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Broody hen with no chance of hatching chicks

 
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I have Faverolle that won't leave the laying box. She's only on day 4 or 5 of sitting on the eggs, but I've only just realized that she's broody. I've never had a broody chicken before, and I don't have a rooster now, either (he gave his life to something in the brush, protecting his girls to the end). After a big kerfuffle, the other hens have resorted to laying in other boxes. So, I'm thinking of just letting her go for the whole 21 days and hoping that she'll go back to normal. However, I don't really want any of the other hens to go broody. I don't mind that she won't lay eggs for a while, but I am concerned that the broody cycle will start all over again.

So, break the brood cycle now or just let it go? I'm looking for any advice because I have zero experience with this.
 
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Hi Erin,
I am by no means an expert, and I'm sure some people with more experience than I do, will weigh in. However, I have some chickens about a week into hatching some eggs (I do have a rooster) so I did a bunch of research and this is what I have read. Please take it with a grain of salt, as most of this I do not have experience with directly.  

One thing I do have experience with is that Broody hens will not magically break out of their broody cycle in 21 days. Mine were broody for almost a month and a half while I got things ready to actually let them hatch some eggs. Now we are a week into the 21 day cycle, which means they have been broody for 7 weeks?

I have read that what breaks them normally is actually hatching chicks, if the chicks don't hatch, they will keep trying.

I have also read that dunking them up to their chest in cool/cold water can help break the hormone cycle.

When moving them to new nesting boxes, I found that removing all eggs and nesting material from their old nest seemed to deter them from going back right away. Some people say taking all the eggs away every day and they will eventually quit.

Some people suggest separating them for a time in a place with no nesting box or comfortable place to "nest" and that will help break them.

Some chickens are more broody than others. You did not mention what breed you have, which will effect how frequently they may or may not get broody (each chicken is individual, but some breeds are known for it more).

I hope some of this might give you some info to do more research.

**Edit**
I realized I didn't actually answer your question. If you don't want a broody hen, I would start as soon as possible. Some methods take more time and some seem more drastic, but either way there is no reason to let it go longer if you do not plan to hatch chicks.
 
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Can you get fertile eggs from someone else and put them under her?
 
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if they’re not fertilized, i wouldn’t leave her the eggs to sit on either way.
 
Erin Vaganos
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Thank you all for the replies and good info. I think I am going to give her a few fertilized eggs to sit on, as Mike suggested. I found a fellow chicken lover nearby that has a few. Matt--she's a Salmon Faverolle--mixed reviews on broodiness. When I first got her, she and the rooster used to hang out all the time, and before she went broody, she was the one who spent the most time in the coop just sitting. I guess it's just in her blood.
 
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Howdy!

This is something I have fairly recent experience with - both the encouragement of and the dissolution of.
Salmon Faverolles are closely related to my Dorkings, which is just cool. They seem like fun chickens and I wish you much luck with them.
The older breeds have more of a tendency to go broody. Hopefully you knew that when you accepted the breed into your life. They can be fantastic moms, too. There's a reason why people have kept them around and it's not only for their cool personalities or their beautiful colors/patterns.

Last year, I had this exact situation. One of my (then 1 year old) hens decided to hatch something. Anything. Everything. I knew this was something that, sometimes, they just have to do (This is my third Dorking flock and there have been spaces in between the flocks.)
I took all the eggs away from her - the other hens gave her new ones almost as quickly. She would steal from the geese, and I found her happily perched on two goose eggs one day. She tried to hatch golf balls, vaguely egg-shaped rocks, and the dummy eggs I put in the coop for the slower thinkers. I let her go for a month thinking that, once she wasn't able to hatch anything, she'd get over it and eventually go back to chickening with the flock. No such luck.
At 6 weeks on the nest, and with me actively trying to break her, I finally threw in the towel. I gave her 3 marked fertile eggs and  took everything but those eggs away from her. Every day.
So, with 2 days left to go in her sitting those eggs, I was an idiot and brought in one that had "cracked" thinking it was a dog egg at best. To say that it was a very traumatic learning experience would be accurate.

My recommendations come with the simple instruction of: try one at a time. Give it a day to work before moving on to the next thing. This is a natural thing for chickens and, as a natural thing, it can't really be rushed.

