by Inga Ladd
Edited by Alan Stanford, Ph.D.
Really, why argue with a hen? We are human. Humans are advanced thinking
mammals that should have more sense if you believe the rhetoric! Hens
are simple birds, an example of an avian which is probably a descendant
of the dinosaurs if you've been following the last few issues of National
Geographic. Remember, the broody Silkie hen is a simple little avian
following the dictates of an instinct as old as time. We chose to breed
Silkies because of their fluffy appearance, their beauty, their gentleness,
their excellence as mothers of all kinds of chicks. . . Ah, their excellence
as mothers! Don't forget that Silkies were bred to BROOD!
I'll hop down off my soap box. When breeding Silkies, it can be quite
a frustrating task to capture those fertile eggs. With luck, the favorite
Silkie hen will have been penned with the mate you chose for her for
at least 10 days before she begins to lay. More likely, you'll pen her
up and wait three months for those eggs! Once she starts to lay, you
will carefully and quickly collect the eggs she lays in hopes of improving
your flock with chicks of known parentage from this excellent pair.
You will carefully and quickly collect those eggs because you believe
the popular wisdom that informs you that eggs laying around is a sure
way to cause an otherwise good laying hen to get broody. In spite of
the popular wisdom about egg gathering, the Silkie hen will only lay
an average of about 15 or 20 eggs before going broody. In my experience,
the range is closer to 2 to 30 eggs with only the unusual hen laying
anything over 10 eggs before deciding she wants to hatch a few for herself.
I mentioned the "luck" word a bit earlier. Sometimes, you'll
notice a nice Silkie hen laying. You'll immediately pen her with a carefully
chosen mate and mark the calendar for the day with the eggs should be
the offspring of the cockerel you've chosen. As I mentioned earlier,
10 days is the average waiting period to be fairly confident of the
sire of the anticipated eggs. I will almost guarantee (having done this
myself many times) that by the time the ten days have lapsed, you'll
be lucky to get 2 or 3 eggs before that Silkie hen goes broody!
What can be done? You must outsmart that simple little avian..