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newbie question about free-range broody chicken

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ausamerican33, Jan 21, 2009.

  1. ausamerican33

    ausamerican33 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi! It's been a while since I've posted - I'm quite the lurker. [​IMG] I did a search, but I couldn't seem to find the exact answer to my question, so I'm hoping someone can help. I've got 14 hens, no rooster, free-range during the day, in the coop at night. They started laying about 3 weeks ago - they will be 6 months on Jan. 23rd. One Rhode Island Red has been acting funny the past 4 days - running around by herself, following me, and then just being weird. Today was our second day of snow - yesterday, even with the door open, they chose to stay in the coop for their first snow day. So this morn, my RRR runs out of the ccop, and beelines to the dog's yard, hops the fence, ducks behind the shed. So I follow her. She's there, sitting on 4 frozen solid eggs, with a proper nest built! Help! What the heck do I do!! No rooster, and we don't want baby chicks right now. I took the frozen eggs out, and dismantled the nest. Took Miss Priss back to the coop - she talked to me the whole way, but was very sweet. As soon as I turned my back, I see her heading out again. Of all the spots to build a nest, the dog's yard is the worst! Of course, the dogs are inside right now (we had an incident last year - whole other story, where they very sadly killed 12 of my baby chicks [​IMG] ) Is this a broody hen? Should I put a wire dog crate in the coop and keep her there for a day or so? I just really don't know what I'm supposed to do. Thanks in advance for your help. Oh - another chicken laid an egg in the horse's stall. I'm thinking maybe my free range chicks need to be contained for a week until they start laying in the boxes? I have a 10X10 wire dog pen I can hook up to the coop for an improvised play yard if y'all recommend that I should do this. They have lovely nesting boxes (8) with shavings, and plastic easter eggs.
     
  2. PortageGirl

    PortageGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    I think keeping her in the dog crate inside would probably work, BUT, since they're all just starting to lay as you say, putting up a temporary run might head off similar things with the others. I think I'd go with that if I were you. It sounds like the way to go. [edit] also, I've found golf balls or the heavier wooden eggs seem to work better, something to do with the weight of them, the hollow eggs just seem to bug hens sometimes.... could be I've just had wierd hens though *cough* no comments about them taking after their owner!!!
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2009
  3. ausamerican33

    ausamerican33 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 5, 2008
    Wendell, NC
    I think the plastic eggs might bug mine, too. I swear they were playing a game of football with them yesterday - had them all over the coop floor. [​IMG] I'm hedging toward the temporary run idea, too. Maybe for a week or so? They are going to be so mad at me, though! They are used to having 10 acres to run on! Should I still isolate my broody even inside the coop with the temp. run, or do you think the coop/run will be enough confinement?
     
  4. PortageGirl

    PortageGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    I would think the run for all will work well, no need for the additional crate if she can't get to her 'nest'. Hopefully some others will weigh in on it too, but I think just the run will be fine, I'd gather a lot of treats to throw in there with them over the week or so, scrap lettuce, some cabbage, some sunflower seeds, etc to scatter a bit throughout the days. Keep em a little happier in there, even a little scratch now and then, just to keep them occupied.

    If they're goofing around with the plastic eggs, I'd DEFINATELY get them out of there. I wouldn't want them thinking anything resembling eggs are to play with!

    Has anyone ever put a softball sized rubber ball in a pen to see if they'd play with it? Just occured to me, maybe a silly thought, but horses love to have a really big ball to nudge around for giggles. hmmmmm......
     
  5. eggzettera

    eggzettera Chillin' With My Peeps

    Got nothing to say but this.....


    Portage Girl - you have a great writing style & ausamerican33 you need to post more.... [​IMG]
     
  6. ausamerican33

    ausamerican33 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks! I do need to post more. [​IMG] Totally hijacking my own post - I used to put wiffle balls out for the chickies b/c I heard someone say they like to play with them. Not sure if they did or not - I think once they got cut loose into the pastures, a wiffle ball didn't hold much appeal. Easter eggs will now be gone! Should I be collecting the eggs (real!) every time I see them, or leave them there until the end of the day? Does leaving them there encourage them to come back and lay more, and teach the non-layers where to lay?
     
  7. ozark hen

    ozark hen Living My Dream

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    I keep my hens in lock down for a few days. I have a large coop room and even if I didn't have a large room, as long as they can walk around in it, I would keep them in total lock down for several days not a couple. I have done this to break that pattern of laying eggs while free-ranging. I also keep golf balls inside the nests...one or two. They have water, feed, oystershell and a head of cabbage hanging in there for their treat and something to play with. I keep mine in lock down when the weather gets near single digits just to keep them safe. Now this is what works for me, nothing is written in stone.
     
  8. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    Hi!

    We have a free-range flock that lays in their nest boxes almost all of the time. We put golf balls in the nests, and kept them confined to the coop for two weeks when they were starting to lay. Seemed to work very well.
     
  9. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

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    This sounds like a good plan, to confine them all to reprogram them to lay in their nest boxes. Hopefully that will also be enough to re-set your RIR's broody ambitions. If not, then put her in the wire-bottomed cage.

    I know it seems cruel to confine chickens that are used to free-ranging. But if you can observe them in the cage from a distance, you should see them acting perfectly content. It's only when they see you approach that they rush the fence & clamor to be let out. They have centuries of domestication in their genes, they're not wild eagles, they can endure enclosure just fine.

    I keep mine confined to their run & coop until about 2-3 PM each day so they'll do their egg-laying in their nests. After that they're allowed to free-range around the yard. It seems to be a good life for them.

    I don't think chickens need toys for amusement, but they probably would benefit from some interesting ways to obtain their treats, like suspending a head of lettuce or cabbage just above their reach, or half-husked ears of corn, or big uprooted clumps of grass.

    We humans sure benefit from having chickens for our own amusement.
     
  10. ausamerican33

    ausamerican33 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Great ideas! I sent my husband off to get a tarp so they don't "fly the coop" (haha - love that chicken humor). They'll have their run and coop for a week, and then I think I'll keep them in that until later in the afternoon, and then let them free-range. It sounds like a good plan to me! Right now, I just spent an hour looking for Ms. Broody. I don't know where she's gone. She's not in the coop, her former shed/nest, or the horse's stalls... geesh. I just sent my 9 yr. old out to look for her. Silly chicken!
     

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