I should probably make a blog called "The Chicken Lady" because I've had so many posts about chickens lately! I thought after the last post about our chicken run that we wouldn't have anymore chicken projects but they like to surprise us!
For the last week one of our chickens has been broody and wants to sit in the nest box all day, with or without eggs under her. Because we don't have a rooster to have fertilized eggs for hatching we would pull her off the eggs hoping to break her broodiness. She seems pretty determined and it felt like the perfect opportunity to have some little chicks around before it gets colder outside - plus I was feeling bad she was doing all that work for nothing!
I read up more on the subject and many people will actually make a little area for their broody hen where she won't be disturbed - with her own food and water available. That felt necessary for this girl because she's actually on the bottom of the pecking order and gets pushed around a lot. In fact, the morning I was installing her brooder 'fence' she was sitting up in the nesting boxes (without eggs under her) and another hen hopped right in with her trying to push her out. I've also noticed our broody hen is on the sidelines when it comes to getting food - always timid and nervous trying to get something to eat. Because broody hens only come off their nest once or twice a day to eat/drink/poop I wanted to make sure she could actually get the food she needs to sustain her throughout the day.
I didn't want to make a separate enclosure for her away from the coop like I was reading about - not just because of the supplies/time it would take to make but because if I separated her I worried she would be even more on the 'outs' with the others. The area under our nesting boxes seemed like the perfect place to make a little brooding area - it was dark, the ground was clean and soft, protected from predators/elements and she would still be with the others.
Even better - when the chicks hatch they will be on ground level and safe from falling out of a high nesting box AND the chicken feeder was there that she could use (we haven't been using it because all the hens eat 2-3x as much when it is constantly available to them... so it's there for when we go camping or other small trips).
I came up with a little 'fence' that has a door for accessing the eggs, water, food and letting the little gal out if needed.
I used $4 worth of furring wood (2 1x2's), leftover plastic deer fencing we used for the outer enclosure and hinges/screws I had on hand.
It took an hour to put together and I can now breathe a sigh of relief that our hen will have some peace and tranquility... and when the chicks are here they'll have a place to stay with their mother and be protected from the other hens (if needed).
I nailed the frame onto the coop in a few places and stapled the fencing in a few areas underneath the nesting box area. I really like that this is easy to put up and take down as needed (it can be used as a 'hospital' in the future to separate wounded chickens from being pecked on as well).
I feel so content knowing the others won't bug her. They sure are curious why one of them is getting special treatment, though!
I found someone selling hatching eggs for $1 each from their mixed-breed flock. I came home and arranged the eggs on the ground in a nest and came back 20 minutes later to put up the fence I just finished. I was surprised and delighted to see that our broody had already hopped down from her empty nest above to sit on the eggs (what a good girl)! I hope (for her sake) that these will hatch and she can be a mom. I'll update in TWENTY-ONE days with the news! The kids are crossing their fingers!
CHICKEN PVC FEEDER
DUCK HOUSE BUILD
Other Chicken Project Links:CHICKEN WATERING SYSTEM
CHICKEN PVC FEEDER
DUCK HOUSE BUILD