Monday, June 20, 2011
Broody, Or Just Missing Mamma?
While I was in TX, My Skippy Man was so sweet. He would call to let me know how he and my precious babies were doing. He said Pheobe and Snickers would run to the door when he came home, giving wags and kisses, but then would run to the door looking for me. When he would go to bed, they would lay facing the door, waiting for me to come in. AWW!!
A couple of days later, he called and told me that the chickens were missing me too. He said Gena misses you so much, she won't get out of her box. Now you must remember, this is our first time/year raising chickens, so there are lots of things we have not experienced yet.
Well, Gena really wasn't missing Mamma, she is what they call, "broody." A broody hen is a hen who has decided it is time to sit on the nest and hatch a few eggs. If you are breeding your chickens, this is a vital for incubating a nest full of eggs, but if you are raising hens for the just the eggs, a broody hen can disrupt the entire coop's laying cycle.
You can tell a hen is broody when she starts to linger in her usually nesting box longer than usual. She may seem to be in a trance-like state, she may peck your hand, or put her back up in a threatening manner, or may even squawk at you. If you go back into the house at night and she is still sitting in her box and not roosting with the others, there is an excellent chance she is broody. A broody hen is very single-minded, wanting to sit on eggs constantly whether the eggs are fertilized or not. Hens when broody will sometimes pull out breast feathers to feather the nest and even become aggressive to anyone who comes near the nest box. I have to say I am very thankful, as Gena is still as sweet as she can be during this time. She has cooed (sp?) a couple of times, but has never gotten aggressive with me, even when I put my hand underneath to gather her eggs.
Incubating a nest of eggs for 3 weeks is physically demanding on a hen, as they will only leave the nest for a few minutes each day to eat, drink, and relieve themselves. If they don't, you will have to remove them from the nest and bring them to the food and water. A few minutes off the eggs will not harm them, it just can't be too long, or the eggs will cool down and the embryos will not survive. However, it is imperative that we take special care of our hens during this time, because if we don't, they too can die!
If you are breeding chickens, a broody hen is vital for incubating a nest full of eggs. If you are raising chickens to harvest the eggs only, a broody hen can disrupt the laying cycle of the whole coop. In either case, recognizing a brooding hen is useful for the success of your flock!
Will a little extra TLC given to your sweet hen, you will reap the rewards and have a few precious little baby chicks running around your yard!
Some of the information in this post was found on The Modern Homestead