So, methods I have tried that have worked in breaking a broody hen -
Remove all eggs and egg shaped things.
Physically remove her from the nest/area she has chosen to go broody in.  
Take her away from the flock and put her somewhere new for a few hours or days (it can vary, depending on the hen and on her fixation) A small pen somewhere else on your property is fine. I had good luck with using a "giant sized" dog crate (the airline approved ones) and making sure she had food and water, but little else.

Methods to break a broody hen I have not tried -
Hanging them in a cage so they have nothing around them.
Setting an electric fan to blow on her and/or putting her in a cage and have an electric fan blow on her.
Taking her off feed for a day or two.
(I don't like these methods because they seem a bit too mean. I have never liked the idea of starving any critter, human or not, unless there was surgery involved at some point. Irritating a hen with a fan, or suspending a wire cage so she's insecure just seems cruel. Maybe not, though.)

Or, like others mentioned, give her something to hatch.

No matter what, chose a route and go with it. Letting her set infertile eggs just means she'll try extra hard to hatch them. Hens can and will lose weight and condition through that. I haven't lost a hen yet, but I have heard of some of the Very Determined Broodies who will allow themselves to get too weak to get food or water.
Now, if you do break her of her broodiness, she will not lay eggs anytime soon. I was told that, like many other things in life, there's a price to be paid. If you expect her to have to "reset" and allow a generous one week of not laying for every day she's been setting, you'll be in the ballpark. Some come back sooner, some later. The best way to tell how she's doing hormonally is to look at her comb - when it's bright red and has a waxiness to it, she's back and feeling good. Until then, just do your best to keep her out of nest boxes and dark corners.

I hope this might help you with your trouble. Having a broody hen is a blessing, but one that has it's own price.
Congratulations  and I hope you and she do well.
 
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Erin Vaganos wrote:I think I am going to give her a few fertilized eggs to sit on, as Mike suggested. I found a fellow chicken lover nearby that has a few.

Please define a few? I have found moms do better if they have at least 4 offspring, and may need 6 eggs to accomplish that if your friend's chicken's fertility isn't 100%. If she's a big chicken, a few more is better than a few less. But if you only have less, it's still worth trying.

We've had all sorts of birds go broody on our property, and my personal philosophy is to move heaven and earth to get them fertile eggs. I've known two people who had broody chickens and both kept trying to break that brood with as Kristine Keeney identified, with techniques which often sounds rather nasty to me. The chicken that was local to me, I gave fertile eggs to - she set well, brooded well, and went back to laying once she was ready to and didn't go broody again for at least a year. Last year, I had two ISA Browns from Hubby's egg business go broody and they both did a fine job of raising young, and that breed's had almost all their broody tendency removed.

One thing I also do though, is I've got some 4'x4' "setting cubes" which I move broody birds to. I do it gently at night, talking quietly to them even though I know they don't really understand the words, but I believe they understand the tone. I show them the eggs I'm going to let them hatch and let them push them underneath themselves and they seem to figure it out. Giving them a spot where the other birds can't keep disturbing their nest seems to improve the outcome. Also there's no competition for food or water, as that's in the cube.

Good luck to you and your hen!
 
Kristine Keeney
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Jay Angler wrote:

Erin Vaganos wrote:I think I am going to give her a few fertilized eggs to sit on, as Mike suggested. I found a fellow chicken lover nearby that has a few.

Please define a few? I have found moms do better if they have at least 4 offspring, and may need 6 eggs to accomplish that if your friend's chicken's fertility isn't 100%. If she's a big chicken, a few more is better than a few less. But if you only have less, it's still worth trying.

One thing I also do though, is I've got some 4'x4' "setting cubes" which I move broody birds to. I do it gently at night, talking quietly to them even though I know they don't really understand the words, but I believe they understand the tone. I show them the eggs I'm going to let them hatch and let them push them underneath themselves and they seem to figure it out. Giving them a spot where the other birds can't keep disturbing their nest seems to improve the outcome. Also there's no competition for food or water, as that's in the cube.

Good luck to you and your hen!



I'm glad to hear that  you have decided to let her try. I wish you, and her, good luck.

I've heard of people moving their broodies into totes, and then placed somewhere safer. I figured that, if either of the two hens I have now settle into being serious about it, I'll move them into a tote. I like the 4x4 cube idea better, though.
Every time I have to change something in or around the flock, I do it at night, and while explaining to them what's going on.
Talking to the birds (and any other critter I have temporary dominion over) and respecting their right to choose, just makes sense. It is a partnership, after all.

