By: Marieanne Coursen, Agricultural Interpreter
One of our hens has been in a nest box in the chicken house every time I look in. I tied a string to her leg to make sure it was indeed the same hen every time since they all look alike. She definitely appears to be a broody hen, in other words she is done laying eggs for now and wants to “set” or sit on eggs until they hatch. She has that “Do Not Disturb” look about her:
I placed 3 duck eggs under her to help her stay in the mood while I got the broody coop ready. I used duck eggs because we collect the eggs from the nest boxes twice a day so it is easier to remember which eggs to leave alone should the broody hen be off the nest.
Meanwhile the new broody coop was moved to the Lippitt garden.
I left out the wood floor for now because the dampness of the ground is beneficial to the development of the eggs. I chopped some straw nice and short and placed it in the coop. If left long, the straw can get caught on the hen’s feet when she leaves the nest and she could drag the eggs out. Then I hollowed out a spot in the back of the coop and placed three eggs in it. The coop was ready.
The hen must be moved in the dark so that she is more likely to accept the new location. This was rather inconvenient since I am not at work when it is dark but it just so happened that I would be in town last Wednesday evening for dinner. So during the day on Wednesday I dusted Mama hen with Ectiban and that night she was quietly moved to her new location. The Ectiban prevents lice and mites. I sprinkled some in the nest also. In 1845 sulphur was used for this purpose. Chickens like to “dust” or lay in the dirt flapping their wings and rolling around to get the dirt down in their feathers and then shake themselves as their own prevention against parasites.
Unfortunately I would not be back at work again until the following Tuesday, but the hen was in good hands with farmers Wayne and Rick while I was gone. On Thursday
let her out to eat, dust and exercise. She did just that, but instead of going back in to the broody coop, she went back to the henhouse and her old nest box. Wayne had to catch her and put her back in the coop. He decided to leave her in there and put food and water in the coop until I got back. Wayne
This was her probationary period to see if she was really going to stay devoted to the nest and her job as broody hen. Today I am back at work and so I let her out again. When I opened the roof of the coop she was sitting tight to the nest of eggs. I had to chase her off so I would say she is definitely still in broody hen mode. She spent about a half hour eating and dusting. She almost went back to the nest on her own but in the end I had to catch her and put her back. I would prefer that she go back on her own but it may take a few days for her to understand the routine.
She was fun to watch while she was out and about. The had her tail feathers all fluffed up and she had an important, busy air about her, clucking the entire time.
So the plan is that tomorrow I will let her out about the same time again to eat and exercise. While she is busy outside, I will replace the 3 eggs with the 11 eggs I want her to hatch. Then the countdown will begin. Everyday she will be let out of the coop at about the same time and I will make sure she doesn’t stay out more than a half hour – less time if it is really cold. Stay tuned for updates on how it is going with Mama hen and her clutch of eggs!