody Americans”. Don’t get her started on “cupcakes” which are apparently called “patty cakes” in Australia until the day we all die. Charming woman.

    Anyhow, then I had to spend ten minutes cyber-stalking Dr Camilleri just in case you were having a “Moonstruck”- type liaison with a Nicholas Cage type.

    I’ve forgotten what the post was about. Oh yes, hens. Howsabout you throw in some silky hens? You would like them. They look like the chook version of you. Cute and fluffy and quirky. They are hilarious to watch and lay really cute little eggs that you could boil up and use in your beautifully styled photos of your kitchen bench. Be warned though, big chooks tend to try to peck their eyeballs out so you may need a separate space and you’re already losing interest, aren’t you.?

  7. Kathleen says:

    “They look, they scratch with their feet, they take a few steps back. Like a dance. That one might do at an open bar wedding with a painfully bad D.J.” my laugh out loud moment in this post. Love your work.

    Although I have to say, the hype about Idris didn’t amount to much… 🙂

  8. Kristin says:

    Karen, your post about Cheez Whiz all those years ago remains one of my favorite things I’ve ever read on the Internet. I’ll probably remember that story forever. Thank you!

  9. Alita says:

    Don’t forget that if you are hatching eggs you could get really unlucky, like I was last year, and end up with more cockerels than hens. My Araucana cockerels are trying to kill each other as I write. I am waiting for a friend of mine to take them away and give me some peace.

  10. Paula says:

    When they scratch, they also perform a cute little ass wiggle to accompany the scratching. Very amusing to watch.

  11. Jane Middleton says:

    Just received your charming page from a friend. I have five chickens and two of them are from my original batch. Alberta and Biddy are six years old. Alberta lays fine eggs about three times a week. Biddy drops a dud maybe once a week. They are usually lopsided and thin shelled. We eat them and we ain’t dead yet. Every once in awhile I find a membrane/egg on the wire. It seems to have fallen from the butt of someone who didn’t practice her Kegals.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know about my elderly hens. Alberta is very peppy and keeps up with the younger ones. Biddy has always done her own thing. She now is the last to leave the coop in the morning, and the first to go in at night.

  12. MissChris SA says:

    I so love your chicken stories!!
    One day I will have a chicken run in my garden too! Just have to make sure my cats cant get there!
    My friends son had a mongoose which took care of most of his chickens! Obviously they were protective of the eggs mongoose was trying to pinch and got their heads bitten off for that – dreadful.

    I am giving Summer of Doing Stuff a miss – wedding finances have taken care of that – baa humbug!!

  13. Dominic says:

    If you’d like to drive down 1/2 hour south of Buffalo, you’re more than welcome to some of my chickens eggs. They’re fertilized by Johnny Cash or Revvi, a very sweet father son team of roosters. You could end up with Cochin/Silver Laced Wyandotte/ Easter Egger/Jersey Giant/Buff Orpington/Red Sex-Link/Leghorn/Barred Rock. But they’d definitely be Cochin something. You’d also get to meet everyone’s favorite grumpy broody Silkie, Foof, who is currently sitting in the nesting box, on no one knows how many eggs, growling at anyone who is crazy enough to reach a hand for her.
    Oh, and you’d break several international laws as soon as you hauled the eggs back across the border. Think of the excitement!

    • Karen says:

      Breaking several international laws? I’m good with that. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again! ~ karen

      • Ronda says:

        took hard boiled eggs INTO the US once, and THAT was almost an international incident! Can’t imagine taking fertilized eggs across!!

    • Penny says:

      Over here in the UK, ‘Foof’ is a term for … er, how shall I put this? … an intimate area that may, or may not, be silky!!

      • Penny says:

        … and it’s also known in coarse terminology as a ‘Growler’. Strange that your silkie Foof is also a growler . . .
        Sorry for the seeming fixation with lady-bits, it’s an isolated incident, I promise.

        • Dominic says:

          Being the man of many travels that I am, I’m familiar with both explanations! But my wife takes the blame for the name!

  14. Ann says:

    I still have 2 out of my original 6 Blue Laced Red Wyandottes. They are still as active and doing their thing as they ever have. Hamlet is the sweetest rooster I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. My maran hens are buttheads, certainly not people chickens at all. And neither go broody and I have had them 4 years. They also start laying latest in the spring and stop earliest in the fall. So when they slow down even a tiny bit more they may get retired real fast.