Thank you for kind advice. I think I have some spare wood in the well house I could use to build something. I'll have to see about building a 4x4 pen. Much appreciated!
 
Erin Vaganos
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Thank you, Kristine--she is one of two Faverolles I have right now and the gentlest hen I have. They are funny personalities and have the appearance to match--feathery legs and poofy cheeks. As per your advice, I'll wait patiently for her to hatch some chicks, no intervening or trying multiple things to rush her along...if there's one thing I've learned from striving for a more self-reliant life--in the garden, growing trees, in building projects, with animals--it's patience and letting things take their course.

Jay--I had similar thinking, and a "few" eggs is six. After reading about your "setting boxes" I'm also going to move her to a box I've built to lessen the chance of disturbances. Thanks very much!
 
Matt McSpadden
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Hi Erin,
See what I mean about people with more experience? I thought Faverolle was the chickens name, not the breed Good to hear you are going to try giving her some fertile eggs.

On the subject of candle-ing eggs, I will mention something that has never happened to me or my parents or anyone I know who ever hatched chicks. Some people have said they had a bad egg in the nest that pressurized from spoiling and exploded. In my experience this has never happened, but I wanted to mention it so you have it in the back of your mind. I would imagine a fresh fertile egg would be less likely to have issues. If you want to be extra cautious, then you can candle the eggs between 7 and 14 days to determine which ones are developing and remove any that are clearly not doing anything. My 7 year old and I are both especially excited to candle the eggs tonight and see which ones are good from our batch.

**Note for any newbies reading this. An egg that has been under a broody hen for that long is no longer viable for human consumption. In other words, if you remove a non-developing egg, don't stick it in the frig Probably a dog, cat, or pig could eat it fine, but not humans.
 
Kristine Keeney
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Howdy!
I would also make note that any Hidden Nests, you may find in the yard are, likewise, suspect and the eggs should probably, for safety of mind if nothing else, be somehow disposed of.
If I know the hen hasn't had a chance to be out, I might bring the egg in and candle it to see if there's something I should be concerned about, but after a rather exciting learning experience, most of the Hidden Nests are either designated "Dog Eggs", or crunched and fed back to the chickens.
I will sometimes farm out egg disposal to a few younger people with instructions to see how many they can toss and break. It becomes a game and the flock has it's own fun rushing back and forth to get the goodies.
 
Jay Angler
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@Erin Vaganos:  Now that we've all weighed in on your problem, I would like to *really*, *really* encourage you to post baby pictures, because we want to know if Ms Broody is successful! It would provide closure.... ( I'm just a sucker for cute chicks! )
 
Kristine Keeney
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Post Today 10:19:42 AM     Subject: Broody hen with no chance of hatching chicks
@Erin Vaganos:  Now that we've all weighed in on your problem, I would like to *really*, *really* encourage you to post baby pictures, because we want to know if Ms Broody is successful! It would provide closure.... ( I'm just a sucker for cute chicks! )



Howdy! It's the sweet baby thing. They look too innocent and are just amazing little balls of fluff and nonsense.
I need regular fixes or something like accidentally bringing home 6 peeping fluff-balls happens.
IMG_20210419_161323017.jpg
"Mystic Morans" and at least two of them have black legs and 5 toes!
"Mystic Marans" and at least 2 of them have 5 toes per foot!
IMG_20210420_193859335.jpg
Brave chick facing unknowable odds
Brave chick facing unknowable odds
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Brave chick crowned "Queen of All She Surveys, as long as she doesn't look too far"
Brave chick crowned "Queen of All She Surveys, as long as she doesn't look too far"
 
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What I've done - successfully - was remove the real eggs, stick as many fake eggs under her as the breed is capable of effectively hatching (warming them against my body first, so she doesn't take their colder temp to mean they've died), and buy some day-old chick's, at what would be the appropriate time for an actual batch of fertilized eggs to hatch. When the new chicks arrive, I take them out a couple at a time, in the evening, and switch them out, with the fake eggs. Theoretically, it works with duck eggs under a chicken, too - I tried, but that's a whole other story, lol. So far, none of my girls (Buff Orpingtons & Black Austrolorps) have gone broody yet this year. If they do, I'll get a straight run of Easter Eggers, so I'll finally have at least a roo or two, and hopefully not need to buy any more.
 
