How we broke our broody hen

Homesteading

Hello there!

I apologize for being gone for so so long. I came down with a nasty infection and was bed ridden for 2 weeks. I haven’t thought about anything to do with homesteading or the blog or anything except for sleep…and food…I missed food. But I am back among the living now. yay.

The other day Chris and I noticed our little black bantam was in the nesting box…often. I brushed it off thinking there was no way a hen would go broody at this time of year! Well she did and she meant business.

When chickens lay eggs they release a hormone that ceases as soon as she is finished. Well sometimes the hormone continues to be released and you end up with a broody hen. What is a broody hen? She is a hen that decides she needs to hatch out some baby chicks. A broody hen will sit on any eggs she can and sit and sit and sit and sit. They basically sit on these eggs day and night for 21 days until they hatch. Normally, we would be thrilled to hatch out some chicks but don’t think these cold winter months are the appropriate time for little ones.

Aside from her becoming incredibly aggressive and territorial…the hen will sit on these eggs to the detriment of her own health. They rarely get up to eat, drink and relieve themselves…and they put all of their energy into taking care of these eggs. This leads to weight loss, vulnerability to parasites and sickness and often a malnourished hen. The hen will also start plucking her own breast feathers in order to ensure all of her body heat goes to keeping the eggs warm. Oh and they also stop laying eggs for you during this process and sometimes it can take up to 8 weeks for them to begin laying again.

We just got our girls consistently laying and this particular hen happens to be the one that ALWAYS gives us an egg. We didn’t want to risk her health so we knew it was time to break her. A lot of different resources will tell you different methods. Basically the hens breast and underside needs to be cooled down. We read that removing her from the nest box multiple times a day will break her but that seemed unreliable and very stressful for her. We did remove her a few times to take eggs out from underneath her and clean the coop but that was all and she was very stressed…screaming and flapping and pecking our hands. It just didn’t seem healthy to do that to her repeatedly. So we did some research and read about a broody box.

A broody box is usually a little cage or pen with a wire bottom that you put a broody girl in for a “time out”..sort of. You place the cage/pen up off the ground in a well lit place with food and water and leave her in there. The idea behind the wire bottom is that broody hens want a nice soft, comfortable, dark and warm spot to nest in..a wire bottom cage is anything but that and it also allows air flow to get beneath her and cool her down. This essentially is supposed to break the broodiness. If you catch them in the first day or two it is only supposed to take about a day to break them, but the longer you let it go the longer it takes to break her. After giving the hen some time you should let her out with the rest of the flock and watch her behavior. If she goes back to normal daily routine she is broken…but if she high tails it back to the nesting box she needs more time out. So we used a rabbit cage that we have around and placed her inside of it in the coop with the light on. She made some fuss and let us know she wasn’t happy about it but stayed in there for a day. We decided to let her out and to our delight she joined back in with the rest of the flock. She roosted up on her perch at night rather than in the nesting box and today she foraged outside with the others. Woohoo for the broody box!

broody-hen-a-cage

Example of a broody box ^

Apparently her breed of chicken tends to go broody more often than not and they are supposed to make excellent mothers. We are hoping she goes broody again in Spring so we can hatch out some little chicks.

If you’ve ever had a broody hen we’d love to hear about methods you’ve tried that have worked 🙂

*S

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