I have had chickens in my life for many years. Consequently, I have become the person that people call when they are having trouble with their own backyard hens. I get calls about thin shells, torn combs, molting hens … you name it. The number one problem that people call about is broodiness.
The person on the other end of the line is worried. Their chicken is hot and bothered. She is sitting on her nest hating every one and everything within a 4 foot radius. No one can go near her.
I get it. This person has a very unhappy chicken. As a chicken lover, you want to help them feel happy again. There are solutions for this problem all over the chicken raising text books and backyard chicken websites. None of them really work. I know. I tried a bunch of the solutions too … before Alice.
Alice is a mellow chicken. She is at the bottom of the pecking order. She rarely squawks or ruffles her feathers. I have never seen seen her fuss about anything … ever. She is a Zen chicken.
When Maggie, our elder Orpington, went broody, she turned into a mother bear. She attacked us when we changed the water dishes. She pecked at the other chickens. She squawked loudly and beat her wings to menace the kids when they tried to collect eggs in the nesting box near her. We took to blocking her space off with a stick to clean the coop. Even then, she pecked chunks out of the stick.
Alice is now broody but she, unlike any other chicken I have raised, just sits on her eggs (or other chicken’s eggs). She will let me collect them and replace them with a golf ball. I can pick her up and talk her into getting water and a little exercise before sitting back on her nest. If her body temperature wasn’t so high, I might not even noticed she was brooding at all.
Alice taught me that broodiness is not a problem. It is a phase. It is a medical condition that needs no treatment.
We don’t (or shouldn’t) give children pills so they won’t grow up. We don’t (or shouldn’t) give teenaged girls pills so they won’t start their periods. We don’t (or shouldn’t) give menopausal women pills so they keep having periods. This is a part of life.
Alice is taking her broody phase in stride. She isn’t sick. She’s broody, plain and simple. If chickens didn’t get broody, we wouldn’t have new baby chicks. She seems to accept her body changes with the grace that she accepts all of the other parts of her life.
I can see that this is uncomfortable for her. The text books recommend isolating a broody hen in a custom built box. Sticking her in a box to force her to stop brooding is uncomfortable too. One website suggested making a brooder sit on ice bags. That sounds weird. I tried it. The chickens and I agreed that that is truly weird.
Instead of feeling upset about broodiness, I now honor it. Alice taught me that every change in life is not a sickness. Alice taught me that every change in life is just a change and the way that you handle this change is sometimes more important than the change itself.