The Hole

Every prison movie threatens inmates with the “The Hole”   That tiny cell, in the dark, with just food and water.   We recently sent our broody chickens to what I am sure is the chicken version of “The Hole.”

I had two chickens that had gone broody and all the nice tricks that might have helped to break that cycle didn’t work.   These two birds would sit on the nest box for hours, day and night.    Refusing to leave except for a quick bite and drink of water.  They forced my remaining egg layers to share a single box for laying.    These two  had stopped laying a couple weeks ago.   We finally accepted that we could not break the cycle and this called for drastic measures.

We got out unused dog crates, decked them out with food and water and move the broody babes from nest boxes to dog quarters.   The idea behind all this is first they can not  get to the nest.    It is a cooler environment that also contributes to stopping broody behavior; hens get warmer when they are trying to hatch eggs.   Generally if a hen is confined to these quarters in 48 to 72 hours they will finally give up and go back to being a “regular hen”

I am happy to report that Lucy after just 48 hours is free and running wild like the free ranger chicken she used to be.   I took Fluffy out and took her down to the spot where the rest of her flock were scratching and looking for goodies.   She  immediately headed back to the coop, and 30 minutes later she was still there.   Back to the hole for her another day to see if we can convince her that we want her to get out and enjoy life  and that fluffy chicks are not in her future.

I guess I am a prison warden of chickens.

Brooder in a Box

Baby Chick in My Crate Brooder

Something else good came out of my remodeled kitchen, a box I can use for a brooder for this year’s baby chicks.   For those of you unfamiliar with rasing chickens a brooder is a substitute for a mother.  Baby chicks need lots of help to stay warm and without a mother the responsibility falls to you.

Commercial facilities and folks who have lots of baby chicks every year build or buy permanent brooders.  It keeps the chicks at the right temperatures and prevents drafts that can cause chills.    Though the downy chicks look cuddly warm, until they fully feather out at 6 to 8 weeks later they can’t regulate body temperature.  So for that period you are the mother hen and responsible to keep them warm and out drafts.

Those of us with backyard flocks make temporary brooders. Usually I use a large dog crate surrounded by a towel to keep the drafts away from the peeps and hold in the heat.  Other folks used large totes, and cardboard boxes.  Though my crate has served me  well in the past, one of the problems is chicks like to scratch around and I end up with lots of shavings all over the place. Six weeks of that produces lots of dust too.   It is my least favorite part of baby chicks.

This year I am going to try using the cardboard box option .    I am hoping that this option will cut down on the mess my chicks make.    I am also hoping that a box brooder will allow me to move them out of the house earlier than the crate method has in the past.

I will keep you posted in March when I get chicks on how it goes.