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Broody hen sitting on all the eggs

 
Matu Collins
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The other hens keep laying in the nest. My hens seem comfortable with each other, I've seen two laying at once in the same nest on a number of occasions. Now one hen has gone broody and the others keep laying their eggs in that nest. I think I should mark the ones that are under there so I know which ones have been sat on for the longest. I've had hens sit on too many eggs before and it didn't work out well. But she's there on the nest all the time! She has that odd body posture of the broody hen and I don't like bothering her.

And I want the eggs! Our family can eat all the many eggs our chickens lay.

Any advice?
 
John Polk
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If good, broody hens weren't such a good thing to have around the homestead, I'd say "Stew her."
Do you have rooster(s)? Or are all of the eggs 'blanks'?

In either case, you don't want to break her of the habit if you plan to raise chicks later on.
Mark the eggs she has now, then each day, you can just remove the unmarked ones.

 
Matu Collins
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So I reach under her and pull them out one by one and put a mark on them? With a pencil I guess? This seems like it might take a long time of pulling eggs out and tucking them back under her.

The spot is probably the most inconvenient place in the coop for me to get eggs from anyway, I've been trying to get the ladies to lay elsewhere to no avail. Any tricks for that besides putting golf balls in opportune places?

I feel so rude bothering her. When I open a nesting box on a chicken I always have the feeling that I've walked in on someone in the bathroom and say excuse me, out loud. Then i feel silly!

We do have a rooster, these are not blanks.
 
John Polk
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Yeah. A soft pencil should do it.
Try to lure her outside with some feed.
 
Burra Maluca
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I usually just pick her up and plonk her down out of the way for a moment. Generally she's so mortified at having been interfered with that it takes her a minute or two to get her head around how to think of what to do next, giving me time to mark any eggs I want to leave and remove any others. I can usually then just pick her up and put back no problem.

Too many eggs is a bad thing. They will roll them around and each one in turns seems to be the one to be left to go cold and die, so you end up with no chicks at all.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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I have a buff orpington that just went broody. I moved her to a separate space and gave her 8 eggs to sit on. I put a water dish and a little feed in a bowl for her. I also marked the eggs with a pencil all the way around the middle so that I don't have to turn them to see which ones are marked. If she lays a few on top I'll easily be able to tell without bugging her too much. I was planning on trying to break her of it but someone hit one of my other buffs with a car and killed her. They were speeding down the road and didn't even touch the brakes. Dumb chicken didn't get out of the road and the stupid driver didn't even know they hit her or they didn't care. Either way, it was a heart breaking day. It was literally the last day that the chickens were going to be free ranging. That afternoon I was moving them back into the paddock shift system. Oh well COMPOST

So now I feel like having baby chicks around again. Their cuteness is comforting.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:I have a buff orpington that just went broody. I moved her to a separate space and gave her 8 eggs to sit on.


This is what I've seen geoff lawton do in one of his videos.

Craig Dobbelyu wrote:I was planning on trying to break her of it but someone hit one of my other buffs with a car and killed her. They were speeding down the road and didn't even touch the brakes. Dumb chicken didn't get out of the road and the stupid driver didn't even know they hit her or they didn't care. Either way, it was a heart breaking day. It was literally the last day that the chickens were going to be free ranging. That afternoon I was moving them back into the paddock shift system. Oh well COMPOST

So now I feel like having baby chicks around again. Their cuteness is comforting.


Sorry to hear that. Glad you will soon have some puffballs - their cuteness is comforting. Even when they hit that awkward teenaged stage.
 
William James
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Here's a more advanced method involving a raised cage with no bedding, in case luring outside with feed doesn't work. Seems kind of extreme, but this person swears by it.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/181289/how-to-break-a-broody-hen
 
Thomas A. Cahan
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.. Egad!! - I would give Anything to have broody hens! .. how can one sustainably work with a species that has been 'improved' to the point where it won't even reproduce itself? .. is there a breed of fowl that Will set and hatch? (waterfowl and heritage turkey excepted).. I would trade my existing flock for a 'sustainable' breed/species.. just seeing the puffballs would be worth it..
 
William James
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I have a feeling that somewhere, somebody near you specializes in rare breeds. Offering good breeds of chickens for specific purposes would be a good business move for someone keeping chickens.
William
 
Matu Collins
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Update, she's still setting. I chose 13 of the eggs that were under her, marked them with a pencil and ate the others. There were 4 extra under her yesterday, ate them this morning.

How much messing with can the eggs take and still be viable?

It's true, it's easy to pick her up and plunk her off to the side but we are both mortified. I feel so rude.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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Matu Collins wrote:
How much messing with can the eggs take and still be viable?



