Posts Tagged ‘broody hen’

Losing My First Chicken

Friday, August 1st, 2014


I knew from the beginning that sooner or later at least one of my chickens was going to die. I mean, they all will eventually, but I fully expected at least one of the baby chicks to not make it to adulthood, and even though I managed to keep them alive that long, I knew it couldn’t last. I was right. In early Spring we lost a Mandrell Sister.


The days were getting longer, and more light means more eggs. I was beginning to suspect that more eggs also meant more broody time, which is when they want to sit on an egg until it hatches. One morning I opened the coop door to put more wood chips in and one of the Mandrell Sisters was hanging out in the nesting bucket. I was willing to allow that there was a slight chance that she was actually laying an egg at that hour, but we’re talking about 5:15 in the morning, and total darkness, so I was really leaning towards it being broodiness. I even heard someone make the weird broody noise, and since she was in the bucket, I assumed it was her. I was willing to let her hang out there all day, though. If she was still there when I got home, I’d put her in the bird cage I use to snap the chickens out of broodiness.

broody chicken

They call it “The Broody Buster.”

I got home, and I could see that everyone was out in the run as I approached, so I chalked it up to a false alarm, or maybe she actually had been ready to lay an egg that early. I am barely capable of opening my eyes and breathing at that hour, so more power to her, I thought. The next morning when I left, they were all out eating in the run, so I figured I had totally misread the situation.

That night I came home and there was one less chicken in the run than I expected. Now I figured that either she had gotten broody again and it took her a few tries to really get it working, or someone was laying an egg much later than I expected. I opened the coop expecting to find a chicken in the bucket, but instead I found her laying on the floor of the coop, lifeless.

I picked her up and brought her to the steps. We still had about a foot of rock solid snow on the ground, so even if I could get through the snow, the ground was still probably frozen solid, and if it wasn’t there are so many rocks it’s incredibly difficult to dig deep enough to plant a shrub, much less keep a body safe from varmints.

layers of snow and dirt

Geological map of the yard.

I texted my wife about what to do, and she suggested calling the vet. Turns out they will cremate a small body for $25. I bagged her up and had to drag my son away from his video game, which he was not happy about, but when I explained what was happening he seemed to think it was important. We had a short talk about how things that are alive also die, and it was sad that the Mandrell sister died, but it was all part of life. Then we drove to the vet and dropped off the body. I assumed that for $25 I wasn’t going to be getting any ashes back, so I wouldn’t get a chance to sprinkle her remains under the trees they all like to forage under. This is probably fine, since this raised the possibility of the others accidentally eating part of her, and I’d like to avoid that sort of activity.

Don't eat remains.

Do not mix.

The next morning my son asked if the Mandrell Sister wasn’t dead anymore. We explained that once you’re dead, that’s it, but she had a good life. He said he was sad, and we said we were too. You know what? It’s o.k. to be sad when a chicken dies. They may not be around as long as other pets, and they may leave without warning, but that doesn’t make them any less valued as companions. Go out there and love your chickens while you can, people.

RIP, Mandrell Sister



(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, music bed: Piano Soundtrack 1 by gurdonark)

Developments in broody chicken maintenance

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

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.

It’s that time of the year

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

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.

The blurryness of this photo is meant to evoke Bigfoot photos. Bigfoot also likes to sit on eggs.

The Chicken Days of Summer

Friday, August 16th, 2013

(Broadcast 8/16/2013)

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.

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.

sleep on sides

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.

chicken is o.k.

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.

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Chicken I.D.’s

Friday, June 21st, 2013

(Broadcast 2/21/2013)

I have three Buff Orpingtons that to me are almost identical. So identical that rather than give them individual names, I chose to give them a group name, which is The Mandrell Sisters. I suppose I could have given them individual names within that name, such as Barbara, Louise, and Lurlene, just like the actual Mandrell Sisters, but aside from not being able to know which one was which, there’s also the issue of which one was going to be Lurlene. Lurlene is not a name given lightly. At least not by me to a chicken.


