Last week I mentioned that I had a broody chicken. The broodiness was really hard to shake, in spite of my having the Miracle Broody Hen Cure. She’d be in there for a while, seem better, I’d put her back in the coop, and she’d go right back into the nesting bucket. So then I’d put her back in the MBHC, and she’d act all agitated, so I’d put her back into the coop, and you probably can see where this is going. It turns out I was doing it all wrong. Observe the below photo:
What do you notice about this? That’s right, you can see everything. My mother-in-law, just out of trying to get a moment’s peace, went and covered the cage with a dropcloth. (The chicken can be quite vocal when the mood grabs her, by which I mean I now know what an unholy racket sounds like.) Well, it turns out this cage coverage was the missing link we needed. A day later, the chicken was cured!
We’ll see how long it takes them to get resistant to this new cure, but hopefully this works for a while.
In the meantime, I’ll keep telling you I’m not sure when Garden Guys is back on the air, because I don’t know. But I’ll be sure to make a post about it when I find out anything.
Not that time of the year where Garden Guys starts back up (though I swear it will be soon – the computer issues they’re having are apparently legendary), but that time of the year where someone gets broody. They’re laying more eggs, it makes sense that someone’s gonna want to sit on them until they hatch. Of course, that will be never since we don’t have a rooster, so I put them in the “broody buster,” aka, an old bird cage. It tends to cure them of the urge to hatch the unhatchable. You can read more about it here. So, I’ve got this to deal with while Garden Guys sorts out their computer woes. Of course, it’s mostly sitting around waiting for the voices that tell the chicken to brood to go away, but hey, someone’s gotta do it.
The blurryness of this photo is meant to evoke Bigfoot photos. Bigfoot also likes to sit on eggs.
Summer chickens, make me feel fine. Something’s blowing through the jasmine in my mind and it’s got a hint of chicken poop in it, but that’s o.k. The humidity has been down lately, and so the smells don’t linger like they used to. Plus, we all know chicken poop is good for everything, so let it rip, ladies. However, summer seems to be winding down, or at least what most people think of summer is. Maybe technically we still have a bunch of September, but you know that if you don’t make August count, it’s all over. I’ve tried to explain this to the chickens, but they have odd interpretations of this advice.
Read this. It will change your life.
Before I had my own chickens, I visited some at the Franklin Park Zoo. Apparently, the chickens there like to stretch out in the sun so much that they put up a sign to tell you that yes, the chickens were o.k. I had kind of forgotten about that sign until this past weekend. I was trying to make the most of a waning summer weekend by doing stuff in the yard because I like to maximize my pain and suffering. Amazingly, my mother in law claims to like mowing the lawn. I have never heard of such a thing, but at least I don’t have to mow anymore. But that unfortunately frees up more time for tasks involving manual clippers. So I was out clipping stuff, and came upon one of the Mandrell Sisters lying on her side in the sun. Of course, my first instinct was to assume that we were at Woodstock and she had eaten the brown acid even though they said not to, until I remembered that it was not the 60s anymore. I wasn’t convinced something else wasn’t totally wrong, and then that lesson I learned at the zoo years ago came back to me. “Yes,” I said, “that chicken is o.k. They like to do that.” The chicken gave me look like I was an idiot for talking to myself, and went back to sunbathing. At least one of us was having a good time.
