Broody, Molting and a Nest Makeover!

By Holly Giles | hen house

raising backyard chickens

Broody

Henrietta is in broody chicken jail. However, I assure you it is for everyone’s benefit!  Broodiness is what happens to hens when they decide they want to sit on their eggs and hatch young. If you would like more information on the subject check out  My Pet Chicken. In our hen house, there is no rooster, so there won’t be any baby chicks hatching here.
broody chicken henrietta in a cage
If a hen does not have eggs to hatch, then she needs to be broken out of her broodiness.  I do one of several things to snap them out of this phase. For instance, I have found that separating the hens into a dog cage for 3 or more days will break her broodiness. Similarly, this will get her back to herself quickly. We hope not to lose too many days of egg production.

What is the harm?

Why do we snap them out of it? Well, in my limited experience, Henrietta will sit 24/7 in the nest and not eat, and get a rash on her bum from the heat of the nest.  In addition, her testy nature will ward off any other hen from laying an egg, and thus produce a cycle of NO EGGS from anyone!

egg in a nest

Similarities

We have had Henrietta for over two years and she has been broody at least five times! She is the only hen we have that does this. She gets quite nasty.  She goes broody when it’s too hot, too cold or it rains (Hmm this is starting to sound like me?).  Maybe she just likes her vacation away from the other girls.  Food, water, good scenery, and not having to listen to the others cackle about.  Sounds good to me sometimes.  Maybe that is what we should call our “Mommy Time”. Oh, mom is sitting on her nest again, giving us the dirty eye, we better give her “Broody Time” to recover.  I like It!!

Molting

About this time of year hens also molt.  For example, this is where they shed all of their feathers and prepare for the winter with a fresh coat. This also sounds nice for us mothers doesn’t it? I know I have a few layers I could shed.  Maybe there is more to this chicken thing than I thought? Anyway, it is actually a very COOL process.  One that would be a great unit study even if you don’t have chickens. I found this site to give you more info on the feathers and layers. Molting

how chickens molt and grow new feathers

Feathers

I tried to take close photos of the feathers coming in.  It is like a straw pokes up first, then the feather grows from inside the straw to protect it, so cool.  Some of our hens have grown in different patterns or colors than they didn’t have before, and others just get a fresh, clean look.

hen with molting feathers being broody

Next, the hens can lose their feathers gradually over a week or so And some just explode in one day.  It can be scary when you are not expecting it!  I thought Gypsy had been attacked when I walked down the stairs one day.  When hens molt, they generally stop egg production. It is like a time of rest for their bodies to prepare for the next season of laying

(You think I’m kidding about the mom-hen similarities?).

We like to give them that rest, especially for all they give us the rest of the year.  What a blessing and experience it has been for us to walk out back and get fresh eggs! We enjoy sharing our hens with other kids so they can learn, or get their own eggs to take home.  Kids just love it, adults too.

grayson and grant cutting and sewing coop curtains

Curtain science

Since the nest is not in operational use at the moment.  I had the bright idea to make curtains for the nest boxes.  A good friend of mine gave me a bag full of scrap fabric and I have been sewing up a storm.  I saw the idea over at   Fresh Eggs Daily.  Lisa has a wealth of information on all things chicken. We have three nests, and they all crowd each other out for just the use of one.  My scientific experiment is to see if the curtains make a difference in the hens using the other nests. At least that is what I am telling my husband. It’s for science.  Do you think he sees through that excuse?

hanging curtains in the chicken coop for broody hens

I enlisted Grayson and Grant for this experiment.  They measured, cut, and helped sew up the fabric. I believe sewing is a life skill even a boy should have. We got into the coop to measure and make adjustments. Then, the final product was unveiled!

curtains in the chicken coop

Don’t you just think the girls will love the polka dots? Before you write me off as the crazy chicken lady.  You have to understand that I live with three boys, down and dirty boys.  I don’t have anything to frill up and make pretty.  I resigned that to my aging years when they have gone. A girl has got to polka dot up something now and again, So why not a coop!

Let’s see if our experiment works……

If you would like to do a unit on chickens we have created a fun one.

homeschool science curriculum chickens

No chickens are required to do this unit that teaches more than you can imagine about those birds.

Check out the Chickens mini-unit.

broody chicken versus moody mom

 

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About the Author

Holly Giles is a wife, mother, and storyteller. As an author and Florida Master Naturalist, she writes about heritage homemaking skills, motherhood, and why Florida offers the best hidden natural gems to explore as a family.

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