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How we outsmarted our brooding hens

June 30, 2008

They were precocious chicks, and we had high hopes for them. They were early fliers and so unbelievably cute. They began laying at five months, and most laid an egg every or every other day.

We had five buff Plymouth Rocks in the beginning; one died at the end of their first year when she passed her oviduct. The four seemed to go on with life as usual. They molted, stopped laying, brooded in turn, went back to laying.

Then one became a chronic brooder, then another. They seemed to live to pile on top of one another in their roosting boxes. By fall 2007, none was laying with any regularity. Sometimes weeks would go by without an egg.

We’re pushovers. We had commenced a duty of care. We went on buying feed and pine shavings. We expanded their outdoor quarters, but they weren’t interested; all they wanted to do was brood.

We locked them out of their hutch during the day. They wouldn’t lay outside. In the evening, we’d let them back inside and they’d brood. But once in a while, one would lay an egg.

It got worse. They began eating the one or two eggs they would lay. I’d find the broken shell fragments.

We hadn’t really decided to convert them to stew if we couldn’t break their brooding cycle, but we spoke of it. I visualized my husband strangling the birds that had climbed on my finger as chicks. Surely to goodness we could figure out a solution to their chronic brooding.

At last we did, and it worked. We closed off their nesting boxes. We simply stapled cardboard over them. My husband built a slatted grate and placed it over framed mesh. Now they lay on the grate, they don’t brood, and the eggs go down to mesh where they’re safe from cannibals. We’re getting three to four eggs a day from our foursome.

So, we outfoxed the chickens, they get to live, and we get eggs.

One of the girls thinks she\'s warming the eggs--I checked, and her foot wasn\'t caught in the slats.The brooding cubes, above the hen, are now covered with cardboard.






  1. Laura permalink
    July 1, 2008 6:40 am

    Good work! I’m so glad you didn’t have to strangle your little chickies—a disturbing image to be sure…

  2. shannon permalink
    August 23, 2008 8:27 pm

    Here’s how we got our chronic brooder out of her “funk.” My son had a raccoon trap. We put her in it, hung the cage from the rafters. Put food and water in it and made her stay in it for 2 days. Something about having nothing under their feet and the sway of the cage knocks the brooding right out of them!!

  3. Tina Marie Comroe permalink
    March 7, 2010 9:17 am

    My mother got her chickens out of this same situation by washing and crushing up the used eggshells from the eggs we ate and feeding them in the chicken feed. She says they were brooding due to a deficiency of protein and calcium…

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