Broody hen starving herself?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by attilathehen, May 26, 2016.

  1. attilathehen

    attilathehen Out Of The Brooder

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    I've heard that first time brooders can sometimes brood themselves to death - by refusing water or food as they brood. I believe this is happening to one of my birds.

    She's been broody almost a month, beyond a normal broody period, and this is her first brood. She's under a year old, and we don't have roosters, so she's sitting on unfertilized eggs that we regularly remove. Until today I assumed she'd been eating, but now I'm beginning to suspect she hasn't. I just pulled her out of the nest box, and something is wonky. She was in there with another of our broody birds who, upon removal, was a bit sluggish, but eventually perked up, ate and drank, and then marched back into the box. So in other words, our other brooder is acting like her normal broody self, and I'm not worried (she broods every spring). But something is off for the bird in question. Upon her removal I realized she was practically skin and bones, very very pale waddles. She sort of swayed around, looked dizzy, then fell back down. It was clear something was wrong with her. (Normally my husband pulls her out, so I have no idea how long she's been like this. I think she must have just recently crossed a critical threshold or he'd have noticed, he isn't one to ignore signs.) I removed her from the flock, put her in a bin with hay, food and water, and set her up in my heated bathroom. I looked her over, no other signs of disease or illness. I mixed up an electrolyte solution, and squirted it into her beak. That squirting encouraged a swallowing reflex and I got a couple syringes of electrolytes into her. But she is still refusing food. (I've tempted her with fruit, oats, a little cornmeal with bacon grease mixed in, a bit of salmon... she refuses it all.) She is still acting lethargic, but perhaps a little less lethargic after the electrolytes? My questions are:

    1. If this is indeed broody behavior, is there anything else I could do to encourage her to eat or drink? (I don't have skills or interest in tube feeding.) Or do I just keep her away from the nest box, push electrolytes, and hope for the best?

    2. Am I correct to assume this is the result of her starving herself while sitting on eggs? I didn't see any signs of parasites or worms or mites. I may give her a mite dusting just to be sure. I'm also considering giving her a little "spa" treatment - a soak in epsom salts. Any other ideas? I routinely add apple cider vinegar to the water, and our other birds seem healthy. No signs of worms or mites. Plus our other broody bird was squeezed in there with her, and totally normal. So I think it likely she's just been brooding for too long. Just wondering if there is something obvious to look for. I've had an egg bound bird before, this seems different.

    3. Has anybody else had experience with a broody bird who starved herself? If so, were you able to turn it around and save the bird?

    Thanks for any input! I'll update this thread with any changes. If nothing else, maybe it will be helpful to somebody else!
     
  2. nchls school

    nchls school Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have never had a broody starve when brooding. I suspect that something else is going on with the hen. Definitely lock her away from the nest box. Possibly vitamins and all the healthy treats she can eat. Monitor weight gain. I believe you will find another cause for her condition.
     
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I've never had a broody starve herself to death, but brooding is very hard on the body, and unremitting brooding with no reward is pointless. Every broody hen seems to lose quite a bit of body condition. Personally, I think that's one of the reasons birds don't nurse their young, the brooding period takes too much out of them. But I digress, sorry.....

    I would keep her in the equivalent of a broody buster, sounds like where you have her is good. I'm ambivalent on the heated indoor part, that may not be necessary, but that's your judgement call. Otherwise, she may be a bit dehydrated. Don't worry about food intake as much as fluids. I wouldn't push the syringe fluids too much, she should come around and drink on her own. My broodies always act like zombies if I take them off the nest. When they stagger off themselves they're much more normal acting.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2016
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  4. attilathehen

    attilathehen Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for the input. She still won't drink on her own, but is certainly pepping up. I'm beginning to suspect the issue may be that she grew too weak to access the food or water. (Our nest boxes are "upstairs" and the food is "downstairs.") It's the strangest thing. I keep trying to identify other potential issues - but this is just different from anything I've dealt with in the past.
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    The most famous words in out culture are, "but it's never happened before!" Therefore, that renders as an impossibility of it happening? If you are dealing with a given such as the sun and moon rising and setting, sure, but when you are dealing with living beings who are each unique, we shouldn't expect them all to behave identically.

