When good hens go broody

by admin on May 26, 2011

Hungry looking backyard chickens

One of these five just spent some time in solitary

Our biggest and most productive hen has a problem. Whether it was the turning of the calendar to spring or leaving eggs in the nesting box too long, I don’t know. Anyway, this hen decided to give in to her motherly urges and become broody.

We don’t have a rooster, but that doesn’t matter. Hens will go broody and sit on a clutch of eggs whether the eggs are fertilized or not.

I am pretty sure that I am at fault for at least enabling this hen to go broody. You see, we wanted our six-year-old son to have some chores to do and one of his is to collect the eggs each day. Up until this point I had been going out a few times during the day and collecting eggs (mostly a winter habit as I didn’t want them to freeze solid). To make sure there were still some for him to collect after school, I started leaving the eggs out there.

Big mistake.

One of the key triggers of broodiness is to leave an ample supply of eggs in the nesting box. A hen will begin to get motherly feelings and start sitting on the eggs all day.

Even worse, she’ll quit laying and her sitting in the nesting box all the time can adversely affect the egg production of the other hens in the coop. Our egg production went form 4-5 eggs each day (from five hens) down to 1 or 2 a day from the four non-broody hens.

A quick search led me to a couple of fairly successful methods to cure a broody hen – isolation and uncomfortableness or a cold water dunking. I really didn’t want to subject one of our hens to a cold water bath, it hasn’t really been all that warm at night just yet and I would only do this as a last resort.

Our rabbit hutch was recently available so we decided to put the broody hen in solitary confinement for about six days. I set her up with her own food dish and plenty of water. She tried roosting on the top of the waterer so I stuck a chunk of firewood up there to dissuade her from further use.

We gave her treats every day so she wasn’t missing out on anything that the other hens were getting. Each day she was in the broody pen she seemed to act a little less broody. My son referred to her as “the brute” because he heard us refer to her as broody.

Her large speckled eggs were greatly missed, but the four remaining hens stepped up their production and we were back to getting three to four eggs a day.

After about six days I put “the brute” back in with the other hens and kept a sharp eye on her all day. I wanted to make sure she didn’t make a beeline for the nesting box and go back to her broody ways. She was glad to be back with the other girls and stayed out of the coop all day enjoying various treats and socializing.

Her solitary ordeal did the trick and she was back to her old self, albeit without the egg laying. An additional one to two weeks would be needed before she would start laying again according to my broody hen research. Every day we watched the nesting box for her large speckled eggs and after about 10 days she laid her first post-broody egg.

Now the hens are back to providing us with four to five eggs every day and we’ve had to give away a couple dozen because we couldn’t keep up.

So, my lesson has been learned. I don’t leave eggs in the nesting box all day. It gets checked a couple of times before my son gets home from school and most days, there is an egg or two for him to collect.

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