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A hen can exhaust herself attempting to hatch eggs. She gets weak as she eats very little and does not move enough to keep her strength. I've had one go a whole month on sterile eggs before I decided to do the humane thing and dunk her. She then was abnormally skinny. I have a rain barrel by the coop, so it was easy. I gave her a quick dunk once and the next day she was at it again. I was pretty timid in dunking as I don't like to bother them or take a chance on hurting them.
Then I understood that her body temperature seems to regulate broodiness. I took her very kindly but firmly and I let her deep into the cold water. As she started to flap her wings, I grabbed them both and lowered her to her armpits, keeping her head above water at all times, of course.  [The idea is to shock her system and make her too cold to think about laying on eggs. Once you have her in good contact with the water, count to 20. That will be plenty.
Alternately, you may keep her in a cage without litter so she has nothing to make a nest with. As soon as she lays an egg, you will know that she is out of it. [but this can take a long time too and you have to keep water an feed just for her]. Make sure the area is well ventilated and cool. Again, it is her body temperature that tells her it is time.
Chickens have had the broodiness bred our of them, which is a real pity. Fertile eggs are taken away from her right away and put in an incubator that turns the eggs automatically. Around 21 days, they start hatching, although some of them are 2-3 days late. Another problem is that she has no motherly instinct. She should be the one showing them the tender morsels, the grubs, the tender grass. Our chickens are all raised as orphans. I think they lose something important.
I did have one extraordinary hen. I had bought some baby chicks separately and placed them in the coop, but inside a cage. As soon as she saw them, she started cooing and carrying on, hugging the cage close, so I really was not sure what to do. I gave her one [I thought sacrificial] baby chick and he nested immediately under her. Seeing that everything was all right, I kept on giving her the chicks until she had all 20 of them. Yep! 20 .Way more than she should have had, but 20 baby chicks is what I had, so...
She had never gone broody but the sight and sound of the baby chicks stirred something inside of her and she adopted them all. The other hens showed no such interest and would sometimes peck them out of their way and Mom would come and get between the other hens and the chick.
I was delighted to have her take such good care of the babies she adopted: It saved me a lot of work and none of them ever had a "pasty butt". A lethal problem in a little chick.  
 
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:

Chickens have had the broodiness bred our of them, which is a real pity. Fertile eggs are taken away from her right away and put in an incubator that turns the eggs automatically. Around 21 days, they start hatching, although some of them are 2-3 days late. Another problem is that she has no motherly instinct. She should be the one showing them the tender morsels, the grubs, the tender grass. Our chickens are all raised as orphans. I think they lose something important.  

I agree completely. I only use an incubator for checking fertility or if there's some other problem. I've had plenty of "industrial chickens" do a fine job of hatching eggs and raising young. I specifically find that if you're allowed a rooster, orphan roosters haven't been taught manners and so I only adopt roosters raised by real moms. The difference in observable behaviors is incredible! There are exceptions as for everything, but on average, Mom's rock!

I do have eggs in an incubator at the moment. I had a Muscovy go broody very suddenly. I gave her Noisy Duck eggs, but decided I'd better do a fertility check - not a single one that I incubated developed. That means Cloudia is sitting on duds! I have a second group of Noisy Ducks, so I collected their eggs to incubate, and to be safe, collected some Muscovy eggs as well. I just candled they yesterday - the Noisy Duck eggs are showing some development, but the Muscovy eggs are *really* iffy because being 5 week to hatch eggs, I find it takes longer to see clear signs of development. So tonight or tomorrow, I'll do another check and then I'll have to decide which eggs to give her. Since she's already been sitting for a couple of weeks, I'm leaning towards the 4 week eggs, but if she could talk, I expect she'd vote for Muscovy. These are the sorts of decisions we have to make when we decide to team up with animals! Muscovy are much bigger than chickens and Cloudia is in good shape and is eating and drinking, so at least I don't have to worry about her starving to death!
 
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My father used to dunk the broody hens in the water tub. It was an old cast iron sink no more than 12 inches deep.  Ever heard the phrase “madder than a wet hen”? Now you know where the phrase originated.

Taking away egg-shaped objects and nesting materials are essential in “breaking a broody hen”. BackYardChickens(dotcom) is loaded with stories of what did or did not work. Annnnd there I am known as Gold Griffin Chicken Mom.

I had a hen that was from a non-broody breed. The hatchery catalogues try to help and tell us what breeds tend to what behaviors. This hen was a Dark Cornish. She was a Large Fowl, meaning not Bantam (small breed), and weighing in around a solid five to seven pounds. She was a big, solid bird with a face that reminded me of a vulture.

