Photo by Audrey Pavia
Every spring and summer there’s a battle with my hens; they want to make babies, but I want eggs for breakfast. As soon as they lay an egg, I take it away. They squawk in protest and sometimes peck my hand, but I always win. Then, they sit for days in the same spot where the egg once was, brooding and pretending it’s still there.
They aren’t stupid, and eventually start laying in places where the eggs can’t be easily seen. They know the nest boxes in the coop aren’t safe because I always take the eggs they put there. So they start getting creative and hiding under bushes or behind objects. If I notice a hen is missing, I hunt her down, thwarting her attempts to reproduce. But once in a while, the hiding spot is so good, I can’t find it.
Baby Jo is the result of one of these incidents. Her mother hid under the tack shed and hatched her. I never knew where the hen was hiding until she emerged one day with a chick at her side.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about letting one of my hens have a chick or two since I’m down to only three hens. So when Baby Jo decided to “hide” behind a nest box in the coop, I decided to leave her there and let her hatch her eggs.
However, I’m nervous about this for a few reasons. First, my roommates’ dogs. They don’t bother the adult chickens, but I worry they could hurt a chick. There is no real reason to think this, but I’m worried about it anyway.
Second, the issue of inbreeding concerns me. Baby Jo mated with her uncle. Will the babies come out with two heads? I’m worried about this, too.
Third, what if the chick or chicks are roosters? I already have two roosters. Only Mr. Mabel breeds, since he is the dominant rooster. But still — is it a good idea to add another male to this flock? Will they fight? What is going to happen?
Baby Jo only recently laid the eggs she is sitting on, so I still have time to decide whether this is really a good idea. I’ll be doing plenty of research on chicken breeding and multiple roosters over the next week or so. I want to be a responsible urban farmer, and will do whatever it takes to make sure I have it right.