As long as you're moving them gently, they will be just fine, I think. The hen will be turning them frequently throughout the day to keep the developing chicks from sticking to one side of the shell as they grow. When we incubated eggs last year, we marked them with an "X" on one side and a "0" on the other. We had to turn each egg by hand three times a day. I was always worried that I would drop one, but I didn't. I don't know how involved you want to get in the process but you could always candle them at the tenth day or so to see which ones are developing. Then you could remove any duds to avoid the risk of rotten eggs breaking and contaminating the nest. That would leave a little more wiggle room for the good eggs and some protection from the eggstra weight of multiple hens adding to the pile.
If there are other hens still laying eggs in with her, they may be getting moved and stepped on a lot more than normal.

So... what breed of chickens are you expecting?

Mine are fathered by a Black Giant or a Black Australorp. Mothers are likely RIR, Buff Orpington, Black Giant or Austalorp. Moms could also be an Easter Egger or some type of mutt from last year but I tried to select against them. It's going to be a surprise.

 
kadence blevins
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you could put like a pencil line around the whole egg for each of the hatching eggs. that way you will mostly be able to see all the ones marked out soon as you look under her.

if you dont like looking under her really the only thing to do would be to block off where she is setting or move her and nest into a cage/hutch/etc and put her in and out to forage/eat or provide food and water there for her.

as far as viable eggs, in a thread elsewhere someone was tryin to incubate eggs in a homemade "incubator" that mimicked the nest and hen etc. in that thread someone had said they read a study that a broody hen will mess with her eggs average 57 times per day. So i think you are fine hahaha and anyhow even in an incubator the eggs are turned 3-9 times per day.

hope the hatch goes well (:
 
Matu Collins
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Update: We're on day 15. The original broody hen, a cochin named Poulette, has been supplanted by another. Poulette is sitting on the eggs the other hens lay and Susan is sitting on the original nest. They are both acting nuts.

There are ten eggs left in there. I had put pencil lines all the way around but all the "messing with" the hens gave the eggs wore off some of the pencil on two ot=f them and I brought them in by mistake. Sad for the chicks with arrested development but good to know it's working so far and interesting to get to examine the development of the chicks. I put lines in non-toxic marker, that helped. About two extra eggs are laid in that nest every day still but some of the ladies are finding other places.

The roo we have is a funny looking yet handsome in his way mix. Many colored long shiny feathers, big floppy comb white cheeks. He is a mix f different heirloom breeds from a local bird sanctuary where a friend of mine works. He was third rooster in command and during the very cold weather this winter he was badly brutalized. His poor skull was visible! We were a sanctuary from the sanctuary. There are some interesting genetics in play, I am very curious about how gene expression is going to go.

I still feel terribly rude picking up broody hens and moving them but I'm getting used to it. What funny noises they make! I've had free ranging hens sit on nests and one was successful out in the woods, but I've never had such close supervision over the process. I do hope it works, even though I don't really need more chickens...
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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I think our chicks are due to hatch on the same day Matu! My buff is holding strong in her isolation chamber. I've only moved her twice to change the bedding. All of the eggs felt light in weight so things must be going well.
Please be sure to post pictures when they pop out.
 
Matu Collins
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How's it going Craig?

I'm in need of some advice. In hopes of protecting the chicks I made up a nest in a new safe place and moved the operation. Mama broke her broody instantly it seems! She was like "ooh, fresh clover. I'm hungry" She didn't seem to notice the eggs and pecked at the head of the one baby chick! So I carried all the eggs and the chick back to the coop where another broody was sitting on a nest empty but for a ping pong ball.

I don't want to make whatever mistake I made again! Does anyone have tricks for safely moving a broody hen with full nest? If I can't do this should I take the chicks in to raise them safely myself? I don't know how to do that either!

 
Craig Dobbelyu
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Matu: I was hoping to hear from you. I was worried that your eggs hadn't done anything. I'm glad she hatched some out at least. My hen hatched out 7 of the 8 eggs that I gave her. She's still in the isolation area and is pretty upset about me fussing with her about pictures. The chicks don't need food or water for about 48 hours after hatching. They are still running on energy from their recently absorbed yolk. I have a Hoop Coop that I made last year that I'm going to move her and the nest box to later in the week. I'm hoping to really bond her to the chicks. I really don't want to bring them in the house. The coop will be located in the same fenced area as the rest of the flock. They'll have open ground and a good cover from the weather. Once I'm sure they're all getting along, I'll let momma out with her kids. We'll see what happens from there.

