Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How Not to Handle a Broody Hen

"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful."

Poor Strawberry.  It seems like she has been cast the Weird Stepsister role in our little flock.  There is no doubt that she is the fluffiest, most spectacular chica out there.  Just look at her girlish figure.  Still, she gets picked on.

It was around June 21 when she went broody.   I know because I wasn’t home at the time, and received some frantic phone calls that something was wrong.   I was afraid she might be egg bound.   My instructions to “apply vaseline and massage her vent” were overheard by amused bystanders. 
In case you haven't guessed, I am new to the world of broody hens.  A broody hen is one that wants to be a mother.  She stays in the nesting box, on the eggs that everyone else has laid, waiting for them to hatch.  She doesn’t appear to notice that a rooster has never been there to fertilze them.  And so she sits. 

And sits.  Ignoring food.

Looking very determined.

And squawking and pecking at anyone who comes near. 

I did everything you’re not supposed to do.   I left at least one egg in the nest every day so that she’d have something to sit on at all times.  It just seemed too mean to do otherwise.  I put extra wood shavings in to make it comfy.   Turns out I was an enabler. 
The next step was to consult my neighboring farmer friends with chickens AND ROOSTERS to see if they had any fertile eggs for her to foster.  I figured why not let Strawberry fulfill her fantasy of motherhood?   Wouldn’t it be fun to have some cute little chicks pecking around? But chick hatching goes above and beyond the expectation of most petsitters, and a family vacation was eminent. 
Other friends with hens were consulted and various methods were discussed.  Convincing a hen to stop being broody is also known as “breaking her up.”  If you ever need to break up a broody hen, here are some things to try:
Remove the bird from the nest. 
Take all the eggs out of the nest. 
Remove all bedding from her nest, so that it’s less comfy.  
Deny access to the nest. 
Cool the bird off by dipping her breast and underside in cold water.
Construct and suspend a “Broody Coop”  with a wire or slatted bottom that discourages setting.  
It is possible to break a broody hen in just a few days.   It only took us 33!

More chicken drama: 
Harley's Secret Nest
Strawberry Likes Spaghetti (video!)
Chickens in a Blizzard
Our Scariest Chicken Day Yet


the home tome said...

Oh, Chicken Tough Love! Strawberry is so pretty :)

Duncan said...

I know it's no laughing matter but your description of the issue gave me a good chuckle.

catmint said...

dear J, this is all completely new and fascinating info to me. Poor Strawberry. Still, I do enjoy your Chicken Dramas - that may evolve into a new genre of drama. cheers, cm

Ashling said...

She is a beauty. We've not had that issue yet; we're busy waiting for these three to decide to start laying, but now I'll know what to do!

garden girl said...

Wow - never realized backyard chicken psychology could get so complicated. Glad you were able to get her past her obsession with motherhood.