    You caught your broody in time, hopefully, and she will be back to normal in good time. But it's pointless to let a broody hen sit on unfertilized eggs, given the toll it takes on her body. Many of us believe we are doing the best thing for our chickens when we curtail the broody hormones at the onset by utilizing the broody-breaking cage as long as we don't desire chicks. Two nights and three days in the cage, on average, and the hen is back to normal, no worse for it.

    But to let a broody occupy a nest, day in and day out, even past the normal three weeks of brooding, is a waste and does no one any good, least of all the broody. I hope you will consider making it a practice from here on to break your broodies instead of letting them wreck their health.
     
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  6. acrabby1

    acrabby1 Just Hatched

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    i have a Sicilian BC that has gone broody, she was laying an egg every day. But has not laid one in two days. I have tried soaking her... she returns to the nest after she dries... and I have blocked access to the nest box. She sits outside it in pout posture... Bristles and flares her wings and gives me the angry clucking when I approach... Going on 4 days now... any other break tips I can try?
     
  7. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    To break a brooding hen you need to take away nesting material and their access to it. Putting a broody on hay in heated bathroom is keeping a broody indoors without eggs. It is counter productive. When people dunk hens in water they are attempting to cool their jets so to speak. Get the nether region colder in hopes it breaks the brooding. How well that works is debatable and it all comes down to how soon you catch the brooding. In first day or two it's easy to break most birds by simply continue taking them off the nest and putting in run. If you've missed the first day or the hen is sticking to it the best method is a container to isolate and keep the bird from nesting. Wire bottom crates are best but I've broken in the large plastic pet carriers. No bedding and put out in the sun. Light and no nesting material will break the bird. With wire bottom cages placing them on blocks for added air flow under them speeds up the process. Keep feed and water in with them and don't let them out until they are pacing around the container and no longer sitting. It usually takes three days. Well, two day but if you let them out too soon they can regress to brooding so an extra day from when you first notice them no longer in brood mode.
     
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  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    How's she doing today?
     
  9. attilathehen

    attilathehen Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for the feedback. I moved her outside this morning, and she took a turn for the worse. If she were simply broody, I'd understand not wanting to keep her in a heated area. But this really isn't about the broodiness. It's what the broodiness has caused. I'm not optimistic that she will recover. However I think I've solved the mystery. I'm almost certain at this point that her extended broodiness led her to develop a sour crop. I chatted with several friends at the university where I work, who are ornithologists and have a lot of experience rehabilitating sick and injured birds. I confirmed that when a bird goes broody for too long they become dehydrated, and the likelihood that a sour crop will develop increases because digestion slows down. While my bird's crop wasn't hard or overly full, I'm almost positive things are sour in there. Either from some kind of an impaction (eating grass that was too long) or just digestion that was slowed down due to her malnutrition and dehydration (or a combination of both things). I was able to help her vomit, by holding her and carefully tipping her forward, and massaging her crop - giving her proper intervals to breathe. I actually inadvertently made her vomit when I moved her this morning, which tipped me off to the crop issue. It had the characteristic water balloon feel of sour crop, but was well hidden. She became quite vocal after her first vomit, and I've helped her vomit several more times. But she isn't pepping up. I can't get any yogurt or anything more solid than a liquid into her at this point. I'm so frustrated I didn't recognize the crop issue sooner. The broodiness really confounded me, and I was so busy looking for mites or worms that I didn't think to really probe the crop too much. And since it wasn't overly bulging, it didn't stick out. Anyhow. I feel pretty rotten about it all. At this point I'm hesitant to push any additional fluids into her, since I know that won't help. I don't have access to any anti-fungal treatments, and I've been pretty unsuccessful with the yogurt. I did learn that as a last ditch effort red wine can help? I figure at this point, can't hurt. I gave her a tiny bit in a syringe, but I'm really not optimistic. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for a miracle. I'm somewhat relieved to have connected some of the pieces here, since I know it isn't some disease likely to kill my other birds. I'm hopeful that somebody else may come upon this thread and find it helpful!
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I'm curious....why did you let her brood so long without eggs to hatch?

    And more for others who might view this thread in the future.......if you don't want them to hatch out eggs, break them of their broodiness asap.
    It can be a pain to do, but much easier and safer for the bird than allowing them to set for no reason so long that they might become ill..
     

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