Broody hen missing/hiding

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Bethany86, Dec 20, 2013.

  1. Bethany86

    Bethany86 Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi everyone- I'm hoping to pick your brain for some chicken wisdom. A few weeks ago I found a 'secret nest' in my garden. There was around 30 eggs in there that belonged to Delilah (my Wyandotte bantam whom I thought was not laying). Since removing the eggs she laid once in the nesting box and then never again so I was assuming there was another secret nest hidden somewhere. On Wednesday evening Delilah didn't return to her coop with her sisters- I couldn't find her anywhere. I thought she had escaped my yard and started putting up lost notices in my street. On Friday she re-appeared in my garden to have a quick feed then disappeared again. I've come to the conclusion that she's gone broody and is hidden away somewhere. I should note that there is no rooster in my flock of 3. I guess the obvious answer is to find her hidden nest although after several attempts I have failed. I'm worried about her out there at night. If I do find her how do I stop her being broody and teach her to lay in the coop? Also, how long does a hen remain broody? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. LRH97

    LRH97 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It is likely that she has a nest hidden somewhere if she has come back and disappeared again. If she is broody, I would keep her separate from the others. She will not be concerned with anything but protecting her nest and hatching eggs. Something like a dog crate works fine. I keep my broody girls in a dog crate in the garage on some newspaper and just leave the door open so they can walk out and use the potty and stretch whenever they need to. Make sure the area isn't very busy and kind of dimly lit, like in a corner. It takes an average of 21 days to hatch chicks, give or take a few days. Good mothering hens stay broody until it is obvious that her eggs will not hatch. I had a hen who hatched out only one chick out of six eggs. She sat on those eggs for about a week after the one chick hatched. (It was my first hatch, so I really didn't know when to remove the unhatched eggs.)
     
  3. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    If you can catch her when she is out and about, keep her locked up for a little while and then let her go... they will usually head pretty much straight back to the hidden nest... though if you just want to go ahead and break her of being broody you don't really have to find the nest.
    Broodys can go on quite awhile, months, if you don't keep them off the nest, they don't just stop at three weeks, you usually have to "break" them of being broody. For broody breakers I usually just use a wire dog crate, size doesn't really matter, bottom wire spacing is usually around 1x4". I put a couple of perches in there and hang small food/water dishes on the sides so they can't stand or sit in them. I like to put the crate out in the open, I tend to put them in the middle of the barn aisle or coop so there is a lot of activity and light. They don't like to walk on the wire so they spend pretty much all the time on the perches, that works pretty well for most of them. Some people have mentioned putting a small fan under them to cool them off even more.
    Once she is stopped being broody it will take a couple of weeks or months for her to start laying again, longer if she goes into molt. To make her lay in the coop you really need to keep her locked in the coop until she gets back in the habit. Make sure the nest boxes are inviting and nice etc. Hidden nests are always a problem with free range chickens and you can never stop some of them from trying to hide nests. One thing I have done is to put decoy hidden nests outside in places where I think they will want to hide nests and just collect eggs out of them as usual (leave a fake egg or two in there), this keeps most of the wanna-hide-a-nest hens happy and if one does go broody, I know exactly where she is.
     
  4. Bethany86

    Bethany86 Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 14, 2013
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thanks for the advice. Delilah came out for a feed and I spied on her until she finally returned to the hidden nest. I feel guilty taking her off of it. Maybe I should purchase some fertile eggs and pop them under her in the coop..?
     
  5. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    If you want to try putting fertile eggs under her, I would move her to the coop first and see if she sticks. Some hens will break if you move them to another place. When you move her / lock her in the coop, she will probably try and get back out and go to her old nest and throw quit a fuss when she can't get out, she may settle down and try brooding in a nest in the coop, or she may just eventually quit.
     
  6. Bethany86

    Bethany86 Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 14, 2013
    Melbourne, Australia
    Hi Kelsie- I took Delilah off her best tonight and have put her back in the coop. She's quite upset and is calling out. I feel really sorry for the poor girl. I left one of her eggs in the nesting box of her coop. If she's sitting on it in the morning I might consider purchasing some fertile eggs for her. My question is though, if I was to sit her on some fertile eggs in my coop, what about the other two girls? Would Delilah be worried by them? Is it better to create a 'maternity coop' for her where she could raise her chicks separately or is it possible for them all to get along in the same coop. They're only in the coop at night.
     
  7. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    Imprison her in a fine mesh wire cage hung from a celling and give her some food and water inside the cage. The open floor of her new quarters will break her in no time.

    Use her chickeness against her. This means that you must be on hand the next time she decides to come off her nest to feed, usually every third day. When she comes off the nest again watch her from afar. After eating and drinking she will lead you back to her nest. It is best if you pretend not to watch her. The safer she feels about going back to her nest the quicker she will return. Flanking her from afar is better than following in her foot steps.

    After she is back on her nest, only look for her as hard as necessary to pen down the nest's exact location. After it is good and dark, return with a torch and scoop up your hen while she is quite blind and helpless from the dark. Use the torch only sparingly. Don't forget to carry a sack or something to collect the eggs in. Dispose of the eggs in a way so that your other hens won't get the idea that a hen's egg is a good treat to eat.

    Now put her in the swinging wire cage. I understand that you have some big snakes down there. So it is best if you proceed slowly with haste.

    I have found that many times when my game hens hides her nest that she will fly the last 50-200 feet when she returns. This can only be to keep from laying down a scent trail back to her nest. So be prepared to keep her in sight if she takes wing.

    Good luck.
     
  8. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    It can be done both ways, especially if the broody is a dominant hen the other hens usually won't bother the chicks. I prefer to keep them at least a little separate, rather than in a nesting box in the regular coop, just so I don't have to worry about other hens laying eggs in the same box or hens stomping over the eggs or chicks etc. I like to keep them separate for a few days at least to be sure the chicks are doing ok. But the broodys I use pretty much will sit where ever you put them once they are broody, so I don't worry that much about moving them etc. If she is sitting in a box the other hens don't use that should work fine. If not, if you can separate her in the same coop/area so they can still see and interact with her (and potential chicks) that Is probably what I would do, you shouldn't have to worry about integrating them later that way either.
     

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