So what’s a broody chicken. I could have told you a few years ago what one was but it would have just been regurgitation of stuff I read on the Internet not anything I’d actually experienced, which is why I never did a post on chickens going broody. Unless I’ve experienced it, I try not to talk about it. Which is how you get gems like how to cure a bladder infection, yeast infections and the frozen yogourt tampon and everybody’s favourite Ass Maggots.
Now that I have experienced the wrath of the broody chicken first hand, I can tell you all about it. And it’s almost as huge a pain in the ass as maggots.
Chickens, like most living things are instinctual. One of their instincts is to forage for food by scratching at the dirt, another is to sleep off of the ground as a safety precaution from predators and yet another is to hatch eggs. When they feel that instinct to hatch eggs coming on they go into a dark, quiet place (the nesting box) and don’t come out. It makes no difference whatsoever whether they have a clutch of eggs to sit on or not. They will sit there day in and day out for over a month even if there isn’t a single egg under her, because her instinct says … sit here and hatch eggs … be broody … even if there are no eggs in the vicinity. So, instinctual, not intellectual.
When I got my Marans chickens last year I had no idea if they were a broody breed or not. Some breeds you see are more prone to broodiness while others never go broody. That’s why I had never experienced broodiness before. My other chickens just didn’t have that instinct. They take after their mother.
Now you can either leave a hen to brood for 4-7 weeks OR you can stop it. There are many reasons to stop a hen from being broody, not the least of which is the fact that a broody hen doesn’t lay eggs. So that’s 4-7 weeks without eggs from her. She’s also more prone to mites and pests because she’s sitting in one spot all day not grooming and bathing the way she normally would. Add in the fact that the temperature in the nesting box can get close around 40C in the summer and it just isn’t a very safe place for her to be.
This is about the 6th time Josephine has gone broody since I got her and the last time she was sitting in that nesting box for 7 weeks straight. The other chickens would want to lay and egg and she wouldn’t budge. She’d sit there with her feathers all fluffed out making her look three times as big, screaming at them to BACK THE CLUCK OFF.
So there’s that little bit of drama to contend with when you have a broody chicken too.
According to the big, bad liar the Internet the best, most effective, most humane way to break a chicken of broodiness is to put them in a crate that’s elevated off the ground. The reason for the crate (a dog crate or rabbit hutch works well) is it keeps her away from the nesting box and all nesting materials and allows cool air all around the chicken to bring her temperature down. You see a chicken’s hormones change when she gets broody which stops her from producing eggs AND elevates her temperature. She’s hot, nasty, irritable and barren. She’s menopause with feathers.
After living in the crate, cooling down and getting bored and uncomfortable(ish) for a few days she’s no longer broody. That’s the theory anyway.
So last week I jumped on Kijiji (it’s like Craigslist but better) found myself a dog crate for $20 and set up my broody buster.
Most dog crates have a tray that fits into the bottom, but you want the chicken to be cooled from underneath so remove the tray. At this point you’ll have big holes that the chickens legs would just slip right through. So cut a piece of hardware cloth to fit the bottom of the cage. If you can do this with your Skeletor forearm that’d be great.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. That’s not Josephine by the way, that’s Cuddles running by. You have to keep the cage elevated off the ground so air can get underneath. Some people hang the cage but that seems kind of extreme to me and a little too Tweety Bird so I just put it on bricks.
Make sure the hen has water that won’t tip over and a bowl of food. Oh yeah, and put the hen in there. To do that, you have to drag her out of her nesting box which she doesn’t want to leave at ALL.
At night I put the crate in the enclosed chicken run so she’d be safe from raccoons. In the morning I opened the door. If she beelined right up to the nesting box I knew she had to go back in the crate. It only took 2 sleeps for Josephine to get back to her normal self. I on the other hand am still nursing the skin on my forearm.
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