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Raising Chicks: Week 11

If you purchased chicks at our Chick Days event, your chicks should be 11 weeks old now.

Temp: Whatever temp it is outside!

Feed: Start & Grow Medicated or Non-Medicated - because they are babies, you can free feed them. Fill up their feeders when they are empty. They won't overeat.

When you bought your chicks, you should have been given a chick dictionary to help you with all the terminology. But that’s why we’re here. This week’s word is “broody.” This word is used often to describe someone who is unhappy and deep in thought. Relating to a hen, it’s not all that different.

When a hen is broody, it means she wants to hatch some eggs. Your hens may go broody at some time while you are raising them. If it happens, it’ll be after they start laying eggs. If there is no rooster and she’s not raising chicks, it may be frustrating for you, but she’ll snap out of it in a few weeks. It’s easy to diagnose:

  • She will spend ALL of her time on the nest. She only gets up once or twice a day to eat and drink. She will also poop at this time and it’ll be larger than usual – don’t be alarmed.

  • She may start acting aggressively toward other birds or toward you when she’s off the nest. She thinks she’s protecting her unborn chickens. It’s a completely natural thing for her. She may even screech at other birds or people who approach her nest.

  • Because she’s agitated or “ruffling her feathers” she may look very large and fluffy. (See photo.) She’s trying to make herself larger to scare off predators. She could even growl, peck or bite.

  • Her tummy may become bald. In order to make the eggs warmer, she will pluck some feathers in an attempt to get closer to the eggs.

  • She may appear to be in a trance. It sounds weird, right? One poultry farmer wanted to collect her eggs, took the chicken off of the nest and released her into the coop. The hen just fell to the ground – didn’t even try to fly, spread her wings, nothing. It was as if she was hypnotized. What did we learn? If your chicken is broody, take them out of the nest, but just place them in the coop. (Don’t worry, nobody was hurt.)

  • She stops laying eggs.

  • She may even smash eggs or throw eggs out of the nest.

Some chickens go broody often and stay that way for a while, others it may affect rarely and be over with quickly – especially if they don’t have any eggs to sit on.

Some breeds are more likely to become broody: Buff Orpingtons, Silkies and Cochins for example.

If your hen has fertilized eggs, make sure that there is only a single layer of them, so they can all be warmed. If she can’t cover them all, they can’t all survive.

If your hen has unfertilized eggs, take them out of the nest. Because broody hens aren’t getting out of the nest very often, they aren’t taking baths, and so the eggs may be susceptible to mites and lice.

Do I need to help her get out of this phase: yeah.

Why? Hens will sit for weeks. They stop laying, they lose condition and will stay in a very hot nest.

How do I help her? Keep removing eggs as usual. Take the hen out of the nest a few times a day. It will help her break the trance. Put her in a different coop – one without any eggs, and with some ventilation under her. Part of broodiness is being too warm. If you can get her to cool down, she may snap out of it. Make sure she has plenty of food and water to herself, and it may take up to 3 days for her to cool down – so to speak – but it’ll be worth it. Some people say you can put a bag of frozen vegetables under them and they will cool down.

As always, you can contact us with any other questions via email or at the store at 575-523-8790.

These chickens don't really care that their nesting box has been taken over by a broody hen. They just keep trying to lay in there anyway.

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