Saturday, June 26, 2010

Broody and Moody

The chickens haven't been idle since I introduced the seven newbies, so I thought I'd update on what they've been doing.  Turns out that after all my research into the best breeds of chickens to keep in the cold climates as pets, a key piece of information was omitted by the chicken experts.  Silkie chickens have a common defect of a hole in their skulls.  This is what contributes to their cute little topnotch as part of their brains bulge out of the hole to create that look.  The hole doesn't close up apparently.  The problem with this is that it makes the Silkie susceptable to brain injury.  I discovered this after finding Frodo, our red Silkie, in apparent seizures at about 2 weeks of age.  She/he (we don't really know the gender yet but Kelsey insists it's a she) was uncontrollably dropping her head between her legs and doing somersaults.  At times, she seemed so out of it, I was certain she'd die or I'd have to have her euthanized.  I asked some questions on and found out about the skull defect in the breed.  We jokingly referred to her as the Flippin' Chicken.  Luckily, Frodo's brain gradually healed and after a couple of weeks the somersaults stopped.  However, she remains a special needs chick as we'll find her with her head in a corner, not aware of how to back up or turn around.  Or she'll be under a bush by herself while the rest of the flock is in another part of the yard.  Kelsey has taken Frodo under her wing, making the question of "Where's Frodo?" her summer project. 

Thelma, our Jersey Giant hen, the big girl who never misses a day when it comes to egg production, went broody.  Going broody is a term used when a hen decides it's time to hatch chicks.  She will sit on the nest, with or without eggs under her, and rarely come off to eat, drink or do regular chicken activities.  Simon and Garfunkel's song, "Feeling Broody" wouldn't leave my head.  Broodiness is a behavior that's been bred out of most of the egg production breeds.  It's even something that certain breeds are ranked on, along with egg production, cold and heat tolerance, personality, etc.  Chickens are graded on several factors, except of course, the above-mentioned tendency toward brain injury. 

Over the past few weeks, I noticed that Thelma had been spending more time in the nesting box, sitting for hours after she'd laid her daily egg.  We had to be careful reaching under her to collect eggs as she started pecking, something none of the other hens do.  Then the day came when she didn't lay.  I returned to  One suggested method of curing a broody hen is to allow her to hatch a clutch of eggs and raise chicks as that's what her hormones are telling her to do.  With no rooster, therefore no fertile eggs and no desire by me to add more chicks, I went to Option to break a hen of her broody behavior.  There I found the following colorful suggestions posted by Rancher Hicks of Syracuse, NY:

if yu have someplace else ot move her for the night then do that. a change of venue may help. if not get a couple of good eggs and put them under her.

try the ice cube method put those under her.

take her out of the nest and slap her around a little.

put a picture of Phyliss Diller in the nest box.

if you got a teenager put her in their room, nothing cures the urge to have kids like time spent with teenagers.

ok some are better solutions than others but i'm not in a good mood. nothing serious did'nt sleep good.

bring her into the house for the night. if you've got a cat or dog that may upset her enough to throw her out of the mood. course she may not lay for awhile.


I tried putting ice cubes under Thelma, but she just melted them.  The suggestion to put the hen in a separate cage for a few days with nothing to nest on seemed the most common recommendation with no promises that anything was guaranteed.  So I pulled the ferret cage I used for the baby chicks over to the chicken coop, set it up with food and water, and put Thelma in it.  Not having a safe place to keep the cage outside at night, I moved Thelma into the coop with the others at bedtime.  The next day, I did the same thing.  It worked!  Although she hasn't started laying again yet (apparently it may take weeks after breaking a broody hen for her to get completely back to normal), Thelma is off the nest and out in the yard acting like a chicken now. 

The cage method worked so well with Thelma, I started playing with the idea that since I have a broody hen and a moody teenage daughter, perhaps the same method would work for breaking moody.  It make take years for this to work on Kelsey, but it's worth a shot, right?

1 comment:

  1. Hopefully my mother won't see this... I don't want her to try that method on me...