Sunday, April 29, 2012

What a broody chicken does to a flock

My little 'Cochi-baby' is a good little mama. She gets broody ALL the time, but alas, none of our eggs are fertilized so no matter how long she sits on them, they just won't hatch. 

This is Cochi being broody

This post is about broody hens and how they affect the flock.  We have 4 chickens and 1 nesting box, which is just right for our little flock, except when Cochi is broody!

Broody hens sit on the nest all day and all night-leaving only a couple of times a day to get up and eat or have a drink.  When my hens are going broody they start exhibiting the signs a few days before.  They'll make little high pitched squeals as they run around the yard, they start pecking at the other hens to give them more personal space and they start sitting alone in the dark nesting box for longer periods of time.  They also fluff up their feathers while they're walking around.  This is all preparation for broodiness and stop laying eggs.

This is Red standing on top of the coop announcing her displeasure with the lack of space in the nesting box.  Here she got into a cardboard box that was sitting outside and layed her egg in there.

Once the hen has gone broody it will last (in my experience) about a month.  Some broody hens get downright mean if you move them off of the nest, but my hens just look at me funny.  I will pick them up and move them outside a couple of times a day to make sure they don't lose too much weight or sit in the dark too long.  I also feed them higher calorie treats.  Broody hens tend to lose weight.  When I move Cochi off of the nest she is stiff, and can't walk for a couple of minutes, so it is important to treat her gently.  If I picked her up and tossed her off the nest even a foot off the ground, she would just land with a thud-her wings and legs are too stiff.  So I pick her up and gently nestle her in the grass next to the coop and then give her behind a nudge to make her get up and walk around.

Ostrich just lays her eggs next to the box. 
She is a peaceful chicken and nothing really ruffles her feathers.

The problem with broody hens in our flock is that the other chickens 'forget' about her and she almost has to be re-introduced into the flock after she is done.  The other issue is that she hogs the nesting box and my chickens then find other less desirable places to lay their eggs.  However, I noticed that Cochi in particular will go find them and roll them to wherever she is to add to her collection of eggs to sit on.  So I usually end up collecting them from under her, but I know they were laid elsewhere.

Hawk was busy laying an egg so Red came down to pose for another photo. 
She is infinitely curious about the goings-on in the backyard.

Some breeds are more prone to broodiness than others, so if you are considering purchasing a flock, you may want to take that into consideration.  Broody hens disrupt the flock especially when it is a small flock and as much as I love my Cochi-baby I don't think I would get this breed again because she is soooo broody, not unless I wanted to hatch more chickens. 

Also, this may be TMI but broody hens don't go poo much, usually only twice a day but when they do it is a huge poo and it reeks. That's another way I know I have a broody hen, the poo smells that different / bad.   My other chickens can go all day long and there is never a smell in the coop unless it gets rained on or wet (and I cover the coop with a tarp when it rains, but occasionally I'm not home to do the covering when it rains).  So I clean out the coop more often when I have a broody hen.  Because my flock is out free ranging most all of the day it isn't too much of a chore, but it is another point to consider.

Some chicken owners will try to 'break' a hen of their broodiness.  My husband has tried putting her on 'chicken timeout' a few times and she just looks so forlorn.  He will pick her up from the nest and carry her to the furthest corner of the yard and set her down there.  She just sits there for about half an hour and then goes back to the nest.  That's as far as I'll allow.  The other methods include putting them into a cage where they can't sit down or get comfortable, keeping them cold, etc. and I just don't have the stomach for it.  Many of the methods are time consuming and  / or mean to a pet chicken and since my survival isn't currently tied to a broody hen, I just don't want to have any part of it.

So that's my take on broody hens!  Have you experienced a broody hen in your flock?


  1. Wow we should be friends! I just discovered your blog...we are both named Jen, we live in Orange and have turned our homes into small urban farms :)

  2. We have 4 egglayers and 1 of them is also super broody. My heart just aches for her right now. It seems like it's taking forever for her to snap out of it. We've dunked her in water, kicked her out of the nest and tried our best to coax her to be a happy chicken, all to no avail. Sigh. Our next course of action is to put her in a cage alone.