Our insanely hot weather seems to have let up a few degrees I’m happy to say. The girls are no longer panting away. During the worst of it, I had a new experience with my chickens. Andie, my 6 year old hen went broody. I’ll explain what that means in a second.
Just imagine the heat pounding down on the coop when it was in the upper 90s. I kept hosing it off on the outside and checking on the gals inside. Andie kept sitting on the nest box. And sitting and sitting. My first thought was that she was egg-bound like the first hen I lost. I kept checking on her. The nest box seemed so hot, that I took her off of it to roam around the yard. She made a bit of a fuss when I took her off the box, but seemed fine walking around the yard. I fed her some cold berries, which she gobbled up. I should mention that all the time spent on the nest box was time that she wasn’t eating or drinking. With the weather in the upper 90s, this was a huge concern for me.
It finally started to dawn on me that she wasn’t egg-bound. A hen who is egg bound has a hard time passing anything (because she’s got an egg acting like a cork on her insides). Chickens have fairly simple plumbing and they poop/pee and lay eggs out of the same chute. She was having no trouble pooping. Hmmm.
So why was she spending so much time on the nest? Eureka! The old gal was broody! That means that she was trying to sit on her eggs to hatch them. This instinct has been largely bred out of laying hens (Certain breeds are more prone to going broody than others). While a hen is being broody, she isn’t laying eggs, which is bad business for egg companies. And she’s also guarding the nest box to the point of shrieking and biting anyone who tries to get her off of it. Fortunately Andie was more docile. She just made a weird noise and puffed her feathers up at me.
So what can you do with a broody hen? You can get a hold of some fertilized eggs for her to hatch. Believe it or not, you can buy fertilized eggs online. The egg hatching isn’t triggered until something/someone warm sits on them. I may explain about this crazy phenomenon more another time. The other option is to “break” a hen of being broody. This was the option for me because I wanted Andie to eat and drink, and also, I can’t house more chickens.
Neil helped me build a “broody buster”, which is basically a wire cage set off the ground. No bedding should be put in the cage. The idea is that you make it somewhat uncomfortable for them to sit down. The cage is raised to allow air-flow under the hen. And you have it in a bright location, which is exactly where a hen does not want to nest down. I had to provide shade because of the heat. I would have a roasted hen for sure if I hadn’t.
At night we took her out of her little cell and put her in the enclosed part of the run, because I wasn’t confident that a raccoon couldn’t just reach its nasty little paws up and grab her through the bottom of the cage. Unfortunately she just decided to stay inside on the nest in the morning, so we ended up putting a perch in the cage for her to spend the night. After 3 days in her little cage we took her out. She hasn’t gone back to the nest box! Now we just need to encourage her to go back to laying for us.