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What the heck! Is broody behavior catching?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by AndreaS, Sep 24, 2010.

  1. AndreaS

    AndreaS Songster

    Mar 5, 2010
    Hurdle Mills, NC
    So I have 5 hens. They are 6 months old.

    Last week, I noticed that Weezah, one of my Salmon Faverolles, was spending more time than usual in the nest box. She is at the bottom of the pecking order, so i thought maybe she was starting to hide in there. She was still coming out to eat, drink and dustbathe....and she was sleeping on the roost. So i didn't think it was a big deal.

    This week- She will not leave the nest box unless i force her out, she has quit laying, and is loosing weight. She puffs up and squeals at me when i try to get her out of the nest box. I looked up videos of broody hens online, and she totally fits the bill. We've been forcing her out in the morning to eat and drink, and then we've been locking her out of the coop once the others have finished laying. She started sleeping in the next boxes a few nights ago too. Tonight, we blocked the nest boxes so hopefully she will get on the roost.

    I'm afraid we're going to have to go with the cage method to break her. The weight loss really concerns me. So, that's the plan for tomorrow.

    AND THEN TODAY......My Welsummer, Emma, was in the nest box all day....and low and behold, she had plucked out some of her abdomen feathers and they were arranged in the nest box. She hasn't layed in two days. She puffed up and squealed at me when i went under her to retrieve the other girl's eggs.

    I didn't think they would go broody so early!! They are only 6 months old, ugh! [​IMG] Do chickens pick up on the hormones of other hen's around them (like human women getting their cycles at the same time)?

    Anyway, I am going to try the dog crate method, but I do have a few questions

    1. I understand that they need air circulation arround their bellies to get over this. My dog crate has a wire bottom, but the spacing is too large....They won't be able to walk on it....the crate came with a solid plastic base inert.....is it okay to use that or should i try and get mesh or something so they can walk around but the air will still move below them?

    2. Can I put both of my broody hens in together? Weezah is at the bottom of the pecking order, and Emma is 2nd in command. The crate is HUGE, at least 4X2 foot with open coated wire all the way around it.

    3. How long do you usually have to keep them in the cage before they snap out of it?

    Poor girls, I tried to explain to them that they can sit all they want, but no roo=no chicks. I promised to buy them fertile eggs next srping. I told them this isn't the right time of year. No luck. Alas, They are stubbornly persisting. I'm afraid they will starve or become sick, so i'm taking action this weekend.


  2. nanawendy

    nanawendy Songster

    Dec 28, 2009
    Bellingham Wa
    I just read in one of my books that some breeds do "catch " broodiness from their sisters. Maybe some of the experts could chime in ?

    sorry fpr the sp errors...It's been a looonng day
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2010
  3. joebryant

    joebryant Crowing

    I had three at one time last month, for two of them it was the second time this summer. I got tired of fighting it, gave them each a wooden egg, and wished them luck. After three weeks they gave up, came out, and went about their business unscathed.
    ETA I forgot; after a week I took away their wooden egg.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2010
  4. AndreaS

    AndreaS Songster

    Mar 5, 2010
    Hurdle Mills, NC
    Thanks for the replies, I've been getting all the eggs out daily. She will still sit in the box with the eggs gone. Silly girl.

    Anyone have any input on the dog crate method?
  5. lauralou

    lauralou Songster

    Dec 10, 2007
    Central Virginia
    I'm not sure what to tell you about the bottom of the dog crate. It's true that it's a good thing to have lots of air flow under them, but just as true that they need to be prevented from getting to that preferred nest box. I think if it were me, I would go ahead and put the plastic insert in, just so I could do something ASAP.

    I haven't had any luck with putting more than one broody hen in the same cage. I tried it once, and it was a disaster. They were very cranky with the entire situation, and there was fighting and bloody combs... Can't recommend it based on my experience.

    How long do you usually have to keep them in the cage before they snap out of it? This depends on many things. Some hens are more persistent than others. Also, the quicker you catch it, the easier it is to break it. The good news there is that you will learn to see the signs quickly, and catch it sooner in the future. Since your girls are full-blown broody, it may take a while. Maybe a week. Maybe more, maybe less, it just depends.

