Friday, May 11, 2012

Broodiness in the Coop

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by Rebecca Nickols

Inside a nesting box in this coop resides Henrietta, the broody hen ... I should have known this would eventually happen. Buff Orpingtons are famous for their diligence and dedication when it comes to sitting on eggs. The Pickin' Chicken App (from Mother Earth News) even describes an Orpington as a "Mommy wannabe!"

Even so, I was still surprised that the mother instinct seemed to happen overnight, and it doesn't appear that her hormonal drive to be a mom is going to leave as quickly. In fact, the whole flock is a little on edge now. I'm not sure if it's because the queen of the roost is broody or if the condition might be contagious. I hope that if I can help Henrietta through this emotional crisis, the mood of the flock will return to normal and they'll get back to doing what chickens do best: scratch, cluck and lay an egg ...

Here's the symptoms of a broody hen:

*Constantly sitting in the nesting box. Only leaving briefly to eat, drink and excuse herself ...
*She becomes very protective of her eggs. Some chickens will even become aggressive if you try to move them from the nest.
*When she does get off the nest, she may puff out her feathers and fight with the other hens; strutting about and making clucking noises.
*She might pluck feathers from her breast to line the nest and keep the eggs closer to her warm body.
Inside my coop, I have three nesting boxes: one is all that is needed for four to five chickens, but my chickens always use the same box. I think they have a schedule worked out on who lays an egg at what time of the day. Now that Henrietta is constantly occupying their favorite box, the other hens are reluctantly moving on to one of the other boxes. If I remove the eggs under Henrietta, then she just moves to another box after that chicken has laid an egg. She wants to be a mom so badly that she will even sit in an empty nesting box!

Here's a few tips to break the broodiness:

*Collect eggs from the nesting boxes everyday (even the ones she's sitting on).
*Remove her from the coop at least a couple of times during the day.
*Try replacing one of the eggs she's sitting on with an ice cube or ice pack.
*Isolate her from the coop. Move her to a pen without a nesting box.
*Wait it out, she'll eventually give up in 2-6 weeks ...
*If possible, allow her to hatch a few chicks and be the mom she's longing to be!

At this time, I'm just physically removing Henrietta from the nesting box several times during the day. She's never shown any signs of aggression toward me, but she does display her feathers proudly and clucks in protest. And ... each time I take her out of the coop, it only takes her a few minutes and she heads back to her nest of imaginary eggs. I recently purchased a few new chicks to add to the flock. If I would have known that I was going to have a broody hen, I would have opted for fertilized eggs instead. Poor Henrietta ... She would have made a wonderful mother.


To see what else is happening on our Southwest Missouri property, visit ...the garden-roof coop.

8 comments:

  1. Why not let her have a go Becks? I have a hen (Claudia) who regularly goes broody every year and is a great Mum. I remove her to a small 'broody' house where she raises the chicks the natural way. Done that three times now and got some great hens (& cockerels) from pandering to her motherly instincts.

    When she went broody for the second time one year I decided she needed a break (they get run down quite a bit). So I made a pen that had a wire mesh bottom and sat her in that. The airflow under her bum made her snap out of the broodiness fairly quickly.

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  2. I agree with Chris. Can she have a few babies? I don't know much about raising chickens, but isn't that a great way to increase the size of the flock? She sounds like a natural mother.

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  3. We're dealing with a broody buff right now too - looks just like your girl - a big grumpy pufferfish every time we take her out of the coop. It's been a week now, so I have resorted to closing up the coop midmorning after the others have pretty much finished laying. She then marches back and forth in from of the coop door !

    But I have 16 7-week old chicks right now, so no babies for awhile !

    Lisa
    http://fresh-eggs-daily.blogspot.com/2012/01/so-youve-got-broody-hen.html

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  4. I agree with Chris and Casa. Just let her alone and let nature take its course. If you don't want more chicks, just give them away.

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  5. I have a broody Ancona, who has adopted my black silkie as her baby. They stuff themselves in the nest box. They're both 2 years. Been that way for weeks. Tried everthing. They do it alot. Any suggestions.

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  6. We had a black Australorp acting nasty broody. I put her in a smaller coop where we raise hatchery chicks. No nest box and the four month old chicks kept her busy. After five days she is no longer broody.
    If I let my hens hatch eggs then we are stuck with roosters. We don't eat chickens we raised and after letting a hen sit eggs we have several roosters living out back. They are noisy in the morning let me tell ya!

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  7. I have one black Silkie a friend gave me and she's a brooder. My friend told me in warmer weather Silkies have a tendency to brood more as they're bodies are fooled by the extra warmeth? Not sure if that's why but I'm happy! I just need some fertile eggs now and she will be happy too!

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  8. Try letting her adopt your baby chickens. We had a broody Buff Orpington that adopted our 5 week old chicks as soon as we allowed her access to them! We had no success breaking her broodiness for two weeks before that, even when we put her out in the yard by herself every day.

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