The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

How to Unbrood a Broody Hen? Maybe...

Trudy--at the left--sits in an empty nest box, while Ginny lays.
Remember, gentle reader, a few weeks back when we were excitedly pulling three eggs a day out of our nest boxes?  Well that feeling of free-flowing abundance was short-lived.  We currently have one hen who is steadily laying--Ginny, our Black Australorp; Hilda is a full time egg incubator and Trudy...well Trudy is being a pill.

Trudy is sort-of broody, but not nearly as determined, committed or dedicated as Hilda.  She is broody enough to have not laid any eggs for 3-4 days, so we are in the midst of a bit of power struggle.  It feels a bit like battling it out with a pre-teen--she's not committed enough to stick to it and win, but she is definitely acting out!

We are trying all the tricks recommended by books, articles and experienced chicken-keepers to, maybe, break a broody spell.  I say maybe because the most seasoned folks say that sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.  Eventually, a broody spell should run its course in about 3 weeks, but every hen and every scene is different.  Meanwhile, things get a bit kooky...

Trudy--at the back--tries to crowd into a nest box with the younger pullets at bed time. She usually sleeps on the roost.
Trudy has been smooshing herself in to the nest box at all sorts of interesting times. We pull her off whenever we find her on there, and after Ginny lays for the day, we've taken to closing up the coop door, so she can't get in.  This generally distracts her for a while, but occasionally, she fusses and clucks and marches around the coop trying to find a way in.  When she gets particularly fussy, we've also tried giving her backside a dip in cool water--something that should help to lower her body temp (which, I guess, gets warmer when a hen is trying to get a nest ready to brood.) The cool water doesn't hurt her and, the side effect has been that Trudy has the cleanest, poop-free backside she's had in months...

Teri & Trudy have a little pool time.
Through it all, Teri and I are total novices.  Like all farmers--urban or other--we're learning as we go.  I think one of the requirements for anything from gardening to chickens to dairy goats is a willingness to bumble, ask questions, and learn as you go.  If you asked Teri--the consummate East Coast city girl--if she'd ever see herself picking up a 9 pound hen and dunking her butt in a bucket of water, she would probably have laughed heartily in disbelief and yet, when the time came, she answered the call.

Chicken and Chicken Keeper get a little wet.
Here's what we know--those calculations you read about how many eggs a certain breed of chicken lays are not always the most reliable; the charts that show you which chickens will go broody and which will not are not always reliable. Hens lay early, lay late, take days off, go broody, get sick, moult, and as Teri says, they behave as if they didn't read the books!

So, maybe we'll succeed in getting Trudy to give up her half-assed ideas about setting and maybe we won't. Eventually, the young pullets should start laying (in about 9-10 weeks or so) but we don't know exactly when that will be.  Who knows if Virginia might decide to get on the broody wagon?  Really, we've decided to just keep going and try to do the best we can by our animals...

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