I haven’t had much problems with broodiness and the Mandrell Sisters lately, at least not until our little talk about packing excitement into the end of summer. One of them went broody last Thursday, and so I put her into the isolation of the Miracle Broody Hen Cure, aka, my mom’s old bird cage. Usually this can blast the broodiness out of them in a day or two. Well, a day came and went, and there she was, still brooding. Two days went by. She had turned around in the cage, but was still puffed out and making the “I am broody” noise. Three days went by, and I was impressed with her commitment to this bit. After four days, I started to wonder how long she could be away from the others before I had to do an elaborate routine to introduce her back into the flock. On the 5th day I approached the cage, and upon putting my hand close to it and getting the broody noise in return, I had had enough. I figured I would put her back into the coop temporarily for a change of scenery, and if she was still broody that night, I’d bring her back inside. That way she’d also get reacquainted with the others, so I could hopefully avoid any reintroduction rituals. I picked her up out of the cage while she did her best pufferfish impersonation, and there, underneath her, was an egg. She was most definitely broody when I put her in, and I didn’t think broody birds laid eggs until the real or imaginary ones they were sitting on hatched. This would probably explain why she wasn’t snapping out of it, but how that egg got there is a mystery. I took her outside and put her into the run while I filled up the feeder. She puffed around a little, then hopped up on one of the roosts, and began a run of top volume clucking for about 5 minutes. This was at 5 in the morning, mind you. My cries of “shhh, chicken!” did nothing to silence her. So I grabbed her and put her inside the coop with the others while I finished up. They all eventually came back out, and she went right back up on the roost, but rather than continuing her earlier monologue, she produced the gigantic, nasty poop that is the general indicator that broodiness has left the building. My plan that I didn’t really even think was a plan had worked. I allowed myself to feel good about it, while stepping away from the massive stool.
That chicken is o.k. Both physically and existentially.
Clearly my standards for what constitutes making the most of the rest of summer have changed. But I suppose chickens will change a person. I’d like to be able to just hang out in the yard with the chickens without doing any sort of manual labor, but our yard seems unwilling to compromise. I suppose if I do have to be out there doing work, at least I have chickens around to keep it entertaining.
I know I like to come on here each week and act like having chickens is totally cool, and that’s because, frankly, it is. When we got chickens I didn’t really know what to expect, and I figured there would be parts of it that were kind of a drag, but I have enjoyed it far more than I expected to. I even prefer cleaning the coop to cleaning the litter box (though, if you knew our cats and the butt crimes they commit, you’d understand why.) But I don’t want to paint an unrealistic picture of what chicken keeping is like. There are a few disappointments I’ve had so far, and so I thought I’d share them in the spirit of openness.
The first thing that people with chickens were always saying was to keep them away from your garden. “They’ll eat all your plants!” they said in horrified tones. I had already encased my garden in fencing prior to chickening thanks to the huge number of pesky rabbits that seem to live in our yard. They were hot-pepper-on-the-ground resistant, so I sucked it up and got some chicken wire. It’s not pretty, but it allowed some vegetables to make it to maturity last year. This year when the weeds started popping up in the yard, I figured this was the chickens’ big chance to do their thing. I know they like these weeds, since I have often plucked them and tossed them into the run, and a fight breaks out over who will eat them first. Come on out in the yard, chickens! There’s plenty for all! Plenty of weeds popping out of the ground, sure, but how many of those weeds are pulled up and being brought to their feathery highnesses? I apparently have created some real dandies who insist that their weeds be brought to them. They’ll scratch up the yard like crazy looking for bugs or worms, and every so often they’ll eat some leaves from a nearby pricker bush, but all those dandelions? No interest, unless they’re already out of the ground and presented to them. I’m hoping they’ll come around as the season progresses, otherwise I’m going to have to trade them all in for a goat, and I think goats will have a hard time laying their eggs in the buckets I’ve provided for nesting.
Get ’em while they’re fresh, ladies!
Fresh eggs are a high point for keeping chickens. I had some random eggs at a restaurant recently and I thought they had slipped me scrambled cardboard. I had a feeling I would be let down, and I was right, but pancakes just don’t fill me up, so I gave their eggs a shot. I’m totally spoiled by how great our eggs are. I may have to start bringing my own on the few occasions I go out for breakfast. That’s acceptable, right? The one way these eggs fail is that fresh eggs are terrible for making hard boiled eggs. You might not think that’s a big deal, but I like bringing a couple of hard boiled eggs in my lunch as snacks, since they are good and filling. The problem is, since our eggs are usually no more than two weeks old, they just don’t do it right. They’re hard to peel like you wouldn’t believe. I had two this week that by the time I got all the shell off, there was really only the yolk left. Everything else had stuck to tiny shell bits. I’ve tried different methods of preparing them, but the sticky shells almost always get me. I finally found a website saying your eggs had to be at least a month old to work well with hard boiling. We eat them too fast, I suppose. I’ll allow the slight chance that maybe I just suck at boiling eggs, but I think there’s something to this “old egg” business. I can live with something else in my lunch, if I have to.
