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Broody duty has disastrous underpinnings

July 08, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

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If you have ever raised chickens, you probably know about something called a "broody hen." If, however, you have never raised chickens, can we arrange for a brain transplant so I will have no memory of ever having done so?

Broody hens are basically chickens that want to become mothers. They stop laying eggs and do nothing but sit sullenly on a nest all day watching "The Guiding Light."

Since we do not have a rooster, the eggs they sit on have no chance of hatching, but the chickens do not know this. Chickens, as a general thing, do not know much of anything outside of food consumption. They are like earthbound seagulls, flocking to any other animal that is being fed in the hopes of snagging a few leavins'.

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Five of our hens went broody all at once, which seriously ate into our egg production. This nonsense had to be stopped, but unbroodying a hen is like trying to smarten up a national banking executive.

As usual, we read all the books. As usual, they didn't help. The book says to confine the hen in a cage and hang it from the ceiling where the breeze will "cool off their torrid underpinnings." I can photocopy the page and send it to you if you think I am lying about this.

Aware that there can be nothing more dangerous than a female with torrid underpinnings, I took the work seriously. But I'll be darned if I were going to hang up five chickens in cages like they were parrots or something, on the chance that a visitor might think I was part of some freakish religious cult.

We researched further, and Beth found a post from an old British countrywoman who swore that if you "dipped the chicken's bum" in a bucket of cold water, it would immediately cure the problem.

I let this info process in the old melon for a bit.

Sensing my skepticism, Beth said, "It sounds weird, but I bet it works; those Brits don't put up with any foolishness."

"Yeah, well, two words: Monty Python. How do we know this isn't one of those bizarre stunts they pass off as humor, like camel spotting or Twit of the Year competitions?"

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I did two things. I put the bucket in a corner of the barnyard where no one could possibly see me. Boonsboro is a small town and people talk.

Second, I explained to the chicken that this wasn't my idea, but she had better cooperate anyway, or the next time she entered water it would be boiling, with carrots and a bay leaf for company.

The first two hens took it reasonably well, but the third chicken Did Not. Her underpinnings had just gone from torrid down to sweltering when she went on the offensive. I'd been careful to make sure that I had her wings pinned to her sides, but not careful enough, apparently.

For a real, live approximation of what happened next, just put a down comforter into a swimming pool and slice through it with a chainsaw. It was like when Dorothy threw water on the Wicked Witch, although more dramatic.

But did it work? I don't know; I couldn't go near the chicken coop for about three days. Beth said it seemed to work on three of the five, but from now on they can just go broody for all I care.

For me, there will be no more chicken baptisms. You can bet your underpinnings on that.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under www.opinion@herald-mail.com, on www.antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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