Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Phyllis has gone broody (and we've all gone mad)

It’s been a long time since the chickens’ last blog entry. There wasn’t a lot to miss, except maybe for those two months when they went on strike. I regret that we didn’t post photos of Phyllis and Millie looking really haggard and ugly with half their feathers gone. “Molting” tends to happen once a year, and it means they stop laying and lose feathers. We really weren’t too happy about the loss of eggs during that time.

Flo, to her credit, slowed down egg production a bit over the winter but never stopped laying. She’s lucky she’s such a good layer because otherwise she’s kind of a pain in the ass. She’s taken to eating the tail feathers of the other two. Gross. We bought some bright purple, menthol-scented Rooster Booster Pick-No-More Lotion that “controls cannibalism.” But we only had the energy to catch Millie and apply it once.

What finally prompted me to resume the blog was Phyllis’s latest antics. It seems our big fluffy yellow gal has “gone broody.” If it sounds like some sort of Victorian ailment, it is. She’s taken to her nest and simply won’t hear of anything else. Mother Nature, even without a rooster on the premises, occasionally convinces a hen that she must become a mother. So now we have one wildly hormonal, angry chicken.

This, my friends, is exactly what having your feathers ruffled looks like.

This all started, appropriately enough, on Mother’s Day. Phyllis doesn’t want to eat, drink, or do anything but sit on her nest. Every morning we grab her and plop her on the ground to the sound of shrill shriek. She stays flopped on the ground as if she’s forgotten how to use her legs, until eventually, some cracked corn tossed nearby reminds her she can get up. Then we have to leave for work and put them back in the coop, and she goes immediately back to her nest.

Like I said, this is one angry chicken we're dealing with here.

We tried three full days of Broodiness Deprogramming over the weekend by locking them out of their coop, and I can’t say it did much. True, Phyllis did spend most of her days scratching, eating, and doing other normal stuff, but she also expressed her displeasure every chance she got. One day she spent 15 full minutes squawking at the top of her lungs. Bock-bock-bock-bock-AAHHHHH! I got so desperate to shut her up that I started chasing her around the yard to scare her. I looked like a raving lunatic, but at least it snapped her out of it.

Other than making sure she gets up to drink, eat, and poo once in a while, I think we’re stuck until this runs its course. But it’s not just Phyllis we need to worry about. When the girls were locked out of their house over the weekend, I went in the chicken run to clean things up and Millie jumped me from behind. She hadn’t had a chance to get into the nest to lay her egg earlier, and it was past time. So, I had one hen cursing at me in the yard and another clinging to my back and flapping wildly in a desperate attempt at gaining entry. It was basically a gang attack. It really wasn’t one of the more dignified moments of my life.

Oh, and another thing: this all means that Phyllis has stopped laying yet again.