Free-Range Hen Does Interesting Things Pre-Broody and Broody

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by centrarchid, Apr 2, 2015.

  1. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I have a hen that constructed a nest and laid a clutch of 14 eggs into it. Nest is located in a field and I did not determine location until day she went broody. Prior to determining nest location I observed her get into a fight with an American Robin and even flew at it a few times where she would go more than 10 feet up and close to 30 feet horizontally. She presented herself to the smaller bird just like she would a chicken she intended to fight. She even ran off a cockerel (young rooster) that chased other hens and initially tried to forcibly mate her. When I noticed her missing the day she went broody, I walked off a roughly half acre area with dogs and they pointed her nest out quickly like they always do. The dogs know where all the nest sites are. This nest was in an exposed location next to a tussock on a very small ridge. Last night and today we got a total of about 2” of rain. Sometime during the day the hen moved the nest about 16 inches down slope which I noticed when I got home from work. Hen was foraging when I arrived leaving eggs exposed. I fed balance of pen birds and then began to follow the hen about for nearly 30 minutes as I also checked on plantings. She talked to penned birds as she went about foraging in the trilling “don’t touch me” tone and then the call morphed into an almost clucking sound as she immediately ceased foraging and began walking a couple hundred feet back to her nest. After milling about the area apparently making sure I was not watching (I was), she positioned herself on the nest site eggs were in this morning and began moving them back into the previous location using her bill. She moved about 5 before giving up and setting down on the new location with five moved eggs exposed. I will be going out shortly to place a pen over nest and determine how those exposed eggs have been treated since.
     
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Check after dark found all eggs under hen in new location.
     
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Hen on nest as described above. First image show original position of nest. Second shows current location. I disturbed her while approaching with camera causing her to hunker down incompletely on the clutch. She was doing something over eggs but I could not make out what. Note one is busted.

    [​IMG]

    Previous location just beyond hen's tail in second picture. Grasses coming up very fast. Pen moved so it is not a good reference.
    [​IMG]
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Another interesting observation deals with the placement of the massive feces the broody produces when she comes off the nest. She never does it close to the nest and they are big. She quietly slips off nest and takes the same route to the pens about 100 feet away each day. Her route is indirect and she goes through a flying and cackling phase when she is at least 50 feet from the nest. When she gets to the pens she then finally takes her dump. Several dumps are all within a 10 foot radius representing the days since the last big rain. Not only does she defecate well away from the nest, she tends to do it in a particular location. She also goes to where other birds are located.
     
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Broody Hen on Nest as Seen From Afar

    Roughly 100 yards out.
    [​IMG]


    Zooming in.
    [​IMG]
     
  6. chicksurreal

    chicksurreal Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Very interesting! Can't wait to see what happens with her clutch.
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Hatch percentage for this clutch I think will be very low because of all the rain. Just as with ground nesting wild turkey and quail, embryos do not do well under very wet conditions. This is why early spring broods hatched outside are so hit and miss. Birds nesting in a building are much more consistent.
     
  8. chicksurreal

    chicksurreal Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That makes sense.

    We're experiencing our first broody right now, but she's in a dog crate in her own pen, so the conditions are completely different.

    I'm always interested to read your comments and threads, so much great information!
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2015
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Including the hen at start of thread I currently have 9 broody hens. A couple are just a couple days from hatching which is about the time rotten eggs tend to bust. A couple of the hens have been observed to consume the busted egg contents as best they can they carry the shells away from the nest, Those in pens can go only a few feet although two free-range hens carry shells far enough away that I can not find them.
     
  10. chicksurreal

    chicksurreal Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Very interesting. Our broody is only a few days away from hatching, she has a large pen to roam around in if she chooses. Hopefully thre will be no busted eggs, but I'm watching her closely to see how she behaves. It's all so fascinating!
     

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