Backyard Chickens

Asked September 6, 2013, 6:02 PM EDT

I have backyard chickens for pets (my first time keeping chickens). I have a silkie named Susie. She had been laying an egg a day for about a month until 3 days ago. The first day she did not lay, she wouldn't get out of the nesting box, and I thought she had gone broody. The second day, there was no egg, and she hissed and bushed up at me. I got worried that she was egg-bound, so I sat her in warm water for about 30 minutes and massaged her. There was no egg. Today, I did the same thing. I did not feel an egg. Could she be going broody and not laying eggs at the same time? After I dry her off, she runs around like she always does, eating and drinking. But then the next day she's right back in the box and won't leave unless I get her out.

Sussex County Delaware

4 Responses

Chickens or other birds that go broody do not lay eggs while they are broody. Broodiness can be broken via dunking her into ice water (up to her neck) for several minutes (massaging the water into the feathers so that it reaches the skin) and then denying her access to the nest box for several days. You will not be popular with Susie during this time. Breeds such as silkies are good egg brooders but can become terminally broody - they like to sit on the nest so much that they do not get up to eat or drink, and then they pass away on the nest. Cochins can do this too. The problem likely started because you were not picking up eggs often enough from the nest box. Pick up eggs twice a day, or more often if possible, so that this problem does not restart if you are able to break Susie of her broodiness. This does not sound like a case of being egg-bound as the behavior is very different. In cases of being egg-bound, the birds appear to sit upright like penguins and occasionally strain a bit as though they are trying to lay an egg. The vent area is hot and swollen. Your situation clearly sounds more like a case of broodiness. You have an uphill battle ahead of you because broody chickens tend to go broody annually. Your management of your flock will need to change so that it reflects the new needs of your birds. Pick up eggs often and be very wary for signs of broodiness. Remember, broody birds are not productive layers, and it makes no sense for them to sit on eggs unless you have a rooster and are prepared for all of the vaccinations and care associated with hatching chicks. Good luck with your changes.

Thank you so much for your response. I figured that's what was going on after I didn't feel an egg. The thing is, I only have backyard chicks, so not many. In fact, my chicks turned out to include more roosters than hens. So only 2 hens lay right now, and I get their two eggs almost as soon as they lay. Susie isn't sitting on an egg since she is not laying. I will keep an eye on her and if I see she's being too broody, I will lock her out of the coop during the day. And yes to your comment about having a rooster - I have 6 of them. I am in the process of getting more hens on Friday. I have 4 Polish hens and have not integrated them into the flock yet, but will definitely do so before it gets cold. Thank you so much.

I am sorry to hear that your hen has gone broody to the point that she will sit on the nest even if the eggs are not there. I hope that you can convince her that there are far better options out there. That is a tough management situation, because it appears that she has a strong tendency toward broodiness. Dill's Auction here in Delaware might be a way for you to cull many of the roosters from your flock and make room for more hens. Good luck!

My problem is that I get attached. I've had these chicks since April when they were 12 weeks old. They were hand-hatched and hand-raised, and all have names. I did not know which were roosters or hens until they were about 20 weeks old and the roosters started to crow. I can't seem to choose who should stay or go, although there is a petting zoo down the road from me that will take some roosters if I need to get rid of them. But I love them all. And they are more pets to me than working chickens. If I took them to an auction, I'm sure they'd end up in someone's pot, and all my roosters are those fancy roosters with feathers on their feet.