Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Trouble with Happy Feet

Brie and I are in a quandary. Our littlest hen, a Cochin Bantam named Happy Feet, is giving us the biggest problem, lately. The petite, feathered puff ball seems to delight in torturing the flock, and us. Brie comes in after her morning visit to the coop with a litany of complaints.

"Happy Feet won't get out of her nesting box."
"Happy Feet is pecking the other hens."
And, my personal favorite: "Happy Feet growled at me."

Growled?? I never knew a chicken could growl, but coming from Happy Feet, I'm not surprised. You see, Happy Feet's gone broody, a term used by poultry enthusiasts to explain that what Happy Feet really wants is her own babies. She wants to be a mom.

"Aaawwww," you whisper. But, it can be a problem. She is unpleasant to be around, to say the least, and getting eggs out from under her hot, little bum is no easy feat. We go in wearing gloves and a grim game face to accomplish the task. But, we do emerge victorious, each day, with five to six beautiful eggs, of all shapes, sizes and colors, leaving the tiny hen looking even grumpier than when we entered her lair.

We hated to be the bearer of bad news, and we tried telling the frustrated hen that she has absolutely no chance of hatching a single egg under her bottom, considering there are no roosters (thank goodness) in our flock. But, since we don't speak "chicken," the girl is not getting the message, so day after long day, she sits on those eggs, until we come to take them away. It must be depressing for her.

What to do with our Happy Feet? We are already expanding our flock this spring to welcome eight more chicks into the family, and the coop we are buying is a 4X7 with a 15 foot run, comfortably accommodating 15 hens. This means, that providing they all get along, that's a big "if" as most hen keepers well know, I really feel like we shouldn't add more to the mix.

However, there is the argument that we could buy a few eggs for Happy Feet to incubate. This could be fun for Brie to experience, as well as it would satisfy poor Happy Feet's longing to be a mother.
Just by coincidence, I received an email the other day from MyPetChicken, advertising "chocolate eggs" from a breed of chicken called, "Black Copper Marans." Can you imagine, chocolate eggs? How gorgeous! And, we could jettison away the chicks, once they are born, to another, local chicken lover who wants to expand their flock. Or keep them. Hhmmm. What to do?!

Of course, we have no idea what we are doing... Incubating eggs and dealing with hatchlings. And, they cost a fortune... $50, whether you want one egg or 12 shipped your way. And.... to top it all off, any number of them could be roosters, not hens, so we wouldn't be able to keep those, regardless. But, on the other hand, it could be fun, as I previously mentioned. This is what's keeping me up at night. Brie looks at it from a perspective that far eclipses my worries. That it would be another "adventure" in our journey. And for Brie, life is a grand adventure. Who am I to squash that?

What do you think... Any advice? Post your comments below.