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Broody Hen

 
Alison Thomas
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We have a hen who has been sittng on an empty nest now since 26 May, almost 6 weeks.  I have tried lifting her off the nest and putting her outside, mainly because I want her to have food and water, but she just has a quick bite/drink then goes right back to sitting again.  Someone told me that you have to kill these hens and I was horrifed.  So I asked a poultry forum and they said to isolate her off the nest in a wire crate or smilar for 4 days with food and water.  I did this yesterday but I feel so mean.  She's in a wire cat box and just looks like a battery hen just sitting there    What would you guys do?  I don't wat her to die (which is what they said would happen on the poultry forum if I didn't 'get her out of it'
 
Emil Spoerri
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you could give her some eggs to sit on?
 
Alison Thomas
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Yes I had thought of that a few days ago (kicking myself for not thinking of it sooner) but then the poultry forum said that sitting for another three weeks to hatch the eggs would probably kill her because she'd lose so much condition.
 
Burra Maluca
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Have you tried giving her some ice cubes to sit on?  I've been told that works...
 
Jordan Lowery
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i have a small 4x4x3 ft mesh cage, made of pvc and bird netting. whenever a hen starts to sit on the eggs all day i put them in there with some water. there's food on the ground as its open bottom, and there's no where to sit on eggs. after a week or two they are broken of it and go back to there normal routine with all the rest of the chickens.
 
Ken Peavey
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Allowing the hen to continue to sit can result in death of the hen.  While brooding, the hens take a minimal amount of food and water in order to devote their time to keeping the eggs warm.  6 weeks is a long time, most of her energy reserves are pretty low at this point.  It may seem mean to disturb her, but the alternative is to watch her waste away.

Breaking a broody hen is not too hard, most of the time.  Pick her up frequently, move her around.  If using a cage, move the cage around as well, several times a day if need be.  Keep up with food and water, placing it within reach if she is being stubborn.
 
Alison Thomas
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Well she's had the cage treatment for 2 days.  When I went into the hen house yesterday morning she was up and keen to get out with the others so I let her do so.  An hour later she was back in the nest box    So back in the cage she went.  This morning she was keen again so I let her out... 2 hours out then back in the nest box.  So I took the nest box outside with her on it, put it next to the cage and had a stern word with her. She squawked at me for a few mins then got off the nest and hasn't been back all day    Fingers crossed she's through it.  Thanks for being there guys - it's worrying when you have to deal with something new in your animals.
 
                                
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may i ask, what will happen in case the hen lays and hatches during the brood?
Do the chicks need to be removed to hatchery?
 
Alison Thomas
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If a chick was to hatch (and it wouldn't in our case as we don't have a cockrel to fertilise them) then she would be a happy mummy and start mothering it.  They don't normally keep laying when they've gone broody - they lay their eggs and 'save' them, then go broody which is like an incubator and 21 days later the eggs hatch, more or less at the same time.  If she kept laying then some eggs wouldn't get the full 21 days of cuddling.
 
Ken Peavey
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A broody hen will sit on her clutch all day every day, only occasionally leaving them for short periods in order to take food and drink.  She will keep the eggs warm and moist and turn them over now and again.  While turning, she will move the eggs on the outside into the center. 

Eggs on the outside will be slightly cooler than the eggs in the middle.  If the eggs get too cool the fetus will perish.  If a hen has more than about a half dozen eggs or so, the eggs will spend too much time on the outer edge of the clutch and will die.  When the hen moves the eggs around, the eggs from the middle will be moved to the outside, leaving the hen sitting on a clutch of dead eggs.  This is why hens stop laying-to give a few eggs the best chance of survival. 

THE LAZY HEN
When a hen goes broody, other hens may give her the boot from her nest in order to lay their own eggs into the clutch to let the broody hen do the work of incubating the eggs.  When done, this lazy hen moves on, allowing the broody hen to go back to doing her thing.  I once had a broody hen sitting on about 2 dozen eggs, mostly laid by other hens.  She sat and waited for days.  Being inexperienced in this area of chicken behavior, I let her sit for about a month.  Even a big fat hen can not cover and keep 2 dozen eggs warm.  As the eggs were moved to the outside, they died.  After a month, the eggs began to break, leaving a smelly mess and a stubborn hen.  If you have a hen sitting on a clutch, you would do well to segregate that hen from the rest of the flock.  Let her do her thing in peace.  The reward is likely to be a few more birds.

 
Alison Thomas
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Coo thanks for that info Ken.  I'd decided that if another hen goes broody then we'll get some fertilise eggs from a neighbour - now I know to only get six and put a wee mark on them so that I know which six they are.
 
Ken Peavey
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That same broody hen with the 2 dozen eggs in her clutch was later given 4 eggs from a neighboring farm.  She hatched them all out.

Marking the eggs you sneak in is wise.  Remove any unmarked eggs that show up.  I would suggest a pencil, colored pencil, or crayon, as ink would tend to be absorbed through the shell.
 
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