According to The Word Detective the primary meaning of “biddy” is “chicken,” and it first appeared in the early 17th century. The word probably came from the nonsense syllables used to call chickens — something like “here biddybiddybiddy.” Definitions.net states it can also mean an adult chicken, a newly hatched chick or a fussbudget.
Those all apply in my situation so I named the structure I built in the barn coop, The Little Biddy Inn.
It was made to function as temporary housing for a broody hen or a grow out room for chicks. The top and front are removable and have been stored in the rafters until an occasion arose to use it. That occasion arose this morning.
The nest boxes in the barn coop are roll-out style, meaning the floor is slanted so that the newly laid egg rolls away from the hen, out of reach. The purpose is to keep the eggs cleaner and discourage egg eating which can happen if eggs build up in the nest box and break. I made my nest boxes from a Martha Stewart bookcase I got at Home Depot.
I only wish they still looked liked this but after two months of use, sadly, they do not. Here is the first egg ever laid in the new nest box and it worked exactly as it was supposed to work. The egg has rolled to the back, out of the hen’s reach. I can access the eggs from the incubator/brooder room without even entering the coop. Genius!
My Icelandic hen, Lukka is a chicken super-mom. In the year I have had her she has been broody three times. A week ago, when closing the coop for the night I spotted the unmistable blue tail feathers of Lukka sticking out the back of nest box #1 , the most popular of all the nine nest boxes.
Why was she still in there at night and not on the roost with the flock? Everyone wanted to know.
This could mean only one thing…she’s broody again! The following day I found her still there, desperately trying to hold onto a little white egg she had laid, before it rolled away forever.
At this point I knew for sure she was broody and in the for the long haul. It takes 21 days of a hen sitting on an egg for it to hatch. I sprang into action.
Look how determined she is. Poor dear has been sitting for almost two days on plastic nest pad with sharp pokey points. I removed the plastic and replaced it with soft grass hay. I secured her little white egg safely under her and actually gave her five more fertile eggs that I had been saving.
She was now comfortable and happy to spend the next three weeks in condo #1 until her six babies hatch. Or so I thought.
FAST FORWARD SIX DAYS:
I decided to check in on Lukka and make sure she hadn’t confiscated an extra egg or two. Other hens will sometimes get in the nest with a broody and lay another egg in their nest. This causes all sorts of problems because the eggs will hatch on different days. A hen may hatch the first chicks, then kick the other eggs out to care for her new babies. The chicks in those eggs get cold and die. Or, a hen may kick newly hatched chicks out into the cold to continue setting the later eggs and the chicks die. Either way it is a recipe for disaster. It is for that reason I always mark the eggs with a penciled “X.” that way I will know if any eggs have been added after the set date and I can remove them. I guess I don’t “always” do it because I didn’t mark the eggs this time. I decided I had better lift her up and make sure there were only six eggs under her. I donned my Kevlar falconry gloves and safety glasses and approached with caution. (If you’ve ever lifted a broody off the nest you know what I talking about).
I gingerly slipped my hand under her as she growled and pecked at my gloved hand. Ever so gently I lifted her up and began removing the eggs and placing them on the floor in front of the nest box.
1…2…3…4…5…6 ok, that’s it. Nope. I reach in again…7…8…9…10…11…12. Lukka is sitting on twelve eggs! I have no idea which ones are the original or when the subsequent eggs were laid. My options are rather limited at this point but at the very least I have to move her to a private suite. I will move her to the Little Biddy Inn! How fitting that Lukka would the first to use it.
I climbed the ladder into the rafters and retrieved the top and front pieces and attach them. I needed a portable nestbox but Michael took them all to the dump. He has some new policy about moving things only 30 times and then on the 31st time, they go to the dump. This only applies to my things. So I needed to get creative fast. I found a cardboard box that until today contained fireplace kindling. I emptied i, put it on it’s side and secured the flaps with packing tape. I cut a 2×4 to fit across the bottom front to keep the bedding and new chicks from falling out. I placed the cardboard box inside and cut boards on which I could elevate a feeder and waterer. I put down a thick layer of bedding and we were ready to go. Moving a broody is always a gamble. Sometimes they freak out and abandon the eggs and raise such a fuss you have to let them out. They usually return to the nest box they were in originally and begin collecting eggs again.
I first retrieved the eggs which I had placed back under Lukka to keep them warm. I moved them to the new nest box. When all the eggs were moved I went back for Lukka. I got a good gloved hand grasp on her but one wing was loose which she used to give me a good slap across the face. Undeterred, I got down on the floor and carefully place her in the kindling box atop her 12 eggs. She didn’t completely cover them at first.
I went into the incubator/brooder room and could hear her moving the eggs around under her body until she was sure they were all covered. I came back in to find her hunkered down over her babies again for the long haul. She hardly broke a sweat!
Here is Lukka tonight, the first occupant of the Little Biddy Inn.
Now, my plan is to wait for the first six eggs to hatch and let her raise those. I will remove any unhatched eggs and hatch them in the incubator and they will become brooder babies. It is a risk to try to introduce new chicks to a broody mom. She may accept them or she may hurt, neglect or kill them. Not marking the eggs was my mistake, so having to raise the babies shall be my punishment. But one thing I do know, I’ll be done long before Lukka will. She mothered her last baby until it was almost bigger than her!