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Broody Hen Drama

>20 June 2011
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So, I went out to feed the chickens this morning and the broody hen was off of her nest. Great! I thought. Now I can count her eggs.

As I climbed into the coop and peered into the nesting box I could not believe my eyes. There were 17 eggs in there! No wonder we haven’t been getting many eggs from the other hens. They’ve all been laying in her box!

I immediately regretted not following the good advice of marking the eggs. I hadn’t bothered with it ’cause I didn’t want to disturb her from her sitting. But now she was sitting on too many eggs, and I couldn’t tell the old from the new.

I decided it was time to create a “maternity ward” in the coop, and give her her own special corner. Stapling chicken wire from the bottom of the nesting box down to the floor, I sectioned off a good area to put her in. After sweeping out the old litter, and laying some fresh hay down, I carefully moved each of the eggs onto the new nest, marking an “X” on them with a pencil as I went.

As I was moving them, she saw what I was doing and ran over to the eggs to sit on the few I’d already moved. I continued placing the eggs underneath her, but she was not happy with me at all.

I did my best to get all of those eggs into the warmth of her body, but there were just so many! She ended up moving around and trying to get the eggs back under her, but finally gave up and was satisfied to leave four or five out of her nest.

I decided I’d take the abandoned eggs into the house to candle and see if they are even fertilized or not. It was so hard to tell though! All but one I was sure had a forming chick in it, but I hated to chance it with the one I wasn’t positive about, you know?

So, meddling me tried to shove the remaining eggs back under her. But she’d had enough of my nonsense, and began pecking the you-know-what out of my hand every time I reached in with another egg.

I left her alone for a while, hoping she’d settle back down and succeed in covering all of the eggs. But later on when I went out to check on her again, she had abandoned the nest altogether, and was back up in the old nesting box, sitting on a fresh egg another hen had just laid.

I looked down at the poor clutch of eggs, wondering what to do. I decided to bother the perturbed hen one more time and once again carefully replaced all of the eggs back under her. I got a few good bites in the process, but I was able to get them all in.

I sure wish she’d stayed where I’d put her! I think she just likes that box better and feels more comfortable laying there. The problem is that that seems to be the popular spot, and I can’t keep the other hens from laying eggs there as well! I guess now that I’ve marked the 17, any extras that are unmarked I know are safe to eat.

I’m considering getting out the incubator tomorrow and relieving the hen from some of the eggs. What do you think? I’m just so afraid I’m gonna mess things up if I keep getting in the middle of it.

Oh, what to do, what to do.

What would you do?

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8 Comments »

  • Jessica said:

    Who knew chickens could be so dramatic?! lol

    I’d probably attempt to incubate any that she isn’t able to sit on. I’d figure if she isn’t keeping them warm they’re a loss. but if I could incubate them even if only some make it at least they weren’t a total loss.

    then again, I’m impatient and unable to avoid meddling in everything. ha! I’m perpetually winding pea vines and cucumbers onto the trellises, even if they don’t really need it. I just can’t not fiddle with it. Then again, the danged cucumbers REALLY want to climb my tomatoes so… I’m probably just looking for an excuse with that though.

  • Laura said:

    I would just leave the eggs alone she will roll them around and do what she needs to do…I have had hens hatch a large clutch like that…and if it is a few that don’t make it through incubation that is natural…as far as the other girls laying more in her box well she will stop them soon and if there is room there may be another one sitting beside her I have had that happen too…you may want to add a new laying box next to hers, mine always seem to like a new fresh box with fluffy bedding…stinks about not getting those eggs in the fridge for breakfast though :( hope it works out…I have found that as much as I wanted to intervene with the natural process I have always regretted it for one reason or another.

  • Mona @ Healthy Homesteading said:

    Kendra,
    I would just leave the eggs underneath her. If this set of eggs don’t work out you will have plenty of other opportunities I am sure. If you do decide to buy a incubator, make sure you get a turner. My two broody mamas are setting on eggs in the regular nesting boxes and I have to check underneath them every day for eggs that are not marked. Fortunately neither of them peck my hand. They yell at me but don’t peck. You could try wearing gloves when you check the eggs.

  • Rosann said:

    I moved my broodie to a “dog crate” with her eggs and into a separate bay in the pens I have, so she is by herself. At first she was not happy but the crate is large and I closed the front door on her and left her there. Later that day she was back in her trance and set the eggs. When she was back in the mood, I opened the crate, she is still in a separate bay away from the other hens. I will know in the next couple days how many she will successfully hatched.

  • Mrs. D said:

    We’ve had the same problem only with one of our ducks who like to set in a very popular box. She ends up with all sort of eggs. She has not successfully hatched a clutch yet there.

    We have a dog house which is outside and away from the rest of the flock. There are two sister ducks laying on their clutches out there and no one disturbs them. They are so cute, they lay so flat on those eggs and have plucked out a mound of downy feathers all around themselves. It’s hard to tell where the nest stops and the duck begins. Now Mr. D tells me we have two more ducks setting inside the coop. We have to clean out the litter in there in the next week or so. I am hoping this will not disturb the ducks.

    Generally once the birds become broody we try to stay out of their way if at all possible. We don’t reach under them and pull their eggs even if it means taking ones out that don’t belong to them. I can understand that your poor hen has so many eggs she can’t cover them all. Can you somehow fence off that one nest box? We have hung a piece of fabric over the box, we have also closed off that side of the coop in an attempt to keep the setting hen alone. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. Hopefully your little hen will hatch a few chicks for you.

  • Cathy Ethier said:

    We had an instance where the other hens didn’t lay their eggs in the broody hens nest, but she would steal the eggs from the other hens. Our Japanese Silkie would steal eggs that you know there is NO WAY she laid an Ex-Lg egg. An incubator is a great investment.We invested in incubators to keep our laying stock going in the beginning, now we use it more for ducks, turkeys, guineas and occasional wild turkeys (when our neighbor finds a nest while cutting hay). There is a way to make an incubator with an old refrigerator, which is what we plan to do as soon as we can find a FREE refrigerator.

  • Emily said:

    We agree with Laura.
    We had similar drama this month. Our broody hen sat on so many eggs as well. She sat on the eggs a week after the first chick hatched. So even if the others are still laying there she may sit until their hatch date. We ended up having 2 other hens catch “mama fever” and sit on more beside her. Then we had them “kick” some of the eggs out. We assumed they were no good. Who can tell though.

  • KSW said:

    It is broody season here as well. Over the last two month we have had 5 hens go broody. In the past we have always identified the broody hen then move here to an isolated location. We set her on fake eggs and if she takes to them we place real eggs under her and let her sit. If she does not take we break her via isolation as well then return her to the flock. This process is much easier this year as we have built a new chicken coop but kept the old one in tact (I am so glad that The Hub listened to me!) to use as a rooster house or broody barn / peep place.
    Your situation is a tough call because you don’t know which are old/new and the timing of the hatch. You need to either A)isolate her and all of the eggs and hope that she still wants to sit / B)take the eggs and incubate but your hatch will be spread out then raise momma-less/ scrap the eggs, isolate the bird determine if still broody then set on collected eggs. Whatever your choice I wish you the best.

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