I'm sorry that your hen just bailed on her kids. My understanding is that they do this quite often. Sometimes it's just a simple change of place or she just fails to bond with the chicks. Hopefully the other broody will get the job done for you. If you have to keep them inside then they will need a heat lamp or a brooder box to maintain a temp of around 95 degrees. you can drop the temp by 5 degrees every week til they are mostly feathered out. You can do this by raising the heat lamp up further and further til a thermometer reads the proper temp at ground level. Some people use reptile heating rocks inside a small box that's turned upside down and elevated a few inches off the ground. This creates a fake hen effect and the chicks can come and go as they please for warmth. I usually start with non-medicated chick starter feed and a piece of sod. That gives them something to pick at as well as training them to eat forage right off the bat. It also has some grit and bacteria to get their digestive system up and running.

Hope some of that helps. Keep us updated
 
Matu Collins
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That is a big help, Craig! I've got a lot to learn! Being responsible for animals feels even more weighty when babies are involved for some reason.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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Matu Collins wrote:That is a big help, Craig! I've got a lot to learn! Being responsible for animals feels even more weighty when babies are involved for some reason.


It's the cuteness. It's tough to watch cute things struggle. Especially when their "mom" is pecking their domes in. Good thing you had a back up broody. If mine gives up then I'll be back to lights and rest of it.
*Crossing fingers*
 
Matu Collins
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Sigh. I didn't have them well enough protected and the little one didn't make it. I screwed this one up. I hope I learned some lessons. I have read about how to break a hen from being broody, now I think I know. And I need a safer place. It's tricky because we have so many predators.

I didn't need any more chickens but it's still a bummer. It was yellow with black stripes on its head.
 
Thomas A. Cahan
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.. it is hard to lose little ones.. I had seen a nest box set-up in an old farm book, where the nest boxes slid into a partition in the middle of the building, which was laying house on one side, and brooder house on the otber.. when mama went broody, the nest box was pulled out, and turned around in the partition to face the brooder room, like a drawer-the partition was just open squares that the nests slid into.. I wonder if it worked well!
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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It's still early in the season Matu, so the bright side is that you have time to try again. I'm sorry that it didn't go so great the first time around. I think you did all you could and that the hen broke her end of the bargain. I blame the chicken. With other broody birds, I hope you try again. At the very least you've gained some knowledge and experience and you have a good foundation to work with going forward. If you ever need to raise more, now is a good time to get the details figured out so that you can avoid issues when/if they really matter.

Predation isn't such a problem for me, even though I'm surrounded by all sorts of wildlife. Hawks fly over and the chickens don't even run any more. The hawks have figured out that the field mice are easier prey. I have a huge rooster that will go to battle over anything too. Though he's the reason I chose to move the broody and her eggs before incubation. I just put her in one of those large Rubbermaid totes with a food and water bowl and a good layer of shavings to mound up for a nest. The tote is under my butcher table on the porch covered by a slotted plastic shelf and a concrete block. It's not ideal but so far, it's working. That whole thing will be moved to the hoop coop tomorrow afternoon where they will be able to see the rest of the flock but not touch. Momma bird really needs a dust bath. After a month of sitting still she's a little gross. The chicks seem ok too. I'm a little worried that momma will abandon them once she sees the other flock mates. She looked a little anxious yesterday when I opened the box. Hopefully she'll hold tight to her clutch and be a good mom. Not that i need more chickens... this is just an experiment and a little bit of therapy.

I wanted to post some pictures of my set up for you but permies always gives me that error message when I try to upload them.
 
Zach Muller
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Sorry to hear that matu. I had a couple of unsuccessful tries before i was able to facilitate my hens raising babies. I tried a few times in a hay bale coop I used to have and it did not work out for one reason or another. The first time my hens did successfully hatch a baby it was in a nest box about 2feet off the ground so I was worried about moving her down to the ground. After procrastinating a few weeks I went out to finally move her and she was sitting on the ground. so I thought she had broke broodiness and abandoned the eggs but then out jumped a baby. I guess once the baby was hatched they were able to jump down onto the ground with no help from me.
Now that baby is fully grown and is sitting on eggs for the first time, so here in a couple of weeks I'll be seeing if she's as good a mother as her mother.

Like Craig said, it's still early so you could have another couple of tries this season. Good luck
 
Matu Collins
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I'm still feeling sad today but my practical side is pretty strong. It is early indeed!

I grew up in the city and yet was drawn to the tiny gardens my mother planted, and the insects and animals I could find. I did not grow up with any farm experience. As soon as I had a yard in my first apartment at 19 I started growing food and flowers, making mistakes and discovering tricks all the way. I've made friends with every local farmer and expert I can and have soaked up skills like mad. I've learned so much from permies too. It is very satisfying to me to learn, grow food, and put permaculture principles into practice.

