Broody in Michigan Winter?

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by aart, Jan 15, 2015.

  1. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    So I've got a broody hen...and it's cold, really cold (been in the negative F's, it's warming again now but still below 32F most days)...wondering if I should give her some eggs or not.

    I'll give ya'll the details I have so far and ask my most burning questions at the end of the novella.
    I'd really appreciate anyone sharing their experience with broodies in a similar climate.


    She's been setting for a few days/nights, I've thrown her out numerous times.
    She eats, drinks, takes a huge dump and back into the nest..... block that nest, she moves to the next.
    One of a bank of 4 nests in the coop for 14 hens, that are 2 1/2 feet off the floor and too high off the ground for chicks to easily live out of in the cold. I think it's good that she will get out and eat and drink, some of them don't.


    So then I try to get her to use a portable floor nest, she wasn't impressed and bolted, blocked her in for a couple hours, let her out, back to the main nests.

    Blocked her in the portable nest over night, let her out the next morning, she eats, drinks, takes a huge dump and back into one of the main nests.

    So today I put up the coop partition wall, chicken wire and 2x2's at each end that goes up quick with 4 screws. I used this partition for isolation of bad rooster last winter and to grow out of new chicks last spring/summer.

    Put the portable nest in there, get her a chick waterer, fill the feeder in there, make sure she uses both of those and leave her in there. She paced the wall a bit, so did some of the other birds(they've just lost some coop space) and she growled at a couple that came close to the wall where she was eating. I came back out an hour later and she's setting in the portable nest.

    I set another fake egg near her(she's sitting on one fake egg and a golf ball already) go back out a bit later and she's tucked the egg under her...I think she's serious. She's not viciously agitated, but clucks and growls and half heartedly pecks at me.

    I plan on incubating some of my eggs in Feb for replacement birds, but I've never had a momma hen hatch and raise chicks and it would be cool to experience that.....plus self integration within the main flock would free up the partition coop for the incubated chicks by March/April.


    So the questions that need resolving before making a decision:

    #1. In these temps, will her getting off the nest to eat, drink, poop chill the eggs beyond viability?
    If yes, please continue.....


    #2. Once I'm sure she's setting good in this portable nest (a couple days maybe, then test her before giving real eggs) should I remove the partition wall for the duration of the incubation so integration can happen without a period of isolation of her from the flock. No one has laid in her setting nest so far so I don't think she'll be harassed.

    #2b....or should I leave the partition wall in place until a couple days after hatching is achieved then remove it hoping she will defend the chicks if there is aggression from the flock?

    #3 Am I totally nuts for even thinking this might be a good idea??(be honest, really) and I should set up a breaker cage and break her.

    TIA for your perseverance in absorbing my story and your willingness to share your sage advice.

    Here she is, SpeckleNeck the broody girl:
    [​IMG]
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Tough call.
    I've had hens hatch in November and they hatched fine but when it stayed below freezing I took the chicks inside for a couple weeks. It was quite a reunion when I returned them to her.
    Usually when it's cold, they don't stay off the nest as long so they should still hatch.
    A broody is in a world of her own and doesn't really care about socialization so I'd leave her isolated.
    She'll defend the chicks no matter what.
    Nuts? Maybe but aren't we all. I'm in MO, If I was in MI, I'd probably break a broody in January, probably even here depending on the long range forecast.

    If she is broody now, she'll likely go broody again as weather warms.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. Aart, I'm curious to see what people say. I would love a broody in the spring but not so sure about these temps right now. I have a girl who thinks she is broody. She stole 3 eggs today. LOL Sorry Toffee, not yet my dear.
     
  4. HanwellChickens

    HanwellChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a broody sitting on eggs right now and I'm in Atlantic Canada and it's been bitterly cold lately. Hatch date is approx. Jan 21, so we'll see what happens. She hatched out some eggs for us in July and is a wonderful mama. If it gets too cold out in the coop, I'll bring them in the house in a brooder until it warms up.
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    So a week to go, best of luck!
    Have you candled to check viability/progress?

    What is bitterly cold there?
    We just went thru a cold snap, last week ranged between 32F(0C) and -20F(-28C).
    ETA: HolyCrap!! I just looked up your temps, you have been colder for longer than here for sure!!!

    No source for a long term(3-4 weeks) forecast (not that it would be accurate anyway) so it's risky.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2015
  6. HanwellChickens

    HanwellChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've candled them and they seem to be progressing but I'm no expert by any means. We had a real bad cold snap with it being close to -35C with the wind chill but it's been warming up. If they don't hatch, it's ok either way as I can wait until it gets a little warmer to hatch again with either another (hopefully) broody or an incubator.
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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  8. HanwellChickens

    HanwellChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    As long as she's eating, drinking and pooping then she should be fine. My poor girl is with the entire flock and is forever being kicked out of her nest so others can lay. She will go back as soon as they leave. I hope your hatch works out as there is nothing like seeing a mama hen with her babies amongst the flock.
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I’ve never had a broody in the winter so no experience with that. Once you do you become one of our resident experts along with Hanwell.

    #1. In these temps, will her getting off the nest to eat, drink, poop chill the eggs beyond viability?

    She will probably be able to keep them warm. I’ve noticed that broodies tend to time their time off the nest to the weather. My biggest concern would be collecting the eggs you want her to hatch. They may get cold enough during the day to affect hatchability. I’d try to collect them at different times during the day, maybe this weekend if that’s the only time you can be at home.

    #2. Once I'm sure she's setting good in this portable nest (a couple days maybe, then test her before giving real eggs) should I remove the partition wall for the duration of the incubation so integration can happen without a period of isolation of her from the flock. No one has laid in her setting nest so far so I don't think she'll be harassed.

    There is nothing wrong with keeping her isolated in the coop. That way she should be a lot less likely to abandon those eggs and that nest and return to the main nests. Since she is in the coop with the others I would not expect any reintegration issues.

    #2b....or should I leave the partition wall in place until a couple days after hatching is achieved then remove it hoping she will defend the chicks if there is aggression from the flock?

    Aart, you know how I feel about living animals. Still, I just don’t experience aggression from the rest of the adult flock. I have seen aggression toward the chicks from other weaned juveniles in the flock and Mama sure handles that situation. With gusto! Occasionally Mama may feel a hen is threatening her chicks and flogs her, but that is a fairly rare occurrence. I’d wait about two days after Mama brings them off the nest and just remove the partition. By that time she should be in the habit of having them sleep in the nest or in a corner somewhere.

    Keeping feed and especially water clean may be an issue. They will scratch bedding in them. You might try putting an old piece of carpet or some plywood on the shavings to help keep the shavings out of the water.

    #3 Am I totally nuts for even thinking this might be a good idea??(be honest, really) and I should set up a breaker cage and break her.

    It’s harder for a broody to raise chicks in the winter. What may just be an inconvenience in the summer could easily be a fatal situation in really cold temperatures. Still what do you have to lose? You are wanting the chicks anyway. I’d go for it as long as I was pretty sure I’d be around for about a week or so after hatch so I could deal with any situations that come up.
     
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Ridgerunner so nicely saved me a bunch of typing.

    If it's going to be too stressful for you, go ahead and break her. Your mental health is worth quite a bit. I'm totally pro-broody but would have to really think it over this time of year. If she is broody now, she is very likely to brood again in a few months when conditions are better.

    If you do let her set, I'd leave her separate for a day or two after the chicks hatch, then get them in the flock asap. You want momma to still be hormonal and a little cranky, and no one will mess with her babies!
     

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