Holy cow, y’all- it’s all broody hens all the time here.
Last summer, we started adding some Buff Orpington genes into our Farmlet Mutt flock. They’re BIG birds, sweet, good layers- all characteristics we wanted. But of course, they’re good brooders as well. While this has been bred out of most modern hybrid chicken breeds, a broody hen wants to settle into a quiet, dark place with a nest full of eggs for 21 days, until they hatch as nature intends.
Over the last 3 years, we’ve been taking our fertile eggs and incubating them, allowing us to select a time (and a place) that’s convenient for the Farmlet women, rather than for the chicken in question. But with Buffy’s offspring making up the bulk of our current flock of hens, EVERYONE wants to sit a nest of eggs right now.
This would be fine, except we really only have one good space to finish the process, the large brooder on the floor of the coop. Maximum occupancy: one single hen and her offspring. Or in the neighborhood of 15 incubator chicks. If there’s THREE hens all dead set on raising their own, the nest boxes are full of giant foofy pissed off hens, all trying to keep the eggs for themselves, thank you very much. Not good for egg production- as they totally stop laying during this process. And they’re super mean to other hens that just want to get in there and get their work done.
Of the three current broodies, our girl Taura started first, so she’s the winner winner – she’s been sitting for 18 days or so, and we’ll be seeing chicks before you know it. The other two, though, are going to have to get a new hobby.
Now, going broody is a hormonal process, but it’s triggered by the longer days and hotter weather, and can be disrupted, at least theoretically. One school of thought says to basically confuse the chicken- take her off her nice warm dark nest, take the eggs away, carry her around for a while, give her a snack. This hopefully gets her interested in other things, and she gives up sitting. Taking them out of the nest at twilight and putting them back on the roost with the other chickens is also helpful.
We’ve been trying all the things, so there’s been a lot of chicken-walking. Imagine two grown women cuddling annoyed hens, chatting them up, showing them the fascinating scenery in different parts of the yard. It worked for Spotty, who’s hanging out with her flock mates again, giving the adolescent roosters what for- but poor Owlet is just dead set on staying in that nest, even with no eggs.
So, she’s in Chicken Jail. Poor baby- locked up in the dog crate for a day in the shade, with food and water all for her, but all she wants to do is get let out, so she can run back to her nest full of (imaginary) eggs. She’s been perching on top of the water jar in her crate, hissing at us as we go in and out of the house. Tomorrow, she’ll get to go hang out with the flock again, all her dreams of offspring thwarted.
It’s really hard, when your biological clock is ticking.
Until next time (where there will be baby chickens),
I feel so sorry for Owlet. Not that I’m clucky, far from it in fact, but I feel her pain. The last time I was clucky and filled a cot was 40 years ago.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I know, poor baby. Hopefully she’ll brood again later in the summer, when we can let her go through with it.
I suggest putting broody hens on a wire floor elevated 1′ off the ground in a breezy spot to break broodieness. It gets the air moving under them which is where they try to keep warm to be broody.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yup, if the rabbit cages weren’t full of rabbits, we’d pop her in there. But the dog crate seems to be working- she’s in a good breeze, and perched on top of a jar full of water is pretty different than hunkered down in a nest.
We’ve been fighting two bodies. None of the usual things have broke them this time. My husband says it is time to butcher .
LikeLiked by 1 person
We have our first ever broody hen – a 4 yr old sex link. I was amazed she went broody at that age! She’s been sitting on eggs for 13 days now. But I didn’t realize she was broody for what must have been a couple weeks because she wasn’t spending all day in the nest box, but she was MOODY as all get-out. Walking around with her feathers fluffed and tail spread and just whining up a storm. And THEN she started making odd clucking noises whenever she’d eat. And she’d starting chasing all her flockmates away from the food. And I think that was when I started wondering if she was instinctively wanting chicks.
It was a couple more days before I pulled her into a private cage inside, and just watched her. And pretty soon, she was hunkered down in a corner. So I gave her an egg.
She’s a notorious egg eater. So I nearly fell over when she just looked at the egg I’d set in front of her, and then she carefully reached out, and rolled it under her breast with her beak.
So yeah. I ended up tucking 6 more eggs under her that day. We candled them for the first time on Saturday night, and we have live chicks bouncing around in all of them! Eight more days to go….
Owlet is quite the acrobat balancing on top of that water, though. Hope your expected chicks have hatched well!