Need advice on care of broody hen - first time doing this

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by verlaj, May 3, 2009.

  1. verlaj

    verlaj Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 31, 2009
    Micanopy, Florida
    Dear wise and wonderful BYC people:

    I have a GLW that is on day 5 sitting on eggs I purchased from a fellow BYCer. This is my first time doing this, so I would appreciate advice.

    1) I have the hen in an extra-large dog airline crate, inside the big open air coop, reinforced with 1/4 inch hardware cloth to keep snakes out. The nesting box is a recycling bin - fits perfectly in one end of the crate, and has about a 3-inch lip in the open front.

    I initially added cedar shavings to the mixed pine and hay bedding that was in the box for laying, based on recommendations that I read in a well-respected book on keeping chickens. Fortunately, after I updated my egg-supplier with the status of my broody hen, I mentioned the cedar shavings and she warned my of the hazards associated with them.

    I read more on BYC about this, and found that others warn of pine shavings as well, particularly in an enclosed space. I have now replaced the cedar with pine, because at least that was considered less hazardous, but now I am thinking I should get hay, straw, or some other bedding and get rid of all the wood shavings. (I have used pine shavings a lot with the chickens and day-old chicks in a brooder, but this was always in a much more ventilated environment than the dog crate the hen is in.)

    So: at last - Question 1: What bedding is best for the hen and the chicks-to-be?

    2) The hen is hardly eating anything. I have not seen her move from the nest at all. No poops yet. I put a little dish of food right next to her - with delectable treats the other hens go crazy for. (Cut up berries, cut up grapes, sweet corn cut off the cob, scrambled egg, cottage cheese, chicken scratch, oats, sunflower seed.) I also have a water dish just outside the lip of the nesting box. She will eat very little - a couple of days ago she ate maybe 2 T of fruit/sweet corn. Yesterday - hardly anything, today a couple of pecks at the scratch.

    She is looking a bit pale to me and I am concerned about this not eating. Should I be? She was broody for probably a couple of weeks before I got the eggs, but she was not confined then and I really don't know whether she was eating or not then. I'm worried I have done her wrong by waiting so long to give her eggs and now she has a little over 2 weeks to go before the chicks hatch. Since giving her the eggs I now have read posts here about people having their broody hens die on the nest!!!

    Question 2 - Any suggestions on getting her to eat and how much should I be worried about this?

    Finally, feel free to offer any other advice you have for me! Thanks!
  2. Dirt Road

    Dirt Road Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 9, 2008
    Southern Idaho
    She actually needs to get off and stretch her legs a bit. Some of them don't get off every day. If the only room she has is inside a dog crate she will be less inclined to get up and move around. You can pick her up and set her out then supervise till she gets a bite to eat and a drink, and relieves herself, but that takes a certain amount of dedication on your part since it needs done daily at least through day 18. I would also recommend you stop feeding her the junk food. They do quite well on just hen scratch. Take a look at this article. While I don't completely agree with everything said in it, it will get you pointed right.

  3. 92caddy

    92caddy Egg Lover

    May 18, 2007
    Portland, IN
    A hen dont need to get off the nest everyday, most will not, Ive had hens stay on the nest for 3 days before they got off. My better half is always putting food and water in with the hen when she is sitting, but you dont need to do that. I think it makes for more of a mess. If I were you, I would put the food at the other end of the pen, not up next to her. When some of my hens have food up next to them, them they will sit there and eat and then poo all over their eggs. I dont like it when they do that. It just makes a big ol mess. They will get up off the nest when they want too, they know when to get up and when to go back to the nest. I dont use any shavings, I use straw. I give all of my birds stuff we get out of the dumpster from the stores in town. They love it. They will knock you over for it when they see you coming with a box of that stuff. Dont worry about her too much. She'll be fine. She knows what she is doing and how to do it. If you can, when she does get up off the nest, let her out of the pen so she can wonder around, scratch around some, dust herself and when she is ready, she will go back to her eggs and get on the nest. Good luck with her and dont worry so much......................
  4. verlaj

    verlaj Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 31, 2009
    Micanopy, Florida
    Thanks for the link, Dirt Road, and the reassurance, 92 caddy. I'll switch the bedding to straw and move the food away. She has scratch, whole oats, and sunflower seeds available to her - but she doesn't seem to eat much at all. That's why I was offering her fruit, etc.

    The dog kennel she is in for protection is bigger than the area recommended in the article at the link - she has room to move in/out of the nest, but I have not seen evidence that she has budged. I took her off the nest the night I relocated her to the dog crate - she simply maintained her broody pose and fluffed feathers until I put her back on the nest.

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