Broody Chaos

As the summer is heating up so are the girls hormones! It’s that time of year when chickens decide they want to raise baby chicks, or become what we call Broody. Although we collect eggs at least twice a day, broody girls will sit in the nesting box and refuse to leave as though they are hatching eggs. They stop laying eggs, drop weight, lose feathers and get really cranky! Its not good for their health and unfortunately causes other hens to want to be broody too!

We’ve broken a couple broody hens over the last couple months but we currently have 4 chickens that are acting insane! I forcefully remove them from the nesting box when I’m cleaning or it’s free range time and they puff up until they look like turkeys, growl at us and race around the outside of the coop, banging on the doors trying to get back in! We’ve separated them into a fenced area right next to the run to keep them isolated, but they have such a bad attitude they started attacking each other!

Time for desperate measures! We bought a number of dog crates and put them inside the barn, put one broody hen in each crate and kept them there except when it was free ranging time. We gave them plenty of high protein snacks to put some weight back on and grow their feathers back. We had to keep them there for 5 days to break them, and the Easter Egger took 2 extra days beyond that! I guess this will come in handy when I need chicks hatched next year!

One of the interesting side effects of removing so many chickens is we ended up with the mother hen separated from the rest of the flock. She was horrific to deal with!  The picture above is her climbing the chicken wire to fly over the 6 foot farm fence, which she managed to do! When I tried to reach for her she puffed  up like a turkey growled and pecked at me! We noticed that the rest of the flock was very calm and not pecking at each other since removing her. After introducing her back she seemed to have been moved down the pecking order and everyone is getting along a lot better. Nice!!

So the flock was fully reintegrated in a week and within 2 more days we have 2 new broody girls to deal with! Time to start all over again!.

Watch as the usually shy Easter Egger show some broody attitude on their YouTube Channel:

See the broody mother hen trying to get out of her isolation pen on their YouTube Channel:



Breaking a Broody Hen

After a couple weeks of fewer than 20 eggs a day, I started to wonder what was wrong. The girls seemed very happy with the spring weather and they spent a lot of time in the coop. You can hear egg songs galore! Then it dawned on me. Three of my hens were sitting in the same nesting boxes day after day. They even stopped running outside in the morning for treats! Some of my girls are Broody!!

Being broody is when a hens wants to hatch her eggs. She will sit on them and only leave for short periods of time to eat and drink until they hatch. Eggs take 3 weeks to hatch and during that time their bodies act differently. Their hormones change, their bodies warm up and they stop laying. All their energy goes into hatching. Partially from not eating as much, they lose weight and feathers. Some say losing feathers is a hens way of giving the new baby chicks a softer nest. The poor hens sometimes have no feathers left on their belly! In general a broody hen looks like a sloppy slug melted into her nesting box and sometimes a little sickly.

We had a broody hen once last year and we put her in own pen away from the nesting boxes. It distracted her and broke the cycle. After 4 days she got back into the groove of hanging with the flock, gained weight and started laying eggs again!

This time it’s going to be more difficult because we have 3 girls being broody and 1 of them is the same one that was broody last year. The time out pens gets a little hotter and causes stress on a hot day. We are going to have to use multiple pens since we have so many chickens acting up. We’ll give it a try and let you know how it goes.

You can see what a broody hen acts like when you try to take her out of her nesting box by visiting the chickens YouTube channel: