Broody birds, otherwise known as hens with ‘attitude,’ can be a problem in the flock.
Since broody birds tend to return human contact with pecks when they perceive any intrusion a threat to their eggs, they can become aggressive. Some breeds are broodier than others, so if you're picking chicks keep this in mind. They can even turn aggressive to other birds in the coop.
I've heard horror stories about a single broody bird ruining the egg production of an entire brood. These hens can destroy the harmony and balance of your backyard farm. And they can cause fights, even death, which creates even bigger problems for you to deal with.
Some hens tend to get broody after laying eggs, and that’s all alright if you’re looking for fertilized eggs. If your goal is to eat the eggs, then this is a habit you need to break.
You can calm broody birds by:
Not giving her time to nest
Broody birds usually set up a nest in a dark spot inside the coop, away from the common areas. These are usually the nesting boxes, built into most of our coops.
If you’ve noticed a hen has started isolating herself from the rest, gaining a preference for quiet places away from the crowd, she may be brooding.
Take her out from the nest and encourage her to hang out with the rest of the flock by offering treats. If she doesn’t budge, carry her outside for walks. Yes, a broody bird can draw blood, but there are some things you can do to make her more cooperative, and less territorial.
You may need gloves to handle such a bird, as she’s likely not to come out very easily the first few times. Remember, her hormones will be triggering her to head back to her nest, so you have to keep up with the removal/treating process.
Taking down the nest
Take out the eggs and seal off her new favorite spot with fencing wire.
This won't allow the broody hen to get to it. Over time and after several failed attempts to get back to her nest, she may ultimately give up, and return to her regular poultry routine. Be sure to identify all her nests, including past ones, and shut them down because she can easily switch nests.
Putting cold water into the nest
If nothing has worked so far, this may do it for you.
A frozen water bottle under the nest can dissuade a broody hen from spending any more time nesting. This is very uncomfortable to her naturally warm rear, and she'll probably react with disdain for the cold interjection.
This method should preferably be implemented on warm sunny days because if it’s cold outside, you can seriously harm the bird by placing something frozen in such an intimate spot. A cool bath on the underside of a brooding hen can work just as well if the frozen water seems a bit too harsh. Remember, she's expecting to feel warm eggs underneath her rump, not cold water.
Sending her to jail
Solitary confinement works wonders on broody hens.
When they just won’t let go of the nest, a chicken jail should get the job done. This ‘jail’ should be suspended at an elevation so that it becomes drafty and uncomfortable.
This is essentially a sturdy, bedding-free wire cage. Similar to a wire dog kennel, or something that's just uncomfortable and cage-like, it may be just what they need to get with the program.
Your hen won’t like to brood in this position, and hopefully, the jail will be enough to get her out. If she still goes back to the nest after a day, some more time in the cage is in order.
Let her out once a day to see if the habit is broken. This is punishment, so leave her in there most of the day (except when you let her out to check if the habit is finished). Remember, you're fighting against her instincts and mother nature. It's essential to keep consistent until the behavior stops.
Avoiding overly broody breeds altogether
Every breed can be broody, but some more broody than others.
Silkies, for example, are the very definition of broody hens, and they may not be the ideal species for a farmer that’s all about the eggs and not the chicks. I know, its too bad because they're so fluffy and beautiful.
But as the saying goes, you can't always get what you want. Some are physically beautiful, while others have beautiful personalities. Sure, sometimes you'll get both in a single hen - but more often you're going to have to sacrifice something.
Of course, if you don't have a rooster in your flock - then your Silkies will have a hormonal cycle you'll just have to get used to. Hens produce unfertilized eggs, regardless if there's a rooster around, so this brooding is a part of their nature. You can work some of the broodiness out, but at the end of the day, Silkies are going to be more broody than Polish hens.
That's just how it is.
However, it may be helpful to keep one or two Silkies around for hatching purposes. This ensures continuity without spending too much on buying & raising young poultry.
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