This is not your typical Broody Hen. She didn’t know how to handle the other hens adding eggs to her nest. I took control. I am The Mama around here...

Ms. Broody Hen went into a large dog kennel. She had plenty of room to move around and stand up tall and stretch. I added straw for bedding, transferred the eggs, and put on the door-hanging water cup. Now I was responsible for her water availability.

Everyday as part of my chicken chores, I released Broody Hen from the kennel. Then I put down food and did my other tasks. I learned to quickly close the kennel. All the other hens were keen to get in the kennel. Whether it was to add eggs, eat eggs, or just explore didn’t matter. I had to keep the door shut.

Most Broody Hens develop a routine. The first thing they do is POOP. This is a special (and I mean special) POOP that deserves these capital letters! Broody POOP is a special thing because she has been holding it for around 24 hours. Most birds poop as they feel the urge. A bird on a nest doesn’t want to make the area stinky because predators will find the nest. Good Broody Hens have retained this instinct, although accidents do happen.

So after a spectacular POOP, Ms. Broody Hen would eat and drink and dust bathe and run around and generally scare all the other hens because “I AM BROODY HEN! GET OUT OF MY WAY! MY EGGS AWAIT!” The young roosters that otherwise would be looking to mate... ran the other way.

Finally, Ms. Broody Hen would decide she had screeched enough and walk back over to the kennel. I would finish laughing and open the door and make sure all was well. After three weeks of this, she hatched exactly one chick.  I was distraught. All that for one chick?

I called a few neighbors and got a chicken breeder a few miles away. He sold me a few chicks. They were Bantam Cochins.  To avoid the play by play of the next few months, let us just say: life is hard. Momma Hen did her best, but sometimes babies die. There were accidents. The lone chick that survived to adulthood was named Houdini.

Houdini had an attentive mother, but “she” (we didn’t know the sex until much later) was always squeezing out of the chicken pen to follow my husband. Momma Hen would call and call. Husband would ask, “Shouldn’t you be with your mother?” Houdini did exactly what Houdini wanted.

Houdini was an awesome mother. I tamed the little snot with hand-fed mealie worms... She was beautiful.

If you have the facilities for more chickens and the ability to deal with excess roosters, letting or helping your broody raise chicks can be wonderful. I highly recommend doing it at least once in your chicken-keeping career.
 
Kristine Keeney
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Howdy!
After reading all the new information coming in, I decided to take my own advice. I gave my Broody Dorking 2 white eggs (only laid by the Dorkings), and 2 good shaped and sized brown eggs (from a random flock hen).  And went on my way.

Oops.
I forgot two things - Chickens will try to lay their eggs in the Most Wonderful Spot, which is always under another chicken, and Broody Hens do not easily leave their nests just to avoid a fight. All the first clutch got done poorly by, when there was a scuffle to fit All The Hens (probably only 3) in the same nest box.

So. Having geese who are currently laying Way Too Many Eggs (The count was 34 today, not including a couple for reasons), and not having a Broody Goose, I put 2 eggs under each of the 2 broodies I have. Goose eggs are large and tough, can take a lot of damage, and once the hens figured out that they got to set Giant Eggs ... Happy chicken noises.

I have a new broody, which brings the total up to three, so I have 1 Dorking setting 2 goose eggs, 1 Dorking trying to set some fake eggs, and a Lavender Spotted Orpington who has taken her 2 goose eggs and hidden herself as close to the porch stairs as she can fit, which is pretty close, but good for upper body strength to check on her.

Until we put the spare roo in the freezer, I'm not going to set chicken eggs, and if I get some goslings from this (The New Dorking will get her 2 goose eggs tomorrow), they are edible and I know some people who want a goose or two.

I'm having fun reading about how everyone is working with their chickens and how we are all problem solving in our own way.
It seems like Spring has sprung!
 
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Hey Erin, Most of the suggestions here are good ones. You might want to keep an eye on the broody hen if she is in the same house as other hens. The other hens will lay eggs under the broody hen, so be sure to renew the mark on the fertile eggs and remove the unmarked ones. Please use pencil rather than pen or marker to mark the eggs. Pens and markers can seep through the shell and may affect viability of the embryo. If you possibly can, put the hen in a very safe area by herself with her eggs. If you move her onto her nest during the night, she will adapt better to the new nest. She can be kept in a large box (I used wood apple boxes with a piece of plywood on top) with the eggs and allowed off the nest (I had to physically remove the broody hen) daily so the hen could eat, drink, poop & groom. I took the hen as far as possible from the nest and set her down on the ground. Sometimes, it took several minutes for the hen to come out of her broody state and wake up. The longer she is broody, the bigger the chance you can loose the hen. She will loose weight and body volume. The longer she is allowed to be broody and not hatch chicks, the harder it will be to break her.

