How to deal with a broody chicken

Asked June 4, 2014, 7:34 PM EDT

I have a five year old bantam chicken who a couple months ago lost her life partner. She has been doing well alone--eating, laying every day. about ten days ago,she stopped laying and wanted to stay in her nest. AT first I took her out every couple of hours and she would eat a little and drink and then go back in the hen house. She had loved greens--spinach etc, but now won't touch them. She is eating layer mash, sometimes with a few sun flower seeds,which she loves. also, is liking live meal worms--about six a day. the last three days I've closed the hen house(she was very angry the first few times i did this,so I let her back in) and now she sits in her yard, but is still not very active. Gives herself dirt baths. I would like to know what else to do and if what I'm doing is okay. How long is this likely to last. Her poop is normal, but not as much as when she was eating more.

Marin County California

3 Responses

Chickens are not stupid. They can grieve seriously when they lose a companion. I suspect you have a depressed chicken who needs a friend. Can you get some chicks yet or a quiet breed of hen who won't threaten her. They are by nature not a solitary animal. I do not know if you have trained her as a pet. If so, you might fuss over her more, hold her etc. If this is an old bird she could just give up on you. Good luck.

For a month and half after she lost her pal, she ate, layed every day. This new behavior started just days ago. She was a rescue and she is a pet--I hold her, talk to her and give her special treats by hand--worms etc.I've had her for just over a couple months. Her previous environment was wonderful, but dangerous for her. I nursed her over a year ago after a dog nearly killed her. She stayed in this place until I persuaded the owner to let me have both chickens. The other died of congenital heart problem just three weeks later--had a necropsy done. And this chicken is very smart. I understand from my reading that broody is a special pattern of behavior. I am not linking it to her loss. I'm afraid to get another chicken because she is alpha and was even very domineering with her partner. Any more thoughts to help her. Thanks

I can see you are a savvy "mother." There are a number of ways to break a hen of broodiness. Put her in a wire cage with no bedding, just food and water. May take a week.
Spray her bottom with cold water daily (old farmers' trick I have not done)
Get some fertile eggs and let her set. Or put her on eggs you know won't hatch, even fake, and after a couple of weeks sneak chicks under her at night.
I have 2 hens in 16 who are strongly broody and one is now setting on duck eggs. As long as they are not starving themselves, I just let it happen. I could disrupt their nesting every day and eventually break them of it, but they nor I would appreciate it.