- Credit: Archant
How do you stop a hen going broody? Janine Marsh asked the locals in her French village
I have a grey chicken called Brenda. She’s a happy bird, but recently she started acting a bit oddly. She was broody. Instead of running over to the gate to greet me as usual when I arrived with food, she stayed in the coop. I guess she must have come out to eat at some point, but I never saw her. As there was no cockerel in the pen, I knew the eggs weren’t fertile and she was just wasting her time. She lay flat out, spreading her wings protectively over the eggs, pecking at me when I opened the nest box to collect her ‘babies’.
After a couple of days, I pushed her out and she just went straight back in again. Worried that she would get weak from not eating, I popped her into a separate run where she scoffed her food and lapped up the water. After a week she started laying eggs again. When I let her out, she was back to her usual bossy, greedy self and normal life was resumed in the pen. In the little café in the village where I live in the middle of nowhere in France, I thought I’d ask for advice. Did I do the right thing? Should I have done something else? At Chez Annie, all the regulars keep birds and everyone’s an expert, of course.
Old Monsieur Leroy told me I should just put broody ones in the pot. Erm. I don’t think so; my birds are pets, all 70 of them. I didn’t intend to have that many, but I’ve become known as a soft touch in these parts by ex-pats going back to the UK or who get fed up with cleaning the coops and changed their minds about keeping poultry. Luckily, I have the room and the time to care for them properly.
Madame Dumont told me she has a foolproof method for curing broody birds and getting them back on course tout de suite.
“Get a big bowl, or a bucket. Fill it with cold water. Grab your bird and dip its bum in the water.”
“Really?” I said. “Why would dipping a chicken’s derriere in cold water stop her wanting to sit on eggs that aren’t fertilised?”
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“I have no idea,” said Madame Dumont. “But my mother and her mother have always known this and now I do it too. I have not had a broody chicken for years. Come to think of it, I’ve not had any eggs hatch either for a long time.”
At this, old Monsieur Leroy, who had a glass of Pastis to his lips, choked and was smacked on the back by his friend, really old Monsieur Dupré.
I think I’ll stick to separate runs for the broody ones for now.