How to break a broody. Medieval edition.

That’s it; I’ve had it.

I’ve had it with lifting both Abby and Buffy off the nest multiple times a day to get out, stretch their legs, eat something, poop, and mingle with their sisters. I’ve had it with maintaining multiple food and water sources. I’ve had it with getting five eggs a day, on a good day.

But, all of that I would have gladly endured were it not for one thing: Buffy is starving herself to death. She is down to a precipitous thinness, as Chicken Debbie confirmed on her visit yesterday afternoon.

In the pic below, you can see (thanks to her pulling out her own belly feathers!) just how thin she has become and how prominent her breast bone is. What Chicken Debbie told me that I didn’t know is that chickens, especially broody hens, will starve themselves to sickness and death.

This is a much more dire situation for Buffy than for Abby, for two reasons. Firstly, Abby is a better eater. When I put feed or treats next to her on the nest, she eats. Buffy is so entranced by brooding that she ignores everything directly in front of her, even mealworms.

Secondly, Buffy was on the thin side to begin with, as she was still putting back on flesh from her attack when she went broody. She had less to lose, and she has now lost as much as she can afford. See for yourself:

Chicken Debbie suggest a time-honoured old farmer’s cure for broodiness: dunking. And, yes, that is exactly what it sounds like. One takes a broody hen, and dunks her in coldish water for a decent length of time, say, five minutes, everything but her head, making sure to swirl the water into the feathers. The science to this is that broodiness raises the core temperature of a hen, so she can successfully incubate eggs to hatching. Lower her core body temperature, and you have removed one of the major physical attributes of broodiness.

Before undertaking this, I decided to turn to Backyard Chickens for research, sure there would be a comprehensive thread on the subject, as getting a hen broody and breaking a hen of broodiness are very common concerns. And so there is.

Today is a bright, breezy, dry 80 degrees, so the time was as right as it was every going to be. I had the bucket, the water, the ice, and the hens, but I’d be damned if I was going to let this witch trial proceed with out comprehensive photo documentation. I am always thinking of you, gentle reader!

So, I snagged my friend NotHeedleyWendy (I have two friends named Wendy, which can make communication confusing), and asked her to woman the camera for both stills and video while I did the actual dunking.

First of all, let me tell all the people that said the hen wouldn’t struggle at all that they can bite me. There was plenty of struggling and plenty of complaining. That said, I didn’t feel bad about what I was doing. This was a temporary discomfort, at most, not a cruelty or endangerment, and Buffy is in very real physical danger. Again.

So, here are photos of Buffy in the water, and out:

The deep pinkness of her bare belly tells me she was plenty cold, as did her shivering at the time.

Abby’s dunking was quite similar, although she handled it with less fear and more irritation. A couple of these shots should be on a chicken lover site somewhere with “caption this” under them:

If HeedleyWendy isn’t inspired to create an Abby character based on those first two photos, then I just don’t know her. What do you say, Wen?

There was also video taken, which is well worth seeing. You can find it on the Heedley’s Hens Facebook Page.

Both hens were shivering and unimpressed by the time it was over; five minutes can be a very long time. Buffy seemed more shocked; Abby more pissed off. They are both drying off and, thank the chicken gods, eating. The coop is closed, barring Abby from her nest, and the wicker nest has been removed from the dog crate in the showroom. All the fart eggs on which they were sitting have been discarded.

It’s my plan, based on the experience of others, to repeat the process at around 4pm. That will give them plenty of time to dry out before the sun goes down. Both of them will sleep in the coop tonight, and the nesting boxes will be blocked off. As god is my witness.

Basta. Finis. Enough already.

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6 thoughts on “How to break a broody. Medieval edition.

  1. I am up to two more broodies this morning. One is a barred rock just like Abby – if this works let me know. I am willing to give it a go. She is not mother material :P

    • I’m so glad you’re laughing! I sometimes wonder if I’m only entertaining myself, and it’s always wonderful to hear someone’s right there with me. They are marvelous, insane creatures…

  2. I thought I was Dog Wendy? The license plate on my motorcycle is Bendy…I could be Bendy Wendy (got that name when I used to do yoga). I’m glad I was there to witness this first hand and to photo document for you! :)

    • For the purposes of this blog, I think I’ll use NotHeedleyWendy. It’s easier for people who are just popping in and don’t know the whole story. But I’m totally calling you Bendy from now on…

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