It’s a magical moment when this name is assigned.

I pay pretty close attention, but I’ve never been able to get a handle on them visually or personality-wise. They’re all roughly the same size, and pretty much the exact same temperament. My take on Buff Orpingtons is that they are pretty mellow, all around nice chickens. My Barred Rocks have more variation in personality, from the vaguely malicious boss type, to the afraid of everything type. The Orpingtons are sort of the everyman of chickens. This is fine. They’re the bedrock of our flock. I really just wish I could tell them apart. Partly because I feel like I’m slighting them, but also because they keep going broody on me, and I’m curious to know if it’s the same one, or some sort of rotation.

the brood wheel

How else do you know whose turn it is?

There have been times when I could tell at least one of them apart from the others. When they were still living in the brooder, one of them had managed to get some, er, “fertilizer” on her back. She didn’t seem too concerned about cleaning it off, and didn’t like it when I tried to. I figured if she was o.k. with it, then it was probably better to leave it than to stress her out by trying to rub it off. While it lasted on there, I referred to her as a form of “Poopy Mandrell,” that I can’t say on the radio. So let’s just pretend I called her Poopy Mandrell. The poop didn’t take too long to come off on its own, and so she disappeared back into the crowd of three.

Chicken needs a tissue

You have to be subtle when pointing this out.

Shortly after moving them out to the coop, I stuck my head in to say goodnight, and saw one Mandrell Sister pecking at another one’s back. This had apparently been going on for a while, as there was blood all over the place. I reached in and broke it up, and then went inside to figure out what to do. I looked up anything to do with pecking, and it’s kind of hard to know why this happened, but the gist of the fix seemed to be to put something called Blu-Kote on it. It would dye the feathers blue, but if the chickens kept pecking, they’d get a taste of Blu-Kote, and that would be the end of it. We didn’t have any on hand, so I grabbed some trusty Bag Balm, and put it on the wound to at least keep it from getting infected until I had the chance to get to the feed store. When I did get to the feed store, they told me Bag Balm would work fine too, so I lucked out. For about a month or two afterwards, the one who had been pecked had a stain on her feathers from where the Bag Balm was, so she stood out. It too eventually went away, and she eased back into anonymity. I still don’t know why she got pecked, though. Incidentally, I didn’t kill the chicken who did the pecking, and it hasn’t happened again. I’m sure someone told me to kill the culprit, but as has been my experience, I found it was a one time thing, and lives were saved.

bag balm

The balm squad

The Bag Balm stain got me to thinking about other ways to mark them. The obvious indelible option would be to write their names on their back in magic marker. It would be pretty funny to see a chicken with “Lurlene” written on her back in giant letters. It would even be funny to see one with “Poopy” written down her back, at least to me. However, getting a chicken to hold still long enough to write legibly on her is not a task I want to attempt. Plus, the joke might wear off after a while. It’s kind of like a regrettable tattoo. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I have a dumb-looking chicken. So I don’t think I’ll try this.

poopy mandrell

Not how you do it.

You can actually buy a device that will put a colored band on their legs for identification. The problem here is that they aren’t cheap, and I only have three chickens I want to distinguish. That seems like a big investment for something that’s not all that big a deal. I would like to know if it’s the same one getting broody, and I’d feel a lot better about myself if I could tell them apart, but I don’t feel so bad that I’m going to blow a lot of money on it. I can probably just get some zip ties or something if it finally wears me down. But I’m only going to do that once I know in my heart of hearts that I’ve got a Lurlene in there.

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The Miracle Broody Hen Cure!

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

(Broadcast 3/22/13)

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.

No loitering.

No loitering.

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.

In solitary.

In solitary.

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.

Catching up on gossip.

Catching up on gossip.


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My First Broody Hen

Friday, March 15th, 2013

(Broadcast 3/15/2013)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Es Occupado.

Es Occupado.


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.



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