I've been keeping chickens for a while and I know a lot of people who keep chickens but almost everyone buys chicks and raises them with lamps or gets pullets. Most people don't keep a rooster, and if they do they keep too many and have trouble, therefore scaring others off from keeping a roo! I have one friend whose hens brood their own chicks. She is also the only person I know who has kept goats for many years and intends to continue. I know many people who have tried goats and given up! Her family is the only Mennonite family around. She doesn't have a careful seclusion between her mamas with babies and her other animals but it works out mostly. I'm going to go visit her soon and talk some more. Her hens are very good mothers, having been raised by good mothers. The ones I've gotten from her in the past have been wonderful in that respect but also more wild and apt to roost in trees. In the first flock of hens I ever had, one mama brooded ten chicks in the woods! We thought she was gone until she came walking out with the ten of 'em! She went back int the woods and we never saw them again.

Our three acres of homestead borders 250 acres of woods, swamp, pond, beach and general wildness. There are a number of types of hawk, raccoons, fox, weasel, coyote, fisher, bobcat and mountain lion. I love it here.
 
Matu Collins
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Yippee! When I was having trouble telling the older eggs in the nest from the new I picked some younger eggs. A more successful hatch today from the eggs that I thought were a goner! One chick has feathery pants like Poulette who has sat on them for part of the time.


I've got Poulette, the chicks and the remaining eggs in a safe and isolated location now. The hen who stopped setting is back and forth between setting and acting normal. She seems half-broody. Is this normal? Should I carry her around and try to get her all the way un-broody?

I'm so excited. Hope reborn.

This book is one of my all-time favorites since I was a kid. Ever read it?
 
Matu Collins
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So it's working out! She's got four little chicks in there, each with different markings. She didn't seem to be taking very good care of them the first day or two and her parenting skills seemed to improve when I took out the four eggs that never hatched. Does that make sense? It's like she woke up a little.

By the way, all this time I thought it was Poulette and now I realize it's been Lilac all along. I've heard people say never name chickens but we always do. If we can't tell them apart because they're the same breed we just call them all one name.

The hen I called half-broody is back to setting full time. I guess I need to break her of it.
 
Matu Collins
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Here's one view of the chickery
20140513_160811.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20140513_160811.jpg]
 
Matu Collins
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They're getting bigger and the wing feathers are coming in a bit so the chicks look a little teenagery but they still cuddle with mom
 
Tina Hillel
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Congrats on the chicks! I've only had chickens about a year now and my first chicks hatched two days after yours. Two have made it out of the seven eggs started with. How long will the "kids" want to stay close to mom? Another brahma seems to be wanting to go broody and hoping to avoid possible conflict of brahma mamas...
 
Matu Collins
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I'm curious about how big the littles need to be before keeping them together with the rest of the flock. I have been slowly letting the mama take them out of the enclosure for a little while this week to have fresh salad and bugs and to meet a couple of the other hens. The mama has been eyeing the run with interest. She would like to follow me in there when she's out and I go there to care for the other chickens. The chicks are still small and I think it wouldn't be safe yet, but when?
 
John Polk
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The chicks are still small and I think it wouldn't be safe yet, but when?

"Mama knows best."
However, if she gets a little greedy, and wants back into the run where the 'goodies' are, she may throw caution to the wind, and try moving back in a little early. It usually works itself out, but it is wise to keep a little more vigilant once the transition begins. Just like humans, we often become better adapters once we meet our first bully...fight or flight?

At the egg farm I worked on, I asked pretty much the same question. The owner just shrugged his shoulders and said "They'll work it out."

 
Tina Hillel
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Our chicks have been with the rest of the flock the whole time. Two chicks didn't make it thru hatching and it looked like they had been pecked. One egg was a dud and another was accidentally collected with eggs by me. Really bad for chick but sort of interesting to see the process. The other chick disappeared a few days ago but we do have predators in area and lost a couple birds over last year. The mom is great with protecting chicks if other birds get too rough. Over all they have seemed to work it out.
 
Chad Sentman
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I've got a question I've never seen asked anywhere else: Can "post-menopausal" hens go broody? If I have an older hen who has stopped laying, can I use her to hatch eggs from younger hens?
 
Tracy Kuykendall
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I doubt your older hen will ever get broody, more likely she'll start taking on rooster characteristics, we've even had them to attempt crowing. Our hens become chicken and dumplings once they stop laying.
 
Zach Muller
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I tend to just let the hens take care of the arrangements. All the mothers in my flock are vicious protectors so it seems the rest of them will steer clear of the new born chicks.

All the chicks I have had hatched here stayed with the mother until she started laying eggs again. Usually at that point they have trained the chick to fight and even had sparing matches. The time varies between different hens. Younger broods hang around with their babies a shorter time than older ones.

A menopausal hen who had a history of going broody a lot might take over another hens clutch or try to sit with another hen on eggs. But this is observed from a quasi menopausal hen who can lay eggs now and again.
 
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