Broody Hens & Winter
The outside temperature is dropping, you are doing the cold-weather preparation for your coop, and then a very determined hen decides she would like to go broody and sit on eggs. This poor hen seems to be oblivious to the chilly temperatures and radical changes to her environment that can be brought on by a snowstorm, but alas, she just wants to be a mother!
The ability of a broody hen’s natural instinct to hatch and care for her chicks, even during extreme weather, should not be understated, but a flock owner should take extra considerations for the health of the hen and potential chicks. The health of the hen should be the top consideration.
The following provisions should be taken if you decide to let a broody hen hatch eggs during extreme cold:
Discouraging a broody hen during the winter months is recommended if you, as the flock owner, do not have the time or desire to put in the extra work to monitor a broody hen. The hen will pluck her belly feathers to expose the eggs to the warmth and moisture of the skin, and that leaves that skin exposed to the chilly air and prone to frostbite. Being broody any time of the year can take a toll on the health of the hen; she usually forgoes dust baths, foraging, and feed and water intake is drastically reduced.
All of these factors can affect the well-being of a hen so, with the inclusion of extreme weather conditions, the health of the hen is at risk. To break a broody hen in the winter, house her in a wire-bottom cage (with plenty of air circulation), along with plenty of food and water. The cool-down effect should discourage the hen from continuing her brooding efforts.
Extreme weather adds yet another aspect to the adventures of chicken-keeping and making the best decision for your flock. With proper care and preparation, broody hens in the winter can be an exciting event with the prospect of winter chicks!
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