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Broody Hen w/Diarrhea - Update

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by Barry Natchitoches, Jan 17, 2010.

  1. Barry Natchitoches

    Barry Natchitoches Songster

    Sep 4, 2008
    Some of you may remember my postings here concerning my (then) nine month old buff orpington broody who had really bad diarrhea during her entire setting.

    I have always read that you set up a safe place for them to set, isolated from other chickens that can mess with the broody or her eggs. We live in a city so we don't have alot of options as to where to set up a special maternity home, so we set her up in a large dog cage inside a spare bedroom.

    She would not poop unless we moved her out of the dog cage, so it became a nightly ritual to set up a huge piece of cardboard in the bathroom and then move her in there to "do her thing." Within a few minutes, she would release a large amount of brown, watery diarrhea. We'd clean her up with baby wipes, and return her to her nest and eggs.

    She had an egg explode under her twice -- on day six, and again on day 17. Yet she remained a good little broody, and ended up hatching two healthy fuzzy butts. Because of her chronic diarrhea, we removed the chicks as soon as they emerged from underneath her, and raised them in a brooder apart from their nest mother.

    Because she did not have her chicks, she remained broody for awhile. We gave her neomycin, children's imodium, apple cyder vinegar with mother, and electrolytes -- and none of it cured her diarrhea. We finally dewormed her, even though The Chicken Health Handbook said diarrhea due to worms would look different than hers did. But none of that helped her diarrhea.

    Meantime, she stayed broody well into the fourth, fifth and even sixth week. We gave her an egg to sit on, and would change it once a week because the last thing we needed was yet another baby chick.

    Finally, we didn't figure anything would help, and we were getting ourselves ready for the eventual loss of such a wonderful little hen. It was sad to think we could loose her, but what else could we do?

    That is when the bitter Arctic winter storm came our way. We live in Memphis, and we just do not build structures to handle zero degree weather (below zero wind chills). We had Momma's first clutch living in a chicken tractor with a screen porch and only a 250 watt heat lamp -- absolutely no way the birds could survive the record breaking cold temps of that storm. They had to be moved into the big henhouse with its two flat panel heaters, but this meant that we had to move Momma's dog cage into the big henhouse since the younger birds could not be allowed to eat the older hens layer pellets.

    That meant that we had to put Momma in a large box. My six year old suggested that we put that box in the living room, next to the two baby chicks that Momma hatched a few weeks ago.

    So that is what we did. That put Momma within earshot of her little chicks, even if she could not actually live with them.

    Then after the extreme cold passed, we got warm enough temps that we decided to put Momma outside in an isolated little patch of ground to dump her daily diarrhea. Truth is, my wife and I were just tired of cleaning it up every day, and we were running out of cardboard for her to mess on. We figured she'd just let it go and then we'd pick her up and put her back in her box. It was only warm around the noon hour at that point, so it was too early to send the older babies back to their tractor and free up Momma's dog cage for her to move back into.

    But a funny thing happened that day we took her out to do her thing outside -- she immediately perked up and started running around and playing. Yes, she released quite a bit of liquid waste product, but you could tell she was genuinely happy to be outdoors. She began to roam around the yard, play in some fallen leaves, peck around for whatever bugs or worms might be around.

    When she was inside, she'd squawk loudly if you didn't return her to her eggs immediately after she pooped.

    But outside, she didn't seem to even think about the egg she left behind. She played and played and played. We decided to let her alone, and just see what happened. She went back over to the little fenced in chicken yard to be near her chicken friends who were playing inside their fenced in pen. We didn't let her go in the yard that day (concerned about the possibility of her transmitting disease to the other hens), but we did let her visit from the other side of the fence.

    She complained when it was time to pick her up and bring her back in, but as soon as we put her in her box, she went back and sat dutifully in her nest, on her egg. As usual, she did not get up out of that nest.

    The next day, we weren't sure what would happen, but we took her outside again to poop and play. That day was warmer, and she spent several hours outside. We decided that day to put her in a little fenced in area of the chicken yard that we built especially for little chicks, to keep them segregated from the larger birds. We figured her older (September born) clutch was big enough to let them play with the older hens for the day, thereby freeing a place for Momma to play near her friends but still segregated from them for disease spreading purposes.

    For the next several days, we put Momma outside as much as we could, in that separate little section of the chicken yard. Near the others, but not integrated with them. She seemed to enjoy her time at play, and would complain when we took her back indoors to her box. (We had to keep her in that box because with the bad weather, we still had both groups of birds living in the single henhouse. There just wasn't a place left to isolate her inside the henhouse with that many birds already in there). She'd squawk when we took her inside, but would settle down and go back to setting on her egg the minute she was put in her box. She would not get off her egg until we picked her up off of it the next day.

    Meantime, an interesting thing began to develop.

    Her diarrhea began to go away! The fourth day she had outdoor time, we started seeing solid poop drops on the ground. There was no poop in the pen before she went in there the first day (we cleaned up any that was on the ground before we let her go in there). And the pen is closed up where no birds or other animals can go in there, except when we open it up to put birds in or get them back out. The ONLY bird who could have dropped those solid droppings was Momma, the FORMERLY diarrheaic hen.

    Once we were sure she was dropping normal poop, we felt we could integrate her back into the larger flock. By that time, the weather was getting warmer as well -- more like normal Memphis winter weather -- and we were able to move the older babies back into the chicken tractor. Once they were moved, we had space to put Momma back into the henhouse -- near her cohort group, but still somewhat isolated from them for precautionary reasons.

    But after another day of solid poop, we decided to merge her completely with the older group of hens. She seemed to want that so badly.

    Tonight, for the first time, she is completely integrated back into her cohort group. She is no longer acting broody, and her diarrhea problem is gone.

    I did read on the net someplace -- it was a reprint of a chicken rearing book published around 1915 or so -- that isolated broodies can get depressed enough to cause diarrhea. But I never found any other source that said that, and I checked veternary sites, two other chicken owner web forums besides this one, and The Chicken Health Book. Not a single one of them even hinted at the possibility that an isolated broody could get so depressed that they would develop severe, chronic diarrhea.

    But this hen did.

    She successfully hatched a clutch before her six month birthday, but that time, we didn't move her out of the regular henhouse until five days before the babies hatched. So I guess she didn't have time to get depressed.

    This time, we moved her within two days of her official "pronouncement" that she was going broody.

    And it seems that -- though we certainly didn't mean for it to happen -- we probably caused her alot of harm doing it.

    I just thought you folks should know this -- in case something like this might happen to a broody of yours some time in the future.

    Edited to add: BTW, the two baby chicks she hatched during this problematic brood are healthy, happy, and living inside the house in a brooder. I'm sorry that we had to pull them away from their nest mother, but we did the best thing we knew to do at the time, and they are doing as well as any store bought chicks do without a nest mom.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2010

  2. Bantimna

    Bantimna Songster

    Sep 29, 2009
    South Africa

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