Just curious, what happens to the eggs/yolks INSIDE a broody hen?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by machinfarm, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. machinfarm

    machinfarm Chillin' With My Peeps

    137
    22
    78
    Apr 27, 2015
    Weatherford, TX
    I know that hens have yolks of varying sizes and at different stages of development growing in them pretty much all the time. But when a hen catches the broody bug, what happens to the undeveloped yolks inside of her? Perhaps does her body absorb them to use to help bridge the nutritional gap since she only gets up to eat once a day or so? Maybe that's why broody poop smells so different? Or maybe they just go into suspended animation only to reawaken five-ish weeks after her chicks hatch and pick right up where they left off? Or does her body know it's going to be going broody and stop developing yolks a few days before she starts sitting?
    Can't find the answer when I Google it so I figured I'd ask the chicken experts on BYC!

    What got me thinking about it is that my broody mama who got sick and had to be taken off the nest at 15 days (see my thread Broody Mama Worrying Me) laid a shell-less egg, though it had a normal size yolk, right off the roost her first day back in the coop and then didn't lay anything for two weeks. She finally laid an egg again on Saturday, nearly white (they are light brown egg layers, orpingtons) and sort of small but now she's laying normal eggs again.
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,311
    3,619
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas


    No they don’t. When a pullet hatches she has all the ova she will ever have, but of course they are tiny. Part of the process of a hen getting ready to lay is that some of those ova start to develop into yolks. It’s not something that she turns on and off immediately, it takes time for her to get ready to lay. She makes some changes to her internal plumbing too. All that is controlled by hormones.

    Going broody is also controlled by hormones. That’s not an overnight thing either. A hen is preparing to go broody internally long before you see any results. She stops developing the ova into yolks and lays the ones that have started developing before she goes broody. The same kind of thing happens when they molt and quit laying. If you ever butcher a hen that is laying and another that is in the middle of a molt the difference in ova/yolk size is really obvious. None are developing in the molting hen.

    On occasion I’ve had a hen stop using the nests and try to hide a nest. I don’t let them do that when I find them and kind of force them back to using the nests, but quite often those same hens go broody a few weeks later. It doesn’t happen all the time but it does happen. I think it is those broody hormones starting to kick in.

    What happened to yours? Well we all have a hick-up occasionally.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. machinfarm

    machinfarm Chillin' With My Peeps

    137
    22
    78
    Apr 27, 2015
    Weatherford, TX
    Ahh, I see. So, it was my last guess that they stop developing them before they begin sitting. That is what I initially thought but then that one funky egg made me question it. Thank you!!
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    34,659
    7,880
    596
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    1 person likes this.
  5. machinfarm

    machinfarm Chillin' With My Peeps

    137
    22
    78
    Apr 27, 2015
    Weatherford, TX
    Yes she was, poor dear, so that could make sense that her body let one yolk slip by while it was dealing with other things! Thankfully she's back to normal now and I looked her and a few of the others over very carefully on Sunday and found not one single mite (thanks to my dad giving me all his wood ashes when he clean his fireplace).
    I realize now that my question was dumb!
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    34,659
    7,880
    596
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    No question is dumb.
     
  7. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    31,452
    3,536
    538
    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    It wasn't a dumb question at all! I'm sure a lot of folks learned something from RR's response. That's when it's nice to have someone with so much experience butchering birds of different sexes and ages and he's looked at their innards to see what's going on at different stages.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by