While breed researching for my fall chicks, I ran across an interesting breed to consider. This rare breed is often available for purchase from Murray McMurray Hatchery.
These are one of the most beautiful in appearance of any of our rare varieties with their striking black and white markings and slate colored legs. We are told that the word “Lakenvelder” when translated from the Dutch means “a shadow on a sheet”, a particularly descriptive name. They were bred extensively in Germany and Holland as long ago as the early 1800’s, but were not recognized here until the 1930’s.
They are quite small when mature, 3 to 4 Ibs., and very quick and active, foraging widely if allowed to run. The skin is white and the breast unusually plump and round, almost like wild game birds. Hens lay white eggs and are non-setters. Baby chicks are mostly creamy white with a half collar of black on the neck and sprinkling of black on the head and back.
What Broody Means, and What to do When it’s a Problem
Definition of Broody: A hen with strong instincts to hatch eggs, whether or not they are fertile, or even present in the nest. Signs:Your hen won’t leave the nest, appears to not be eating, her feathers are all fluffed up, she’s pale, and lethargic. These are classic signs of the broody hen. First of all she isn’t starving, she is eating and drinking, but it’s low on her list of priorities. She may only eat just enough to survive. The fact that she isn’t sitting on eggs won’t make a difference to her, so don’t assume she’ll just give up in a day or two, she won’t. This behavior could last weeks, and during that time period she will not lay eggs.
Her behavior can be disrupting as well, she may not allow the other members of the flock near her nest, not only is that opening the door for drama, but the laying cycle of the entire flock can be disturbed.
What to Do
You can sometimes discourage the broody hen by moving her nest box, covering it, or to the less dedicated lady, simply take her from the nest a few times the first day. However, there are some with very strong instincts and you may actually have to change her environment completely by moving her to another place. This will take her mind off sitting on eggs and back to laying them!
Another trick that I use here at the ranch is getting air underneath the hen. The best way to do this might require a few changes to your nest area, but it’s well worth the effort. I don’t like keeping my birds on a wire grate in the nesting place, but I do have have a place with that option for the simple solution of breaking the behavior of the broody hen.
I have a piece of plywood covering the wire grate in their nest area, over that is a gracious amount of grass hay. When the occasional broody hen occupies the nest, I simply remove the plywood, by exposing the wire grate, the hen has air flow under her – which to her, is completely unacceptable.
Note: It’s important to act quickly when addressing the broody hen, the longer you allow it to continue, the longer you will have to wait before she starts laying eggs again.