The Cottage Smallholder

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Hope has got off the nest! What you can do if your chicken suddenly stops being broody.

Pretty little chicken house

Pretty little chicken house

I went down to the chicken run this afternoon, lifted the lid on the nesting box and found just a neat nest of eggs. The eggs were still warm but where was Hope?

I could hear Radio Hope transmitting from behind the Emerald Castle and she stepped out to enjoy the corn that I’d brought for an afternoon treat. Perhaps she was just stretching her legs? But no. She didn’t return to the nest. She was clucking constantly, which is unusual for her.

Deciding to hang about in the run for a bit, I busied myself spreading bark chippings in the muddy areas. After half an hour or so it was clear that Hope had no intention of returning to her nest. In a bit of a flap I dialled The Chicken Lady’s mobile and explained the situation. TCL and husband S are real chicken experts with years of experience.
“Do you have an incubator that I can borrow?”
“Of course! But S says that if you put her in a dark place, even a box, she’s likely to go broody again.”
“But it will be like trying to catch Jack The Ripper. She’s so flight of foot and will fight like hell if I do manage to grab her.”
“Move her at night – she’ll be all woozy.”

S also offered to lend me one of their broody hens. With the eggs arriving shortly, I now have two options if  Hope doesn’t go broody again – an incubator or a visiting mother hen.

I decided to remove all the pieces of wood from the Emerald Castle that needed to be replaced. Within a few minutes I realised that most of the wood was rotten – no wonder so many new holes had appeared over the winter. It was like the balsa wood that my brother used to make his airplanes from when he was a child.

I’m pretty good at woodwork but making another ark would take me some time. I treated our main chicken house with wood preservative before painting it with Sadolin. It’s nine years old and shows no sign of rot. Sadolin is expensive paint but if it extends the life of a chicken house the investment is an economy in the long run. I didn’t bother to do this with The Emerald Castle. Even though the wood was treated when I bought it, and I slapped on a coat of ‘garden paint’ every couple of years, it gradually rotted away.

Even if you don’t have a broody hen, an extra hen house and mini run is very useful. You may need to isolate a sick hen or provide accommodation for a chicken that is being bullied. Do you remember how Baby blossomed when he was given his own apartment?

When I was searching for hatching eggs on Ebay on the Internet yesterday, a very pretty little hen house and mini run. The seller has limited stock at 33% off the normal retail price. There is flexibility with this item too – the run can be removed when not needed. It also costs less than the Emerald Castle did eight years ago.

So if all goes well we’ll have new chicks and a brand new dinky hen house for them too!

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  1. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Don’t tell me this! For the very first time, we’re giving our broody hen fertilized eggs to hatch (OK, so they’re turkey eggs), and I have no idea what I’ll do if Queenie decides she’d rather not sit all day, every day, on a nest. All I can do is cross my fingers.

    I hope Hope goes back to her duties!

  2. I have found that the first time a hen goes broody that very often they don’t set for very long but get up & leave the nest. It is as if they are just testing to see if they like it. However those hens often go properly broody a few weeks later.

    If I have to move my broody with her eggs I always do it after dark & lay a light-weight black scarf over her & the eggs for the journey between coops.

  3. Wood preservative: Wickes own brand of wood preservative (NOT the paint stuff for fences) is the soak-into-the-wood kind and MUCH cheaper than the other branded similar things. It is bat-friendly and therefore suitable for henhouses. We used Lidl’s own brand and when that changed formulation, moved over to Wickes’ version. My main henhouse is now over 12 years old but with an annual wood preservative treatment, it is in fine shape with no rotten wood and looks almost new.

  4. steve h

    I wouldn`t worry too much at this stage, as its only the first day. Its not unusual for a “broody” to take a day or two to decide to sit,(the hormones have to build up)and at this stage of development the eggs will take no harm. The real danger from chilling comes from about the 12th day on, when the chicks body is no longer surrounded by insulating fluid and isin direct contact with the shell wall.If you try and catch her and stick her in a box at this stage, chances are she will fret too much and lose any inclination of broodiness she`s developing.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Steve

      Oh that’s a relief! I crept out at Dusk and moved her back into the nesting box and barricaded the door. Fingers crossed!

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