That Coco

Have you noticed that Coco has been out-of-sight? Talk about unproductive birds. She’s gone broody.

This is ridiculous. She was broody for most of the summer. Then she molted. Now she’s broody again. Hens aren’t supposed to hunker down in their nests this time of year. You don’t hatch chicks with winter coming on. But try telling that to Coco. She is immoveable.

She’s my best meet and greet hen. The one I take to library visits. But, I can’t take her in a huffy, broody, bad mood. I’d try to break the spell, but I think she’ll just go broody again. Her understudy, Betsy, will just have to meet the children in Walpole and Billerica. I hope to see you then!


  1. Your lucky!!!! I have three that are broody. I have always thought that it was the length of the day that triggered the broody cycle. Apparently Terry our birds have not read the proper books ;-)
    I generally have no broody’s this time of the year. I do use artificial light to stimulate laying in Mid January (I like to let my hens “rest” until then) and usually within a couple weeks of doing that my trusted bantams will go broody.

    • Ken, I’m thinking of putting fertile eggs under a broody next spring. What sort of a set-up do you use? Do you have a separate broody house?

  2. I do not have a seperate broody house. I use one of those large wire dog crates. I simply made a small wooden box (sides about 6 inches high)and place that in the back of the cage and place food and water in the front of the cage for the hen. I place the hen in the cage with “fake” eggs for a few days before the fertile eggs arrive. This gives the hen time to settle in and to make sure she will stay broody in the new location(usually takes a day or two)although my old gray barnyard bantie would sit on eggs on the roof if I placed her
    there I think ;-) I put the eggs I want to hatch under the hen at dusk when I am less likey to disturb her but my pet chickens are so tame I’ve never had a problem with breaking the broody up.
    Once the chicks hatch I play it by ear as to how long I keep momma and chicks in the cage. It really depends on how many hatch. I order eggs off of ebay and have about a 50% hatch rate. If you buy locally I would assume a much greater hatch rate.
    After they have out grown the cage I have three sections of framed chicken wire fencing I made and place those in the front of my pet coop for the chicks to continue to grow out. Two framed sections for the sides (the coop makes the other two sides) and one for the top to keep chicks and momma in and other hens out. One section is five feet long and one is three feet wide so it give me 15 square feet.
    Once they reach about 2 months of age I will let momma and chicks out in the evening when I get home to run around in the coop and yard. You need to watch closely, generally the other hens will avoid a grumpy broody hen with chicks but occasional a hen will try to pick a fight with the broody hen or pick on the chicks. The other hens are generally curious and will approach the hen and chicks and momma can and usually is quite protective and a small squabble may break out but the non-broody hen knows _ _ _ _ has no fury like a momma hen with chicks. I’ve seen broodys take on red tail hawks and come out the “winner”.
    The other thing to keep an eye on about the second month is if momma is wanting to “wean” her chicks, she will start pecking at them when they get close to her and obviously in a closed environment like my set up this can be deadly. The weaning is completely hen dependent in my experience it can be as short as 6 weeks and I’ve had hens keep chicks as long as five months.
    Once momma has weaned her chicks I remove her and keep the chicks in my set up for another month, again it depends on what type of chick you have, standard breeds can be turned out sooner then bantam breeds. Raising the chicks in with the others almost eliminats agressiveness except for normal pecking order squabbles. Once I have determined that the chicks can fend for themselves I turn them out but leave the chicken wire panels up. The chicks like to return to the cage for about another month or two before they start roosting and then generally start roosting on top of the cage and this is usually when I remove the panels.
    Once I remove momma from the cage I remove the nest box and replace with an 5 gallon bucket turned upside down. This gives the chicks a day perch and a place to roost at night if they choose.
    Terry I also raise my white rock chicks the same way in the white rock house but without a broody hen and it works great as well. I know many people gasp about raising chicks in the same building as grown chickens because of the fear of disease but I’ve never had a problem in the 17 years I’ve done it like this. I would love to have my broody house back but it is what it is as they say.
    I hope I didn’t give too much info. or take up too much space but am always glad to share my experiences.

    • I appreciate you taking up the space :) I have been concerned about buying eggs from ebay. I’d like to get Blue Copper Marans – and I think the only way to get a couple will be to hatch my own. But, the chickens I have, and the chicks I’ll get this spring will be from a hatchery that vaccinates. I’m worried about mixing vaccinated and unvaccinated birds. It would be best, I suppose, to get all from 1 hatchery where they’ve all been exposed to the same germs, but then I won’t be able to get the Marans I want.

  3. What do they vaccinate against in the US? I think my only worry would be Mareks disease as the birds can ‘shed’ the virus in their saliva and tears. Apparently this manner of transmission is very low though as most viruses can only survive ten minutes or so out of the host, so in a free range situation I’m sure it would be OK.
    I think the problem with eBay is the disturbance to the air-sac, almost like a placental abruption, as they go through the post. Very alarmed to hear from Ken that he has had broodies keep chicks for five months! Gladys is 13 weeks in and counting… she never used to be like this, I think she’s getting soppy in her old age.

    • Hatcheries vaccinate against Marek’s. Also, you can vaccinate later against fowl pox – but I never have. Anyone out there do it?
      I imagine Gladys is going to let her big chicks ride around on her back… what a thought!

      • They do try and get up on her back but they generally just scoot straight over and fall off like an over-zealous learner rider mounting a horse!

  4. Hi Terry. I know you only keep girls, so what will you do with cockerels from a hatch? I adore my Black Australorpe rooster and wouldn’t mind more crowers as I have plenty of room. The guys are not difficult if you understand their behavior. Also might put some mixed bantam eggs under my broody next spring and possibly get more marans. I adore a mixed flock! My cuckoo marans pullet lays huge eggs, but for now they are spotted and freckled and not perfectly dark. I’m not fussy, they taste wonderful! Lucy

    • If I hatch out Blue Copper Marans, I imagine that there will be a demand, even for the roosters. I’ll give you first dibs! Would love it if you took my unwanted roos.

  5. Talk about counting our chicks..and roos..before they hatch! I’ve kept chickens off and on for fifty years and still think it would be grand If only we could tell what the chick’s gender is while still in the shell…someone will figure that out someday.

  6. Wendy you are most definately correct in your air sac thoughts, the handling of the post office is probably what causes a 50% hatch. I avoid ordering them until mid April when weather is usually not a concern.
    As far as hens keeping chicks 5 months it’s more that she doesn’t drive them off and occasionally calls them to feed. They don’t try to get under the wing or anything like that.