Drama Queens and Semi-Broody Hens

| 4/18/2016 3:48:00 PM

Jennifer QuinnSince my poultry flock is still in its first year I’m getting a quick education in hen behavior, and I must say some of it is baffling. First of all, no matter how many nest boxes I provide, they all tend to use the same one, except for a couple who like to lay their eggs on the windowsill. A friend has also reported this phenomenon, so maybe this is common? In any case, it makes for a lot of drama when one of the hens is hogging the nest box and another one wants to use it. The frustrated hen will run around crying hysterically until the nest is vacated. Sometimes I’ve had two or three hysterical hens at once!

This problem is exacerbated by another strange phenomenon that has surfaced — semi-broody hens. Has anyone else experienced this? My Buckeyes haven’t laid anything for over a month now. At first I thought something was getting the eggs, but I monitored the situation closely, checking often for eggs, leaving them shut up in the coop, etc., and never found any evidence of that.

Meanwhile, I started finding eggs from my Icelandic hens at the rate of almost one per hen every day. And I observed an interesting pattern with the Buckeyes: They would take turns sitting in the nest box for about half an hour without laying anything, then leave and go back to their normal activities. After a while they began to act seriously broody while in the nest box — they’ll get all spread out and sit there with that frown of concentration, making strange sounds. Here’s an example :

Broody buckeye

(The nest boxes are really a lot darker than it appears, but I didn’t have a way to disable the flash on my camera.)

Sometimes one hen will try and squeeze in next to another one. One day one of my Icies was practically standing on top of a Buckeye who was all spread out in there, practically filling up the nest!

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