What my broody hen taught me
August 22, 2022
One of my chickens recently began acting peculiar. Rather than racing out of the coop to peck for worms in the spring mud, Nugget stayed in her nesting box. I thought she was just laying one of her signature sage-colored eggs. But when I found her in the same spot a few hours later, I knew something wasn’t right. I tried scooting Nugget out of the box. She wouldn’t budge. I tried again only to discover that chickens can make a growling sound of sorts with what I swear was an evil eye. A quick Google search revealed she wasn’t sick or hurt. Rather, I had a broody hen on my hands.
Broodiness is a hen’s mothering instinct leading her to sit for 21 days on eggs for them to hatch. But with unfertile eggs, the “hatching-the-eggs” vigil is for naught. It can also lead to dehydration, as the hen will not leave the nest much to eat or drink.
I hoped Nugget would snap out of her broodiness. I wasn’t eager to resort to some of the old-time remedies, like dunking a hen in cold water to cool her raging maternal hormones. After a week of no improvement, though, I chose a less extreme remedy suggested by an old farmer: stubbornness. “Keep moving her out of the nesting box at night and onto the roost as many times as you have to, until she stays there. That will break her broody habit.”
“As many times” came to a grand total of 11 tries one night. Back and forth, chicken and human went from nesting box to roost and back again. I was tiring; Nugget was not. But I kept hearing the farmer’s voice: “Be more stubborn than the chicken. It’s for her own good.” I finally prevailed when Nugget stayed on the roosting bar. The next day, she was no longer snuggled in her nesting box but inhaling worms with the rest of her feathered friends.
One of the few female images of God in the Bible is that of a mother hen (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34), and you can’t be but lulled into a pastoral vision of divine wings cradling you (Psalm 91:4). Beautiful, isn’t it? After dealing with a broody hen, though, I view this image differently. I now think of the stubbornness showdown between God and me that goes on more often than I like to admit.
I think of the stubbornness within our churches, too. How many times has God moved us from our nesting boxes for our own good? We are a “stiff-necked people” at times, as God told Moses. But thank goodness God is just as stubborn, never giving up on us, constantly moving us out of the nesting box where we wait for something to hatch that isn’t going to hatch.
Broodiness is a sign of good mothering, but sometimes, beloved church, broody behavior just isn’t healthy. So, in the divine showdown of stubbornness, let God’s ways prevail. After all, there are some juicy worms out there to enjoy!
Donna Frischknecht Jackson, Editor, Presbyterians Today
Today’s Focus: Broody hen
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Holy One, shape us according to your purpose, so that we may reflect your glory. Bless us to be a blessing. This we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.