A (Kind-Of) Quick Update on Brooding Chickens

SO, I men­tioned yes­ter­day that I went down to the coop and noticed that one of the chick­ens was broody. A broody hen has decided to sit on her eggs with the pur­pose of hatch­ing them. That would be great if we wanted chicks and had a bunch of fer­tile eggs to hatch, but in this case the hen was just intent on sit­ting on her nest no mat­ter what. Brood­i­ness can be a prob­lem because often broody hens who have no chance of hatch­ing any eggs will sit on their nests until they starve and dehy­drate to death, and often it’s brought on by long days (I have a bad feel­ing that the heat lamp I put into the coop to keep them warm on freez­ing Feb­ru­ary nights might be to blame). We had been try­ing to remove her from the nest and take the eggs out from under her, but she was being stub­born, and a cou­ple times I caught her sit­ting on noth­ing (and once an egg shaped piece of hard chicken poop). This morn­ing I went down to the coop and found this:

It’s hard to tell what’s going on here, but there’s four chick­ens in that lay­ing box. The first hen was still refus­ing to budge and another had joined her (brood­i­ness can be con­ta­gious). Two other chick­ens were attempt­ing to mus­cle their way in to lay some eggs and they were all get­ting pretty angry and peck­ing each other. 

So I did a lit­tle research and found that some­times it’s pos­si­ble to dis­suade a broody hen by sim­ply block­ing off the lay­ing boxes and get­ting her away from the nest. So we put all the chick­ens out­side and blocked off the boxes. 

It didn’t work…an hour later they had man­aged to squeeze inside and there were four of them stuffed in behind the wood! Some­one had laid an egg and some­one else had bro­ken it and now they were all eat­ing it. Insan­ity. 

I tight­ened the gaps between the boards on the boxes, but the two hens just ended up set­tling down on the floor all puffed up and broody look­ing. A bunch of the sources I found online said that the best way to break brood­i­ness is to remove the chick­ens entirely and put them some­where totally unlike a nest­ing box. Ide­ally, this means a wire-bottomed cage off the floor with nowhere to bed down and a lit­tle cold air cir­cu­la­tion under­neath their bot­toms (cur­ing brood­i­ness is all about cool­ing off the chicken’s bot­tom). I tried to brain­storm some options — the green­house, an empty horse stall, a dog crate — but none of them seemed right. Then I remem­bered the old empty rab­bit hutches that are sit­ting in the barn. 

And so I packed them up in a cat car­ry­ing case and brought them upstairs. The first broody hen is totally in blissed-out-dreaming-of-motherhood-mode (I can sym­pa­thize, I get the same way when I start think­ing about my new birth­day puppy, Angus, that I’m get­ting in March) and doesn’t even seem to care what I do with her. The sec­ond hen put up a lit­tle fight, but I’m stronger than a chicken. 

There they are! I gave them some food and water and put down some hay on the floor in an attempt to con­trol the mess. Here’s hop­ing their bums cool off soon!

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