Molly, the Broody Hen, continues to sit on nothing for 23+ hours a day and something’s gotta give.
Because she and another hen (one of the Marans) have taken up the two “best” nesting boxes for their broody behavior, the other hens have continued to lay their eggs god-knows-where, leaving almost none for us. As our egg supply increasingly dwindled, we had to seriously consider fencing in the coop to keep the birds from continuing to lay hither and yon.
Now, I hate the idea of fencing the chickens. I don’t hate it because I feel that all creatures should roam freely without confinement; I hate it because when they are confined, they all cluster at the gate of the fence like a crowd of shoppers on Black Friday waiting for the doors to open. It stresses me out.
What stresses me out more than an impatient chicken mob, however, is a total absence of eggs. Here was what we got yesterday:
.“He who feeds the hen, ought to have the egg.” – Danish proverb
So, we put up a little fence. Two of the bantams got out underneath it almost immediately (we still need to secure the bottom in a few spots), but the rest are seemingly fairly content in there for now.
But, back to Molly and the sitting Marans. Since these two birds were sitting regardless of whether they had eggs under them, we started putting fertile eggs that were close to hatching underneath them. Our thinking was that going through the process of hatching chicks would relieve the hens of their need to continue sitting. Our thinking was wrong. These gals will sit on whole egg, broken eggs, and nothing at all. Their broodiness is undaunted and, quite frankly, unappreciated at this point.
We have decided to intervene.
If you’ve been reading this blog with any regularity, you may have noticed other times when we’ve decided to intervene and tried to alter the behavior of an animal. If you’ve noticed this, you may also have noticed our utter lack of success every single time. While we have learned that we can’t change the natural instincts of our animals (nor do we really want to), we haven’t learned to stop trying when it really, really bugs us. This is one of those times.
We have discovered that the most humane way to try to break a hen of her broodiness is to try to convince her body that it is no longer required to sit. There are several methods of doing this. Many folks like to put the hen(s) into a wire mesh cage that is suspended above ground a bit. This allows air flow underneath the hen, and provides her with no bedding in which to get comfy and heat back up. I opted against this method because it could take weeks to break the hen this way and I don’t have the right kind of cage anyhow.
The other method–the one we’re trying–is to place ice under and around the broody hen. The goal here is to lower her “belly” temperature so that she no longer has the urge to sit. I imagine it is not a totally pleasant sensation for the bird, but it is less dramatic than other measures and doesn’t seem to faze her much.
We’ve also taken her entire setup–milk crate, ice, and all–and placed it in the now-enclosed coop. This way, if our methods are unsuccessful (they will be), she can continue to sit without impacting our egg supply.
Wish us luck!