Our second flock of layers has a broody chicken. She's actually gone broody two times this year. Although breaking them of broodiness is not that hard it is still a change to all concerned. You need to isolate them and make sure they have plenty of food and water. The most important thing after that is to make sure they don't have an egg to sit on. A broody hen will not lay eggs while brooding so you don't have to worry about her. Isolating her makes sure other hens don't take advantage of her broodiness by dropping eggs in her nest.
We took Broody out of the nesting box in flock two and placed her in the hospital pen setup in a stall in the barn. The isolation process can take anywhere from five to ten days. When a broody hen starts laying eggs you'll know that you have broken them of the broodiness and it is time to introduce them back to the flock.
In the past we've let the hens acclimate themselves. We'd open the barn door and let her come out when she choose. Sometimes it would take a couple days but eventually they come out preferring the outdoors to the pen. The last two times we've done this the hen actually went back to her flock on her own. This time however, Broody would come out of the barn but at night she would return to the hospital pen. We thought, ok, she's confused and doesn't know to go back to her flock. We seem to always rationalize their behavior but we never ask them to confirm our suspicion.
We then decided that she was going to have to be re-introduced to her old flock. From the start we encountered stiff opposition from her mates. When we put Broody in the pen they just started squaring off and no amount of yelling or screaming seemed to break it up. I found that I needed to get physically in between them in order to settle them down. Our first day of re-introducing Broody to flock two (her original flock) went something like the chicken version of a gang fight. Only Broody was a one hen gang. I was in the pen for about an hour staying between Broody and the combatants. I was getting tired of standing there and frustrated by all the fights so I gave up and took Broody out of the pen and let her roam the grounds.
At dusk she went back to the barn and settled into the hospital pen. This went on for another two days. I decided to try again but this time put her in with flock one. It is the smallest and oldest of all the flocks so I figured there were less hens and being more mature would not cause trouble. I took Broody in my arms and went into the pen. I walked her around so the other hens could see her. The whole time I'm saying shish to calm them. I set her down and before I could get out of the pen the pecking order was being strictly enforced.
This time I decided to place the trouble makers out side of the pen and let them roam. Much to my surprise after two hens were ejected the flock was at peace. The two banished layers stayed outside the fence and foraged far and wide. For the rest of the day there was harmony among the flocks.
As dusk took hold the hens started heading to bed. I knew I was going to have to go looking for the trouble makers so I went out to search before day light vanished. I went to the barn first to see if Broody was on her perch. No Broody. Okay, she's probably out back. I left the door open and went to close up the closest flock. We usually count the hens before locking up for the night and the second flock was all accounted for. I try to get them to count off but they just refuse.
Flock three was all accounted for and I headed to the last house. At this time I'm starting to worry, Broody is no where in sight and I can't hear a sound from the banished.
I look in the last house and shine my light on the roosting polls. The two banished hens came back from exploring and were quietly perched ready for sleep. On the other end in the corner to my surprise perched Broody. Everyone was settled in and ready for the night so I closed the door.
That was three days ago. At night she sleeps with flock one. During the day she flies the coop, roams and lays her egg in the barn. At night she goes back into the coop to sleep. We're trying to figure out how to break the egg laying habit but we figure one change at a time.
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