Advice wanted: breaking up the part-time broody

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by LAFreewayChickens, Jun 8, 2011.

  1. LAFreewayChickens

    LAFreewayChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    So we have a wheaten americauna who has been a part-time broody for about 5 months.

    Since she has never had the persistence to stay in the nest for more than a few hours (during the day), it took us a while to figure out why she wasn't laying, and moreover there have been no real health impacts, since she gets plenty of food, water and exercise.

    Is she really broody? Well, she stopped laying for no other apparent reason, she was sleeping in the nesting boxes, she mutters to herself constantly, and has to watch and be nearby while the other hen is laying. She was spending hours at a time in the nest boxes, which i was originally naive enough to think meant she was making a good effort at laying.

    So here's the issue. Everything I've heard suggests that putting her in a broody breaker (e.g., rabbit) cage, elevated off the ground, perhaps with a fan underneath is the most likely way to break up a broody. (I hear putting rooster in helps, but we haven't got one of those).

    Unfortunately, while I am a little bit of a softy, she is at least as much of a pet to my daughters as a laying hen (well right now she is ONLY a pet). And so when I have tried locking her up, there is outrage and civil disobedience, which is to say they let her out and get mad at me. (So culling her is out of the question).

    I have tried some halfway measures to try to cool off her broody instincts. Now the bottom of our laying boxes are a wide metal mesh with no nesting material (which works fine for the hen who is still laying). She sleeps on the roost now, and has for months.

    We've also tried conceding to her maternal instincts (albeit alternating in a no doubt confusing way with efforts to keep her from nesting). We gave her fertile eggs to sit on in hopes that they would either hatch and she'd complete the whole cycle and start laying again, or that she would keep being a flaky PT broody but realize that "her" eggs were no longer viable, and decide to get on with the business of laying. She sat on them for about 30 minutes before she got bored and hoped off. She was on and off intermittently after that, until we decided we'd better toss them before they broke and stank up the coop.

    Then there was the time we got our new chicks. I locked her in the rabbit cage with nesting material and fake eggs, and then put the chicks under her at night. She seemed to do fine at first, but by first light she had killed one and they rest were rescued and sent to the brooder in the house.

    So we feel we've given her chances to be a mother, but she's just not very good at it.

    I've tried dipping her up to her neck in cold water when the kids aren't home (SHHHH, don't tell!) but that hasn't done the trick, either.

    The main problem with the broody breaker cage is that we (especially kids & wife) can't see any sign that it is working. They have to take that on faith.

    Have any of you all had success breaking up a part-time broody like this (especially after months of PT broodiness)? If so what worked and how long did it take? Any signs along the way?

    What are the odds that she will eventually cool off and stop brooding on her own (given that she's in southern CA and started brooding in mid January)?

    I'd love for her to stop muttering and start laying again. She's driving me a bit crazy. [​IMG] HELP!
  2. dretd

    dretd Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 14, 2009
    Ft Collins, CO
    Someone once told me they used those freezable little blue jobbies that you put in with lunches. They would put a frozen one or two in the nest (as egg replacers) and it worked for them. Never tried it myself, just passing on the info.
  3. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Gosh - I've never had a PT broody. I've had a full blown broody, and I've had hens "consider" going broody for a day or two, but that's it. For my full time broody, I spent a weekend "guarding" the coop. I kept the run door closed so she couldn't get inside (except at night when I'd place her on the roost after dark), but had to be on guard so I could let the others in to use the next boxes.
    Are you SURE she's a layer? What I mean is, was she laying before, so you would recognize her egg (or lack thereof) among the others'?
  4. LAFreewayChickens

    LAFreewayChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    I've heard of the ice pack treatment.

    The problem is she's broken up enough that she doesn't sit in the nesting boxes (or at least not very often), and I don't want to encourage her.

    Her present symptoms are only 1) constant muttering, 2) not laying, 3) an undue interest in what others are doing in the nesting box.

    BTW, I did ask me youngest daughter, who fancies herself a chicken whisperer, to tell the hen it was time to stop being broody and start laying again. No effect yet...

    And yes, she laid for about a month before she stopped. She's an ameraucana and our other layer lays brown eggs, so there is no doubt. And she isn't hiding them anywhere either.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2011
  5. LAFreewayChickens

    LAFreewayChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Maybe I should add that when she was young she had a nutritional deficiency which caused her toes to curl. When we got her, we were able to improve her diet and get the toes almost entirely straightened out.

    But my wife now wonders if her brain was addled when she was nutritionally challenged.

    Anyway, I welcome any advice. She drives me crazy.

    Any thoughts about diet to help stop broodiness? I know they say corn causes hens to heat up and can cause broodiness. Anything to feed them to cool them off?


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