Broody hen won't eat or drink

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by My1stChickens, Dec 22, 2015.

  1. My1stChickens

    My1stChickens Out Of The Brooder

    May 16, 2015
    I have a nine month old cream legbar who is the problem du jour. I saw her go in early in the morning, and assumed it was to lay an egg. I was cleaning the coop, changing waters etc so was there to observe that my bully RIR went and took over that particular nest box-- and Agnes left and I figured no big deal. Late afternoon, I went to gather eggs and throw scratch-- and Agnes was in a different nest box. I thought it was odd that she has waited ALL DAY to return to lay her egg. Then at dark, when I went to close the door, she's still in there. I tried to gently evict her but she was adamant about staying. I'd push her out, she'd flap and flop and come back in. Eventually I just let her stay, since it was now dark and there was not a good empty spot on the roost where we would not risk being pecked.

    Figured by morning's light she'd be out eating, ready for me to open the door to the pen. Wrong. She just wants to be in that box. I put her outside, she came back to the box. She was a little wobbly/unsteady. The rooster was very concerned, circling her and making little noises-- too cute. I separated her with food and water, and she just sat there. Came in to google and search broodiness, foul crop, etc etc then went back out and carefully examined her in the bright sunshine.. Empty crop, wet/dirty belly, red comb but with a little bit of ashy stuff. No mites. No sign of being egg bound. No injuries. But pretty limp/lethargic.

    At this point I brought her into the house to get her away from the nesting boxes, and warm/safe. I washed her dirty spots, and towel dried. She's in the shower (with a door) on a towel. No interest in scrambled eggs, lettuce, layer pellets or crumbles. Or water.

    Gave it a few hours, then put the above food in some water with electrolytes and vitamins, and ran it through a blender. Wrapped Ms Agnes in a towel, and tried to put some down her throat with a pipette. She lost her lethargy and was pretty energetic in objecting to this process. I got her to drink/swallow a tiny bit, and got quite a bit on myself and her towel. So she's spending the night, in the dark quiet shower stall, on a towel. She has fresh water and that soupy mix. She's just sitting there, in the roosting position.

    How long can she go without eating and drinking? I'm a little worried about forcing her to drink, in case I accidentally get it in her trachea.

    I sure hope she's perkier in the morning. Really need her to eat and drink. Any suggestions?
  2. roryanddean

    roryanddean Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 22, 2015
    I would say just put electrolytes in the water, that way if she does drink any, it will keep her more hydrated. If you do end up forcing her to drink, again add electrolytes or sugar to give her more energy but not to much. Hope she's better by morning!
  3. RunamuckRanch

    RunamuckRanch New Egg

    Dec 22, 2015
    It is possible that she's wanting to sit & hatch babies. Keep an eye on her for another day or two, just in case something else is wrong
  4. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    If she's cranky when you disturb her, she's likely broody.
    A broody hen will go into a trance and sit day and night only coming off the nest once a day, if that, to eat, drink and defecate. That's what they do. They aren't using much energy so don't need more than a cropfull of food each day.

    If you have fertile eggs and want chicks, just put marked eggs under her and return her to the coop. You mark the eggs so you can remove any volunteered by other hens later.

    If you don't want chicks, you need to break her broodiness. The tried and true proven method is to suspend the bird in a wire bottom cage with food and water so cool air can reach the underside. As long as they can sit on a solid surface keeping their bottom warm, they'll stay broody.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Before a hen even starts to lay eggs she stores up excess fat. If you ever butcher a laying hen you’ll see what I mean. That extra fat is mostly what a broody hen lives on while broody. They will lose a lot of weight while broody but that’s just the extra fat put there for that purpose. How fast they use up that fat depends on how much they eat and drink when they come off the nest. In colder temperatures I’ve seen a hen come off once a day for about 15 minutes to eat, drink, and poop. In the heat of summer I’ve seen a broody come off twice a day and spend more than an hour at a time off the nest. They all have pretty good hatches.

    Like Canoe said, if you want her to hatch mark some fertile eggs and put them under her. If you don’t want her to hatch, the sooner you break her the less fat she’ll use up so she should return to laying sooner.
  6. rebrascora

    rebrascora Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    I'm afraid I think your young pullet may be sick and is seeking sanctuary in the nest box rather than wanting to brood.
    You say that she is unsteady on her feet and that rings alarm bells with me as she is the right age to be vulnerable to Marek's disease. Another possibility is that she is egg bound although you have checked for that. Has she actually started laying eggs yet and if so, how many? It's unlikely she would go broody if she has only laid one or two eggs or hasn't actually started yet. It's also not a good time of year if you are in the northern hemisphere and a novice broody hen of that tender an age is unlikely to be very successful in winter, so might be worth breaking her and hoping that she will become broody at a more appropriate time of year

    Another possibility is that she has been kept from the food and water for some time by a bully hen and her system is shutting down,,,, that would also make her wobbly on her feet. Has she pooped and if so, what is it like. Broody poops are huge disgustingly smelly dollops. If you get one of those I will be very pleased to hear it, but my concern is that you will get a thin watery poop, possibly white or green.
    I've had hens that were at deaths door fight me with amazing strength when trying to feed and treat them, so don't let that in itself fool you into thinking she is well. Check her condition. Can you feel her keel bone and is it sharp or reasonably well covered? If sharp, that's another indication that she's ill rather than just broody.

    Really hope I'm wrong, but there's something in your post that just doesn't sound right to me.

    Good luck with her either way.

    Watching a broody hen raise chicks is the best chicken entertainment there is, so I hope you get to experience it.

    Best wishes

  7. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I'm also thinking you might post in the Emergencies/Diseases section. This really does not sound like a broody hen to me. My broodies are always voracious eaters when they're off the nest. If I take them off, it does take them a few minutes to come out of their broody trance, but then their behavior is normal or more aggressive than their baseline, not lethargic and uninterested in food or water. This does not sound like typical broody behavior to me.
  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Spring Dreaming Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    She doesn't sound right, I might try some antibiotics or even something for cociddiosis, with being wet and dirty, she's probably in the nestboxes because she can be left alone to sit.
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I would take her back to the flock. I think you create more problems than you solve when you bring them in the house. Of course the biggest problem would be my Hubby. However, you change their environment is highly stressful to a chicken, plus the change in temperature.

    If she is not coughing or snotty, then I would leave her with the flock. I would also just give her water and food, and not force it down her throat. That has to be highly stress the bird, and if she is sick, that is not good, and if she is not sick, you may very well injure her in the struggle or by introducing foreign material into her lungs.

    It sounds to me that she may be thinking about going broody, but has not gotten there full tilt. If this is her first time, this is common. They seem to consider it for a couple of days, not quite high enough hormonal switch to push them into full broody mode. As to the wobbly walk, mine often exhibit that when I first get them off the nest. They stagger around looking confused, then sort of snap out of the trance, and start walking normally. I think they are just stiff from being in the same pose for so long. Their combs do lose their color when they are broody.

    It would be an unusual time of year for her to go broody, but in reality, there is no saying the broody gods.

    I think you are over treating the problem. I could be wrong, but I don't think so from your description, it sounds like a young hen going broody for the first time. Either break her, or give her eggs. Mine raise their chicks in the flock, last year I hatched chicks out in October, and she kept them warm and alive through -20 degrees. Maybe only give her 3-5 eggs, as it is winter and this is her first time.

    Mrs K
    1 person likes this.
  10. My1stChickens

    My1stChickens Out Of The Brooder

    May 16, 2015

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