Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dunking a Hot Hen or Breaking a Broody Biddie

Thanks to everyone who asked about all this "dunking a hen" that I mentioned yesterday . Here's the short version of the going's on....
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.
The witnesses

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!


becky3086 said...

I just keep taking their eggs and it breaks them. A lot less work.

Autumn said...

Wow, I guess the old saying was true! My Nana says "madder than a wet hen" all the time, so now I know the origin as well. Thanks for the info!

David P. Offutt - The Gastronomic Gardener said...

You just keep the wisdom coming! Thank you - it goes into the "chicken book" for the future

Unknown said...

I think Inky looks like she's considering where to plunge her dagger should you come near those babies...

Mr. H. said...

OK, I might have to try this because my usual method of hauling them off the nest and 150 yards into the woods for a long walk back is not working on this particular hen. Thank s for the advice.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks Becky - these gals just weren't getting it...

Yep, its is true Autumn! Isnt it funny how much 'farm lingo' makes its way into our every conversation?

Thanks Dave!

If Inky could get in the house, we'd all be in trouble.

Hey Mr. H! Lemme know how it works - probably need to shut that gal down before it gets too cold. out.

Cynthia R. said...

Sorry to be so late getting back. Thanks for the pictures and instructions. I have a few hens that want to set alot. One take forever to get her to stop, so next time she goes broody I'm going to try the duck method on her. Would love to have more chicks, but we have all the chickens we need right now.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey S&E! hope its ok for me to mention you... i couldnt find a contact method on your blogger id. and yep - give this a whirl. all my gals are up now with no problems.

Cynthia R. said...

OFG--Yes it's fine for you to mention me. I really don't have a blog as you can see. I'm new at this. Just started it so I could reply to the post by bloggers and I don't know how to make a contact number. My main worry is that I will pick-up a spammer, and as you know no one wants them. Mostly learning by trail and error.

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