Broodiness is a hormonal issue. The hen has no idea what's going on. Her body heat increases, she pulls feathers out of her breast to allow her heat to reach the eggs better. Some hens are just broody! I had a Buff Orpington who hatched four batches of chicks in one summer. As soon as the chicks were 6 weeks old, she went back to broodiness.

I had Buff Orpingtons that were broody all the time. I had several wire cages, the same kind you would keep a rabbit in..and put the hens in these cages. The floor was wire. I hung the cages off the floor from the ceiling. Th idea is to release the heat in the body of the broody. If they don't have a nest to keep the body heat in, they will break broody. Often, I had three of these cages hanging with two hens in each cage. It seemed that more than one hen in a cage hastens the broody breaking. There was no bedding in these cages, so the air went onto all of their bodies and helped cool them. If you let them "fool" you...and you let them out of the cages too soon, they just run back to the hen house and look for something to set on. It's actually sad to see these birds with this hormonal imbalance! When they first went into the cages, they were not interested in food or water, but both were provided on a twice-daily basis.

The broody hen will actually scream and act crazy when you put them into the cages. It's heart-rendering to hear them, but if you don't want broody hens in September and October, this is the best solution I have found. Putting them in ice water may work, but not for long.

I had broody houses especially for hens with eggs and then chicks. I posted some pix of my "gated condo units" on another thread. Wish I could tell you how to see that thread...maybe I can post the pix here, don't know. I made some houses that would comfortably and safely house broody hens while they set eggs. The houses were predator proof with secure doors that locked. I had umbrellas for cover and used 12 inch high chicken wire to fence the areas off from the rest of the flock. Most of the doors were ramp-type doors that came up to close and tie off with rope and tied off every night.

Once the chicks were big enough to jump the fence, I took it down. That was about 10-14 days of age. Most of the other hens got the message to stay away from the chicks till mother and chicks were free-ranging with the flock. I had tons of "duck and cover" plants and wooden A-frames for the hen and chicks to hide under from flying predators.

The first ten days after hatching is crucial for safety of the chicks if they are in a mixed flock. The broody hen will fight with other curious hens, so it's best to keep them apart for a time.

I lost few chicks since I provided great duck and cover plants. But one time, I was a bit late getting out to lock up the broody hens and chicks. I saw one broody out of her house (very unusual) and lifted the roof of the condo unit. I discovered a small skunk eating one of the chicks. I was dismayed to say the least! I managed to chase the skunk out, took away the dead chick and moved the broody and chicks into the house. I was never late to lock up the birds again!

I've had broody hens hatch turkey eggs and be happy with the poults. I have mixed turkey and chicken eggs under a broody hen and they all hatched fine. The broody hen didn't know the difference between chickens or turkeys. All in all, my broody hens did very well in the "gated condo units". It was extra work, but I never had to buy any more day-old chicks.

I hope this helps.
DSCN1227-(2017_10_11-18_44_35-UTC).JPG
Gated Condo unit
Gated Condo unit
DSCN1231-(2017_10_11-18_44_35-UTC).JPG
Gated Condo unit
Gated Condo unit
DSCN1237-(2017_10_11-18_44_35-UTC).JPG
Dominique hen with poults & chicks
Dominique hen with poults & chicks
 
Carla Burke
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One of my hens went Broody, a few days ago(timing, huh? Lol), so, I've separated her, tucked the ceramic eggs under her, and she has her own food and water supplies, very close to the nest, so she has access, without having to get up. This works out beautifully, for us. After researching the various breeds again, I've changed my mind on the Easter Eggers, in favor of Barred Rock. I'm really looking forward to doing this again, because it's far more sustainable (& fun to watch), imho, to let a happy little mama raise a new bunch, than to fuss with it, myself.

