The Lowdown on Broody Chooks

broody chookSweetie cooling off in the broody box

Most heritage chooks hear natures call to nest and hatch babies – especially in spring. Some more often than others, as in the case of Light Sussex hens like Sweetie in the pic. Who will have atleast 3 retreats a year.

This is being broody – sitting on eggs in the hope of babies. The difference between sitting to lay an egg and hoping to hatch one becomes obvious as the day goes on. If shes still there in the evening, thats your first clue. And the grouchy attitude is the second – when you try to get involved she’ll fluff up her feathers and growl or peck you. Awww, love the ferocity of maternal urges.

Sometimes the timing is perfect. If you’ve got a rooster, ergo fertilised eggs + you want babies, then let the cycle play out in a separate area to the chook house. Some where sheltered and safe. A little pen/ nest in the yard itself is my favourite.

Left on the eggbox in the house, broody chooks will put the others off laying there and you’ll have eggs all over the place. Less than ideal having to hunt for them and a shout out to rats .

If it doesn’t work because there’s no rooster or you don’t need babies, then you’ve got 2 options. Let it play out in a safe space as above, or cool them off somewhere. As in so many moments in nature, its a temperature thing. In our case there’s no point because there’s no boy in the house – those eggs will only go off, but there’s no telling Sweetie that. She’s in for the duration unless I snap her out of it. Which I am – that’s what this broody box is all about.

The broody box has a mesh floor which cools the chook down and gets her back to normal biz in about 3 or 4 days. However long she is broody for is how long she will take to get back to laying, so I like to get on the job right away. While shes not 100% cosy with the mesh floor she has a container for fresh water and a container for pellets hanging on the wall, and is sheltered from sun, wind and rain so shes nice and dry.

There are some pretty awful ways of managing broody chooks out there – none of which I condone – from hobbling one leg, to holding under icy cold water, to hanging in a sack – good grief. 3 nights in a broody box aint so bad.