Let Them Go Broody, Part II

You may recall reading about my recent dilemma about allowing my broody Cochins to stay broody, naturally. You can read about it here: https://smallhousebigskyhomestead.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/call-me-the-ch…eeper-renegade/

In searching for scientific material about this subject I contacted Dr. Jacquie Jacobs at the Extension, Americas Research Based Learning program “Ask an Expert.”

MY QUESTION:

Why do chicken keepers recommend breaking a broody hen?

Asked June 28, 2015, 6:24 PM EDT

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I’ve been researching broody hen pros and cons. I am doing this because I have three serial Cochins bantams all gone broody… all at once. After weeks of having them penned up in the dog kennel nothing has changed in their broodiness. Even the hens that “appeared” to be broken were back to being broody a week or so later.

We have one dog kennel that has been used for a temporary broody cage although right now that is not available as it is the temporary sleeping quarters of our newest four RIR pullets until their new coop in completed.

I have been wondering just why everyone is so intent on breaking a broody hen?

I can understand the chicken keeper whose livelihood depends on selling eggs who want their chickens to lay and lay often (and of course we know that a broody hen does are not laying.) But really why is going broody such a terrible thing for a hen?

I find no scientific studies describing any effects in health for a broody hen.

WHAT I DO: I remove my broody hens from the nest box three times a day to eat, dust, poop and drink. If the day is pleasantly cool and windy I open up the doors of our chicken coop. I’ve read that cooling them and giving them more daylight shortens the broody cycle.

Knowing that my hens are physically okay even while broody,why is it that I am “commanded” to break them from their broodiness?

I am a natural chicken keeper meaning I prefer to let nature take its course whenever possible and quite frankly it does not feel right to me to break them from being broody.

I feel the same way about training my dog with love rather than through the pain of using a shock collar. Breaking a broody through isolating and caging them may be the common course of action but my instincts are telling me it is not humane.

My one Cochin momma went broody, laid her eggs and brooded them. She mothered those chicks for over 5 months without suffering any ill effects. Yes, she lost weight, but I fed her well throughout and after and she rebounded well.

Some say that they get out of condition when they brood? Out of condition for what? Yes, they lose some weight when brooding, I get that. But it’s June and my hens have five months to get back into shape before winter arrives.

My broody hens are 9 months old and are in very healthy shape having received organic feed, fresh crushed garlic and immune system building herbs since they were two weeks old. They have never had mites or any other illness. They are young and healthy with natural hormones.

Maybe the breakers just don’t want to feed a hen that is not producing. Again I can understand that position as my hens are also egg layers but they are also my pets. I don’t plan to cull them when they stop laying, I’ll let them live out their natural lives in a gentle retirement as a reward for a job well done.

I’d appreciate your referencing any scientific studies you know of on this subject. Thank you.

HER REPLY:

There is nothing that says you have to ‘break’ a broody hen. Many take advantage of them by putting fertile eggs under them and having the hen hatch them out and start raising the hatchlings. Doesn’t even have to be chicken eggs. I’ve seen hens hatch out ducks and have heard of them hatching out other species. The methods for possibly stopping a hen from being broody is for those that wish to do so – often so the hens don’t lose too much weight or to get her to lay eggs again. If you want to leave your broody hens alone, nothing says you can’t.

Dr. Jacquie Jacob

– Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky
Checkout www.extension.org/poultry
Or on facebook – www.facebook.com/poultryextension

Replied June 28, 2015, 8:09 PM EDT

I encourage all chicken keepers to rethink this “typical’ behavior.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

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