Monday, January 25, 2010

How to Deal with a Broody Chook

Lizzie has gone broody again. She has taken to fluffing herself up and holding her wings out, so she looks like a big clucky chestnut ball. If not pushed out, she sits in the 'nesting box' all day and growls when you get too close (yes, a growling chicken is as funny as you think). She has even pecked the Geek. Yesterday I heard a weird squawking. I think Annie had managed to lay an egg, proclaimed this feat in the usual manner, and Lizzie had immediately hopped up to boot her out!

The current nesting box is the top of a bag of sugar cane mulch.

In nature, a chook lays a clutch of eggs, then sits on them (the eggs will stay in suspended animation until she starts sitting). She will sit as long as it takes for the eggs to hatch, with only the odd trip to forage, drink and poo, neglecting her own health in the process. She won't lay during this time, either, and in due course the brood of chicks will hatch.

Humans alter this process a bit to suit themselves. If you remove your hen's eggs every day, she never gets a clutch together to sit on. Many breeds are less inclined to broodiness, because we don't need it and we prefer our hens to put their energies into laying most of the year rather than sitting.

Broodiness ought to be discouraged when there are no fertilised eggs to sit on. Hens aren't very bright, and they will sit until they get a result. They can starve themselves or attract parasites, and of course they don't lay while brooding. In our case, the weather can be very hot, and I'm worried about dehydration. You can see that Lizzie is panting in the picture; it's not even 25 C today.

The solution is to isolate the broody hen in an airy, cool spot with no nesting site or material available. In our case, it's the chook dome, as it's not in use at the moment. We've put it under a shady tree and Lizzie is sulking inside it. Poor Annie, bereft of a companion, hangs disconsolately around nearby.

Lizzie had an attack of broodiness in early December and it only took a few days to break the habit. Unfortunately, she's becoming better at getting around the shadecloth door on the dome... not a good habit for her to have!


Cadi's Mum said...

I've got a broody at the moment. The growling is quite comical. I was hoping that she would get over it, but it is getting a bit too long and we are going to have to separate her, I think.

Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

ooooh, thanks for that! I will pass on the info to my parents cause I am missing the farm fresh eggs!

Anonymous said...

One of my girls got a bit broody a few weeks ago. I managed to break her only to have her make and even sneakier nest somewhere else. ....and the growling led me straight to her, yet again.

Anonymous said...

We had terrible trouble with our Pekin bantams when they were broody. One became very aggressive and stayed broody for a month, despite being put in a laundry basket in the shade each day away from the nesting box.

Good luck with Lizzie.


Chookie said...

As soon as temperatures dropped a bit she came back to normal. Hooray!