Living with Chickens

Chicken Jail

The broody chicken Carmella has been in chicken jail for 48 hours. I tried a number of methods to stop her broody behaviour e.g. take her out of the nesting box and give her a treat after placing her in the run, cold packs under her when she was in the nesting box and three cold baths! Nothing worked and I felt mean making her uncomfortable. Although, she did seem to enjoy the bath water which did not have the effect of reducing her body temperature. The lengths I went to! On every occasion she would return to the nesting box, fluff up her feathers and settle into the comfort of the nesting box. It is all part of a hens instinct and hormones at work. Usually a hen would stay in the nest to keep the eggs warm for around 21 days, until they hatch. However, for Carmella any eggs had disappeared and she was sitting on her imaginary eggs, yet doing her duty and preparing as best she could, for motherhood.

Chickens are early risers – up with the sun! Carmella was sitting in the nesting box all night and then for hours before I got up. Though I was up early to take this photo!

The problem with a broody hen is they will stop eating and can lose condition while waiting for their young to hatch. In Carmella’s situation there would never be any chicks but she was not to know and her instincts kept returning her to her favourite nesting box. It was stressful to watch and manage. I did get advice from a “chicken whisperer” neighbour who suggested I let her work it out over time, but my O&O and I found it difficult to watch her behaviour.

At last, the folding wire pet cage became available at Kmart for only $29 (a bargain) and we went to work to set up the chicken jail for Carmella. Plenty of food and water but no bedding or the comfort of a cosy nesting box. The pet cage will also double as a “sick bay” if I ever need to quarantine one of my chickens. When I first put her in the cage she squawked like a banshee, for about an hour. It was so bad I thought of abandoning the idea. But I had to do it, for her sake and ours!

Carmella in solitary confinement “chicken jail”. After this photo was taken my O&O modified two tin cans as feeders. He attached them to the wire and the ramekin dishes sat in the top, one with food, the other with water. They could not be knocked over! The cage was off the ground supported by two planks of wood and there was plenty of air around to cool her down. You can see that she is a lovely chicken and would make a super mum!

After the first 24 hours I looked for signs that her broody behaviour had broken, but no, too early to take her out of solitary confinement. I could see the cage was not her favourite space but she was calm, eating and drinking, resting and going for short walks. There was no capacity to go for long walks and she had no ability to scratch around looking for a worm who was off guard. Fortunately, there was no rain, otherwise I may have had to surrender her back to the coop and the nesting box. Another 24 hours, around noon today, she appeared back to her old self. The repetitive clucking had stopped. I decided to put it to the test and see whether the 48 hours in solitary worked. If she went directly back to the nesting box then it was back to solitary for another 24 hours.

When I opened the door of the wire cage she bounded out into the big world once more! I directed her to the run, with the enticement of grain, to watch and wait.  As the hours have ticked by this afternoon she has made no attempt to run back to the nesting box. She has spent the afternoon scratching and exploring in the run and coop, eating pumpkin and dust bathing. I am glad she is over her broody behaviour, back to her old self and enjoying the outdoors with her little pal, Lucy.

Carmella and Lucy eating one of their favourite veggies, pumpkin. Enjoying their playtime!

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