Managing Brood Hens - what if they don't eat or drink?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Calero clucks, Jul 22, 2016.

  1. Calero clucks

    Calero clucks New Egg

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    Jan 22, 2016
    In one sense, I've been luck to have 4-5 hens that were broody this year and for the first time in four years, we've actually had some chicks born. But I actually worry about those girls, because as the sit on the eggs I very seldom see them leave their eggs for food and water. I put food in the nest for them sometimes, there are seed bowls and waterers on the perches right outside the nest box, but I don't see them getting up and out to get any food.

    So, being on the eggs for 3 weeks - doesn't that put quite a strain on the hens? I'm also concerned because three of the hens, after sitting on a clutch, hatching and raising chicks, were right back at the next box again less than a month later. Doesn't that put quite a strain on their systems? It's almost like hibernation when they are sitting.

    Will they actually get up and go for food and water? What can I do to help them?

    I assumed "care" of the coop last fall, this is my first iteration with having chicks hatch.
     
  2. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    They get off the nest when they need to and they won't sit there and kill themselves of starvation on the nests. Their metabolism slows WAY down during brooding and they are exerting no energy at all while sitting all day and night, with the occasional foray off the nest to eliminate the bowels, drink and eat. The first few days they won't leave the nest and the last few days or so they won't leave it either, but whether you have seen it or not, they are leaving the nest as needed in the middle of their brooding time period.

    No, it doesn't put a strain on their systems to go right back to brooding, especially after a month's recovery time and are in reasonably good health. If you don't want them to be brooding, just place them in a pen without any nests and leave them until they are over the inclination and back to laying.

    They will leave the nest as needed, so just keep food and water available and let them do what they do best, it will all be fine.
     
  3. Calero clucks

    Calero clucks New Egg

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    Jan 22, 2016
    Thank you soooooooo much for that insight. Again, I'm a real rookie at this...and I probably treat the chickens more like pets than livestock. I have often thought watching the hens sit was almost like watching them hibernate. I also tend to be a bit of a worry wart anyway. At any rate, my fears are allayed!
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri

    For the first 20 days the hen gets off the nest daily for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. This is usually done in the middles of the day. The hen will slip away from nest and often make a ruckus as she stretches out. She will defecate a big one some distance from the nest where when hen has freedom of movement the feces will be left at least 20 feet from nest. Most of mine do it nearly 100 feet away. The hen will then feed voraciously and get a drink. Some of mine will go over 100 yards from barn to house to hit wild bird feeder when other flock members will not go in that direction at all. If time allows she may even slip in a dust bath. Upon return to nest crop fill will be minimal. During the incubation period the hen will steadily loose weight if she must get all eats by foraging but weight usually still occurs even when feed applied. The last day or two once chicks begin peeping the hen will often sit tight which is when more weight can be lost. Once chicks hatch my hens continue to loose weight for the following week or so as chick's needs for brooding and avoiding competition with them for eats takes precedence over the hens needs. Lowest hen weight usually about 1 week after hatch with larger broods being particularly demanding. Hens starting incubation cycle with low weight more apt to either abandon effort or spend too much time looking for food while off nest late in incubation cycle. Hens with high parasite burdens prone to over invest in incubation / brooding to degree that is life threatening.
     

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