Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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Broody Picks a New Home

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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Broody is broody again

We are learning, we have learned and we will continue to learn.  Our knowledge comes from reading, talking to others, working and observing.  Like on Saturday we observed that Broody was back sitting in her nesting box.  Then we observed on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday the same thing.

This is a natural occurance for chickens sometimes they go broody.  We've only been raising hens for three years so we don't have a lot of experience.  However, we have faced broodiness before so we sorta know what we are doing.  In all the books that we've read I don't remember if they talked about a broody hen going broody twice in the same year.

I did observe something I hadn't noticed before.  When a chicken is broody the last thing you want to do is let her sit on an egg.  Everything that we've read says to take eggs from her.  You don't want to encourage the behavior so taking the eggs gives her nothing to hatch.

Chickens will lay one egg every 25 hours, give or take, on Sunday we took the egg from under her.  Monday when we checked she was in the same nesting box but there were two eggs.  I took them, my glimer of hope was the two eggs in the box.  She had laid one (broody chickens do not) and she was out of the box long enough for another chicken to lay her egg.

Getting a broody chicken out of our nesting box is pretty hard due to the design of the nest and access to it.  So, we put off getting her out until we were sure she really was broody.  Tuesday when we checked she had three eggs under her and we took them.  She was still in the same box though.  Wednesday morning I looked in the box for eggs and saw two under Broody and one in the middle box.  Broody was still nesting in the third box farthest from the opening.  I thought once again she had laid, gotten out of the box and another hen laid her own egg.  I went about the day's chores and kept the chicken pen within site.  The day progressed with no sight of Broody.  By late afternoon I had decided to check the nesting boxes again.

I looked in and Broody was still in the third nest facing the back.  Yet, she had another two eggs under her and it dawned on me.  She wasn't laying and she wasn't getting out of the nest.  The other chickens must know she is broody.  They are nesting in her box and laying their eggs for her to hatch.  Four eggs on Wednesday and three the day before that.  She hadn't left the nest at all and she wasn't laying.   There is no way a chicken can move an egg in our nesting boxes.  The floor is on a decline from front to back, with a back wall high enough to let the egg roll underneath and in a holding area.  These were all under her front wings.

We decided that it was time to get her out of the nesting box and into the barn.  This is not a stress free process for the bird or us.  I eventualy got her out and headed for the barn.  While we were walking I took the liberty to feel her abdomen and lower fluff by the vent.  No hard object or abnormal feeling of the large intenstines.  She was just broody again.  Broody is in he barn digging holes for nests and sitting on non-existant eggs.  She's got plenty of fresh water and mash to eat.  So far she's still in the barn, day seven and counting.  We'll let you know how it goes.

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