    The bad news is that you have more than one broody, so you may need to consider multiple cages. If you are handy in the construction area, you can build one pretty easily. If not, you may be able to go junking this weekend and find a suitable cage at a secondhand store. I know there's such a place in my little town, hopefully in yours too. Just in case you're interested, I'll try to dig up some pics of my homemade broody jails. Back in a few...
  6. math ace

    math ace Crowing

    Dec 17, 2009
    Jacksonville, FL
    IF IT IS CONTAGIOUS, could somebody please send me one of your broodies so that my girls could catch the disease [​IMG]
  7. lauralou

    lauralou Songster

    Dec 10, 2007
    Central Virginia
    Not as much luck with the old pictures as I had hoped. Here's a close up of my old broody jail. (Being used as a hangout for a momma and baby.)


    We built it completely out of scraps, except for the door hinges. The base is made of scraps of landscaping timbers, covered with wire. It has now been modified in that it has a real roof on it, instead of an old tarp. And it's still a favorite daytime hangout. We haven't used it as a broody jail for a long time. But we could if we needed to. The point here is that it was very, very simple to make.

    What we use now is a bit more complicated. It used to be a rabbit hutch. Belonged to a friend, and they were going to throw it out, so I insisted that we drag it home. Took 4 people to load it on the truck... I tore the insides out and totally reworked it. In this picture, it is two separate compartments. Sometimes it is only one. I like to change things around. [​IMG]


    Hope the pics were helpful. Ridgerunner may pop in and show you a cool picture of a broody jail, too.

    Oh, and I've also used regular old animal cages too. I've thrown in a scrap of 2X4, on it's side, and they have roosted on it.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2010

  8. trilyn

    trilyn Songster

    Apr 13, 2009
    East Syracuse
    Yep, it is contagious! Even more so when there are little chicks running around. Right now I've got a momma and four babies and they're running around the yard during free range hours with the rest of the flock and I am just curious as to who is going to go broody next. Not that I'm looking forward to it, but its bound to happen. I've had six broodies so far this year and this flock has just turned one! [​IMG] The cage just might work, I've read this method has quite a bit of success, if you've got some chicken wire or hardware cloth leftover from building your coop and run, line the bottom with that and fasten with zip ties or some other method. Just a thought and I wish you success!
  9. dldolan

    dldolan WineNChooks

    Aug 11, 2010
    Sonoma County, CA
    Anyone have any input on the dog crate method?

    I have five 6 1/2 month olds, who had just been laying a month and was also dismayed when one of the blue cochins started behaving like yours! I quickly bought a large dog cage off Craigslist, sterilized it, and put her in (with the plastic bottom) during the day. Bought two of those feeder things that hang on the side of wire cages (at Petsmart) for food and water and left her in all day, just putting her back in the henhouse to roost after the other gals were already in for the night. Cured her in two days of the setting, but still she is not back to laying yet after 10 days. Eating and foraging OK, though. Just a bit grouchy.

    The breeder I got my gals from told me to dunk her bum in cold water first thing in the morning and let her loose to free range--that she would not try to set on a nest with a wet bum and would then focus on getting herself dry. The dog crate thing worked so I didn't try it, but maybe in the future...

    Good luck.

    Here she is giving me the stink-eye
  10. Judy

    Judy Crowing Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I know of one case where a persistent broody was broken of broodiness within about 36 hours of the wire bottom cage, and I've read many times on here that it works in a couple or three days. I would not use the solid plastic insert -- the theory is that it is the air flow on the breast that stops them. Just put something else in there. An old cooling rack for baking? Scrap of window screen? Find something....

    Some will give up in a few weeks, some take months. I have one now, I just kick her out and chase her a bit when I'm in there, so at least she gets a little more food and water. I don't have my dog crate any more; I may have to invent something, or maybe I'll just wait it out. They're all different, and I'm not desperate for the eggs; there are 8 dozen in my fridge at the moment.... You can't much sell eggs around here; everyone seems to have a friend in the country with chickens.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2010

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