Edited to explain my process better, for those who might be interested:
(I would love to be able to take pics, for a visual, but I do all of this - including moving her into the dog crate - in the dark, with a cheap, dim light head lamp, while they're dozing, to keep my girls as calm as possible.)
I use ceramic eggs, because their color, weight, and heat-holding properties are closest to those of the real eggs. In fact, I've tried a few times, by accident, to crack them into my frying pan. They can be found online and in most farm supply stores, and I found mine at one of our local Mennonite stores, for about $1.25@.
As soon as I'm sure a hen is broody, I get the fake eggs, and dust them off, check them for chips & cracks that might injure my hen, and get the dog crate ready for her, with fresh straw, a good sized gravity-fed waterer and a good sized gravity-fed feeder, because the less a broody is messed with, the happier she is, and I can check in, without having to physically disturb her nesting box.

That night (I usually wait until around 9 or 10pm, so the entire barnyard is settled and quiet) I warm the eggs to about my body temp, either by tucking them into my pockets, or putting them into hot water for a while, until I'm happy with the feel. Then, eggs in pockets, I go out, tuck them into a neat little clutch, in the new straw, and gently move the broody on top, close the crate, collect any eggs I'd missed/ couldn't get, earlier, and slip out of the henhouse. I check on her at least once a day, to make sure she has plenty of food* and water, and to help her get used to me being closer at hand. My girls are mostly very sweet and friendly, many loving to be picked up and cuddled, but when broody, they tend to prefer being alone, at the same time when I feel the need to be more attentive.

The average incubation time is 21days, so the last week before they're 'due to hatch',  I order the chicks, to time their arrival as closely to that, as possible. The day the chicks arrive, I watch the sweet little fluffballs closely, to ensure I don't put any under her that might not be in optimal health. They are shipped in a tiny box that holds their heat well, so all they really need is water and a bit of feed, and of course, the box is best kept in a warmish spot. That night, again, starting around 9 -10pm, I take them, 2 - 4  at a time, tucked gently into my shirt against my skin, out to the mama, with an empty basket, in hand. This is a fun part, really. I hunker down to the nest box, and with a chick in hand, do a little sleight of hand, reach under her, deposit the chick, and pick up an egg. That egg goes into my basket, then I swap another... I find it's best to swap no more than 2, on the first trip, adding progressively more, with each trip, and waiting an hour or so, between - most important with the first batch, to ensure she doesn't reject them. My girls can sit up to 12 at a time, but the usual order is 10, so it usually takes only 3 trips.

*Food - mine typically free-range, during the day, and much prefer to forage, but have a good quality laying feed available, too. When I move a broody into an isolation nest box, I blend her normal food 50/50 with grower feed, to help her get used to what the chick's will need, at the same time as boosting her protein, to get her through. For days when they can't get out to free-range/forage, they're offered a generous supply of dehydrated bsf larvae, so I also make sure my broody gets plenty of that, too. A couple days before sneaking the chicks in, I swap out the 50/50 feed blend for straight grower feed, but still give her the bsf larvae.

It might sound a little fiddley, but it's really just a total of about 6hrs, over 2 nights, 3weeks apart - vs 4months of playing nursemaid, 24/7.
 
Jay Angler
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Carla Burke wrote:

It might sound a little fiddley, but it's really just a total of about 6hrs, over 2 nights, 3weeks apart - vs 4months of playing nursemaid, 24/7.

I totally agree, but also, no human can teach "chicken manners" like a mother hen can, and it seems that the benefits of that are underestimated in many farm situations. It also allows a broody hen to do what her instincts are telling her to do. Yes, there are times when we can't let them brood, but often there's a way around the problem (such as no rooster) if people are willing to try. Good luck on "swap night"!
 
Carla Burke
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Thanks, Jay! Much of what I'm trying to do, in this, is keep things as natural and normal for all of them, as possible, while minimizing my own work, lol. Teaching chickens how to chicken is time consuming. I did raise my (as an adult) first clutch in my living room, in a kiddie pool. My dad just bought pullets and roos, and been done with it, when I was a kid - frankly it's a far more sustainable way to go about it. But, I wanted to learn as much as I could - and I'm a loooong way from being an expert! Learning everything the hard way is my normal m.o. That 24/7 for months on end gets to be a bit much. The feed makes the whole house dish and aggravated my allergies, horribly, but I have no regrets. Don't that first batch in the living room helped my husband work through a lifelong phobia of birds, and his life is more fun and happier, because of it. We live in the woods, and there are birds everywhere, so that was HUGE! But, I'm happy to leave the girls to do as nature calls them to, now. Including getting a straight run, this time, so the roos can take over the job of making sure the girls have their own young to raise, after this year.
 
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