The scene of the crime
We have 3 or 4 hens who are trying to brood. That is - they are trying to get one last clutch hatched before the weather turns too cold. Normally we'd just let the hens try and set a nest thru September but we have tons of chicks! Since we really don't need another clutch. So we are trying to "break" our broody hens of their desire to set a nest.
In truth we try to encourage broodiness. It seems a little ridiculous that hens are bred to get rid of their natural mothering ability. But a broody hen will set a nest for 21 days, then raise her chicks, probably molt, and end up not laying for several months. We aren't that big on production so we really don't care. But commercial operations or smaller flocks need to have all hens firing eggs at top speed. But we are a little more easy going. And we love it when hens raise their own babies - its easier on us and a lot less work. So we like a broody biddie.
The victim.. I mean.. volunteer.. I mean... broody gal
If you need a hen to knock off all the settin' around you have a couple choices. First you can just hope she gets bored and stops on her own - this may or may not work. Second, as "steak and eggs" said yesterday - you can put your hen in a wire cage, up off the ground, with no bedding or straw (with food and water) and let her cool her jets for a 3 or 4 days.... or you can believe that old wives tale, and give her a good dunking.
If you are an old wife, you know that you are generally right and sometimes there is some science in the old ways. There is probably a boring scientific explanation out there but I just tend to believe old wives. In short, to break a broody hen you literally need to cool her down. Her body temperature is running warm and if you cool her down, the instinct and the broody mechanism will be "reset" and she'll go about her normal chicken business.
For the past couple days I've noticed a couple hennies reluctant to leave the nest boxes when I went out to take up the eggs. And these gals also pulled the feathers out of their breasts. And they screamed like enraged badgers when I removed the eggs. One bit me. Those are the sure signs of a broody hen.
So I called the dog and had him stand guard while I snatched up one of the screaming hens. I took her over to one of the big tubs we had full of cold water... and plunged her into it.
A note: be sure that you are holding onto her wings! Or there will be a lot of splashing. All over you. And the dog. Don't ask me how I know this.
I held my favorite french hen so that the water covered her body- but NOT over her head - for a couple minutes. Then put her on the ground. She ran off shaking and muttering how mean I was.
Is it mean? I think its meanner to let a hen starve herself to death on a nest that will never hatch. So all things being considered, nope, I don't think its mean. And if you've ever seen your hens out in the rain you'll wonder why they say "mad as a wet hen." She ain't mad cuz she's wet - she's mad because you took her off her nest.
After all the complaining Raspberry noticed she was wet and so she decided to preen herself and forgot about going back to her nest....this is probably one of the real reason why it works.
Today Raspberry was not trying to hatch a nest.. but two of the other gals got another dunking. Hopefully tomorrow I won't have to do this again.
As for my gal, Inky, look how happy she is with her babies. That's a fine clutch of chicks, Inky - great work!
So now you know why that wet hen is really mad... and why old wives are generally right. So get yourself a wire cage and cool that gal down... or just give her a dunking for the quick version. Keep an eye on her tho - setting a real or imaginary nest is hard on these gals. They need to get back to top condition with plenty of fresh air and good eats.
Happy Thursday everyone!