As I write this column, I see our combine heading across the road into one of our soybean fields.
Looks like Bob's going to give it a try. Too bad, that field didn't do well with herbicides this year. It's weedy and those weeds are still green and may cause problems with the combining even if the soybeans are nice and dry.
Across the lane is another bean field. There the sprays worked much better. Can't figure out what changed when they were sprayed. It was the same chemicals on the same days - just another headache for my husband every time he looks at those weeds.
Today, I want to thank my chicken helpers. After writing a column about trying to get one of our hens to stop setting on eggs, I had emails and letters with more suggestions from other farmers - I knew if I wrote about the problem my reader friends would have answers for me.
I read with interest your article about Mama Hen and her unsuccessful attempt to hatch chicks. We have had quite a bit of experience in hatching our own eggs and I would like to share with you a unique idea that we used on many occasions.
When we had a broody hen and eggs that perhaps were not fertile, we allowed her to set on them. We also have replaced the eggs with round stones that were about the size of the hen's eggs.
We then bought or ordered chicks that would be delivered about the time her eggs should have hatched - can be from two weeks before to two weeks later, any time she is setting well.
The chicks must be no more than two or three days old. The night after you have received them, take them out to your setting hen and replace her eggs/stones with the chicks making sure that the chicks are all under her.
In the morning she will wake up and think that her eggs have all hatched and the chicks will think that she is their mother. We have never had a failure doing this.
(Note from me: I had been wondering if this would work even before this note came. I can't wait to try it in the spring. I intend to order some fancy chicks to update my flock with frills and color.)
I don't know what you have been using as a nest for her but we liked using a bushel basket with a lot of hay, grass, or straw in the bottom. It has to be heavy enough so that when she hops out, it doesn't tip. Then, after you have put the chicks under her they can't stray away and get chilled or lost.
Another solution to breaking a hen from wanting to set: When I was growing up we had what we called a "cluck" box. It was just a wooden box with a wire mesh bottom that we could put the broody hen in for a few days.
A rabbit cage would work well also - anything to get her up off the ground. Don't put anything in it that she could sit in. Like was suggested, you want to cool her belly. Keep her in it as long as she is making the clucking sound. Usually three days will do it.
I hope this helps you next year. I agree it's too late to do something like this anymore this year. My mother-in-law always remarked when she saw late-hatched fowl, that they needed to have someone knit stockings for them.
Joyce from New Holstein
Gerald from Merrill sent his hand-written suggestion. "Have a cage with a wire bottom such as a rabbit cage. Have feed and water, but no nest. It won't take long to break her up. This is an old-time trick," said Gerald.
Melvin from Brandon, also suggested the wire cage. It was something his mother did with her hens when she had this problem. Melvin also added a joke about a feisty rooster, which made me laugh.
Many thanks to Joyce, Gerald, and Melvin. I appreciate you taking the time to share your suggestions with me.
There was another email from my friend, Pauline, in Australia. She suggested the same kind of cage, too. Funny, I never thought to ask for Pauline's help. She's a city girl now, but when we first started writing, she was a farm girl. Thanks for your help, Pauline.
The rabbit cage we had is long gone, so I looked around the sheds for something else to use for our hen. I found a large chinchilla cage Rachel had for her critters some years ago.
About the time I was going to convert it for use with our hen, the hen stopped her broody ways. Now she's back, just one of the flock.
Next spring I'm really hoping to use Joyce's trick about setting live chicks under my hen. That way the hen will take care of the chicks and teach them to be chickens. It's a lot less of a hassle for us, too.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net; http://www.facebook.com/susan.manzke.