Monday, August 30, 2010

Breaking a Broody Clara

A couple of weeks ago Clara started doing some strange antics, but it didn't seem too strange to me and I chalked it up to teenage hormones. First she started poofing herself up and letting out a long, insistent squawk if I happened to come to the henhouse while she was on the next box. Egg production continued as usual and otherwise she seemed normal.

Then she started doing this strange squawking dance when I'd come out to the coop. I tried to catch it on video several times, but it didn't work out. The "dance" only lasts a split second. She stretches out as tall as possible and does a strange, long squawk while walking and rapidly flapping her wings. Then everything goes back to normal as if nothing happened. I figured this was just associated with the process of establishing the pecking order. Hindsight suggests otherwise...

Next, she started spending increasing times in the nest box. So much so that Ruby would jump up in there with her and root her out! Now mind you, I already installed a second nest box. But they both like the same one, and usually it isn't a problem, except when Clara's being a nest hog!

Clara didn't seem to mind when I took her eggs, so again, I didn't really give the extra nest time much thought... until... she climbed in the nest box to sleep instead of taking up her spot on the roost. The first night, I moved her to the roost. She stayed there all night, but the next night went back to the nest box. When I went to move her to the roost her breast feathers felt like they had stuff stuck in them. So I took a quick look. Bald spots! It was too dark to inspect that night, so I moved her to the roost and checked the bald spot the next morning.
No evidence of anything wrong. Beautifully smooth chicken skin... sans feathers! See the photo below where she's posing upside-down in my lap to show you her beautiful chest ready to heat up some eggs. Clara had most definitely gone broody and had now stopped egg production!

There are never eggs left in the nest boxes for any length of time. I'm diligent about bringing them in to avoid having broody chickens, hungry critters, or hard boiled eggs from the sheer desert heat! That didn't seem to bother Clara. She's perfectly happy sitting on her imaginary eggs all day long!

The next day, I decided to block off the nest boxes to keep her out of the nest in an attempt to break the broody cycle. I place a small shipping box in each of the nest boxes. Clara was quite determined to figure out a way into the nest box. Twice I removed her hanging on the edge of the nest box. Later, I could hear her wrestling with the shipping box for quite some time. She was definitely giving it a piece of her mind and causing quite the commotion in the henhouse! The shipping box lost the battle. I guess she beat it into submission because I found it laying on the floor of the henhouse with her victoriously seated in the nest box poofed up and squawking. I moved her to the roost again that night and this time placed a brick on top of the shipping box in the nest box. Poor Clara! She tried again to beat the shipping box, but it wouldn't get out of her nest box this time. She eventually gave up and slept on the roost.

The following day (yesterday), I left the nest boxes blocked off . Ruby and Ingrid made a makeshift nest in the corner to lay their eggs which I quickly removed so Clara didn't take up residence.

Today, Ingrid met me at the door of the henhouse and looked at me, then the nest box, then back at me, then the nest box. Ok, I got the message. I removed the shipping box from Ingrid's nest box (which Clara never uses) so that she and Ruby had a spot for their eggs. So far so good.

Clara took up to roost with the rest of the girls tonight. Clara's nest box will remain blocked for a couple more days until I'm sure the broody has passed. It looks like she's well on her way to a full recovery!

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