    I love my easter eggers. They lay more eggs than any other chicken breed I have ever had. And who doesn’t love the beautiful blue eggs. Many people find they can make them good pet chickens but I honestly tried and mine are just so so with human interaction.

    BTW-you made it sound like you candle eggs at the beginning of the process. You don’t do that til somewhere in the middle, after the chick starts to develop enough to see with the light. I have a friend who incubates all the time with decent success. I have watched her thru all steps and am fascinated. But not enough to do it myself. I have 3 hens without a rooster in a smaller coop up front and I am waiting til one of them goes broody so I can stick some fertile eggs under them. That coop could use a few more hens and it would be something I would love to see, momma actually getting to do what she was designed by nature to do.

  15. Leslie Crawford says:

    Karen I can’t wait for the egg hatching LOL. I have two silkie hens in the hen house but also needed more so rather than hatch them (I did think about it) I was impatient and bought three unsexed two week old chicks but they are kept in a separate pen. I will introduce them to the older hens when they get a little bigger. I do need to make a bigger hen house now though. We will have a problem as soon as any of them start to crow however LOL

  16. Eileen says:

    Their feathers! Soooo beautiful. Their feet! Not so much.

  17. Mary Kay says:

    Oh I can’t wait!!! I think I have convinced my girlfriend to put a coop in her yard and we can have our own backyard chickens. I am unable where my house is – just not enough room until we do a complete backyard makeover! But one way another (with your help) I will at least get to see some peeps!

  18. Meredith says:

    Some words of warning. I too once thought it would be fun to allow my broody buff orpington to hatch eggs. I even went and got eggs fertilized by a rooster I had rehomed, also a buff orpington. I got a whole dozen! And she sat on those eggs like a champ for two and half weeks. Until it got hot and she decided it kind of sucked sitting in the nesting box all day. And then another hen decided those untended eggs looked pretty tasty and then everybody piled on in an ‘almost viable baby chick eating frenzy’ and I arrived at the coop just about at the end. Witness to the shameful carnage.

    Also, it sucks rising baby chicks that then turn out to be roosters and you have to almost always get rid of them to someone that plans to eat them. I got straight run this year from a farmer close to me and got four roosters and it broke my heart to take them to auction, my last resort after visiting about 15 farms near me that did not want a rooster. I cried handing them over and the grizzled livestock auction people mocked me to my face. Never again.

  19. Erin says:

    Get ready to spend a lot of time glued to “The Chickie Show.” Watching a mother hen with her chicks is better than any TV.

  20. judy says:

    I am amazed by the humor you can wring out of your impressive math skills. I tape the show Luther and had actually forgotten about it until it popped up on my list of things recorded.

    Watched late and alone and WOW! Scary show…crazy guy hammering random people in random locations-motivation???another guy raping young girl-winds up dead by young girl in a poop of blood. good on you young girl-that’ll teach him. Any-hoo get the attraction to Mr. Elba also very convincing Actor. Sorry I can’t participate in the “get Er Done” marathon but at 76 with Husband with Alzheimer’s lucky if I can kick the rats out the door in the morning. Just joking-no rats ……..yet……..

  21. judy says:

    make that a pool of blood..too much talk of chicken poop

  22. Angie S says:

    I’m very excited to read about this next chicken adventure!
    We picked up a variety of ten chicks on Mother’s Day, knowing it would FORCE us to finish the coop. It sure did – they really grow fast and they’re absolutely amazing! Our city allows seven and we thought we might lose one or two, and maybe have a couple of roos in there… right now I think we have all hens and I’ll be devastated if any of them turn out to be roos and we’ll be hiding three of them in the house when the building inspector stops by.

  23. Korrine Johnson says:

    I’m so excited!!!

  24. Dana says:

    I had my always broody hen sit on a clutch of fertilized eggs a friend gave me this spring. She was very dedicated to the task until one hatched, and she abandoned the nest. The chick died, and so did the rest of the eggs due to hatch that day. The little witch decided to be broody again two weeks later.

    I ordered hatched chicks, and they are doing well. 2 Swedish Flowers, 2 Welsummers, and 3 Caramel Queens, all collectively known as “The Myrtles.”

  25. Barbie says:

    A new and exciting adventure! Can’t wait to watch it all go down!

  26. Sherri Stockfleth says:

    Try getting a Lavender Orpington if you are interested in a friendly chicken. Orps are usually pretty lovey, or at least not adverse to humans.

