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Broody Hen Management  RSS feed

 
Susan Pruitt
Posts: 74
Location: North Carolina, USA Zone 7b
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I'm so grateful for the tons of information shared here - I started keeping chickens last January when I hatched eggs in the house, then moved them out to a nice coop with 1/2 acre fencing and overhead bird netting.   It's a mix of grass, trees, and shrubs.    So far they are doing great with foraging 90% of their food.   I've continued to supplement with an evening snack and now they're addicted to the corn so it's really just a treat.   I've just built a secluded little nest house which I'll also fence, to be the maternity ward for hatching and raising the babies.  Now getting to the subject at hand :)

I'm hoping one of my hens will brood some chicks and raise them naturally.   One is already showing signs (March 28) because she sits on her single egg each day much longer than usual, to the point that the other hens will stand over her, waiting for their turn (they all want to lay in the same box even though I've provided 3 boxes for 3 hens - haha)    Right now, she just stays on her egg for an extra couple of hours, looking drowsy and puffy, until someone kicks her out.  Before this week she would be very alert with head perked up when I peeked in on her during laying.    Then she's out in the yard foraging with her sisters the rest of the day and all the next morning until she's ready to lay again.   I've been in the habit of collecting eggs mid-day and again later if needed - so there are never eggs in their coop at night.   I probably should leave extra/fake eggs in the maternity ward?

I'm wondering about that period before a clutch is accumulated.   Should I stop collecting for a while?  Leave 6-12 fake eggs in the nest full-time?    What will the broody hen's behavior be between 1 egg in the nest to a full clutch?   I need to insert purchased fertilized eggs in the nest when she's ready, but I won't know she's ready until she starts sitting full time.  

thanks!
 
James Freyr
Posts: 252
Location: Middle Tennessee
18
books cat chicken food preservation toxin-ectomy
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Raising chickens myself I will share with you my observations. Every time one of mine has gone broody, there's been 8-12 eggs under her the day she went broody. I don't have a rooster and don't want broody hens, I want laying hens. If I catch them in time, and pull them off the eggs and distract them several times the first day, I've managed to have a few change their mind about being broody. The one biggest single identifier (for me in my cases) of determining if a hen is going broody is she will be in the nesting box at sundown and spend the night in there instead of on the roosting bar.

Another observation I've had with my flock and with friends flocks and talking with them is regular egg collection seems to keep (for the most part) hens from going broody. If I miss a day collecting eggs and there are nesting boxes full of eggs, it seems a hen is more likely decide to go broody and sit. None of what I have said is science, it's just what I've noticed. I have also, in my experience, never had a hen go broody in the fall when the flock is molting, or go broody during the short cold days of winter.
 
Susan Pruitt
Posts: 74
Location: North Carolina, USA Zone 7b
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Thanks much for your thoughtful reply James!    So you're confirming my suspicions that I need to leave a full nest of eggs to encourage broodiness.    Yesterday and today I left the eggs (6) so perhaps in another 48 hours I'll get an indication.   I'm also going to sneak out to the coop extra early tomorrow to see if she's in the nest or on the roost with her sisters.   I'll update when I learn more :)
 
Nancy Bush
Posts: 25
Location: Cerro Negro de Nicoya, Costa Rica
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We give a brooding hen about 16 eggs & mark them with a permanent marker & check daily to see if another hen has laid an egg in the nest & remove it.
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 354
Location: Western Kenya
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Our kienyeji hens are extremely broody, so you can't miss it when they are ready to sit.  There is a particular vocalization they make starting a few days before they lay the final egg.  Then they will plant themselves on the nest, and come hell or high water, they are NOT getting off.  If you remove her she will complain and get right back on.  She is not particularly interested in food, water, and she won't get off to roost.  She might get off for 30 minutes once a day for a quick feed and a drink, then its right back on.  My best brooder, Henzilla, will go days at a time without eating.  My hens are so broody, they don't need eggs.  They will go sit on the spot they laid them, whether an egg is there or not.  Leaving eggs makes them go broody faster, resulting in fewer eggs laid, so we remove them and store them until someone is broody.  Then we move her and her nest away from the communal egg laying spot to avoid other hens adding more eggs once she has started the process.  You can do this by putting her on the eggs in your chosen location and covering her with a basket for a day.  She might get confused the first time she gets off to feed, but you just stick her back, and by day 2 she'll be cozy in her new nest.
 
Susan Pruitt
Posts: 74
Location: North Carolina, USA Zone 7b
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Thank you  Nancy and Maureen, for very helpful answers!   Wow, 16 eggs in the nest - I didn't think she could cover that many- haha!    It's April 22 and my girl is still not sitting all day but since I've been leaving 6-9 eggs (rotating out the older ones), she's been sitting longer and longer, but only right after laying.     I'm not hearing any new sounds, and she's not defensive when I reach under her to count, but when I was done she carefully rearranged the eggs.  And when another hen decided to share the nest, she scooted over a bit and again, pulled the eggs under herself.   Once she gets kicked out in mid afternoon she just does her normal foraging with her sisters for about 4 hours until dark.  So I've acquired some fertilized eggs, bringing the count up to 15.    I'll just keep buying eggs and rotating them if necessary.   This is so much fun and I'm reporting my experience in case other newbies need some help :)
 
Susan Pruitt
Posts: 74
Location: North Carolina, USA Zone 7b
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Update:   The 15 eggs worked!   She immediately became full-time broody.   It's been about a week and interestingly, with each passing day she becomes more serious about her job.   The first day she would sit most of the day but spend several hours with her sisters outside dust bathing and foraging before going back to her nest at dusk.   Now, its harder to rouse her from her stupor at dinner/snack time to come out.  But when she hears her sisters chattering over the feed she comes running out, gobbles down some food, runs to the dust bath for about 20 minutes, then strolls around the yard a bit, and within an hour she's back on the nest.   It's very funny to observe (I'm usually out in the garden in the evenings).    I would characterize her behavior as something like the white rabbit, rushing to take care of business and then she stops her foraging, looks up and at the coop as if to say "OMG - the babies - I need to get back to the nest!!!" then she turns and RUNS in and settles down for the night :)   I'm very excited - we'll have babies in a couple of weeks.  Thanks for the help y'all

 
James Freyr
Posts: 252
Location: Middle Tennessee
18
books cat chicken food preservation toxin-ectomy
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Cool! Please post a couple pictures when they hatch.
 
Lynne Webb
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James Freyr wrote:Raising chickens myself I will share with you my observations. Every time one of mine has gone broody, there's been 8-12 eggs under her the day she went broody. I don't have a rooster and don't want broody hens, I want laying hens. If I catch them in time, and pull them off the eggs and distract them several times the first day, I've managed to have a few change their mind about being broody. The one biggest single identifier (for me in my cases) of determining if a hen is going broody is she will be in the nesting box at sundown and spend the night in there instead of on the roosting bar.

Another observation I've had with my flock and with friends flocks and talking with them is regular egg collection seems to keep (for the most part) hens from going broody. If I miss a day collecting eggs and there are nesting boxes full of eggs, it seems a hen is more likely decide to go broody and sit. None of what I have said is science, it's just what I've noticed. I have also, in my experience, never had a hen go broody in the fall when the flock is molting, or go broody during the short cold days of winter.


A trick I used when I was convinced my hens were broody (and you soon recognize that guttural "get the H away" growl) was to put them in a pen with a wire bottom. Using 'welded wire' that measures about 1/4"X1/4" holes will give them plenty of footing and with no nesting material, they soon are overjoyed to get on the ground and forage again. In fact, when they are pacing back and forth you know you've succeeded.
 
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