Those are freshness lines, and I needed stink lines.
A final disappointment has to do with my Miracle Broody Hen cure. I had a hen go broody a while back, and I managed to snap her out of it in a day by isolating her in a bird cage. It was great. I now have one that is like a broody yo-yo. She gets broody, I put her in the cage, she snaps out of it, so I put her back with the rest of the chickens in the morning, and by evening she’s broody again. For most of the day she’s fine, but for some reason going to bed and seeing those nesting buckets sets something off, and she’s back into it. It’s like gambling addiction for chickens. It’s more annoying than anything, and this is really a problem with this specific chicken, not chickens in general, so maybe this doesn’t count.
These aren’t really horror stories I’m relating here. It’s more a series of bummers, and not even a very long series. My disappointments are themselves pretty disappointing. We’re coming up on a year of having the chickens, and I’m sure in the years to come there’ll be more let downs, but right now I’m not about to go seeking them out. I dig raising chickens, and I aim to keep it that way.
Ladies and gentlemen, step right up and hear a tale about a chicken that would not leave the nesting box and the miracle that restored her to normal chickenhood. Yes indeed, you or someone you know and possibly love may have also had a chicken that would not go about her daily business due to a possibly unfounded desire to hatch an egg that will not hatch. Don Quixote had his windmills, Ahab had his whale, roosterless chickens have their eggs. For one full week this chicken of mine sat on unfertilized eggs clinging to the vain hope that if she tried hard enough and believed in herself she could overcome the obvious obstacles to her success, but let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, there is a point at which belief in one’s self crosses over into delusion and this chicken crossed that line miles ago and never even looked back. I may have mentioned that I don’t have a rooster, and so these eggs were unfertilized and you know what that means. If you don’t, you may want to do some research and come back later, because you’re missing a key point of what I’m talking about.
For the rest of you, I’ll tell you that when a chicken gets it into her head that she’s going to hatch an egg she is going to hatch that egg even if that egg isn’t going to hatch. From a keeping your chickens alive standpoint, this will not do. Chickens need to eat and feel fulfilled in their work, so I was able to obtain a device that set this chicken back on the road to sanity and going around doing regular chicken stuff with satisfying payoffs.
Ladies and gentlemen (or however you identify, I do not wish to discriminate with this message), you or someone you know or possibly love may have such a device already in their home. You see, ladies and gentlemen, my mother used to have a cockatiel. Not a cockatoo, that’s a different thing. She’s out of the cockatiel as a pet business and so for years her birdcage has lain dormant. When I expressed to my mother my need to take this broody chicken away from the source of her temptation and put her into some sort of solitary confinement until she saw the light my mother said to me, “Son, I believe I have just the thing, if you think you can fit a chicken in there.” I looked at the bird cage and I said, “By gum, mother, if I can’t fit a chicken in there, I don’t know what I can do with one.” It had a dish for food and a dish for water built right in, and a perfectly chicken sized door. So I put that chicken in there, and I said, “Chicken demons, begone.” The first thing this chicken did, and this is in keeping with accounts that I have read, was produce the largest, smelliest, nastiest stool I have ever seen come out of an animal, and I once lived in an all boy dormitory, but I believe, ladies and gentlemen (or other), that this was in fact the demons leaving her body. And I’ll tell you what, one day later she was cured. I went in and this chicken that refused to stand up, as it would mean an egg was not being covered, was standing up and clucking, and was that same old chicken I remembered from about a week prior. I returned her to the coop where the other chickens were totally cool about acting like she hadn’t been weird for a little while and everyone was happy, cue the inspirational music, and roll credits.
Now, ladies and gentlemen (etc.), I have to tell you that a day and a half or so of keeping a chicken away from the nest is a pretty fast cure from what I have read. Some people will say three days, some may say a week, lord help you if they say more, but I know that I was able to deliver this chicken away from broodiness with what can only be described as “the quickness.” As they say on the internet YMMV – your mileage may vary. But I can tell you should you experience broodiness yourself, that your mother’s used cockatiel cage is just the thing you need to set that bird back to righteousness. Not available in stores . . . or actually they are, but they’re pretty expensive, that’s why I’m saying go used. I provide this information as a public service because I like you, dear listeners, now go out there into the world and share what you know with the keepers of the broody chickens and tell them Erik P. Kraft sent you. They won’t know who that is, but if you say it enough maybe it will begin to make sense. Do try this at home – the chicken you save may be your own.
