This is Arugula. She is an old bitty.
She’s always grumpy, pecking at the other chickens. Always whining about things. Constantly squinting. Seriously… she looks like Clint Eastwood.
Today, Thing 1 came in from getting the eggs and said – “MOM! I can’t get any, Arugula is sitting in the box, and when I try to move her, she pecks me… she’s also barking at me or something.”
Those of you with chickens of your own are already nodding your head in recognition – but for us, we just came across our first broody hen.
Chickens – like all women have an internal clock, and now and again – it gets the better of them and like ‘Loretta’ in the Life of Brian, they exclaim loudly and clearly to the world – “I WANT TO HAVE BABIES!”
So – the old bitty absconded all of the other chickens eggs, and laid on them as though she was going to hatch them. Blissfully unaware that they are unfertilized. In her mind, if she lays on them long enough – some sort of immaculate conception will occur, and the chicks will hatch out.
Silly Old Bitty.
The problem with broodiness in hens is it throws their system for a loop, slows down to feeding and watering, makes them susceptible to illness and mites, and basically takes them out of the laying chain for almost 9 weeks total.
It is therefore vitally important to break the broodiness as quickly as possible both for egg production, as well as ultimately the health of the bird and the other birds in the hen house, as broodiness begats broodiness.
I read numerous methods of breaking a bird of broodiness, one of which involved dunking them in ice water. (no thanks) the science behind that is to cool off the bird since their body temperature increases while they incubate the eggs. Dunking them in ice water will reduce its overall body temperature as quickly as possible – however, this also sounded the most abrupt and unhealthy to me, and didn’t rank high on my list of fixes.
I needed however to get her off the nest, off of any of her eggs, and away from materials where should could stick herself down into and keep that temperature up. So the answer that seemed like it made the most sense to me was to get her up off the ground, on wire.
I hit craigslist looking for free rabbit hutches. No deal. Posted a status on Facebook looking for rabbit hutches. No deal. Considered absconding a shopping cart from one of the many abandoned shopping carts in NE Salem for a moment – (fully intending on returning it… even though it might have been caked in manure…)
I finally settled on building a wire cage out of my 2×4 wire fence, and cable ties – kind of like how we built the hoophouse. Here’s the “Pale Clucker” in her new jail cell until she’s broken of her broodiness.
She’s about 4 inches off the ground – gives her air circulation underneath as well as on top and all around. She’s got food and water – inside the coop so that she doesn’t get dismembered by raccoons… should be good to go.
The judge was fairly lenient, her sentence is only a couple of days – we’ll let her out after that and monitor her behavior to see if she’s still acting up, and if so – back in solitary for a bit if not – back with the rest of the girls.
Maybe a little time in solitary will make her less like an old bitty. The odds aren’t good.