Story & Photos By Robert Korcz
Breaking a broody chicken can be a daunting task and I am told sometimes an impossible one. I do not profess to be an expert but I can tell you how I did it with a troublesome chicken.
I live on a small three-acre plot just north of the town of Warrensburg in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. This is only the second year I am raising chickens and I have five chickens this year; so my experience level is obviously low.
My chickens do not free range because of the chicken-eating critters that abound in the Adirondack Mountains. I keep them in a homemade A-frame coop of my own design. It works really well, providing enough space for them to stretch their legs on the ground floor, getting their food and water there and an upper story that is closed at night provides nest boxes and roosts. It is actually a modification of other A-frame coops that’s best traits I combined into one design.
One of my chickens had a prolapsed uterus, it looked horrible, and other chickens were pecking at it until it bled. I had no idea what this was and had to bring it back to the farmer I got it from. He solved the problem with the push of a finger and exchanged the chicken because this condition can repeat itself in some chickens.
Other than that all the chickens seemed fine and were laying well; three to five eggs a day. After about a month I noticed one of the older birds was spending more time in one of the nesting boxes. This progressed to the point she was not coming down to eat or drink. I couldn’t get her off the nesting box; she would squawk and peck at my hand if I tried to get eggs out. I had to lift her off the nest with a stick to gather eggs and I had to be aggressive in poking her off. I thought she was sick or ready to die. Then I read about broody chickens and how sometimes they die of this condition. I can see how this happens if the chicken won’t eat or drink.
I didn’t know what to do. Some farmer friends told me to put feed and water near her in small cups, but that wouldn’t do. How I was going to gather eggs? A book’s advice was to continually move her off the nest or cull the bird. Continuously moving her didn’t work and I didn’t want to cull the bird.
I found the solution by accident; I broke her of being broody without trying.
Once a week I clean the upper floor of the coop removing all old cut straw, hay and chicken poop and replacing with fresh bedding. It must be done during the day when all the birds are downstairs and I can shut the guillotine door that secures the upstairs. Then I can lift the access door to the upstairs and do the housecleaning. With a broody chicken that would not come down off the nest this would be difficult. I decided to clean the coop anyway. The broody bird was upset, but I proceeded to do my work and moved her away with a stick. Before I could put in the new cut hay, the broody chicken flew to the ground outside the coop. Nothing I could do would entice her back into the coop.
I had someplace to go so I let her free range for the day. I raised the guillotine door to let the other chickens have access to the upstairs of the coop and went about my business elsewhere. That night, she was sleeping just in front of the coop. My chickens are not used to being handled, but I figured I could scoop her up and put her back in the coop. Wrong! At the touch of my hands she was off like a shot into the dark. I would never catch her at night so I figured I would deal with it tomorrow or she would cull herself.
The next day she hung around the coop but was unapproachable. So the following night when all the other chickens were upstairs asleep, I opened the access door for feed and water and left it open all night hoping she would come in by herself. Instead she roosted on top of the coop.
I repeated this and on the third night she roosted on the ledge of the feed and water access door. I shoved her in and shut the door. She was in the coop again.
Would I have to contend with continued crazy broody behavior? When I went to gather eggs the next morning, she was on a nest but she stepped off without a peep when she saw me. She now comes down to feed and drink and spends minimal time on the nest.
She was broken of her broody behavior by a few nights away from the coop. I don’t know if this will work for other chickens but it worked for mine, it also saved the chicken from the axe, so I thought I would pass it on to other chicken people.
So don’t let your broody chickens die. Just evict them from the coop for two or three days.