I’m so excited – one of the Buckeyes has gone broody!!! Raising the Buckeyes was a great experience (see Raising Day-Old Chicks), but I was hoping the Buckeyes would retain their instinct to go broody, and raise their own young – I’d rather they perpetuate the flock (why should I do the work if they’ll do it naturally?). So, when one hen showed definite signs of broodiness; Randy quickly constructed her a broody box inside the coop.
How To Tell If She’s Broody
In many chicken breeds today, the instinct for raising young has been bred out; because “broodiness” was considered undesirable in factory laying hens. However, some of the older heritage breeds still retain these instincts, and make good mothers. Buckeyes are a heritage breed, so I was hoping a few hens would go broody, and am so happy one has.
At first, we noticed that she just seemed to be spending lots of time in the nest box; and then, when we’d try to gather eggs, she’d fluff up and emit a distinctive “growl” that we hadn’t heard from the chickens before. For the past two days, she wouldn’t leave the nest box, we were reluctant to put our hand in to retrieve eggs; and even at night – she stayed on the nest and wouln’t roost – definite indications that she’d gone broody.
In order for a broody hen to hatch eggs in a coop with a resident flock, it’s generally necessary to move the broody to a separate area. If she stays in a regular nest box, other hens will get in the box with her to lay eggs; and will likely break some - making a mess of the whole situation. It’s better to set up a separate “broody box” within the coop; and since we’re hoping that several of ours will eventually exhibit broodiness, we decided to build a semi-permanent broody box in a corner of the coop.
Besides a nest box within the broody box, the hen needs room to get off the nest and relieve herself; and needs food and water. In order to accomodate all this, a good size broody box is about 2′ wide x 2 1/2′ long, and it’s a good idea to raise it off the floor to allow for ventilation. A hardware cloth floor is a good idea because it doesn’t collect dust or droppings.
Buckeye Broody Box
We built the broody box into the back corner of the chicken coop (see coop photos here & here) using scrap lumber and hardware cloth – it’s 26″ wide x 30″ long x 16″ high, and is raised 14″ off the coop floor. The picture on the left shows framing of the box, and attaching the hardware cloth is on the right.
Wire cloth was used to wrap the entire “box” except an opening was left so she could access the coop water font, and a solid piece of lumber was used for the top. After getting the outside structure built, we built a nesting platform inside, put straw in it, and built a “box” around it using cardboard so she’d feel like she was in a regular nest box.
Moving Broody to the Box
Once the box was built, we placed golf balls in the nest box, and then moved the broody hen into the nest at night. If a broody hen is really serious, she’ll usually settle into a new nest box within two days – and she settled within a day, so we’re sure she’s pretty serious. Since she settled so quickly, we’ll add real eggs under her (again in the night), within the next few days. Then, it’ll just be 20 days to hatching!