Not Breaking My Broody Hen

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Two Broody Hens side by side in the two nest boxes in the coop.

Just recently my buff bantam Cochin, Daisy, decided it was time try to start another brood of chicks.  Crazy moody hen!  Her chicks from the last batch are only 11 weeks old this week.  She had only been back to laying for about 3 weeks when she started talking broody and staked out her territory in the nest area again.  Lucky for her, my son’s white Cochin, THX1138, also went broody within a day or two of her.  The poor white hen has gone broody 3 times before, and every time I broke her of it.  THX1138 would regularly follow the buff hen with her chicks around the yard when they were still little, not bothering them, just being around them.  One time she even helped protect Daisy’s chicks, from what the hens thought was an imminent hawk attack. I think THX1138 really wants her turn to be a mama hen.

It is hard to justify buying shipped eggs for a single bantam hen because a lot of time breeders sell in lots of 12 to 18 eggs and one Bantam Cochin can only easily cover 6 or 8 bantam eggs or 3 or 4 large fowl eggs.  Shipping eggs is usually about $13 to $15 for postage and packaging, and then add the purchase price of the eggs on top of that, it is often $30 to $50 by the time fertile eggs arrive in the mail.

I would probably have broken the buff hen had THX1138 not also gone broody at the same time. With two broodies at the same time, I could justify the shipping, and they got to split an order.  Even then, we still ended up with too many eggs; the seller kindly sent 20 eggs and I only needed to set 6 or so under each hen.  The chicks from these eggs will be of mixed colors of bantam Cochins (of course icon wink Not Breaking My Broody Hen Their sire was a Partridge Cochin bantam and the mothers could have been any of the breeder’s buff, partridge, red, black, laced, white, or silver pencilled hens. They should make for some very interesting color combinations.

Hopefully USPS shipping didn’t damage too many of the fertilized eggs in transit.  The eggs arrived in the mail a week ago, Tuesday. My daughter, B, helped unpacked and candle each egg to look for broken air chambers or overly porous or fractured shells.  Since I only wanted to place 6 eggs under each hen, I wanted to pick the eggs that would have the best chance of making it to hatch.  Sunday night, since we had our 3rd neighborhood power outage in 24 hours and not much to do in the dark that evening, J and I candled the eggs. It looked like the majority of them were already developing veining with the beginning of tiny embryos about the size of a pencil eraser head.

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My daughter B opened up the eggs and help me examine them all for broken air chambers.

Every once in a while, I get asked by new chicken keeping friends about how to break a broody hen.  The method I have successfully used in the past, is to keep a second pen, in our case a rabbit hutch with a wire floor, the same one I have on hand in case I need to I isolate a chicken for other reasons. If a hen has only been broody for a few days, keeping her in the hutch with no nest and plenty of cool air flow underneath, helps to shorten the duration of the broody hormonal cycle. I like using a rabbit hutch because it is just as safe as the coop and doesn’t have to be in the garage like the dog crate for safety. While a hen is in there, I make sure she has plenty of food and water and gets out to forage in the yard with the rest of the flock for a half hour or so each day.

Below is a short video of my two broodies. Broody hens sound a little different than how hens normally sound. And when they get pulled off the nest, for a few moments they sit like zombies on the ground. Despite not wanting to be bothered, my hens still seem to be really nice and don’t peck or bite at us. They just cluck and puff up to tell us and other hens to leave them alone.

 

The longer the hen has been broody, the longer it usually takes for them to snap out of it and get back to laying. I generally keep them in the hutch until they lay again, usually 3 days to a week.  I have not had much luck with constantly removing a hen from her nest throughout the day. Eventually the broody’s determination always wins out and I give up.

The following are a few other strategies some chicken keepers say breaks broodiness that I have only read about, but I personally don’t use them.  Some sound a bit stressful for the hen, like dunking the hen in ice cold water.  My hens tend to go broody in the middle winter most years, and a cold wet chicken would be a really bad idea at that time of year. I would rather have a broody chicken than a sick chicken. Other things include placing ice cubes or frozen water balloons in the nest throughout the day.  For any one with a rooster in their flock, locking the hen in a pen all alone with the rooster’s constant amorous attention is supposed to prevent the hen from brooding on a nest.  Never tried that one either since we live in an urban area and roosters are not allowed.

On the flip side, I love having baby chicks around and I often let my broody hens raise them, as long as we don’t have any upcoming vacation plans within a month of hatch or something else that would make having baby chicks around a problem.  The two hens picked a good time of year for us this time.  I will update on egg development later on.  They are due to hatch around May 1st.

 

© 2012, Hanbury House.