The first time I soaked Mapp in a bucket
My girls don’t lay from about October to March. They don’t see enough sunlight to make eggs. They would stay in lay if I gave them a little artificial light, but frankly laying is hard on a bird and my lot are mostly pets. Let them rest.
Mapp grew to laying age just as the season ended and laid no eggs at all her first year. Lucia, same age, squeezed out a few before Winter came. But that’s Lucia, a chicken made entirely of awesome.
The next Spring came around and Mapp finally laid an egg. Several, in fact. And then she stopped. And sat on the nest looking distressed. For days.
So being a compete n00b chicken lady, and a nervous one at that, I came to the obvious conclusion she was eggbound. That is what it sounds like, and it’s extremely serious and often fatal. Oh, I tried soaking it out and I tried scrubbing it out. I ringed her vent with olive oil (we don’t talk about this). I soaked her in a bucket of warm, soapy water.
You can see how happy she is. Turns out she was just broody and eventually got over herself.
Broody. A wild chicken will lay a clutch of eggs and then stop laying and spend 21 days sitting on them until they hatch. That is broody. She’ll get off the nest maybe once a day for a few minutes to take a huge and extremely offensive shit and eat a little something.
Pekin bantams, like what my flock are, are famous for going broody. Hard, impenetrable broody. Inappropriately broody. Broody on a totally empty nest all Summer long. If you’re trying to hatch some eggs, they’re perfect. But a broody hen stops laying, neglects herself into terrible condition and scares other chickens off the nest when they need to lay.
Mapp, alone of my chickens, has gone broody every single year. She lays a few eggs, and then she plants herself on the nest and refuses to come off. Shrieks and screams if you go near her.
The classic treatment is to put the broody in a ‘sin bin’ — a cage, up off the floor, with food, water, lots of light and no nesting materials until she gets over herself. I don’t really have a setup for that, so every year I just pull her off the nest a couple of times a day, make her eat, and leave it to her. ‘Horrible condition’ or not, she has now lived more than twice as long as Lucia, the Mary Poppins of chickens.
Anyhoo, according to my chicken homework last night, SGOTI (some guy on the internet) says soaking a broody hen in cold water will do the trick.