It seems like every spring, one of our hens goes broody. Unfortunately, our success rate with those broody hens has been close to nill.
One year, we learned the hard way that the broody setup needs to be perfect. The nest box should be on the ground so chicks can pop back inside easily if they’re chilled, and it definitely shouldn’t be in a spot that can get wet during rains.
Another year, a Cuckoo Marans did an admirable job hatching eight chicks in an area she chose for herself in a little-used corner of the barn. But we couldn’t catch the hen and her chicks to move them somewhere safer…and slowly but surely the chicks got picked off by a black rat snake.
During several other years, we’ve missed the boat, watching a hen start to go broody…and then watching her relinquish her mothering instincts when
we failed to set up a good nesting spot in time. So this year, I decided to be proactive. Even though it’s January and surely a terrible time to be incubating eggs, when one of our Australorp mixes began hopping the fence to hide her eggs in the garden, we set her up in an isolation coop complete with nest basket, food, and water.
So far, she seems to be settling in — not clucking angrily about being separated from her fellows, but instead spending time on the nest. I currently have five golf balls in the basket to simulate a clutch, but if our hen begins setting seriously, I’ll replace the golf balls with fertilized eggs. Perhaps this will be the year a broody hen comes through for us?