What We Did With Our Broody Hen

No, we did not killer her.

After a month of removing her twice daily from the nest to eat, and sometimes taking her yards away into the orchard, my dear Maisie was still broody. I never did see her come out of the nest on her own. I decided to leave her in the nest and see if letting nature take it’s course would be the answer. After four days, I got pretty worried about her dying in there. I could just picture it, flies, stink, eww. Seasoned chicken raisers told me she would come out when she got hungry, but they were also the ones that said a hen gets over being broody in 19 – 21 days.

I did a lot of reading of people who said their hens stayed broody for 6 weeks, 2 months, and one person said her hen never came out of being broody. Boy, that thought put my hair on end. Another person said plainly that she planned to put her broody hen in the dog pen. Let me just say, I get it. (I do hope she planned to cook it.)

A broody hen has gone into the hormone mode for hatching eggs, never mind that she has no eggs to hatch. While in this ‘broody’ mode, she will not lay eggs. See the difference in Maisie’s comb and wattle. Her’s have shrunk and gone pale.

Maisie Broody

Contrast that to her sister, Goldie Girl, her comb and wattle bright red, the sure sign of the good laying hen that she is.

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Obviously, since my other 7 hens have not gone into this sitting behavior (thank goodness!), there was something within Maisie’s physical make-up that caused her to swing into the hatching egg mode. Only I do not have a rooster, and did not have eggs to hatch, nor did I want either.

In Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, author and chicken raising expert Gail Damerow mentions a number of times the need to cull the flock of those chickens that are sickly or not performing to their purpose, which for me is laying eggs. Thankfully I’ve not yet had to learn the skill of killing a chicken. I do have one girl who is lame, our dear Elvira, who walks around stiff-legged, but the dear girl is true to her purpose and lays an egg most every day.

A myriad of ‘cures’ are put forth to break a broody hen and get them back on track. You can read on this thread at Backyardchickens.com, or run a search. I think everyone and his cousin has what they put forth as a sure-fire method to break a broody hen.

In the end, I decided to get three fertile eggs from a friend who raises her own chicks and slip them under Maisie. So far she’s still broody, closing in on 5 weeks now, sitting on those eggs in a fit of hormone stupor. I have twice removed her from the nest to eat, which she does for about ten minutes, then makes her way back to the nesting box. Only, get this, she gets into a different nesting box, without the fertile eggs! Obviously the hormones only direct her to sit in the nest, not care about the eggs.

Oh, how purposeless hormones can make a being!

Our First Broody Hen Experience

Our Buff Orpington, Maisie, was acting strangely Saturday evening, when we let the girls out for free-ranging. She puttered around a bit and then went back into the hen-house, and into a nest. Maisie

When I took a late breakfast to the girls on Sunday morning after church, she was in the nest and didn’t come out. Obviously something was going on, and I went to the internet for research. I came back out, took her out of the nest, and observed the symptoms: camping in the nest, even without an egg, puffed up like a blow fish, making a low, sort of guttural, “pluck, pluck, pluck.”

Poor darling. The old margarine commercial pops to mind: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” We do not have a rooster, do not want a rooster, do not want to raise our own little chicks. But with this choice, we are messing around with Mother Nature, who designed the hen to have eggs and sit on them and hatch chickens. Hmmm…I don’t suppose a wind up chick would do the trick.

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Taken out of the nest, she first sat on the grass. Then she began to ‘pluck’ around, and eat grass. She then went to this bag of sand and began to scratch and try to make a nest of it.

Advice ranges the gamut, and I’m attempting a middle of the road. I remove Maisie from the nest several times a day to give her a chance at food and water. She is sweet and gives no trouble. Even Sweetie-Pie, our 6 year-old-grandson, can easily put his hand underneath her. “She growls, but there’s no egg,” he says a bit mystified.

When presented with food, she will eat readily, do her bit of plucking and puffing up, and then make her way around to the hen-house door. She takes water on her way past the water bucket, and then back into the nest.

Supposedly this will go on for 19 to 21 days. In thinking back, we’re hopeful to already have 5 days down, maybe more. Oh, Dear Lord, do not let all the hens go ‘maternal’ at once!

Maisie

This look says it all: “Leave Me Alone!”