Click photos to enlarge.
I get a number of emails on dealing with broody hens, so I’ll enlarge on the way I run my lot. (See also under breeding)
At the moment I have about 20 birds down in various runs and coops. Allowing each bird a broody coop would mean dozens of coops and drinkers/feeders to be attended to on a daily basis, so I let whatever hens want to go broody in the breeding runs and the others just lay along side her. All or most of my laying boxes are the same shape and size and if I want to move a sitter I take her box and all and replace the box with another.
The sitter very rarely comes off the eggs even if moved in daylight, as she feels secure in the box she has sat in, seemingly the venue of the box is unimportant to the hen sat on the eggs.
I get these from local farmers and a few I use myself. They are a feed supliment bucket for sheep and I cut the opening out with a snips.
If you notice the lip on the opening is low it’s because if a chick gets out it will need to be able to get in and back under the hen or it’s cheeping as it cools down may make the hen come off the rest of the eggs to brood it.
I write the breed, number of eggs set and date and the date they are due to hatch on the lid.
They will hold red mite under the lid lip, so keep an eye on that if you start using them.
At the end of a sitting I just scrub them out with Dettol or Jayes Fluid and swill them off.
When all the chicks hatch and if I keep them with the hen the box is removed and the family are put into a rat proof broody coop or put them under an infrared lamp in a chick brooder pen..
They need to be showing feather before I allow the brood to go out on grass again in a coop. As soon as the growers look fully feathered and well able to cope with life without the hen I remove her after dark and put her back into whatever breeding group or pen she came out of. This removal would be posponed if the weather was cold and ideally the growers would be perching. If the growers were still ground roosting, there is a chance, albeit a small one that if the night is chilly and they are not perching they may crowd into a corner, but good strong chicks that are well feathered should be ok.
This season I have only used broodies as yet and only hatched dual purpose birds. The chicks coming out of the Improved Indian Game x Welsh Black are really strong and feathering up really fast.
Breaking a Broody.
If you do not want a hen to sit you will need to break the broody cycle. A hen that is sitting is about 2 degrees f LOWER in temperature than a hen that isn’t sitting and at normal rest. The temperture of a healthy hen is between 105 -109 f depending on weather conditions
She needs to be removed from the rest of the group or any eggs from the other birds will be brooded and once sat on for an hour or two will spark into life inside the egg.
Buckets of cold water and wire cages in a draught is not only cruel, but a serious danger to the hen’s health, never under any circumstances use these methods to attempt to ‘cool’ down a bird. Idiotic old wives tales passed on by people that know nothing about the anatomy of poultry perpetuate these stupid ideas.
A hen that has gone broody is not ‘heated up’ to be able to incubate her eggs, she has a physical urge to sit.
She will need a coop on her own with just shavings and feed and water, if possible in view of any other birds. There is no quick fix that is not deprimental to the birds health and well being. She is triggered into sitting by her breeding and the genes contained in the strain she comes from. It will take between 3-6 days before she come back into normal behaviour and at least 2 weeks before she will lay again depending on condition. She will need some TLC and plenty of fresh greens to start her laying cycle again.
Light breeds such as Anconas and Leghorns do not carry any genes for sitting and hatching their own eggs. These traits have been bred out by the originators of the breed, as laying birds and nothing else.
Most, if not all of the heavy breeds have the genes still in the make-up of that breed to sit. It would be possible to build a strain that were not as prone to go broody, but it would take a good many years of selecting birds that rarely go to sit mated to cocks from similar hens to get anywhere near a heavy breed non sitter.
The genes for this comes from both male and female sides of the breed, as does egg laying and many other factors of a birds make-up. A good steady hen that goes the distance in brooding is worth her weight in gold and should be cherished.
I never give my broodies any pellets, in fact I never feed any pellets except for chick crumbs to any of my birds.
Pellets have all sorts of additives in that I don’t particularly want in my eggs or meat, so I feed a grain diet and as much free-range foraging as I can give the birds. When I mow the grass the breeding pens all get a big handfull, more if it’s available. The tips of new grass can have as much as 30% veg protien in and as well as digging over an area of ground that I have the birds get ample animal protien from any worms they get.
The grain mix is Wheat,cut maize and rolled barley with cod-liver oil added to boost the vitamins A+D. I also add just a small amount of mixed grit in the feeder.
The birds I have here as my broody team are Bantam Wyandottes, usually around 14 hens that have the tendency to go broody very easily.
The Welsh Black fowl and the birds bred from the lines I have made from them have the same habit. Both of the original breeds Australorp and Indian Game carry the genes for sitting and mated together the urge to brood is very strong.
The Welsh Blacks are very good sitters and almost bomb proof. They are rock steady and top class mothers.