what is a broody hen?
A broody hen is one hot hormonal mess of a chicken who feels, deeply, the need to sit on a nest in the hopes of producing offspring. Noble as it may seem, a broody hen is often more of a problem than she is a saint. For one thing, this particular Layla is putting all her efforts into hatching a golf ball. I removed the golf balls from several nests when I noticed her doing this, so now she's trying to hatch nothing. Absolutely nothing. And there lies the problem -- normally once babies hatch after 21 days, a mother hen's hormones will be triggered to settle down and she'll relax and begin returning to normal chicken behaviour. This poor little chicken is going to need some help to break that cycle -- otherwise she'll sit and wait for who knows how long for a miraculous birth that just isn't gonna happen.
So what's a farmer to do? So far I've tried emptying the nesting material from her favourite box (she moved to another one), lifting her out several times a day and taking her to the farthest corner of the pen for a distraction (she's a boomerang and heads back when I'm not looking), and barricading her from the nest box area overnight (in the hopes she'll cool off while roosting with the others). Broodiness can be contagious and although hatchery chickens like ours aren't bred to be motherly (just to lay a lot of eggs), I dread the thought of a henhouse full of brooders.
Luckily, my Laylas are so sweet that although she looks and sounds like she's auditioning for the next Exorcist movie, she doesn't bite or fuss (or spew bodily fluids at me) when I intervene. Hopefully she can return to being a pecking, pooping, egg-laying happy chicken soon! I will update!