    • meredith says:

      Yes! I have buff, lavender and chocolate and they are my sweetest girls. My favorite is a choclate orp named Baby Girl that makes noises like a penguin.

  27. Cathy Sweitzer says:

    dont your chickens get green grass or a chicken tractor? Chickens also love blueberries, oatmeal, cream of wheat, applesauce and cider vinegar in the water to help with hydration
    Enjoy your “Girls”

  28. Jody says:

    So is candling like doing an ultrasound. Can you get a 3D photo? Why doesn’t the biological mother hen go crazy when her fertilized eggs are taken away. Will Josephine take to them right away? Once hatched will she protect them from the other hens? I’m so confused with so many questions.

  29. Nan says:

    Hi Karen,
    I am in the exact same position as you are, but with only two girlies left. They are more pets than hens, love affection and are spoiled rotten. I have one tiny silkie, “Violet” and a larger ameraucana, “Peaches”. I am looking for fertilized eggs as well, as Violet is very broody. Is it possible for you to let me know your contact for the eggs as I live not far from you? I do have a contact named Brigitte in Campbelville – not sure if that is the same one as you have, but will pass it along to you if you wish. Just let me know if you have a spare moment. Thanks so much, N

  30. Mary W says:

    No you can’t be good at math – it was only a couple months ago that you brought the Morans to us. Better go back and check it out as I can’t believe it was Fall of 2014. Say it ain’t so! I didn’t realize there was an apostrophy in the word ain’t. I had and loved raising chickens (and one rooster named Rodney) but didn’t know the fertilized eggs could go without heat – that explains why they all hatch about the same time. One of life’s mysteries explained today in your blog – thank you so much. I may have told you the horrible trick I played on my Banty Hen – she was always broody but none of the rhode island red ever got broody. I wanted more reds! So I stuck about 10 under the poor little Banty and she set on them daily – turning them constantly so they wouldn’t get cold because her little body couldn’t cover all of them at once. We live in Florida and it was summer so they all survived. Then the fun began, she would try to walk and cover them while looking for bugs – they roamed all over our yard. The chicks would stick their heads out from under her wings and walk with her – heads poking out everywhere and many, many pairs of feet underneath. Funniest sight ever and she was the best Mom. I would never do that again but couldn’t decide which eggs I would throw away once I realized she couldn’t cover them all so I let her keep them. I LOVED my chickens and the sweet noise they make as they run around chasing bugs and talking to each other. I’m so happy for you and the Morans are gorgeous as ever. Thanks for a great post today.

  31. CathyB says:

    Off topic, but do you have a search function that I am missing? It seems like there have been several times that I have wanted to look back for a blog I remember and have a tough time finding it. I mean searching more than the general catagories. There is probably an easy way right in front of my face, but I am not seeing it. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Yup. It’s right at the top of the page CathyB. The little magnifying glass on the top right of the page near the Facebook and Pinterest buttons. But I’d like to make the search function a bit bigger in the future! Also, the drop down menus in all the topics are pretty easy to navigate. (not the general categories, but the drop down menus that show up when you hover over them) ~ karen!

  32. Alecia C says:

    I’m so excited for you! I love having our chickens hatch eggs! I have one Australorp that goes broody regularly. We bought her fertilized eggs on Craigslist (it seems you can get just about anything on Craiglist in TN 🙂 and I will never do it any other way if I can help it. Mama sits on the eggs until they hatch then she protects the chicks for a day or so (they just cuddle up in her wings and stay warm). Then on day 2(ish) she takes them outside and they start free-ranging. The other chickens get a peck or two in here and there, but overall mama protects them and the other chickens get bored with them (more or less accepting them into the flock) and life is good. She clearly tries to ‘teach’ them to scratch around and look for bugs by showing them behaviors and will always share her ‘treats’ with them. Not only is it adorable to watch, but there isn’t much drama with integrating them into the group. Best of luck!

  33. Daphne says:

    I have a 7 year old wyandotte cross that still lays up to 4 eggs a week. She raised 3 small groups of chicks in her days, but doesn’t get broody anymore. Her name is Quinty. 🙂

  34. Leslie says:

    You are going to have so much fun with this. Hens with their chicks are so much fun to watch.

  35. Andrea says:

    http://www.lilblueboo.com/2016/06/when-chickens-go-to-sleep.html

    I think you should get one like FoShizzle at littleblueboo. Think of the photo ops!

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