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Nearly-broody hen

Hidden eggsIn early March, one of our Cuckoo Marans kept ending up in the garden in the morning.  At first, I just focused on the scratching damage and didn't think through how she was getting there, but then I realized she was walking through the barn during her morning constitutional.  A little later, I discovered that the garden was just a waypoint and that her main goal was to lay an egg in a busted straw bale inside the barn itself.

This seemed like broody behavior to me, so even though I blocked off the exit to the garden, I kept letting the hen tromp through the barn.  In fact, I even put a waterer and a dish of food beside the nest to make things easier.

Now and then, I'd catch the hen sitting on the eggs, but she didn't seem willing to fully commit --- I was just as likely to see her out with the main flock in the woods.  I let the eggs build up until there were about twenty there, at which point Mark brought some in for our breakfast.  Then Lucy broke into the barn and ate the rest --- bad dog!
Hen sitting on nest
I'm not sure whether, if we'd provided a better spot, our hen might have fully made the switch into broodiness, or if she was just enjoying laying her daily egg somewhere quiet and warm.  We're still batting 0 with this broody hen project, so I'd love to hear about the accommodations you make for broody hens if you've had more success.

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I just candled some eggs that I have a broody hen sitting on and thought I'd share my first broody hen experience. I read Ussery's book and of course always keep abreast of your two blogs, and share your interest in a self sustaining flock that will hatch eggs without much help from me, meaning no incubator. I have a flock of 9 speckled sussex and 1 kraienkoeppe. I got a couple kraienkoeppes in my last chick order because Harvey Ussery recommended them for their very reliable broodiness. They are also very cold hearty and lay very well in the winter, and it gets to -20*F here in northern NY. In January the kraienkoeppe (I just have one left after hawk attacks) went broody. It was too cold here to let her set, so I broke up her broodiness by isolating her with the rooster for 3 days with no nest box. His concentrated attention successfully ended her broody behavior, when we let her out she stopped sitting in the nest all day and night. Then two weeks ago she went broody again. I went into the coop at night and moved her into an area I sectioned off with chicken wire and put her on a nest of golf balls. I waited for a day and found she was dutifully setting. At night I switched the balls for eggs I had been collecting for hatching. I only put 10 eggs under her based on the breeds small body size. Today is day 10 and I candled the eggs this morning. This is the first time I have candled eggs so I'm not 100% positive of the results, but it looks promising. In 9 eggs I saw veins and a nice air pocket and a dark mass. In one egg I had no air pocket and a uniform translucent color. I got rid of that egg and am assuming the others are all good. I wasn't able to see the pulsating of the heart beating like Ussery says you should be able to see at this stage. My eggs are light brown and I'm not sure my LED headlamp was bright enough to see that much detail though. So anyway, thats my broody hen experience so far, I'll give an update after hatch day.
Comment by Dave V. terribly early Friday morning, April 5th, 2013
Dave V. --- Fascinating! It sounds like you're doing a lot better job with a broody hen than I am --- Kraienkoeppe might be worth a try here too! Please do check back and let me know how your hatch pans out.
Comment by anna at lunch time on Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Dave V. --- Somehow I deleted your fascinating followup comment --- drat! For those following along at home, Dave had 8 of the eggs hatch, but they popped out a bit before he'd planned, so he hadn't prepped the nest box so the chicks could easily get in and out. Four hopped out and died of cold before he found them. :-/ That's a lot like our own experience with broody hens, and makes me think that someone could probably make a top-notch broody-hen box to solve the problem. I'll have to talk to Mark about that.... :-)
Comment by anna at lunch time on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Just a quick followup: As good a mom as the Krienkoppe was, I processed her this year with the meat chickens. She went broody 4 times and was very stubborn to break up. During that time she laid no eggs, and crowded the nest boxes. I just don't need that broody of a hen. I obtained 2 one year old Chanteclers in late spring. Both of them dutifully went broody a couple weeks later. I did the same routine with the golf balls and then some real eggs I saved. They were good setters and communally raised a brood of 24. They are pretty good layers but kind of scrawny for eating later in life. That's OK though, They only went broody once so they have earned a spot in next years broody lineup. Twice would be OK too, but more than that begins to get hard to manage.
Comment by Dave V. terribly early Tuesday morning, November 26th, 2013

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