We had just gotten back from a trip to New York City, (where, by the way, everyone was totally thrilled to hear tales of chickenry) and the first thing I did when getting home was say hello to the chickens. A kid from the local 4-H group had looked after them while we were gone, so I knew they’d be fine, but I had missed them. I stuck my head in to say goodnight, and as is my habit since Boss Chicken got sick and spent a night outside, I counted them to make sure they were all there. With Boss Chicken in quarantine, there should be 5 on the roost. I counted 4. I counted again. Still 4. Third time’s the charm, right? Not if you were counting these same chickens. I was about to look under the coop, fearing a repeat of the Boss Chicken Incident, when I noticed a small head sticking out of one of the nesting buckets. There was the missing Mandrell Sister, but what was going on? Immediately I thought I had come home to another sick chicken, but since she was in the nesting bucket, I quickly changed my mind to thinking that she may have gone broody. Sure enough, she was sitting on a bunch of eggs. I removed her from the bucket, and she remained puffed out and squat, and was making a very weird noise. The best way I can think to describe it would be “power cooing.” It was like a coo put on repeat and sped up. This was weird, but I decided to not freak out, and instead put her back in the bucket, since that’s where she wanted to be. I then turned to the internet.
Took away the decoys, just to remove any temptation.
It seems there are a lot of different ways to snap a hen out of being broody, or, as some people put it “break a broody hen,” which sounds a lot harsher. The most natural way would be to get some fertilized eggs for her to hatch. When the eggs hatch, she stops being broody. I suppose I could talk to the farmer down the street about buying some fertilized eggs, but you may have noticed that I call this “Too Many Chickens!” not “I Think There Must Be Ways To Get More Chickens,” so I am going to hold off on this one for now. Not that I wouldn’t like to have baby chicks running around, but I can’t do this every time a hen goes broody, or we’ll fill up the coop post haste. This is my first encounter with broodiness, but in my reading I’m finding that Buff Orpingtons get broody a lot, and we have three of them. I could double or triple the size of the flock before summer is over.
Unhatchable, due to lack of rooster.
Another method of beating broodiness is to dunk the hen in cold water. This seems somewhere between trying to prove the chicken is a witch, and waterboarding. Neither suits my tastes. I think it works on a similar principle as scaring away hiccups, but it’s still pretty chilly at night around here, so I’m not too thrilled about leaving a soggy hen out in the cold. You also may be familiar with the saying, “madder than a wet hen,” and I’m not sure I want to see just how mad that is. Since we have a good amount of snow still, I did try putting her in a snowbank while gathering the eggs. The dunk technique seems to work on the idea that you need to lower the bird’s body temperature, and snow seemed better than dunking. It did seem to convince her to go out into the run to eat, but at night she was right back in the bucket. What’s interesting is that everyone seems to have heard of the water dunk method, but I didn’t read any accounts in which it actually worked.
Mixing it up by sitting between the two nesting buckets.
The technique that best fits my lifestyle would be to take her away from the bucket and put her somewhere she has no opportunity to nest, like a dog crate, or an unused rabbit hutch. I could do this, except Boss Chicken is already convalescing in our dog crate. I don’t think putting them both in there is a good idea, but I may have to figure out some way to isolate her for a few days to see if it can do the trick. I may have to just put her in a box and see what happens. Substitutions don’t always work though, as evidenced by my failure when using snow instead of a bucket of water. Chickens want the real deal.
There’s nothing wrong with this behavior, it’s actually totally natural. My worry is that she might not ever come out of it if there are no eggs that will hatch. When a hen gets broody, they don’t leave the nest, so they don’t eat or get water. It takes three weeks to hatch an egg, so after that, they may start to fade away from malnutrition. I don’t want that to happen, so the best plan would be to make this stop. How to do this remains the issue, but I have muddled my way along this far, I’m sure I can do a little more muddling, even without waterboarding anyone. Or at least not any chickens.